Stonehenge was once a massive tomb in Wales, says top archaeology professor

Posted: June 5, 2016 by oldbrew in History

[image credit: BBC]

[image credit: BBC]

Controversies about Stonehenge are never far away. Here’s another one, as the Daily Telegraph reports.

Stonehenge began life as an impressive Welsh tomb which was dismantled and shipped to Wiltshire, archaeologists now suspect.

Experts have known for some time that the smaller bluestones of the 5000-year-old Neolithic monument were brought 140 miles from the Preseli Mountains in Wales. But the question has always been why?

Why would the English settlers bother to make a lengthy pilgrimage for Welsh stone when they had perfectly good local sandstone quarries nearby – from which they would later cut the imposing ‘sarsen’ stones for Stonehenge.

The answer is that the stones were probably brought by the Welsh themselves, when they decided to relocate to the area, and did not want to leave their ancestors behind.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London believes that Stonehenge began life as a Welsh monument to the dead.

“The Welsh connection isn’t just about stones, it’s likely to be a long term movement from west to east at this particular time,” Prof Parker Pearson told the Hay Festival.

“Why dismantle an original monument? We’re wondering if it actually might have been a tomb with a surrounding stone circle which they dismantled. If that were the case they were basically carting the physical embodiment of their ancestors to re-establish somewhere else.

“Their idea of packing their luggage was rather more deep and meaningful than our own. They are actually moving their heritage, and these stones represent the ancestors. They are actually bringing their ancestors with them.

“The more we find out about Neolithic society, their culture and religion, it is focussed on the ancestral dead. If you build in stone for the dead, that is a society that is worshipping its ancestors.”

Full Daily Telegraph report: Original Stonehenge was dismantled in Wales and moved to Wiltshire, archaeologists believe 

  1. TinyCO2 says:

    So will Wales be demanding them back? Will Amal Clooney get involved?

  2. oldbrew says:

    They weren’t stolen 😎

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    Small wonder the Welsh moved their Ancestor Stones to higher ground. They were in the middle of the Great Flood 5,000 years ago. The blue stones were not likely part of a tomb, but were family or clan totem markers. The henge is a meeting place among other things. A kind of fair grounds for the renewal of friendships and family ties. Far more important then any tomb…pg

  4. oldmanK says:

    Oldbrew, your post about Stonehenge, 15 days before the summer solstice, is too tempting and inviting to let pass.

    Why? I have just had the first sound results of forecasting the solstice day, (and hour), from a megalithic structure of 5000 years. The result, even with the unavoidable inaccuracies resulting from the small size of the model used, are fantastic. UTC time for solstice at this longitude is 00:34 on June 21st. Model 03:36 same day. If it was the real thing instead of the model, I would bet on that as the correct date and time. As Dodwell showed with a very large gnomon, any possible errors would be very small.

    For centuries, and definitely in the last 100 years it was regarded as a religious structure, constructed, wisdom considered, as a monument to human ignorance. Well, now we know, at least I do.

    Stonehenge is a similar case. If there are hints of astronomical interest, then surely the builders did not have the dead in mind. It was made for the living.

    The design of the unit I mention is interesting and an eye opener. It was initially designed like the others, especially the one next to it and which it replaced functionally. Designed to a lower obliquity, and later modified for an increase in obliquity. Plus other matters. This means that the Stonehenge design likewise had to undergo changes, which changes still have to be discerned.

  5. oldmanK says:

    @ Tallbloke: When you get to the section of ‘Mnajdra’, when you get the time to read, please note the post above. It works beautifully.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Yet Another Fantasy from someone focused just on the stones… there is so much more known… The first 1000 years or so it was just earthworks and wood… so why were stones moved there to rebuild some monument? In the same pattern?

    For miles around, lines of earth were smoothed and flattened… why if it were just moved stones?

    Ancients of the UK taught excellent celestial navigation (Roman written records…) at places with good sight lines, horizons, etc. People from all over went there to learn, per written records. Navigation is critical for island based seafaring folk.

    Stoneheng was an astronomical observatory and college. The bigger the instrument, the more accurate. The flatter the horizon, the better (so on a flat plain – with manicured dirt for miles). I would speculate some observations were from the ring top for a stable platform and better horizons

    BTW, another hairbrained fantasy has Woodheng nearby tied in with one being life, the other death, and fantasies of religious symbolic rivers. Tripe all. Think of any university… The undergrads get the cheap smaller telescopes, the Ph. D.s and grad students, the big ones. That’s all it takes to explain…

    Plotting solstice, equinox, lunar tidal charts and more. They knew the 18.x year lunar cycle (artifacts recovered including a conical “hat” with moons marked for the cycle). Tides and weather and their 18 and 54 / 60 year cycles matter a great deal to sail driven ocean sailors… Stonehenge has holes and stones suited to tracking and predicting those cycles (that coincidentally in a causally related way, tie to eclipse cycles).

    The instrument was only abandoned when better methods let smaller tools do the same job. Astrolabes, antikythera mechanism like things, and more. That, and the same giant stones that made it stable also made it hard to adjust to changes from things like precession. The tilted Heel Stone, IMHO, a last effort at tuning. They would also, by then, have worked out all the cycles of interest, so could predict without the tool. essentially, they worked it out that over hundreds and thousands of years, things change, and literally being set in stone was a mistake after 2000 years…

    No need of fantasy priests, missing dead ancesters to worship, or dreamed up religious symbolism. Just a society with brains and a keen interest in a subject key to their life (and from which they made money teaching others for a very long time even into Roman times a couple of thousand back).

    There are too many astronomical alignments and cycle matches for those to be accidental.

  7. oldmanK says:

    @ E M Smith: A quick post (to be then continued) EMS says “The instrument was only abandoned when better methods let smaller tools do the same job”. Maybe not quite. The ‘bigger is better’ still applies, even today. Bigger is much more accurate. China is building a bigger telescope, same technology but more tunable.

    Some were abandoned, not because they got something better but because they had to leave – and quickly. In my case re the post above, ancient cart ruts (several) of a contemporaneous age today lead to edge of cliffs. The rest of the land is today under 200 metres of blue sea. Inland cart ruts end abruptly at the edge of cliff-sided valleys. Ugly tell-tales.

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    @OldmanK; writtings of American pioneers tell of wagon trails that lead to/from cliffs. They would rig up block and tackle and use the teams to hoist the wagons to/from the top. Faster then taking the long way around the obstruction caused by the abrupt topography. Often the way to and from a cliff was a long and easy trek.

    The great flood that took place during the melt of the Ice Mountains seems to be lost to the educated. Vast areas of the Continental shelf lost to the sea. Fertile plains of forest and prairie with thousands of year of human habitation gone into the deep…pg.

  9. oldmanK says:

    @ pg sharrow: your comment re ” writtings of American pioneers tell of wagon trails that lead to/from cliffs” is noted. But there the surrounding evidence tells the rest of the story. The wagon trails continue at another point, and it is relatively easy to figure out what happened.

    The trails I mentioned end over some of the most ‘undesirable endings’ -inhospitable and precipitous shoreline . There is nothing to go to, as it is now. The water is 200m deep, but 200km away its a 3000m underwater precipice. One can figure out what might have happened.

    There is a date attached to that occurrence, the same era as other similar events.

  10. oldmanK says:

    To add to my previous posts (and keep Stonehenge in focus) results I got from experiment repeatedly show very advanced knowledge. For example, finding the solstice day accurately weeks in advance was easy. They would have laughed at our ‘Wiki-solstice determination’ ( and other sites on the net). Stonehenge was no different.

    Proof: In other studies re ancient 4k bce lore/stories linked to a particular artifact, which turned out to be an agrarian metaphorical representation, these were found to have the same roots all over the ancient world. (incidentally this week in a programme on pre-Mayan cultures I heard the same description, the results of recent discoveries and connected to what written texts remain). There was total diffusion of any fresh developments, especially were it was linked to the staple crop (corn [wheat] and barley in the old world, maize in the americas.

    And, considering the available evidence, the link between artifact-staple crop-calendar is impossible to deny.

    But one needs have an open mind. It is here that I do not blame the obsession with cults. It is the simplest answer that requires no proof, and for the simple mind the easiest to digest and accept. It is always safe.