Stonehenge Research

I was intrigued by the cliffhanger Prof. Watrall left us with about Stonehenge and what it is, so I decided to do some research to see if I could answer the question for myself. Here’s what I found from the Smithsonian Magazine’s website…

The stones originally came from the River Avon and for a long time the path that the stones were dragged from river to their current location was the formal path to the henge. More recently, other path’s have been made and the original formal path was deserted. This adds to the erie feeling some hikers get as they approach the stones.

Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist from England, is researching and completing an underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge. His research has uncovered more than 15 previously unknown late Neolithic monuments.

Previously, it was widely believed that Stonehenge was the center of a complex community where people were excluded as the stones represented a barrier where only few people may have been admitted. The middle of the stones was mysterious and possibly reserved for priests or big men.

Gaffney stresses that the only way to uncover all of Stonehenge’s secrets is to essentially destroy the area to find the joys of it. Just like in class how we have discussed that archaeology is a destructive process.

After the discovery of the many burial sites surrounding Stonehenge theories about what Stonehenge’s use was arose, such as a temple, parliament, graveyard, or healing ground. The only thing certain about Stonehenge is that people were buried there, the stones are aligned in astronomically important ways, and the chemical composition of animal bones found nearby suggests that people traveled hundreds of miles to visit Stonehenge.

Since archaeologist are still trying to discover what Stonehenge was, they turn to simpler questions to help solve the mystery. However, the mystery of how the bluestones, which weigh between 4 and 8 tons apiece, got to the site nearly 5,000 years ago and 170 miles away stumps them again. The best theory they have come up with is that they were carried across both land and sea by dozens of men on each.

In 1620, the Duke of Buckingham had men excavate in the center of the Stonehenge. They discovered skulls of animals such as cattle and “other beasts” along with burnt coals or charcoals.

In 1952, Willard Libby, an American chemist and Nobel Prize winner, used radiocarbon dating to estimate a piece of charcoal from the monument as being from 1848 +/-275 years. The date has been looked at many times since then and archaeologists have come to the conclusion that the stones were erected on the site around 2600 B.C.

In 2003, Parker Pearson did a survey of the nearby Durrington Walls. The huts, tools, animal bones, and even human remains he found helped him conclude that they housed the workers who build Stonehenge.