Has the mystery of Stonehenge finally been solved?
Researchers in Britain who have been studying the famously cryptic structure for the past 10 years believe they could have the answer, and it has little, if anything, to do with sun worship by ancient Druids or even construction by space aliens.
The latest theory is that the monument was designed to mark the unification of feuding farming communities who decided to make peace some 4,000 to 4,500 years ago.
The Stonehenge Riverside Project, or SRP, has featured teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London investigating the origins of the puzzle in Salisbury, England.
Sheffield’s Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who is publishing his theory in a new book, “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery,” thinks indicators at the site suggest the construction required a massive amount of cooperation among various groups inhabiting western Britain.
He explains the characteristics of the stones are very appropriate to its time and place.
“All the architectural influences for Stonehenge can be found in previous monuments and buildings within Britain, with origins in Wales and Scotland. In fact, Britain’s Neolithic people were isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries. Britain may have become unified but there was no interest in interacting with people across the [English] Channel. Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel,” he said.
Researchers say such a huge project would have required vast resources and thousands of workers, with the resources likely serving as a unifying force among residents of the region.
“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,” Parker Pearson said.
Over the years, there have been many theories as to why Stonehenge was constructed.
Time Magazine published a 2009 article by Dan Fletcher to document some of the ideas.
Fletcher said fascination with the origin of the site began back in A.D. 1130 when an English historian said “no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built here.”
One outlandish theory is that space aliens were the designers.
“These theories feed off the fact that no one’s exactly sure how the rocks got to their present location –the origin of some were traced as far as a Welsh mountain range 137 miles away from the Stonehenge,” Fletcher said. “Although modern tests employing only technology from the era have moved similar stones, there’s still no full explanation for how ancient people managed such a feat. Hence, aliens.”
Other theories include the possibility Stonehenge was an ancient astronomical calendar, a navigational landmark, a burial place, or a location for healing. Another guess was the configuration was a tribute to an ancient fertility goddess, claiming the structure resembles a giant vulva.
While sun worship may not have been the prime reason for its development, Parker Pearson says the location of the site may have a solar connection, as it lines up with the sunrises of annual solstices, and that its main avenue also aligns with features in the nearby landscape.
“When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realized that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance,” he said. “This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else. Perhaps they saw this place as the center of the world.”