I went to Stonehenge at the end of November ‘09 and whilst there was asked to sign a petition to return the remains of humans who had been unearthed during the previous couple of years digs. Without reading too much I signed it. I’m not normally one for just signing petitions, certainly not without all the facts first, but in this case I did, mainly due to my thoughts that humans should be given respect, left alone and allowed to remain interred in the manner they had wished. I feel this way whether you are talking about the Egyptian mummies, Christian burials or in this case humans from at least 4500 years ago. And yes, I know the education argument...
But I wonder now, if they hadn’t done the dig, would they have found Bluehenge? Now for those of you who don’t know what Bluehenge is, well you’re not alone. The professionals seem to have some answers though National Geographic (who funded the Dig) and British Archaeology Magazines appear to agree on the thought that it was a crematorium before final interment at Stonehenge. Physically it was a henge, which seems to have collapsed into its surrounding ditch, and a circle of approximately 25 Bluestones.
The stones are in fact missing; all that remains are the holes, with several chips of Bluestone & Sandstone and some artefacts – antler, stone & bone tools, antler picks and knapped flints. Initial carbon dating on some of the antler picks have come back at 2470-2280BC, though the flints appear to be from earlier about 3000BC. Further carbon dating is still being waited on, attempts on an antler has so far proved inconclusive due to inadequate collagen. The thought is that the stones were later taken during one of the renovations on Stonehenge, dragged along the avenue at about 2500BC. This is in part verified by both the presence of the type of stone in Stonehenge and the lack of any substantial amount of chippings at the Bluehenge.
But the part that interests me is the funeral proceedings (I know, how can I be interested but not want the burials disturbed?!). Previous excavations at Durrington Wells, a stone-age village near Stone henge excavated in 2007 has found some seasonal festivities which some feel is part of the “domain of living”. The dead would be celebrated at Durrington, and then possibly carried along a short avenue to the River Avon, proceeding down the river and stopping, now thought, at Bluehenge for the cremation before burial at Stonehenge. There are a lot of wood charcoal and human bone fragments to perhaps support this theory and if this is the case it puts Stonehenge in line as the final destination for the ancestors.
There is more analysis planned and various publications due, the next I believe is in February as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. If this has whetted your interest you can start to find more information at National Geographic, The Megalith Portal and British Archaeology.
photo by cultural visions, flickr