New Research Refutes Long-Held Beliefs about Stonehenge

Excavations and research conducted by English Heritage has revealed controversial findings which question the long-held view that Stonehenge was built to record astronomical movements such as the summer and winter solstice.

Following the closure of the A344 road, which cuts across an earthwork route extending 1.5 miles from the north-eastern entrance to Stonehenge, archaeologists were able to excavate there for the first time.  They found that this route, known as ‘The Avenue’ was built along an ice age landform involving naturally occurring fissures that once lay between ridges, and this ridge “just happens” to align precisely with the solstice axis.

The implication of this, according to the researchers, is that the builders never intended to align the prehistoric site with the mid-winter sunset and mid-summer sunrise, but that they were simply taking advantage of natural ridges against which they could dig ditches to create the Avenue.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, a leading expert on Stonehenge, said: "It's hugely significant because it tells us a lot about why Stonehenge was located where it is and why they [prehistoric people] were so interested in the solstices. It's not to do with worshipping the sun, some kind of calendar or astronomical observatory; it's about how this place was special to prehistoric people.

"This natural landform happens to be on the solstice axis, which brings heaven and earth into one. So the reason that Stonehenge is all about the solstices, we think, is because they actually saw this in the land,” said Pearson.

Dr Heather Sebire, English Heritage's Stonehenge curator said that the latest findings would prompt vigorous academic debate.  If the findings are confirmed it will certainly prove a disappointment to the thousands of druids and Stonehenge enthusiasts who make a pilgrimage to the site every solstice to worship the sun, as they believed the original builders once had.

By April Holloway

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