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Stonehenge village found

03.25.2007 -- The excavation of a 4600-year-old village in southern England is changing the way archaeologists think about Stonehenge. Researchers from the University of Sheffield suspect that the same people who built Stonehedge also built and lived in the recently discovered village. Many investigators have viewed Stonehendge as a site used for religious or astronomical purposes, but the team from the Sheffield suggest an entirely different purpose for Stonehenge. Michael Parker Pearson, leader of the research team looks at it this way. He feels that both the village and Stonehenge were part of a religious complex devoted to the dead. After huge feasts in the village, Pearson suggests that the villagers transported the bodies about 2 miles up the River Avon to Stonehenge, where some of them were interred after cremation. The massive stones memorialized the villagers' deceased relatives.

Before the University of Sheffield began in 2003, researchers in 1967 had detected magnetic traces of dozens of hearths (typical of dwellings) in an area called Durrington Walls. Durrington Walls is a large henge, an enclosure surrounded by an earthen ditch and banks. In September 2006, Shefield's team uncovered eight houses at the site. Each house measured about 16 square feet and each had a central fireplace set in a clay floor. Postholes and slots in the floor once anchored wooden furniture. Huge numbers of animal bones and cooking implements strewn across the floors indicated that large feasts had taken place there in ancient days. Julian Thomas of the University of Manchester in England excavated two Durrington Walls structures on a terrace within the henge. These structures were once surrounded by wooden fences and ditches. Thomas suggests that these houses and several others nearby may have served as community leaders' homes or as shrines.

Radiocarbon dating of the houses coincide with previoius age estimates for cremated remains discovered at Stonehenge. The Durrington Walls community bordered a stone road 90 feet wide and 560 feet long, which ran from a large ceremonial circle of timbers to the river. Two miles upstream a similar road ran from the river to Stonehenge. The dicovery of the Durrington Walls road enhances the relationship believed to have existed between the community and Stonehenge. The Stonehenge road, discovered in the 18th century, aligns with the midsummer-solstice sunrise, while the Durrington Walls road aligns with the midsummer-solstice sunset. Consequently, a set of three enormous stones at Stonehenge frame the midwinter-solstice sunset, while the Durrington Walls timber circle align with midwinter-solstice sunrise.

Pearson ascertains that Durrington Walls may have been used as a place of periodic celebration of life, before transporting their dead up the River Avon to be cremated at Stonehenge and sent into their afterlife. More research is now underway and will continue until 2010, with hopes of finding more evidence of graves and funeral activites in the Durrington Walls area.

Suburb of Stonehenge: Ritual village found near famed rock site. Science News This Week.Science News. Vol 171, No 5, February 3, 2007. Science Service. Washington, DC. pg 67.
Information gathered for educational purposes under the "fair use" provision of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.



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© 1998-2007 Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society. This page last updated 03.25.2007.