March 10, 2013
Bones Found At Stonehenge Suggest It Was A Burial Ground
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Theories about Stonehenge are nearly as old as the ancient monument itself and range from an astronomical calendar to an observatory of bygone days. Now, a team of researchers from the UK claim to have discovered evidence the stone structure started life as a massive burial ground.University College London (UCL) professor Mike Parker Pearson and colleagues unearthed over 50,000 cremated bone fragments belonging to 63 different individuals at the site.
"These were men, women, children, so presumably family groups," Pearson, who led a team that included experts from over a dozen different universities in the UK, told the Associated Press (AP) on Saturday. "We'd thought that maybe it was a place where a dynasty of kings was buried, but this seemed to be much more of a community, a different kind of power structure."
Not only does Pearson believe his discovery debunks other theories about the monument´s origins, but the dating of the remains found there suggests the earliest stone circle at the site was placed there earlier than experts had thought. It had been believed the first grave markers were placed at the Wiltshire site in 3000 BC — 500 years earlier than previously believed, reported Maev Kennedy of The Guardian.
Pearson also believes the burials conducted there pre-dated Stonehenge in its current form. Excavated bodies have been removed from the monument for nearly a century, but it had been assumed they were all the bodies of adult males and were discarded as extraneous. New analysis methods have revealed the bodies there are almost evenly split amongst men and women, and children — including at least one newborn infant — entombed at the site.
“Archaeologists have argued for centuries about what Stonehenge really meant to the people who gave hundreds of thousands of hours to constructing circles of bluestones shipped from Wales, and sarsens the size of double-decker buses dragged across Salisbury plain,” Kennedy wrote. “Druids and New Age followers still claim the site as their sacred place. Others have judged it a temple, an observatory, a solar calendar, a site for fairs or ritual feasting or — one of the most recent theories — a centre for healing, a sort of Stone Age Lourdes.”
In addition, Pearson´s team has confirmed there was a second Stonehenge, with the first being a large circular structure built some 500 years before the site that we know of today. The other Stonehenge, they believe, was built 4,500 years ago (or 200 years earlier than previously believed). The professor told Mail Online's Leon Watson he and his colleagues will now attempt to discover where the stones used at Stonehenge originated from.
Their research, which took more than a decade to complete, will be the topic of a UK television special which will be broadcast on Sunday. The documentary, Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons, will be shown on Channel 4 at 8pm local time on March 10.