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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Honeymooners Check Out Stonehenge

Selfie at Stonehenge by Just-Married Caroline Tepper-Marlin and Francis
Peabody.
How cool is this!" said President Obama as he strolled for 20 minutes around Stonehenge last week on his way back from a NATO summit. "Knocked it off the bucket [list]!

This week, Caroline Tepper-Marlin and Francis Peabody celebrated their honeymoon by checking out the same rocks.

People have speculated for centuries why the big 4,500-year-old stones were erected here.

The many theories are not necessarily mutually contradictory. Lourdes today, for example, is both a place of healing and a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. The place could have been used for one purpose in 2500 BC and then another in, say, 1000 BC.

Hypotheses include:
  • Stonehenge was an astronomical calendar.
  • It was a place of healing.
  • It was a marker for supposedly magical energy lines in the ground, perhaps built by the Druids.
  • It was Celtic... or Roman... or Arthurian. 
Scientists have recently been using modern techniques to do a "virtual excavation" - the largest of this kind in the world. They have been rewarded by finding evidence of a mile-long "superhenge" at Durrington Walls nearby, with 17 ritual monuments, and a massive "house of the dead," hundreds of burial mounds, and a possible processional route around Stonehenge.

The Stonehenge Project at the University of Birmingham is a four-year effort to create a high-resolution, 3D underground map of the landscape surrounding Stonehenge. It has the cooperation of Austria's Ludwig Boltzmann Institute. The map goes down ten feet using ground-penetrating radar and high-resolution magnetometers. The project has covered nearly 3,000 acres already.

Many of the 17 newly discovered monuments appear to be shrine-like structures. The small circular constructions, built during Stonehenge's busiest period, are placed around the main stone ring and form a sort of Neolithic analogue to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which is venerated as the path Jesus walked to Mt. Golgotha and crucifixion. For centuries, the stone circle, on England's Salisbury Plain, has awed visitors. When John Aubrey and Inigo Jones came here in the 17th century, they started perhaps the world's first archaeological excavation.

In the Orkney islands in northern Scotland, a virtual excavation revealed a vast unknown Neolithic temple complex that was erected more than a half-century before Stonehenge, i.e., about 5,000 years ago or about 3000 BC, and may have influenced it.