A prehistoric puzzle
Famous today for the annual summer and winter solstices, when thousands gather to watch the sun rise and set, questions still exist as to the origin and purpose of this iconic monument. Was it a burial site, a temple for sun worship or a giant stone calendar? Just how it was built is also the subject of much debate. Many of the stones have been identified as originating in the Preseli Mountains of South Wales, 350 km away.
Some others, called Sarsen Stones, are from the Marlborough Downs near Avebury, 40 km away.
The largest of the stones from Marlborough weighs a hefty 50 tonnes and would, it is estimated, need 500 men to move it, with an extra 100 men to lay log rollers to transport it along.
While Stonehenge predates any known religion, it has become a recognised place of pilgrimage and worship for Pagans and a popular destination for New Agers who claim powerful energies at the site. The first record of a druid practice at Stonehenge was in 1905 when the Ancient Order of Druids held a ceremony there. Nowadays the ritual use of the site is carefully managed by English Heritage who are responsible for it as a national monument.
Exciting new find
In July 2010 the discovery of a second possible henge or barrow located 900m away from Stonehenge, has been hailed as one of the most exciting archaeological finds of the past 50 years. It was identified using the latest ‘virtual excavation’ techniques such as ground penetrating radar and magnetic and electromagnetic studies.
The sensors used in these analyses could be attached to fast moving vehicles and so could scan large areas of ground very quickly.
Physical excavation of the new site may well throw new light and meaning on the puzzle of its larger neighbour, Stonehenge. New evidence of 17 chapels plus pits, barrows and monuments has recently been found at the site.