Forty four years after the last archeological research of the famous Stonehenge, British scientists have organized two-week excavations. Although it will take years to study the findings, it goes without saying that the work will bring sensational results.
There are hardly any other mysterious places in the world than the well-known British megalith that attracted people of the Stone Age. Professor Geoff Wainwright, Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage, and Tim Darvill, Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University, are certain that they have contrived to unravel one of the mysteries of the Neolithic giant, namely the mystery of its origin. They believe that if Stonehenge indeed used to be an astronomic calendar, a place for religious pilgrimage during the Stone Age or a place where druids paid homage to their corpses then it happened long time afterwards. Stonehenge originally was a sanatorium, or a resort hotel.
The scientists say that the internal ring of Stonehenge, which has been lost, used to be formed by blocks of the so-called blue stones that had the supernatural healing power, as people of the Stone Age believed. Each of those blocked weighed from one to three tons. As well as the modern French town of Lourdes (Europe’s healing place which attracts sick people hoping to cure their diseases), this place attracted sick people from the whole island at least 4,500 years ago. They came to scrape down some dust from the blue stones and thus to cure themselves with the help of this dust. This belief was widespread in the early 19th century in Wales and Wiltshire.
A lot later the blue circle was hedged by gigantic Saracenic stones which still impress humans just like Egyptian pyramids do.
“The Saracenic stones themselves are of great interest, but they are just a background for the internal circle of blue stones,” Darvill considers.
This hypothesis was put forward in 2006. The excavations carried out after 18 months of preparatory work confirmed that the scientists had been right. The expedition was fulfilled under the patronage of the BBC which provided daily reports from the excavation site.
The archeologists dug a small pit (2.5x3.5x1 meter), passed through the layer of pieces of Roman ceramics, clay pipes of the 19 century, stone hammers and rakes and eventually discovered cavities where the blue stones used to be installed.
The excavation site also yielded bones of ancient people, which proved to be another confirmation of the unusual theory. Most skeletons had the marks of intravital injuries – curvature of the spine, limbs and so on. Archeologists believe that those were the bones of pilgrims who came there for healing, but did not succeed.
Nobody knows when and where the blue stones disappeared. Perhaps, they were pulled over to another place or destroyed, since the purpose of the monument changed. However, it is known where the stones came from. They were somehow pulled out from a quarry in the south-west of Wales and transported at the distance of 250 kilometers. Wainwright and Darvill think that they were just dragged on the ground.
Gigantic Saracenic stones were the size of double-decker buses and it was harder to move them, but the distance was shorter - 20 kilometers. In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth described this process in his remarkable book The Life of Merlin. According to him, the famous wizard moved the stones by air from Ireland where they were delivered from Africa. This is a wonderful version, but the same things could be done without magic. Students of the University of Cambridge carried out an experiment recently, during which 20-30 people pushed stone blocks on pebbles.
Today researchers believe that Stonehenge was created within three stages in the period of 3500-1100 BC. About three kilometers from it, they found ruins of a huge settlement, named Durrington Walls, that comprised over 300 houses. The settlement proved to emerge simultaneously with Stonehenge. To all appearances, these houses were originally used as makeshift barracks for builders, and were later turned into a hotel complex for sick pilgrimages. After Stonehenge ceased to be a sanatorium, it became a place where druids arrived twice a year to carry out their religious ceremonies.
Translated by Julia Bulygina