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Wed, 10th Sep 2014

Unlocking Stonehenge's secrets

Stonehenge (c) garethwiscombe

Previously undiscovered monuments surrounding the stone circle have been found, using highly advanced geophysical tools and laser scanners in order to search the landscape and identify what lies beneath Stonehenge...

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I've never understood why archaeologists imagine that our ancestors were as gullible as us. If we ignore "religious ritual" and think about rational uses of the site, a lot of it makes sense.

Being at the junction of several watersheds, Stonehenge is accessible from most of the country at all times and navigable without a map - just  stay on the high ground. So it's a sensible meeting place for trade.

Now the point of trade is to bring together people with different products at the same time. How do we know when to set off from Ireland, Orkney or Brittany in order to meet our trading partners in Wiltshire? We know it takes n days to travel so we agree a mutual reference point - the summer solstice. Now build a local gadget, say a henge or a tunnel, that accurately indicates the solstice, and count the days thereafter. "Gentlemen, synchronise your watches" - heard that somewhere before? It's the only way to coordinate trains, planes or military manoeuvres, and you still won't do much business round here if you don't turn up on market day.

Now if we have lots of people descending on a common marketplace at various times, it makes sense to build a hotel or two, particularly if travel times are a bit uncertain: having spent a month getting my reindeer pelts here from Scotland, I'm prepared to wait a few days until the Breton onion sellers arrive. Hence the large houses and settlements, and piles of pig bones everywhere: not a ritual feasting site, just a Travelodge full of reps. Or maybe Subway: you'll need food for the return journey, how about some cured pork - ah! the bacon sarnie! Ug's Transport Caff? 

Having centralised trade, it's likely that a number of professions will follow. I'm pretty sure that someone will discover evidence of retail in the area: having got my fresh onions I don't want to hang around waiting for arrowheads or wheat, but these have a good shelf life so it's worth someone setting up a shop for semidurables, and that may require some kind of currency or accountancy.

More interestingly, wherever you get a dense collection of disparate people whose life expectancy is anyway fairly short, you will have a significant number of sick and dead. Where better to practice medicine and study anatomy? And nobody wants to carry a corpse back to the farm, so let's establish some graveyards, maybe an operating theatre, wards....

Trade makes sense. Religion doesn't. Why not respect our ancestors and look for an intelligent interpretation of Stonehenge?  Think Birmingham, not Mecca.        alancalverd, Wed, 10th Sep 2014

This? CZARCAR, Fri, 12th Sep 2014

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