I am of course referring to the world famous prehistoric monument known as Stonehenge. Mystery has long surrounded this spectacular example of prehistoric ingenuity; how was it built, when was it built, who built it? All these questions are still very much up-in-the-air.
Located approximately 3 kilometres west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres north of Salisbury in southern England, Stonehenge has been the focus of much speculation and examination. Many theories have been put forward to explain its many features, and few scholars are able to agree on points of construction techniques and technology, and purpose.
The leading theories regarding construction describe the use of rolling logs, shear legs and sledges, all of which were available to prehistoric populations of England. Some of these techniques were tested by a retired construction worker from Michigan, one Wally Wallington, who, in 2003, achieved some measure of success in building his own version of Stonehenge using only materials and techniques available at the time. It is thought that the large stones were floated up the river Avon until reaching Salisbury, where they were then transported, possibly using woven wicker rollers, to the site at Wiltshire.
Of course, conspiracy theorists and ancient alien advocates have their own fair share of theories about how it was constructed. Aliens, acoustic and/or magical levitation, ancient power tools and even divine intervention top the list. Though no one theory holds any more water than the next.
What is known with a reasonable amount of accuracy is its age: the result of at least seven periods of construction, the early site is believed to have consisted of wooden posts and possibly a thatched roof. The first period of construction took place circa 3100 BC, consisting of a circular bank and ditch enclosure made of Late Cretaceous Seaford Chalk. The next period was circa 3000 BC wherein several post holes indicate an intricate system of wooden posts. Next, circa 2600 BC, came the first examples of igneous rock used on the site. The next phase, circa 2600-2400 BC, saw the erection of the 30 enormous Oligocene-Miocene sarsen stones. The final three periods of construction were largely rearrangements and small additions to the site.
What Stonehenge was used for is another story entirely. Over the years hundreds of theories have been proffered to explain its purpose, ranging from an elaborate calendar to an astronomical observation tool and even to a place of worship for the Druids. But all of these theories are based more on speculation than fact. It is curious how accurately the layout conforms to both astronomical and seasonal events, such as the winter and summer solstice, and in light of that, some of these theories seem more plausible than others. In celebration of the so-called ancient pagan rituals of the solstice many people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Stonehenge, paying homage to its builders and the sacred air the location is said to embody.
Recently however, a new theory has been suggested for the purpose of Stonehenge. Roughly 500 years prior to the construction of the Stonehenge monument, a larger circle of stones was erected around what researchers now believe was a massive community burial ground. The site is thought to have been large enough to hold the bodies of nearly 300 individuals. Researchers from more than a dozen universities across Britain concluded that the original ancient Stonehenge structure was used as a grave site for entire families based on the study of cremated human remains excavated from the site.
According to Mike Parker Pearson, of the University College London, the remains, thought to have been buried at the site around the time of its construction, were found to be that of men, women and children. So it’s safe to conclude that this was a community based burial site, rather than that of a dynasty of kings, as had previously been asserted.
In addition to this revelation about its purpose, the group of researchers believe they have explained, at least in part, the construction of Stonehenge. They assert that more than 4000 individuals participated in the construction effort, living in a nearby settlement, also recently unearthed near Durrington Walls.
By analyzing the teeth and bones of livestock brought to the settlement, researchers concluded that the animals born in springtime were typically slaughtered between the ages of nine and 15 months. Suggesting that food consumption took place in the settlement, in the mid-summer and mid-winter months, which would support the idea that construction efforts took place in seasonal spits and spurts over the span of a decade. Parker Pearson concludes: “It’s not that they’re coming to worship, they’re coming to construct it.”
Read more at The Inquisitr.
I also blog at mysteriousuniverse.org, check it out!
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