New study claims Stonehenge was a place of healing

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Map of Stonehenge. Bluestones shown in blue

Archaeologists Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University and Geoff Wainwright, President of the Society of Antiquaries, claimed to have found evidence that Stonehenge was once a center of healing. In an excavation conducted at the site, a large number of human remains were found that display signs of physical injury or disease. Study of the teeth from the skeletons indicates that about half of them were from outside the area.

A large number of bluestone or spotted Preseli dolerite chips found during the excavation led the researchers to conclude the stones were venerated for their healing properties. It is believed that about 80 of such bluestone blocks were transported from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales to the Salisbury plains. The inner circle of bluestones are the earliest stone structures found in this site. Later bluestones were encircled by the imposing sandstone monoliths of sarsen stones. "It could be that people were flaking off pieces of bluestone, in order to create little bits to take away... as lucky amulets," said Professor Darvill.

Cquote1.svg Stonehenge would attract not only people who were unwell, but people who were capable of [healing] them. Cquote2.svg

—Professor Timothy Darvill, Bournemouth University

Radiocarbon dating indicates that the original bluestone circle was built around 2300 BC. This date coincides with the burial of "Amesbury Archer", whose tomb was discovered near Stonehenge. The skeleton of this man reveals that he had serious knee injury and tooth problems. Researchers therefore conclude that the Archer came to Stonehenge to be healed.

Dating of charcoal fragments revealed that the site was inhabited as early as 7200 BC by groups of hunter-gatherers. This is more than 3500 years earlier than previously known.

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