Photograph of the prehistoric Stonehenge monument in England

Has the Mystery of Stonehenge Been Solved Yet? We Want to Know!

Though recent analysis of human remains found at Stonehenge have researchers declaring it a cemetery, others are not sure it's that simple.
By Anastacia Mott Austin

Researchers have released the results of carbon dating done on human remains found at Stonehenge, one of the world's most famous standing-stone circles.

Their results, they said, indicate that the sacred site was in fact a burial ground for an elite or a royal family thousands of years ago.

"It's now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages," said Mike Parker Pearson, a professor of archaeology at the University of Sheffield in England, and the director of the Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project.

The radiocarbon dating of the burnt remains indicates that burials were conducted at the site around 3000 B.C., and continued for about 500 years.

The remains had been excavated from the Stonehenge site in the 1950s and stored at a nearby museum. The discovery is significant because it is the first time any of the Stonehenge remains had been carbon dated.

Parker Pearson read a statement to the press which said, "Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead."

But some Stonehenge experts are careful to point out that while it may have been used as a sacred burial site, that was by no means its sole function.

The ancient site has long been viewed as a place of spirituality, healing, and psychic connection to the mystical world. While the monument was actually built before any formal religions were recorded, modern-day Druids claim that the Druid faith has been connected to Stonehenge for many, many years.

While historians have discounted that Druids built Stonehenge, others say that whatever early faith the builders of the site followed, it could have consisted of Druid or pagan-like rituals. Every year groups of Druids still gather at Stonehenge to celebrate midsummer and other pagan holy days. The formation of the stones are said to align precisely with the sunrise on the summer solstice. During the winter solstice, the sun sets between the arches of the largest central stones.

It is partly this phenomenon, which has some Stonehenge buffs insisting that the site has astronomical connections. Some say that it was built as an astronomy observatory, particularly in terms of lunar and solar cycles, and posit that it was used primarily as a seasonal calendar to mark the days of the year and signify optimal planting seasons.

Those who insist that the site has more spiritual connections agree with scientists that it may have involved observations of the moon, but say that the ancient people who gathered at the stone circles did so in order to worship the moon, or find a spiritual connection with the heavens and with each other.

Whatever it may have been, when it was first built, most will agree that the site itself was very important to the ancient builders. That they managed to drag enormous stones, the lightest of which weighed several tons, over the span of miles before the invention of the wheel, indicates that they really, really wanted them in that particular place.

While its specific origins and ritual intentions may never fully be answered, the fact that thousands of people have visited the ancient stone circles of Stonehenge and had sometimes life-altering, deeply moving spiritual experiences there cannot be discounted. Whatever it once may have been, it remains today a sacred site of spiritual significance.
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