“It trivializes the tombs to call it a fad, but building such structures seems to have become a fashion where great numbers were built and then there was a cessation for centuries,” Scarre says, in an interview. Improved dating of materials such as birch bark, bone and stone left in the tombs now reveals the clustered construction times of the mounds, he says.
Rather than a single “megalithic” culture stretching across Europe, the outburst of mound tombs likely represents an idea reaching local cultures, he suggests, which then “stopped and started” across the centuries. “One big implication is the realization that the people buried in this fashion represent only a small fraction of the people who were alive then,” Scarre says. “Until the Roman era, thoughtful burial of the dead may have been a rare thing in this part of Europe.”