November 29, 2011
New Evidence Links Stonehenge To Ancient Sun Worship
Researchers have reportedly uncovered new evidence that supports the theory that Stonehenge had been used to worship the sun before the legendary stones were erected at the location.
According to a report published online at the MyFoxHouston.com website Monday, representatives from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have confirmed that a team of experts representing both institutions had discovered a pair of large pits that were "positioned on celestial alignment."
"The team also discovered a gap in the middle of the northern side of the prehistoric Cursus enclosure located north of Stonehenge that could have been a point of entrance for processions believed to have taken place," the report, which was credited to EndPlay Staff Reports, said.
"Researchers suggested there may have been tall stones, wooden posts or fires at the pits to mark the sun's rising and setting. They could have been used to celebrate the sun as it passed across the sky at the summer solstice," the article added.
In a separate report, also published Monday, BBC News reported that the archaeological survey team discovered the pits as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The British news agency said that the team was using geophysical imaging techniques to investigate the site, where they have been conducting subsurface survey work since last summer.
The discovery leads them to believe that the location had been used in sun-worshipping rituals even before Stonehenge's trademark stones were placed over 5,000 years ago, the BBC added.
"This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape," Archaeologist and Professor Vince Gaffney, project leader from the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre at the University of Birmingham, said in a statement.
"These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important, ritual focus and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date," he added. "Other activities were carried out at other ceremonial sites only a short distance away. The results from this new survey help us to appreciate just how complex these activities were and how intimate these societies were with the natural world."
Likewise, Paul Garwood, Lecturer in Prehistory at the University of Birmingham, said, "Our knowledge of the ancient landscapes that once existed around Stonehenge is growing dramatically as we examine the new geophysical survey results. We can see in rich detail not only new monuments, but entire landscapes of past human activity, over thousands of years, preserved in sub-surface features such as pits and ditches. This project is establishing a completely new framework for studying the Stonehenge landscape."
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