Stonehenge's secret uncovered?

Picture: Frédéric Vincent

Two English professors are convinced they know the true reason behind the prehistoric monument: It was a healing centre to attract pilgrims from across Europe.

Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill

said the key to their theory was Stonehenge’s double circle of bluestones — a rare rock known to geologists as spotted dolomite — which lie at the centre of the monument.

The theory is based on the large amount of flakes of this rock, which has been found in tombs across the area. The tombs also contained bones showing signs of injury or disease.

It doesn’t ring true for me. That’s not to say the two aren’t right — after all, they’re the ones who’ve studied the thing and I’m just a history student — but to make the leap from rocks in tombs to European pilgrimage centre is vast, to say the least; if they have evidence that the dolomite, which was mined in Wales, is found in tombs across Europe, or if DNA analysis of the remains hinted that the bodies were of people from the continent, the news reports are silent. EDIT: I’ve found an article on the Daily Telegraph website stating that teeth were analysed and show half of the nearby bodies were of people “not native” to the local area (although it doesn’t state if they are continental in origin).

Wainwright

said the bluestones were prized for their healing properties — as evidenced by the small mountain of flakes the scientists uncovered during their dig.

Maybe they just thought the dolomite was pretty, or perhaps it had some trade value. Future archaeologists will see all sorts in our graves. It doesn’t mean our grave goods were believed to have some healing power.

Like all good researchers of prehistory, the pair agree that the site could have had other uses, perhaps as a religious centre.

I find myself wondering if my (I stress non-hostile) opposition to Wainwright and Darvill is the manifestation of a desire for Stonehenge to remain unexplained, or at least to have a more imagination-catching explanation. But this doesn’t seem to ring true, either. In all likelihood, far too much time has passed for a definitive reasoning to be established. It’s still fun to speculate, though.

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