Last time in Unexplained History, we covered Stonehenge. Specifically, we covered all the theories on who built it and how long ago it was built. This week, we’re covering all the best theories for why it was built, because that’s a whole other bucket of speculation, my friend. It’s a monument that has fascinated the human race for five thousand years, a place shrouded in mystery and myth. We don’t know who exactly built it, all we do know is that it definitely wasn’t druids, and it probably wasn’t Merlin. Archaeologists and historians and novelists alike have tried to explain it, but, perhaps it’s just the nature of Earth and human history to hold some things we simply can’t explain.
A Sacred Hunting Ground
A popular reason many academics cite for Stonehenge’s construction is that it may be centered on a popular sacred hunting ground. Other megalithic monuments in Great Britain, near Stonehenge contains a bunch of ancient trash: aurochs bones, flint tools, and burn stains from 3,000 year old firepits. The Stonehenge sites themselves bear evidence of construction, too. There’s post stains in the soil on the site where there may have been a settlement. Archaeologists have cited this as evidence that the site was used for centuries by Celtic tribes who considered the area a good hunting ground, and decided to use Stonehenge as a site for major feasts and celebrations of their successful hunting.
An Astronomical Calender
It’s widely accepted that early tribes in Britain deemed Stonehenge a good place to celebrate the winter solstice. The avenue of megaliths by Stonehenge is aligned perfectly with the setting sun on the day of winter solstice. During the summer solstice, the site faces the rising sun, and many modern druids still come to celebrate winter and summer solstice at the site. It’s not just the alignment of the stones, however, it’s the discoveries archaeologists have made digging on the site, too. Archaeologists have uncovered numerous fire pits and charred pig bones that correspond consistently with the months of January and December throughout the years Stonehenge was in use, suggesting that feasts were being held at the site during winter solstice.
An Elite Cemetery
This is a theory that goes all the way back to this guy called Geoffrey Monmouth, who was mentioned in the previous article about Stonehenge. He believed that both King Uther and King Arthur were buried beneath Stonehenge, and that Stonehenge was built by Merlin. Well, this might not be a load of baloney after all. Archaeologists and historians working on the site have found thousands of skeletal fragments of at least 63 different individuals of a wide variety of people, including men, women, and children. The burials date back to around 3000 BC, when the site was just starting to be constructed. A mace head and an incense bowl were found near the bodies as well, items that are usually found in graves of elite people in ancient Celtic society. Perhaps the site was built as a tomb for the elite, like the Pyramids in Egypt?
A Place of Healing
However, from these skeletons, another theory also took shape. Two archaeologists working on Stonehenge: Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill noted that many of the skeletons on the site showed evidence of either injury or illness. They proposed that, perhaps, Stonehenge was something of a mystic hospital. And, while these may simply be the cause of death for the poor souls buried at the site and this evidence may have absolutely nothing to do with the true usage of the site, there is more evidence to support the theory. The megalith’s bluestones have been chipped away at for centuries by pilgrims and tourists hoping to take home a healing talisman. Perhaps this idea is a leftover memory from the monument’s true past.
Granted, these aren’t some of the craziest theories that Stonehenge and its origins and uses have to offer. That’s another article, for another day, one we’ll be covering in the future. For now, I’ll leave you do decide what you think about one of Earth’s most enigmatic monuments.