There are many theories about a mysterious rock formation in the U.K. called Stonehenge. This formation is made up of two circular shapes with two horseshoe-like shapes in the center. Many archeologists have attempted to excavate the site, as well as go there to learn more about the structure and why the ancient people built it. They have all come up with different things. From theories of it being a ritual site, a place of healing, a type of sun dial that measured the summer solstice, and it being the last stop on a long journey of a burial ritual, Stonehenge no doubt had a ritualistic history; however, this paper will focus on it being a place of healing. In 2010, Vince Gaffney, a professor of landscape archeology, set out on a three-year project in order to find out more about Stonehenge (Underhill 50).
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Stonehenge: the Truth Behind the Stones
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Gaffney worked on virtual excavations in the past and did the same thing with Stonehenge. He looked into all the past research, as well as did his own through virtual models and images. One thing that peaked his interest was a wooden structure about 1,000 yards away from Stonehenge, very similar in shape and size. He also noticed that Stonehenge may have had a wooden ring around the outside of the stones in the past. So, Gaffney decided to go on a three-year journey into discovering more about Stonehenge and the architectural structures around it. Using the latest technology at the time, Gaffney made his first discovery in just two weeks. According to William Underhill in his work Scientific America Vol. 304, Within just two weeks the team, armed with high-powered magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar, discovered traces of that putative timber ring (Underhill 50). This was exactly what he was hoping for because he knew that there was more to come based on his calculations from his virtual research. Through more of his discoveries, there is now more information about what Stonehenge may have looked like in the beginning and after building was completed.
Stonehenge has been defined as many different things by archeologists. Writer for Science News, Bruce Bower defined Stonehenge in a 2007 volume of the magazine as a legendary set of massive stones that people positioned on Salisbury Plain around [4,600 years ago] (Bower Vol. 171 67). He later stated in June of 2008, that it was a set of earth, timber and stone structures perched provocatively on Englands Salisbury Plain (Bower Vol. 173 13). These definitions are interesting because they changed a lot in only a one-year time period. This is because of all the new developments in technology, as well as more archeologists being interested in learning more about Stonehenge. Through a lot of Gaffneys research, as well as others, we now know what Stonehenge most likely looked like when it was first created c.a. 1600 B.C. Underhill stated that Stonehenge started off as a circular ditch and bank??¦possibly surrounding a ring of timber posts (Underhill 51). Later discoveries then helped to develop the idea that over the following 1,000 years, people brought in the giant blue stones and arranged them in a pattern to measure the summer solstice sun. These bluestones were important because they were said to have brought a healing property into the structure. After realizing what Stonehenge looked like, archeologists began digging into what Stonehenge was actually used for in 1600 B.C.
Mike Parker Pearson, an archeologist at the University of Sheffield, announced a discovery made in 2007 of remains that were described to be part of a vast prehistoric settlement (Underhill 52). These remains were found about two miles away from Stonehenge itself. Pearson believed that the remains of the village-like structures where the builders of Stonehenge lived during the time they were building the monument. Through this discovery, he started considering that there might be other monuments linked to Stonehenge, so he started looking. He ended up excavating what is now known as the Southern Circle, a concentric ring of timber posts and said that it was the mirror image of the arrangement at Stonehenge (Underhill 52). This discovery lead to other archeological excavations and findings, showing that Stonehenge was only part of a larger landscape and ritual ground. Archeologists began to suspect that there might have been another reason for Stonehenge, however, when they discovered some human remains near Stonehenge that were not native to the area.
In 2002, archeologists were continuing to excavate areas around Stonehenge. They came across some human remains three miles from the monument in a place called Amesbury. They belonged to a man that was from the Bronze Age, and he was buried with an assortment of different treasures and archery gear. He was named the Amesbury Archer because of these factors. He is believed to have been an important figure to the native people at the time. This was most likely because of his knowledge of metal working and the other advanced inventions he carried with him. When looking into the remains, archeologists found that he had lost a knee and had an infection that was causing his bones to deteriorate. Among further analysis of his teeth, Underhill writes that they suggested his original home was far away in the Alps (Underhill 53). This suggests that he came to Stonehenge because he wanted to be healed, or at least have some pain taken away because he had heard stories about the bluestones that Stonehenge was made up of. Other remains were found later on that were said to be a teenager from the Mediterranean and about seven sets of human remains were from Wales. Further theories about the healing properties have been found based on the stones in the structure itself.
Many of the Stones in Stonehenge have vanished from the site and most of the stones that remain have chips carved out of them. Underhill writes that Darvill found plenty of tiny flakes apparently deliberately chipped off the larger blocks, perhaps for use as talismans (Underhill 53). Researchers today even believe that some of the original stones that are missing were shipped off to other places because some people could not go to Stonehenge themselves but needed the healing properties from the stones.
Stonehenge has been said to have been a place of ritualistic burial, astronomical observations, as well as just a normal burial ground. When looking deeper into its core, however, one can see that it was also considered to be a place of healing and hope for people who were ill c.a. 1600 B.C. onward. Along with the other theories, this one has a great story behind it and some very interesting evidence to go along with it. Historians may never uncover exactly what Stonehenge was built for in the beginning, but they at least have good evidence and a strong story to give the public a good understanding of what it may have been for.
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