Monday, September 22, 2008

Findings Point to Stonehenge as Healing Center

Stonehenge, with its huge monoliths erected in a mysterious circle, was a Lourdes-style Stone Age healing center revered for its ability to cure the sick, according to new archaeological findings.

"It could have been a temple, even as it was a healing center," archaeologist Timothy Darvill said today as he and fellow archaeologist Geoffrey Wainwright disclosed some findings of recent investigations in and around Stonehenge.

The archaeologists managed to date the construction of the stone monument to about 2300 BC, a couple of centuries younger than was previously thought, according to the Associated Press. It was at that time that bluestones — a rare rock known to geologists as spotted dolomite — were shipped by hand or by raft from Pembrokeshire in Wales to Salisbury Plain in southern England, to create the inner circle of Stonehenge.

Wainwright and Darvill said 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.

"People were in a state of distress, if I can put it as politely as that, when they came to the Stonehenge monument," Darvill told journalists assembled at London's Society of Antiquaries. He pointed out that experts near Stonehenge have found two skulls that showed evidence of primitive surgery, some of just a few known cases of operations in prehistoric Britain.

Also found near Stonehenge was the body of a man known as the Amesbury Archer, who had a damaged skull and badly hurt knee and died around the time the stones were being installed. Analysis of the Archer's bones showed he was from the Alps.

The scientists announced their findings Monday, ahead of a documentary due to air on the BBC and the Smithsonian Channel on Saturday, September 27.

Click here for the Associated Press article.
Click here for a BBC article and 2-minute video on the findings.
For more details, click here for The Guardian article.

Archaeology students sift through earth at Stonehenge to find fragments of bluestone.

Archaeologists Tim Darvill, left, and Geoffrey Wainwright with fragments of bluestones at their press conference today at the Society of Antiquaries of in London.


ludmil said...

One expects Stonehedge to stand in bleak silent isolation,a fixed point in the shifting annals of history .In the 2o century there were 3 major restorations.Fallen stones were re-erected,leaning stones were straightened,amd many were set permanently in concrete.Some of the massive horizontal lintens on top of the standing stones were put there by a 60- ton crane,not by the efforts of a Bronze age builder.Forgotten photographs of the restoration work recently rediscovered by the Stonehenge historian Christofer Chipendale chalenge our view of the monument.Is it an ancient edifice ,or is it more truthfull to call it modern reconstruction?After all most of the 162 stones have been moved -many of them in the last 100 years .Nobody can say how Stonehedge ought to look because there has never been a deffinite version.None of the ancient people who contributed to it had a finished building in mind -as it in case with let say the pyramids.Stnehedge has always been evolving.It began as a circular eartwork then around 4000 years ago bluestones were brought from Wales and erected in a U shape,Later these were removed and the circle of trilithones-upright stones supporting a horizontal-wasonstructed on the site.Over the senturies,the bluestones were brought back inside the main circle and reconfigured in a various arrangments:rounds,ovals and horseshoes.Abaout 3000 years ago Stenehedge was wrecked-possibly by the action of weather,but more likely human action..One of the stones toppled in that first and most serious act of vandalism-known to modern hengologist as stone 55-snapped in half like a twig and still lies where fell.31 of the great sarsen stones and 29 of the smaller bluestones have been plundered-either in antiquity or in more recent times.The 17th.century historian John Aubrey,who studied Stonehedge for much of his life,heard an account of stones being carted off to make a bridge.He was told that villagers liked to take a pieces of the blue stones and grind them to a powder,which they put in their wells to keep away toads.In january 1797 one of the central trilithons crashed down after being destabilized by a rapid thaw,in 1900 an ominous hour before the dawn of the 20 century,another of the trilithons came down in gale.The worst desfigurement in recent centuries has been caused not by locals or the weather ,but by tourists.Dr.Wiliam Stukeley,one of the many learned man to be fascinated by Stonehedge ,complained in 1740 that visitors were braking off pieces with hammers.This new custom continued in the Victorian era.One visitor wrote taht on a sunny day"a constant chipping of stone broke the solitude of the place"Not all the hammerers were souvenir hunters ,some were grafiti artists.The vandalism did not cese in hte 20th.century.An army camp built on Salisbury Plain during the First ww obliterated the eastern end of the "cirsus" an ancient 2 mile ditch that runs north of the monument.There is even a rumor that Stonehedge was slated for demolition in the First WW,because was hazard to the newfangled aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps.The greatest changes to the aspect of Stonehedge have been wrought not by those who defaced it,but by those who made it their life,s work to restore it. to continue in part 2

ludmil said...

Stonehenge- part 2 comment. Way back when i was working at the"National Institute of Monuments" in Bulgaria there was an ethical dilemma.In every restoration you have to struck a fine balance between the original and add- ons.What kind of materials are you going to use?Old or contemporary?Usually the funding is limited and there are so many other monument in dire need for help.Back in the Seventies and Eighties using the new epoxies glues was the "Thing".Later the practice was scale down because it turn out to be not always the right remedy.There are two angles in restoration:Ethical and aesthetical .I would add technical too.They need to be in harmony ,when they are not balanced the monument suffer and it shows.But let get back to the subject-Stonehenge wit h is perfect example how the excess of passion and funds to pursuing it can ruin one monument.In 1898 Sir Edmund Antrobus inherited Stonehenge from his uncle,on whose land it stood.The new owner at first hinted that he might sell the whole edifice and ship it to America,but then instead appointed professor Wiliam Gowland to halt the deterioration of his property.Under Gowland,s direction one stone was straightened ,others were shored up with timbers, and much useful archaeological work was done on the site.Gowland also began the practice of anchoring the stones in cement.A second round was undertaken after the First WW.Lintels that had not moved in melenia were lifted from the most unstable uprights,which were brought back to vertical using jacks and steel supports.More concrete was poured beneath their feet,then ,as photographers and newsreel cameramen captured the moment,the lintels were popped back on like lids on jars.The trilithons that had been fallen back in1797 and 1900 had to wait until 1958 to be pulled back up to vertical.A huge crane designed to lift aircraft was employed to raise the stones.At the end only 7 of the sarsens were actually standing in their original sockets.Most of Stonehenge now was embedded in yard-thick cement.But to the naked eye ,and from a distance they looked pretty much as they had done in the 16 th.century.The righting of Stone 23 in 1964 was the most recent major task.For a brief period Stonehenge has stood undisturbed apart from the clamor of traffic on the nearby main road.which sometimes rattles the brooding monoliths in their concrete boots.

Anonymous said...

Archeologists must be praised for their detailed work, but when it comes to throw hypothesis, it is tragic... or comic, at the best not better than anyone else. The 24th century BC was indeed the time Stonehenge was remodeled to convert it into a venue where the Megalith Builders renewed their kings. The date was based on a very important astronomic event: that century, the sun at midsummer happened to be directly over the star Regulus.

Gregory LeFever said...

Very interesting points, Manuel. Thank you for leaving your comment. You are an exceptional student of ancient history, with ample insights into the mysteries. I encourage people to visit your blog at to read more of your observations and thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!