Stonehenge

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By: Kelsey Daniels

Stonehenge.jpg


Brief Overview

In what is now known as Wiltshire, England lies a monumental place known to all as, Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been viewed for centuries as one of Britain's most influential and impactful monuments. As the center or basis of the World Heritage Site, it contains a vast amount of history and attracts more than 800,000 tourists every year. Built at a time of prehistoric change, it offers people a chance to visit and try to understand their Neolithic lineage and get a sense of life during the Bronze Age. Its placement was most likely convenient for travelers during the time and with evidence that has been found, it is easy to say that one of the many purposes for Stonehenge could have been as an epicenter for trade. People traveling across Europe could easily stop and sell their handmade beads, pottery, or baskets. While it is believed that the start of Stonehenge began 5,000 years ago, modern day Stonehenge is a compilation of multiple constructions and many years of work. While it started out small, Stonehenge has grown substantially and it now a compilation of multiple stone types and formations, including sarens and bluestones. Over the years there has been some decay along with the growth, causing previously famous attributes to fall completely. It is thought that Neolithic Britons began the construction of Stonehenge and it carried out through generations, with different beliefs and thoughts arising along the way. There are genuine ideas about who built Stonehenge, but most of the ideas are easily proven false and get blown out of proportion. This landmark lies in a concentric, circular pattern, with ditches surrounding the stones. These patterns are what have led people, specifically pseduoarchaeologists, to believe that a greater being created stonehenge. [1] [2]

Artifacts

There are many ideas about how Stonehenge came about and about who influenced it, but there are also many different ideas about what lies at the site. There have been stone tools found that lead to talk about how it was built, there are thoughts that aliens sent the stones down, and there is also talk about treasure being buried underneath the site. Regardless of what the actual truth of the creation of Stonehenge is, many things have been found over the course of multiple excavations and a lot of artifacts are on display at places like the British Museum. Things like metal shards from an unidentifiable source, Egyptian beads, and gold artifacts have been found at the site. Archaeological dating shows that artifacts go all the way back to the Bronze Age. Along with stone tools, both at and around the main site, archaeologists have found wooden beams and posts in the ground. Many thoughts arose with this discovery, but the most accepted theory is that these posts were probably used during rituals. They make have been used or carved, to help the people worship their gods and deities. Helpful information and artifacts are not just found at Stonehenge itself. There has been an abundance of artifacts, such as the wooden posts, hundreds of animal bones, and thousands of flint pieces found one to two miles from the site. This shows that the people were not stuck just in one place; they lived in different places and possibly traveled to the site just to perform rituals. It was a place to go to find solace. [3] [4] [2] [5]

Artifact1.jpg Stone tool found under stone mound.

Artifact2.jpg Multiple shapes and sizes of arrowheads found in an excavation.

Excavation

Just as everything else, as something gets older, as it ages, it shows physically. Because of this, Stonehenge is not in the same condition today, as it was years ago, but that is to be expected. Who knows if archaeologists will ever have the technology to look at a site and say with full confidence, exactly what it looked like in the time period it was created. Especially since many archaeologists believe Stonehenge has moved over the years and knowing that the stones originated from different parts of the world and have moved, there is no exact way to tell the original shape of the site. This is all true, however, the site still holds different amounts of value during the various excavations that have taken place throughout its existence. The first evidential excavation dates back to the 17th century. King James hired an architect to analyze and study the site. This lead to the argument or idea that Stonehenge was built by Romans. Moving into the 18th century, a man named William Stukeley claimed that Stonehenge was a Druid monument. Throughout the years, many excavations have taken place, leading to new discoveries such as burials, found artifacts of lifestyle and culture, and much more. Because of the vast amount of land and sites at Stonehenge, there is no one date that excavation started at Stonehenge. Each specific area and plain was excavated starting at different dates and multiple people have visited each place, on more than one occasion. What has been noticed by many is that the abundance of mounds, especially on the Salisbury Plain, served burial sites for the populations that lived in the area. Sacrifices were made and rituals took place. There has been graves found that show this place was viewed as sacred. Bodies were buried with respect, showing dignity was not stripped from the deceased. [3] [5] In the early 2000s, archaeologists Timothy Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright excavated the inner circle of Stonehenge to try and discover a deeper meaning to why Stonehenge was built and how it came about. They paid close attention to the smaller bluestones. The truth, they believe, lies here. The two dug trenches around large stones. From their project which went on for multiple weeks, the two concluded that Stonehenge served as a healing site. Folkloric accounts dating very far back indicate the healing power of these stones. In the passages you can find that it was believed that if a "sick man" were to wash his body with these stones, his sickness would go away and he would be healed. This seems of a more legitimate reason for the site than say, ancient aliens. After the excavation was over, this was the belief: that men, women, and children would travel from far places to Stonehenge, to use the power of the bluestones whenever they needed healing. [6]

Pseudoarchaeology

While it is said to believe that Stonehenge is thousands of years old, there is evidence that it is much younger than we are told to believe. Also, the artifacts that we are supposed to find near Stonehenge, that hint at life existing at the site, are never really found. If they are, they were most likely placed there as false evidence. What starts or essentially, sparks, the main pseudoarchaeological beliefs behind Stonehenge, the idea that Aliens came down and arranged the stones, is that humans could not physically lift and arrange the stones themselves and there was no technology or tools available at the time. [7] Some people are led to believe that Merlin the Wizard crafted Stonehenge for his magical needs. [8] Another outrageous notion is that Stonehenge is a portal to an extraterrestrial world or some other dimension. Aliens supposedly use waves of different sounds to transform or alter the state of the rocks and some how, some way, the portal is opened. This relates greatly to the well known-theory of geographical location with other sites. Some geographers and astronomers say that stonehenge and other archaeological sites, like the Giza pyraminds align directly with stars in the solar system. This to them, of course, is a sign of the so-called alien impact on Stonehenge. Along with this come researches that say they have personally witnessed UFO and flying saucer sightings, which they deem as obvious signs of extraterrestrial life. [9]

Deconstructing Claims/Evidence

There has been a substantial amount of work done by archaeologists to deconstruct the theories that have arisen about stonehenge. Breaking down these myths might not be cut and dry, but there has been evidence found for more realistic needs for the site such as burial grounds, healing grounds, an amphitheater, or an observatory. The way the stones are set up make way for beautiful acoustics. If astronomers are going to say that the site lines up with the stars, why not just state the truth that the site makes for a lovely place to star gaze? [8] Saying that aliens had to be responsible, due to the inability for humans to move stones that large, goes back to the misconception of age and time. While it is true that the sites surrounding Stonehenge can be dated back to 10,000 years ago, Stonehenge itself was only built 5,000 or so years ago. With this, comes the knowledge of the Ice Age. Knowing when the last Ice Age occurred, helps to deconstruct this. Knowing that Stonehenge is only 4,000-5,000 years old, the possibility that glaciers could've moved stones close to the site, disrupts and possibly gets rid of the need for people to carry these heavy stones a long way all together. As previously state, artifacts were found miles away from the site itself, that help to reveal the truth behind Stonehenge. The flint fragments and posts can be dated back to 7500-4700 B.C. This leads to the notion or truth that people migrated or moved from previously created civilizations and came to Stonehenge for certain rituals or sacred times. It was not the starting place, but something that came after the people of the area already had life established. [10] Many archaeologists and scientist believe that these false notions were created as a way to try and preserve the site. If people think that aliens built it, or that it serves as a portal to other dimensions, people are going to be drawn to that and be more likely to visit, giving more income to the area. Weird or unique things are bound to attract people. If tourists visit the site, they are going to believe they are seeing an alien portal. Rock formations that have been there for years is what they are realistically seeing. Instead of drawing people in these false truths, they should focus more on the beauty of the site. Workers spend time to buff, straighten, and reposition the stones to make them look aesthetically appealing. That is what should draw tourists in; the beauty of art and nature, not the misconception of what "could be." [9]

Resources

  1. “Stonehenge.” Description of Stonehenge | English Heritage, English Heritage, www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/history/description/#.
  2. 2.0 2.1 “English Heritage.” Research on Stonehenge | English Heritage, English Heritage, www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/history/research/.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Klein, Christopher. “‘Superhenge’ Excavation Reveals Big Surprise.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 17 Aug. 2016, www.history.com/news/superhenge-excavation-reveals-big-surprise.
  4. Caesar, Ed. “What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Sept. 2014, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-lies-beneath-Stonehenge-180952437/.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mariaw. “Secret Stonehenge: Mounds, Artifacts, and Intrigue.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 5 Aug. 2017, www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/secret-stonehenge-mounds-artifacts-and-intrigue-008552.
  6. Jones, Dan. “New Light on Stonehenge.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Oct. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/new-light-on-stonehenge-11706891/.
  7. “Pseudoarchaeology Behind the Site.” Americas Stonehenge, America's Stonehenge, 2017, pseudoarchaeology.leadr.msu.edu/mysteryhill/psuedoarchaeology-behind-the-site/.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pappas, Stephanie. “5 Strange Theories About Stonehenge.” LiveScience, Purch, 12 Mar. 2013, www.livescience.com/27832-strange-theories-about-stonehenge.html.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Radford, Ben. “Stonehenge: Myths and Conspiracies.” Seeker, Seeker, 11 Sept. 2015, www.seeker.com/stonehenge-myths-and-conspiracies-1770240303.html.
  10. Jarus, Owen. “Stonehenge: Facts & Theories About Mysterious Monument.” LiveScience, Purch, 18 Aug. 2017, www.livescience.com/22427-stonehenge-facts.html.