Elevated Origins: Radical new theory suggests Stonehenge was base of an above-ground celestial altar
The iconic profile of the world renowned prehistoric monument Stonehenge, found in Wiltshire, England, is unmistakable. The hewed standing stones rise up out of the earth in a testimony to ancient ideals, technology, and spirituality. One man believes that with our modern view we’re missing the point of Stonehenge, and to fully understand the purpose and use of it, we must think as our ancient ancestors did.
Art critic, historian and former curator Julian Spalding is proposing that the Stonehenge we know today may have been merely the support for a series of elevated wooden platforms. These platforms could have been used for spiritual ceremonies, elevating religious leaders off the ground - bringing humans closer to the heavens and the gods.
Spalding explains to The Guardian , “In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be. The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.”
No physical evidence has been found to back up the historian’s claim.
The exact purpose of Stonehenge is not known, but some researchers believe it was built as an ancient calendar to mark seasons and the movements of the sun and moon. Others say it was a place of healing, or dying, or perhaps a place of worship.
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Spalding’s new theory suggesting that Stonehenge, built between 3000 and 2000 B.C., could have been an “ancient Mecca on stilts,” is tantalizing. It draws links between other sky-reaching ancient monuments around the globe, such as pyramids found in Egypt and Central America, and the three-tiered circular altar Temple of Heaven in China.
Majestic pyramids reach to great heights in Egypt. Anthony Doudt/ Flickr
Temple of Heaven. The three-tiered monument rises into the sky, symbolizing a relationship between heaven and earth. John Coppi, CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons
Spalding believes the Stonehenge site might have sported a “raised altar reached via ramps or stairs where thousands of prehistoric people might have worshiped in a more elevated style,” reports The Washington Post.
Computer rendering of the overall site of Stonehenge and surrounds. Public Domain
There is some skepticism over the new theory. Oxford University archaeology emeritus professor Sir Barry Cunliffe tells The Guardian, “He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it.”
Still others feel the idea might be plausible.
Aubrey Burl, an archaeologist and authority of prehistoric stone circles, says "There could be something in it. There is a possibility, of course. Anything new and worthwhile about Stonehenge is well worth looking into, but with care and consideration.”
The past years have brought many new discoveries at Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain, quickly changing the way researchers understand the site and the ancient people who lived there.
In 2014 archaeologists revealed the results of a four-year-long project to map the hidden landscape beneath the surface of the Stonehenge environs, and what they found is nothing short of amazing. Through their high-tech devices they found a landscape teeming with burial mounds, chapels, shrines, pits, and other structures, which had never been seen before, including another massive megalithic monument composed of 60 giant stones stretched out along a 330-meter long c-shaped enclosure.
According to The Independent , the discovery dramatically altered the prevailing view of Stonehenge as the primary site in the landscape. Instead it presented the Salisbury Plain as an active religious center with more than 60 key locations where ancient peoples could carry out sacred rituals and fulfil their religious obligations.
Some of the newly-discovered monuments found by high-tech radars in the Stonehenge landscape. Credit: University of Birmingham
Spalding’s theories can be found in his new book “Realisation” which “explores our ancestors’ understanding of the world, offering new explanations of iconic works of art and monuments,” writes The Guardian.
As further investigations are done across Salisbury Plain and at the famous Stonehenge itself, perhaps more information will come to light that supports Spalding’s theory. In the meantime, the public will flock to Stonehenge to enjoy the beauty of the ancient site and the mystery that remains thousands of years after it was created.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Spalding concludes, “I think they welcome the idea that there’s a very fresh way of looking at this remarkable place.”