Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone circle monument in southern England, has always been one of the unexplained mysteries of the world. Thousands of people visit it every year, trying to figure out the purpose of this massive construction.
This famous monument, located in Wiltshire, began as a simple earthwork enclosure in 3.100 B.C. and was built in several stages until about 1.600 B.C. Its location was probably chosen because of the open landscape in the area, in contrast to most of southern England, which was covered by woodland. Researchers are extremely keen to reveal the purpose of constructing this huge monument. So, let’s see which the dominant theories about Stonehenge are.
1. Burial site
Newly conducted research suggests that Stonehenge was a cemetery for the elite. According to Mike Parker Pearson, researcher of the University College London Institute of Archaeology, burials of religious or political elite occurred at Stonehenge in about 3.000 B.C. This theory was based on fragments that were exhumed more than 10 years ago. Back then, they were considered of less importance. Recently, British researchers re-exhumed more than 50.000 cremated bone fragments, which represented 63 separate individuals, men, women and children. A mace head and a bowl used to burn incense indicate that the burial concerned members of the religious or political elite.
2. Healing site
According to another theory, Stonehenge was a site where people would seek healing. As archaeologists George Wainwright and Timothy Darvill explain, this theory was based on the fact that large number of skeletons found around Stonehenge showed signs of illness or injury. Moreover, fragments of the Stonehenge bluestones had been chipped away perhaps as talismans for protective or healing purposes.
In 2012, Steven Waller, a researcher in archaeoacoustics, suggested at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that Stonehenge was built as a soundscape. According to Waller, in certain spots, referred as “quiet spots”, the sound is blocked and sound waves cancel each other. Waller’s theory is speculative, but other researchers have also supported the amazing acoustics of Stonehenge. A study released in May 2012 revealed that sound reverberations at Stonehenge are similar to those in a cathedral or a concert hall.
4. Celestial observatory
Another theory suggests that the construction of Stonehenge was connected to the sun. Archaeological research indicates rituals at the monument during the winter solstice. This theory is based on evidence of pig slaughter at Stonehenge in December and January. Summer and winter solstices are still celebrated there.
5. Monument of unity
According to Dr. Pearson from University College London, Stonehenge was built during a time of increased unity among the local Neolithic people. Summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset along with the natural flow of the landscape inspired people to band together and built this monument as an act of unity. As Dr. Pearson aptly describes “Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everything literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification”.
In 1918 Cecil Chubb, the owner of Stonehenge, offered it to the British nation. This unique monument remains a fascinating attraction for tourists and researchers that, hopefully, someday will manage to explain its mysteries.