The new study suggests the practice of building huge stone monuments spread in ancient Europe from northwestern France.
The so-called megaliths have long enchanted archaeologists for the tremendous skills and effort needed to build monuments such as Stonehenge in England.
Using thousands of radiocarbon measurements, Bettina Schulz Paulsson of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, conducted a statistical analysis of European monuments, concluding that the earliest sites were built in Brittany between 4500 and 4100 BC.
In an e-mail Tuesday, Paulson said the findings disputed previous theories that suggest that megaliths originated in the Middle East or developed independently in different parts of Europe.
Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at London University College, called it "a great exercise in large data analysis," but called for further research to determine how practice is spreading.