Stonehenge was originally built as a cemetery

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Stonehenge was originally built as a cemetery

At least part of the mystery of Stonehenge may have now been solved: it was from the beginning a monument to the dead. Like the Pyramids in Egypt Stonehenge was build by a ruling dynasty as a place to bury their dead. Researchers estimate that up to 240 people are buried there, all as cremation deposits.

New research shows that Stonehenge was used for more than 500 years as a cemetery. The burials were initially uncovered in a pit around the edge and in the nearby ditch surrounding the monument.

New radiocarbon dates from human cremation burials in and around brooding stones on Salisbury Plain in England indicate that the site was used as a cemetery from 3000 B. C. well into its zenith around 2500 B.C., British archaeologists reported on Thursday.

What appeared to be the head of a stone mace, a symbol of authority, was found with one of the burials, the archaeologists said, indicating that this was probably a cemetery for the ruling dynasty responsible for erecting Stonehenge.

“It’s now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages,” said Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield in England.

In a teleconference with reporters, arranged by the National Geographic Society, Dr. Parker Pearson described the three burials of burned bones and teeth that were dated in recent weeks.

Another Sheffield archaeologist, Andrew Chamberlain, noted one reason to think that Stonehenge burials were for generations of a single elite family. The clue, he said, is the small number of burials in the earliest period and the larger numbers in later centuries, as offspring would have multiplied.

Given the monumental surroundings, Dr. Parker Pearson said, “One has to assume anyone buried there had some good credentials.”

The earliest burial to be tested came from a pit at the edge of the stone monuments; it dates to more or less 3000 B.C. The second burial dates to around 2900 B.C.

The most recent one is from around the time the first arrangements of stones appeared on the plain, around 2500 B.C. It was previously believed that the site was a burial ground for only a century after 2700, thus well before the distinctive large stones were put in place.

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By netchicken: posted on 30-5-2008

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