Stonehenge Dated, Was Healing Centre?
Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the Stonehenge monument was actually constructed in 2300BC, a few hundred years later than was previously estimated. For the first time in over 40 years, excavation rights were granted to researchers to determine exactly when and why Stonehenge was built - and it seems that some answers have indeed been unearthed.
The dating is the major finding from an excavation inside the henge by Profs Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright.
The duo found evidence suggesting Stonehenge was a centre of healing. Others have argued that the monument was a shrine to worship ancestors, or a calendar to mark the solstices.
Additional findings in the areas surrounding the henge lend credence to the hypothesis that it was regarded as a place of healing:
The content of graves scattered around the monument and the ancient chipping of its rocks to produce amulets indicated that Stonehenge was the primeval equivalent of Lourdes, the French shrine venerated for its supposed ability to cure the sick.
An unusual number of skeletons recovered from the area showed signs of serious disease or injury. Analysis of their teeth showed that about half were from outside the Stonehenge area.
Darvill cautioned, however, that the new evidence did not rule out other uses for Stonehenge.
As evidence, Darvill said his dig had uncovered masses of fragments carved out of the bluestones by people to create amulets. Any rock carried around in such a way would have had some sort of protective or healing property, he said. He said that theory was backed by burials in southwest England where the stones were interred with their owners.
Both archaeologists quoted the 12th-century monk Geoffrey of Monmouth as saying the stones were thought to have medicinal properties. They also said that evidence uncovered by their dig showed that people were moving and chipping off pieces of the bluestones through the Roman period and even into the Middle Ages.
Darvill said he felt the "folklore interest" in the bluestones into modern times suggested some sort of lingering memory of their supposed healing powers.
"That would be for me the single strongest piece of evidence," he said.
A documentary about this recent dig was recorded by the BBC Timewatch series and airs on Saturday, September 27th.