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Author Topic: What was Stone Henge for? A theory...  (Read 1997 times)

Offline thedoc

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What was Stone Henge for? A theory...
« on: 28/10/2014 12:30:02 »
ronald hales asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Was Stonehenge a covered structure for winnowing corn on an elevated platform?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 28/10/2014 12:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What was Stone Henge for? A theory...
« Reply #1 on: 28/10/2014 15:56:35 »
A bit large for the purpose, but I think you are on the right track - it's clearly for trade or sport, like the NEC, NIA, or whatever. We insult our forbears by talking about religion - why should they have been as gullible as us? Think Birmingham, not Mecca.

It isn't clear why they dragged stones from Wales for a working agricultural building, but a trade show demands something spectacular, so Ug Evans Heavy Transport showed the capability of their big tractor (and we still don't know how they did it!).   

I'm particularly impressed with the nibs and notches that join the uprights to the horizontals. Getting these to fit, and indeed getting the right size stones to the site,  demands a portable means of measurement and a lot of geometry. Such standardisation of technical drawing and measurement did not reappear until the 1600s

As for the alignment with the solstice, this is essential for trade. If you have to travel a long way to meet your trading partners, you need a universally reproducible calendar. Hence henges, barrows, and tombs around the country, including Orkney, Ireland and parts of France, all have a precise means of locating the solstice. Then if you know it takes n days to reach the hub (probably Stonehenge) and your particular stuff is traded N days after the solstice, you know to set off for your business trip at day N-n.

Now the problem with neolithic travel (notwithstanding Ug Evans or Og Stobart's trucking companies) is that n can easily turn into n + m if it rains, so you need a bit of flexibility. Hence Travelodge, Hilton, and Ye Olde Red Lion - places where business travellers can stay for a few days, which explains the vast quantities of pig bones found around the site - not religious feasts or sacrifices, just pub food.

And there's nothing special about the graves, with signs of trepanning and other surgeries. It makes sense for doctors to set up shop where people are likely to congregate, but not all interventions are successful, and nobody wants to lug a rotting corpse back to Shetland ("returning the bodies" is a major cause of casualties in the US military. The historic British practices of burial at sea or "some corner of a foreign field" are far more sensible) so you will find a high proportion of failed surgical cases around henge sites and the like.
« Last Edit: 28/10/2014 16:47:54 by alancalverd »
 

Offline Bill S

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Re: What was Stone Henge for? A theory...
« Reply #2 on: 28/10/2014 22:42:55 »
http://www.livescience.com/21125-stonehenge-theory-unity.html

This is an interesting take on the question, which would fit with the trade or the more mystical ideas.  I am inclined to wonder if there is a bit of both involved.  Humans have never been slow to "cash in" on on gatherings, be they religious, cultural or entertainment bases.

A purely trade based set-up might, logically, have centred on a pre-existing conurbation. Then again, perhaps there was one there that fell into disuse as did Stonehenge.

 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What was Stone Henge for? A theory...
« Reply #3 on: 29/10/2014 15:39:23 »
Civilisation is specialisation, so conurbation, where craftsmen gather in one place to trade with farmers and hunters, is a different form of civilisation from that of fully nomadic people such as those native Americans who travelled in self-sufficient groups. The advantage of urbanisation is that you can build factories and thus make a whole range of durable products that can't be manufactured ad hoc - high temperature pottery, glass, and metal alloys demand a greater degree of specialisation and collaboration than flint tools and gold jewellery.

As for the livescience suggestion that Stonhenge was a celebration of unity, I think trade actually begets unity, whilst politics necessarily harms it. This thought first occured to me when I negotiated a deal between an American surgeon and a Russian engineer to build a novel surgical laser, despite the absurd posturings of both nations' presidents: it struck me that I had more in common with these two gentlemen than with my (perfectly charming) British neighbour.
 

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Re: What was Stone Henge for? A theory...
« Reply #3 on: 29/10/2014 15:39:23 »

 

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