A poem written 1,000 years ago by an Irishman named Flain, based even then on 200 generations of folklore, recalled an invasion of Ireland by a magical people, and posed the question: Were they demons or were they men?
Wandlebury, near Cambridge, is one of at least 900 stone and earth circles constructed in the British Isles during prehistoric times, and retired energetic geologist Tim OBrien has now assumed the role of super-detective to establish who built them. Legends and stories like Mr Flains poem are fingerprints in this most ancient whodunit.
OBrien is certain there was no indigenous culture in Britain nearly 5,000 years ago capable of building Stonehenge, Avebury, and other monuments. So who did build them?
OBrien thinks it is reasonable to speculate that Wandlebury observatory and contemporary monuments were designed by the same group of people. Men who laboured on them would have held their children on their knees and told them stories about the work.
Stories, like monsters, grow with the telling; big men become giants, midgets become goblins, and wild animals become dragons. All over Britain legends about giants remain, and in some places huge effigies were cut into the chalk hillsides. Earlier this century, Thomas Lethbridge, author of Gog Magog The Buried Gods, found such a giant carved into the chalk in the Gog Magog Hills where Wandlebury stands.
Bedtime stories about the ancient builders continued through the ages, and in remote parts of Ireland the tales flourish still. In England, for some reason, they died out. People living in Irish crofts still attribute the building of the stone circles to a people they call Tuatha De Danann. Translated, this means people of the god Danu (or Anu). This, says OBrien, is a vital clue to discovering where the builders came from.
Painstaking research into old Irish writing has lead OBrien to conclusions which now involve him in translating ancient Sumerian documents. He is convinced that the Tuatha were a real people, who really did travel to Ireland, and then moved to England.
The writings divide the Tuatha into two groups: a smaller group of leader and intellectuals, said to be godlike, and the workers, mostly craftsmen, who helped the scientists.
Most significant to the study of Wandlebury is one called Ogma, the Champion. In some writings he was also called Ogma, the Sun Sage. His name crops up in many place names in Britain, particularly at Wandlebury which is built on the Gog Magog Hills. The first G was often dropped in old English, so a translation of the name is likely to be Ogma-gog, which means Ogma of the prominent eyes.
In one of the best-known Irish folktales, Ogma was said to have hurled a massive stone into the centre of Tara, a village. The stone was so big, the story goes, that 80 oxen would have been needed to move it.
Many ancient documents say the Tuatha came from Achaia, and that they were driven from there by a Syrian invasion. If, as some scholars believe, Achaia was Greece, OBriens quest is at a dead end, for there is no evidence of such an invasion in the third millennium BC.
Our detective, at this point, asks to be allowed one leap in the dark. He says: There are records of incursions by the Amorites from the Syrian highlands into Accad; if for Achaia we read Accad the picture becomes so much clearer.
OBriens leap in the dark land him on terra firma. The northern province of Sumer was known as Accad, and a ruling group of scientists, just like that which arrived in Britain, were known to have taught people living in the so-called fertile crescent.
There are many similarities between the two groups. Both worshipped the god Anu, and both had a two-tiered social structure of elite scientists and skilled craftsmen. Even some individuals are common to both. The people driven from Sumeria, known as the Annanage, included a man named Shamash, described as learned in the signs of the sun.
Indeed, the similarities between the two peoples are so remarkable that OBrien, a most exacting and pedantic scientist, is prepared to pronounce with confidence that Shamash and his group of learned colleagues did journey from Sumer via Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland to England, where they built our astronomical monuments.
Most of OBriens theories have been disregarded. Historians hate having to re-write their books. OBrien has stumbled on evidence which, he says, will confound them all, and a second paper is already in preparation which, he hopes, will be greeted by rival experts with munificent acceptance.