Friday, September 26, 2008

Pre-Historic Health Spa

Stonehenge has long been thought of as a burial site, where cremated remains and bodies have been found that date as far back as 3000 BCE. But the history of the land on which it rests dates back even farther: there were post holes for large wooden poles found in that location dated back to 8000 BCE. It seems as though this point on Earth has always held a certain significance, drawing different people and cultures to it throughout time. It should be no wonder then that as time passed, the purpose of the place could have changed in significance to those who visited it.

In the most recent excavation of the site - the first one in 44 years - two archaeologists have theorized that Stonehenge could have actually been used as a place of pilgrimage for those who were sick and dying, a veritable health spa of sorts.

There are bluestones placed in the inner ring of Stonehenge that were determined to have come from Preseli Mountains in Southwest Wales, 140 miles from Stonehenge. To give you an idea of how significant that is, the larger rocks of the more recognizably Stonehenge structure came from only 20 miles north of the site. Whoever was building Stonehenge at the time made it a point to bring those big bluestones in there.

Bluestones, named for the bluish color that appears when the stones get wet or cut, are recorded as having healing properties:

The stones are great;
And magic power they have;
Men that are sick;
Fare to that stone;
And they wash that stone;
And with that water bathe away their sickness.

The archaeologists also found that natural springheads, where water comes up from the ground, had been enhanced by the erection of small walls to dam the water that came up, creating little pools they proposed the sick would be able to sit in. Some of the springheads were "adorned with pre-historic art."

Bodies buried nearby that are contemporary to the time the bluestones were in place also support their theory. The remains of the buried show injuries that were possible causes of death, suggesting that these people had come to the site in hopes of being healed.

The full article about their new findings is printed in the October issue of the Smithsonian magazine.

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