back to article Stonehenge finds hint at rituals far more ancient than the stones

Scientists using the latest in modern boffinry to peel back the layers of time report that they have made important new discoveries at Stonehenge, hinting that the site was already a very ancient centre of ritual when the stones were erected more than 5,000 years ago. In particular, archaeologists are excited by the discovery of …

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Older than the Stones?

Inconceivable!

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Childcatcher

Inconcievable..

..but not if you have your wicked way on the heelstone at the Summerhazy.

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Coat

I don't think you know what that word means.

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Ancient Ceremony?

Perhaps rather than ancient ceremonies and rituals it was just mark the summer solstice to help set the calendar for the year to come. Useful to farmers and ancient priests alike.

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Pint

and...

It's a good excuse to have a party.

I agree with you. Why do they insist on bringing mumbo-jumbo into it when no one can possibly tell what the ancients were actually thinking.

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If you look deep enough you can find

relevance in noise.

Stonehenge was an abattoir - it only gained religious significance when we started to dig it up and did our usual 'don't know so it must be god' cop-out.

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A lot of effort for an abattoir

"Estimates of the manpower needed to build Stonehenge put the total effort involved at millions of hours of work." - that's a colossal amount of effort for an abattoir. I'm not saying it was definitely religious but whoever built it cared an awful lot about it.

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It was built 4000 years ago by people who hadn't invented metalworking

Why would you need a centralised abattoir and why would you spend years dragging rocks across the countryside and then bashing them into shape with other smaller rocks to make one.

It's obviously a religious undertaking just like the pyramids, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes etc.

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The folk who gather round the stones

on the solstices don't look like meat eaters to me. Maybe the pits are there to focus the power of the ley lines.

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The Colossus was not a religious undertaking. It was a victory monument with a religious theme.There's a difference.

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pits may have held:

1 large standing stones,

2 wooden poles

3 totems

4 fires

....

that's science combined with imagination

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pits may have held:

1 large standing stones,

2 wooden poles

3 totems

4 fires

5 shit

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In ancient times..

...thousands of years before the dawn of 'istory..

An ancient race of people.. The Druids.

No-one knows who they were.. or.. what they were doin'..

But their legacy remains..

Hewn into the living rock

Of stone'enge

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+11 sir!

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Unhappy

And what would they say to us If we were here tonight?

Probably something like "Get off the fucking computer and into the fresh air, ya dickheads!"

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Big 5,000 year old rock garden, sans manual.

Must be important. Lets make stuff up.

Research grants are fun, and profitable!

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Happy

Nice one Sutekh!

But, has anyone every wondered why ancient man would have bothered to make a Summer solstice based Sun powered calender / computer /observatory / temple /abbatoir in the UK? With our weather, the chances are they never got to see if it worked.

Now if they'd invented a rain powered version .....

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Iron clad evidence that the weather was better back then!

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Anonymous Coward

Not necessarily

Any Iron cladding could have rusted away in the rain.....

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Pint

Ancient computer.

Sure it's only what 10 or 20 Megaliths and couldn't run Facebook.

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Coat

But have they found the Underhenge yet...

... and what about the Pandorica?

(PS: Yes, I know...!)

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Centurian

Surely they must have noticed the 1000 year old Centurion that is guarding it?

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No purpose

You can't really apply modern standards to the behavior and beliefs of primitive superstitious people so long ago.

Just because we can't imagine spending millions of man-hours on erecting a pointless circular construction that had no real use except for a single ceremony doesn't mean that these people thought the same.

On the other hand - it could just have been the -3 millennium dome

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No purpose

"You can't really apply modern standards to the behavior and beliefs of primitive superstitious people so long ago."

Sadly some are applying primitive superstitious standards to the behaviour and beliefs of modern people.

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Anonymous Coward

Modern Standards

You mean they didn't use BS EN 1467 ?

On the other hand artifacts, for example those from ancient Egypt, are still appreciated by the hordes of tourists on the ancient culture trails, so there must be some sort of commonality in play even after all the millennia.

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One much overlooked thing...

That it ties in just as well (if not better) with the Winter solstice and nicely with burial and death rituals of the era.

Still wouldn't be the same dancing around naked in December....

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Bah!

This horseshoe of pits was obviously a prehistoric public lavatory. You can't ask hundreds of people to the virgin-slaying and expect them to hold it in for days. And no-one wants the majesty of the occasion ruined by the sight of people crapping in the surrounding fields.

Stupid so-called "scientists".

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Facepalm

Oh Really?

Would this be the same professor Vince Gaffney who was quietly 'admonished' for his "over enthusiastic" descriptions of that large expanse of submerged mud now being referred to as 'Doggerland' ?

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Holmes

Don't go there!

"Piecing together the tales which Norrys collected for me, and supplementing them with the accounts of several savants who had studied the ruins, I deduced that Exham Priory stood on the site of a prehistoric temple; a Druidical or ante-Druidical thing which must have been contemporary with Stonehenge. That indescribable rites had been celebrated there, few doubted; and there were unpleasant tales of the transference of these rites into the Cybele worship which the Romans had introduced. Inscriptions still visible in the sub-cellar bore such unmistakable letters as “DIV . . . OPS . . . MAGNA. MAT . . . “ sign of the Magna Mater whose dark worship was once vainly forbidden to Roman citizens. Anchester had been the camp of the third Augustan legion, as many remains attest, and it was said that the temple of Cybele was splendid and thronged with worshippers who performed nameless ceremonies at the bidding of a Phrygian priest."

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Pint

Sky Burrial

One interesting hypothesis at the moment is that there were lots of wooden platforms for sky burials at that time (see Time Team). Since sky burial is actually the preferred method of exposing the body (e.g. in Tibet) and that the ancients had pan-world religions, it is quite clear that offerings to the gods of Shangri-La were important. However as pointed out, wood rots quickly in the dry English summers; so the ancients decided to build the platforms in stone.

Lugging such brutish lumps of rock across the countryside is obviously not for the faint-hearted; as a result a lot of workers found themselves passing on as offerings to their production process.

In pre-islamic countries, many conical dry stone towers were built for a burial ritual. The body would pass into the tower, and the priests would walk up the stairs, to lay the body out for sky burial. There are still ruins of these towers around, but the good old sea faring Picts and early Scots got to hear about it; and decided to build themselves Brochs as it was significantly easier than lumping great boulders and menhirs around (Oberlix was only in France you know) . Hence the Brits got Stone Henge; and the scots got more magnificent towers.

It just goes to show - that sometimes a good story has hidden truths!

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I'd be interested to hear your evidence for brochs being burial related. The evidence AFAIK is for defensive structures.

And as for lumping great boulders around, you've never been to Callanish have you. Much more impressive if less well known than Stonehenge.

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Alien

Flying saucer repair stand

Aliens land then ancient man stands back, draws air in through his teeth and says "I'll cost you, this is an obsolete model, you can't get the parts you know."

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Anonymous Coward

new discovery

"Another new discovery has also been made"

What other kind of discovery could have been made?

Pedantic minds wish to know.

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FAIL

Error in article

"horseshoe-shaped ring of pits northeast of the main site" - they're actually northwest of it.

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Joke

Sorry D Adams knew all along

The secret of course is to remember to bang the rocks together guys.

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Childcatcher

There is no evidence...

..that the site was used for ceremonial purposes though the expense of construction was so high (in human life terms) it is likely that there was some ceremonial function.

Now (I am relying on wetware here so the usual caution issued) I remember a book, no title or author is remembered, the author had worked out exactly what Stonehenge is about. He pointed out that there are minor henges in the area and Woodhenge, a major henge, nearby which are thought to have been observatories. There is evidence of pits for a previous wooden henge on the Stonehenge site and a ring of pits surrounding the stones which may have been used as a counter to predict lunar eclipses.

Another thing to consider is that what you see is a Victorian "restoration" including concrete bedding under the stones. If they thought it was a temple that is the way is was put back; they thought the heelstone was used as an alter and left it the way it was found but it may well have also been a standing stone. I think it was in the 1960s that a new capstone was put up to replace a missing stone. If you look at it like that it is clear the primary purpose is observation and prediction not religion.

So you see the recent "discoveries" are not entirely new but do support earlier work. As for the ceremonial parade, supposition, pure supposition.

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Alien

Is the book...

..."Stonehenge Decoded" Hawkins, 1965? Originally published as a paper in Nature?

It fell out of favour with the archeologists, perhaps because it wasn't wasn't written by one of them. Other interesting analytical work was done by Thom on geometric construction, together with the statistical identification of a common unit of measurement the megalithic yard.

Looking at, e.g., Cities, John Reader, he shows that 5,000 years ago we were not so different, then there are the various economic histories.

Given the amount of technical skill, societal organisation, deferred usefulness and opportunity cost required to build the bloody thing, it's difficult to imagine it's only an early example of a Victorian folly or indeed a prequel to the millennium dome...

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Costly != useful

In fact the more "technical skill, societal organisation, deferred usefulness and opportunity cost required" the more likely it is that it was built by some big shot purely to prove what a big shot he was.

Again totally unlike the millenium dome.

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Happy

outlyingbuilding use.

"Another new discovery has also been made, of a horseshoe-shaped ring of pits northeast of the main site, thought perhaps to have been a minor shrine or outlying building of some type."

Stone-bucks?

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