Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, built in several phases between 3100 and 1600 BC. It consists of an outer ring of 13-foot-tall, 25-ton standing stones made of sarsen, a silicified sandstone, many of which are topped with horizontal lintel stones. Inside is a ring of smaller bluestones and a ring of free-standing “trilithons”, each comprising two larger vertical Sarsens capped by a single lintel stone.
The true purpose of Stonehenge has been the subject of considerable and long-running debate.
In the 12th century, for example, the cleric and chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth recounted that the henge was the work of Merlin.
The wizard is said to have magically taken the stones from Ireland – where they had been laid by giants – to mark a mass grave of British nobles.
In the 17th century, meanwhile, archaeologist John Aubrey speculated that the henge was built by ancient Celtic people as a Druidic temple, a center of religious worship – a claim popularized by antiquarian William Stukeley .
The problem with both notions, of course, is that Stonehenge predates both the real-life figures who inspired Arthurian legend by millennia – and the ancient Druids by centuries.
In fact, radiocarbon dating to the mid-20th century proved it had been standing for over 1,000 years before the Celts inhabited the reading.
Nevertheless, modern Druids still gather at Stonehenge each year for the summer solstice, a practice linked to the observation first made in the 18th century that the monument is so aligned that its entrance faces the rising sun in the daytime. the longest of the year.
Many scholars have suggested that the builders of Stonehenge used the monument as a solar calendar, allowing them to mark the passing of the seasons.
However, there is also evidence to suggest that part of Merlin’s story was true. Specifically, Stonehenge marked the location of a burial site.
Hundreds of human bones have been found at the site, some showing signs of cremation prior to burial, with radiocarbon dating suggesting they were laid down between 3000 and 2500 BC.
The limited number of individuals – around 240 in total – and the fact that burials seem to be increasing over time have led some to speculate that the area around Stonehenge could have been used to bury members of a royal family over the years. generations.
However, other scholars have criticized this interpretation, questioning why, if the site was so ceremonially important, the surrounding area was still used for agriculture and grazing.
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Meanwhile, in 2010 archaeologists unearthed a second stone circle located just a mile from Stonehenge.
This monument has been nicknamed the “bluestonehenge” in reference to the rocks from which it was formed.
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge may have been part of a much larger memorial complex, which high-ranking people used to honor their dead.
Bluestonehenge may have been a stage through which the deceased were transported before reaching Stonehenge: their final resting place.
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