Before the arrival of the Romans in the First Century AD, Britain was home to an abundance of sophisticated and thriving cultures. And if proof were need, 3000 years before the Romans set foot on this soil, local tribes had the technology, language and organisational skills to create one of the worlds most iconic monuments - known today as Stonehenge

There's a lot that we believe we know about Stonehenge. We're almost certain, for example, that the great prehistoric monument was built in several phases spanning hundreds of years, from around 3000 BC to 1600 BC. We also know, that it was a construction project that tested ancient ingenuity and prehistoric technology to the limit.

Besides the question of how Stonehenge was built, understanding why Stonehenge was built is still one of the great mysteries of archaeology. However, modern technology has allowed us to discredit some early explanations of Stonehenge's purpose. We know that Stonehenge was not a Roman temple, and accurate dating has also shown that it was completed at least a thousand years before the Druids roamed the British Isles.

It required an army of workers to construct and perhaps even a garrison of soldiers to protect. These people were not farming or hunting, but relying on a surplus of food that only a settled and successful farming society could provide.

Two of Britain's leading archaeologists - Professor Timothy Darvill and Professor Geoff - are both world-renowned experts on Stonehenge. They believe that they have finally solved the riddle of these great standing stones.
"The whole purpose of Stonehenge is that it was a prehistoric Lourdes," says Wainwright. "People came here to be made well."
This is revolutionary stuff, and it comes from a reinterpretation of the stones of the henge and the bones buried nearby. Darvill and Wainwright believe the smaller bluestones in the centre of the circle, rather than the huge sarsen stones on the perimeter, hold the key to the purpose of Stonehenge.

The bluestones were dragged 250 km from the mountains of southwest Wales using Stone Age technology. That's some journey, and there must have been a very good reason for attempting it. Darvill and Wainwright believe the reason was the magical, healing powers imbued in the stones by their proximity to traditional healing springs.

The bones that have been excavated from around Stonehenge appear to back the theory up. "There's an amazing and unnatural concentration of skeletal trauma in the bones that were dug up around Stonehenge," says Darvill. "This was a place of pilgrimage for people...coming to get healed."

They believe that the ill and injured travelled to Stonehenge because the healing stones offered a final hope of a miracle cure or relief from insufferable pain.

While Darvill and Wainwright think the idea of Stonehenge as a prehistoric Lourdes is the most convincing theory for its construction yet, it's fair to say that the archaeological community is not completely convinced.
When the theory was first proposed at a talk in London in 2006, it was met with considerable support, but also one or two dropped jaws. And that's not surprising.

Prior to this 'bombshell', the most widely agreed theory to explain the great stone circle is that it was used as a gigantic calendar. Put simply, the site's alignment allows for the observation of astronomical events such as the summer and winter solstice. With that information, our ancient ancestors could establish exactly where they were in the cycle of the seasons and when the site would be at its most potent.

But would they really have put so much time and effort into the construction of something that today we take for granted? Many archaeologists believed they would as Stonehenge offered a way to establish calendar dates when no other method existed. Accurate dating allowed for more efficient and successful agriculture, as well as the marking of important religious and social events.

The most popular theory about the purpose of Stonehenge is one that has survived since serious archaeological work first began on the site. Along with modern day druids, they believe that Stonehenge was a place of worship.

However, an even more remarkable origin has been suggested Stonehenge theorists. To some open-minded enthusiasts in the excitable 1970s, Stonehenge was believed to have been a landing pad for extraterrestrial visitors!

It's fair to say that any archaeological evidence relating to this has yet to be unearthed.

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