Like the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge is also a prehistoric monument, its huge sandstone or sarsen standing stones weighing about twenty-five tons each.  Situated on the Salisbury Plan in Wiltshire, England, it is probably the most famous landmark in the UK and forms part of an entire larger landscape containing many sacred monuments, both in stone and wood, which are believed to date back to over ten thousand years ago in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

As with The Great Pyramid, Stonehenge is linked to sun worship.  The circle of stones  consisting of the large sarsens on the outside, the ring of smaller bluestones inside and within these, the five freestanding trilithons are all orientated towards the sunrise on midsummer’s day, the summer solstice and longest day of the year as well as midwinter’s day, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year.  Sun worship rituals were undertaken at these times.

The word Stonehenge derives from the Saxon meaning the hanging stone or from Old English stan meaning stone and hencg meaning hinge to signify the stone lintels, which hinge on the standing rocks in a horizontal position.

Stonehenge could have been a burial ground in early eras since human bone dating from as early as 3000BC has been unearthed.  There are also many burial mounds outside the stone circle.

Approximately 3.2 km from Stonehenge, the large Neolithic settlement of Durrington Walls contains houses, perhaps originally as many as a thousand, which means it may have been settled by four thousand people.  Circles were constructed to form an enclosure, built mostly with wooden posts from massive old trees.  These circles, like those at Stonehenge, were aligned with the solar solstices.  Signs of feasts and social activity have been found at this monument.  Researcher Mike Parker Pearson believes that the wooden circle at Durrington Walls represented the land of the living whereas Stonehenge, with its stone circles surrounded by burial mounds, symbolized the land of the dead.

The two places were connected by the Avon River, representing water and purification.  Leading from Durrington Walls were avenues, which were used for ceremonial processions from the life of the living to death, cremation and burial at Stonehenge.  And yet, his theory has not been well received by many archaelogists and experts.

Parker Pearson went on to head a project of excavation at Durrington Walls in 2016 using ground-penetrating radar, which led to the discovery that there were no buried standing stones in the area’s circle but, instead, a ring of enormous post-holes underneath the henge bank.  These had been filled with chalk rubble.

He also took charge of excavations in Wales, in the belief that the smaller stones in the inner Stonehenge circle made up of bluestones had come from several sites in western Wales and transported for up to 140 miles or 225 km as far as Stonehenge itself.  He set out with an expedition to find the exact place where these bluestones came from and by sheer physical labour in poor weather conditions managed to find the precise location, testing the stones on site for similarity.

17 miles or 27 km north of Stonehenge is the town of Avebury, which is part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and unique for its enormous stone circle, the largest in the world as well as the village, which is partly built within the circle itself.  The large outer ring contains two smaller inner circles as well as a recently discovered large square stone monument within a smaller circle.  This was found by means of ground penetrating radar and exists mainly underground.  Like Stonehenge, the stones of

Avebury also consist of the local sarsen or sandstone.

The identity of these amorphous sun worshippers remains hidden.  We know in a very general way that they belonged to the Neolithic and/or Bronze Ages.  According to various archaelogists, Wales and the Gower Peninsula in particular was inhabited by humans from the time of the late Stone Age or Upper Paleolithic Period, namely somewhere between 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.  As early as 1823, the Paviland Cave on the Gower Peninsula revealed a human skeleton, fairly much complete, wrapped in cloth dyed with red ochre or rubbed with red ochre.  It represented the earliest burial in the entire Western Europe.  The skeleton was the first human fossil to be discovered anywhere in the world and dated at approximately 33,000 Before Present (BP) years ago.  The red ochre was thought to be the work of a shaman or pagan religious person.

Working in the Gower Peninsula in the 1950’s, members of the University of Cambridge found between three hundred and four hundred flint stones used in toolmaking.  In 2010, while exploring the Cathole Cave, also on the peninsula, an instructor from Bristol University came across a rock drawing of a red deer, which was dated to between 14,000 and 12,000BC.  The cave has been described by archaelogists as a shelter for bands of Mesolithic hunters and as a Neolithic ossuary.

Perhaps the best examples of early human artistic activities are in the Lascaux network of caves in SW France near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region.  About six thousand painted figures of animals, local fauna and abstracts found there have been dated from Upper Neolithic occupation between 28,000 to 10,000BC.  The materials used for the artworks comprise iron oxide, charcoal and ochre.

Researchers have speculated as to whether these early peoples were forerunners of the Celts or the Druids.  The learned class of Druids has been put forward.  As scholars, they were believed to have studied for about twenty years in order to undergo their training which involved law, counselling, medical knowledge, diplomacy and priesthood.  Theirs was a polytheistic religion practised at the sacred sites of nature on hills and along rivers, involving rituals using oak, mistletoe and hazel.  They supposedly used fire in their rituals and sacrificed animals and possibly humans in gory tales of blood-letting.

Although Stonehenge is far older than the Druidic religion, it is possible that a form of Neo-Druidism existed in those early times, bringing with it polytheistic sun worship rituals, shamans, burial rites and sacrificial ceremonies.




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