Stonehenge marks Britain’s unification, says study

June 24th, 2012 - 5:45 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 24 (IANS) Stonehenge was built as a monument to unify Britain, after a long period of conflict and regional difference between eastern and western parts of the landmass, says a new finding based on 10 years of archaeological investigations.

Its stones are thought to have symbolised the ancestors of different groups of earliest farming communities in Britain, with some stones coming from southern England and others from west Wales.

The teams, from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London, all working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP), explored not just Stonehenge and its landscape but also the wider social and economic context of the monument’s main stages of construction around 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson from the University of Sheffield said, “When Stonehenge was built there was a growing island-wide culture — the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast.

“This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries. Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them.

“Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification,” added Pearson, according to a Sheffield statement.

Stonehenge may have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons.

The SRP team have found that its solstice-aligned Avenue sits upon a series of natural landforms that, by chance, form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

“When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realised that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance,” Pearson said.

Although many people flocked to Stonehenge June 21 for the summer solstice, it seems that the winter solstice was the more significant time of the year when Stonehenge was built 5,000-4,500 years ago.

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