Stonehenge stood as giant tombstones to the dead for centuries—perhaps marking the cemetery of a ruling prehistoric dynasty—new radiocarbon dating suggests.The site appears to have been intended as a cemetery from the very start, around 5,000 years ago—centuries before the giant sandstone blocks were erected—the new study says.
It was unusual for prehistoric hunter-gatherers to build monuments, and there are no comparable structures from this era in northwestern Europe.
(The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.) Cremated Humans Analyzed The new finding supports the theory that Stonehenge represented the "domain of the dead" to ancestor-worshiping ancient Britons, Parker Pearson said.
Previously it was believed that Stonehenge was a place of burial only between about 27 B. But new radiocarbon dates spanning 500 years were obtained for three cremated humans (photo) unearthed in 1950s at Stonehenge and kept at the nearby Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.
The Stonehenge that is visible today is incomplete, many of its original bluestones having been broken up and taken away, probably during Britain’s Roman and medieval periods.
The ground within the monument also has been severely disturbed, not only by the removal of the stones but also by digging—to various degrees and ends—since the 16th century, when historian and antiquarian William Camden noted that “ashes and pieces of burnt bone” were found.
Other archaeologists, however, have since come to view this part of Salisbury Plain as a point of intersection between adjacent prehistoric territories, serving as a seasonal gathering place during the 4th and 3rd millennia for groups living in the lowlands to the east and west.