An investigation into a radical theory that Stonehenge, far from being a place of burial as is commonly assumed, was in fact a place of healing.
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Stonehenge is our greatest monument.
It was shaped over centuries, but to what purpose?
Was it a temple to the sun, or the moon,
an astronomical calendar,
or a shrine to dead ancestors?
Now Stonehenge may be about to give up some of its secrets.
For the first time in nearly half a century a new archaeological dig
has been permitted inside the sacred stone circle.
And the men who are leading the excavation are well aware of the significance of this moment.
I have to say it is a dream come true, I've been
dreaming of Stonehenge and working in it and around it for so long.
Professors Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright
believe they have finally unlocked the mystery of the monument.
The whole purpose of Stonehenge is that it was a prehistoric Lourdes,
if you like, that people came here to be made well.
Stonehenge as a healing centre would attract not only people who were unwell and looking to get healed,
but people who were capable of helping them become healed.
And, therefore, in a sense, Stonehenge becomes the A&E of southern England.
Their radical theory is based not only on the evidence from within the sacred circle,
but from forensic examination of some of the bodies buried around Stonehenge.
It would have been excruciatingly painful.
He wouldn't have been able to move easily, he wouldn't have been able to bend his knee.
Stonehenge has been shrouded in mystery for centuries.
But the stones and the bones are now telling a new story of one of the wonders of the world.
Stonehenge was built around the same time
as the great pyramid at Giza, in Egypt.
It was the biggest and most complicated building project in all of Europe,
and it's intrigued and fascinated the world for centuries.
Most of the major archaeological digs took place in the last century,
the final one, nearly 50 years ago, in 1964,
and they unearthed some basic facts about the monument.
We still don't know exactly when people started coming here, but it's now believed that
Stonehenge was built on a site which previously held a wooden structure.
And it was built in a cycle of four main phases.
More than 4,000 years ago, a small ring of stones stood for around 200 years.
Then came a single ring of huge standing stones.
Into which a ring of smaller stones was inserted.
Then another outer circle of small stones was added.
Before the circle of massive stones enclosed the whole thing.
This was the final phase of construction.
Stonehenge's heyday would last around 200 years, until 1900 BC.
The stones' alignment means that on the summer solstice,
the sun rises directly behind the main entrance to the monument.
That is why thousands of people gather here every year at this time to watch the sun rise.
Others believe this signifies an ancient calendar.
The cremated remains of 50 bodies found around the outside
of the henge in the 1920s have convinced yet others the stones mark a place of ancestral worship.
But despite all of this speculation,
we still don't know why, nor when, the first stones
were erected at the monument, when Stonehenge was effectively born.
The only way to discover that elusive date is to uncover organic material, like a piece of bone
or a grain that might have been placed or dropped at the oldest level of the building work.
And it was that promise of getting an accurate date for the beginning of Stonehenge that persuaded
English Heritage, who manage the site, to allow the first dig in a generation to take place.
The history of excavation at Stonehenge is very unhappy.
Lots of people have dug lots of holes here, and, of course, all of them
have been without the benefit of modern technology.
And so we have an opportunity to find out something new, archaeologically, by a group of people who've thought
things through incredibly carefully, who've worked out their plans,
who've got their technology lined up, and we're at that moment now.
And we believe that this dig that's just about to happen has the chance
of getting some dates, which will genuinely unlock part of the mystery
of Stonehenge, and put another piece of that crucial jigsaw in, which is giving us a dating sequence
that will allow us to relate what's happening here to what happens in the rest of prehistoric Britain.
Archaeological digs don't normally attract much media attention,
but Stonehenge is very different.
When the first shovels break the sacred ground inside the stone circle, press,
radio and television crews from Britain and around the world are on hand to record the unique event.
Cutting that first turf was a pretty incredible feeling, to be doing research at Stonehenge again after
so many years when people haven't been able to get in here and do it.
It really was good, it was quite emotional, in a way, that
we can start lifting the turf to see what's underneath.
So long we've spent speculating about what's down there, now we can finally look.
My first thought was that, oh, my God, I've desecrated the monument,
you know, it was a really funny feeling
when the spade first went into the turf.
I looked at the monument manager, who was standing next to me, and his
face went pale, you know, I mean, oh, my goodness, what are you doing to my wonderful monument?
But then I thought oh, how exciting, we're on our way, and we're on our way the first time since 1964.
The sacred nature of Stonehenge is celebrated and maintained by the Druids.
Their belief in the power of mythology, and their reverence
for their ancestors, is centred on this ancient stone circle.
And they give the dig a special blessing.
HE BLOWS HORN
Now we're here to call upon us the ancestors and the spirit
of the sacred land, and especially this sacred circle,
so that when you excavate...
For the Druids, Stonehenge is a holy place.
The walls of this temple are the huge sarsen stones, which encircle the monument.
But Darvill and Wainwright believe that these are the wrong stones to celebrate.
They think that it's the much smaller
and less well known bluestones that are essential to explaining the point and the purpose of Stonehenge.
Well, these are the great iconic stones of Stonehenge, what everybody sees when
they approach the site, and, of course, these are sarsens, these
are the local stones, dragged perhaps 20, 30 miles from off the plains - sometimes called greyweathers,
and that's very appropriate, this grey colour with the lichens growing on it.
Grey colour, standing out beautifully against the blue sky this morning.
The light is fantastic. The light's fantastic, yeah.
But these are the big ones. And here we've got something much smaller.
Absolutely, because these are the ones that really interest us.
These are the bluestones.
Well, the stones we're looking at are the bluestones, these are the ones that we see on the right of us now.
These are the small stones. Bringing those bluestones here made the difference.
The target of our attention is the bluestones.
The bluestones... Bluestones. Bluestones. The bluestones.
And actually dig the socket of the foundation trench of one of these bluestones.
They are sure the bluestones were the first stones erected here,
and modern science is sure that they come from a long, long way away.
The question is, why go to all the bother of dragging them here?
They intend to use the dig to test a radical new theory.
The archaeologists argue that the builders of Stonehenge
thought that these bluestones had special healing powers.
They can't dig all over the monument, so
they are concentrating on the area surrounding this single bluestone.
It lies here, in between the inner ring of huge sarsens and the outer ring,
and they've chosen this small two and a half metre
by three and a half metre area based on clues from earlier digs.
They also believe that the healing powers of the bluestones were so important that people broke off bits
to take away with them, and they hope to find evidence of that during the dig.
But is there any other existing material to back up their healing theory?
Are there any clues in skeletal remains from the Stonehenge area?
Timewatch went back into the vaults to re-examine some of the bones.
And we started with the most recent discovery.
Six years ago an unremarkable housing estate three miles from
Stonehenge became the site of one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Britain.
As the foundations were being dug for this school in the village
of Amesbury, the builders quite literally struck gold.
They had unearthed the richest Neolithic grave ever found in Britain.
The burial site was 4,500 years old, and awash in ancient treasures, including rare gold jewellery.
The grave was also littered with flint arrowheads,
which led to the skeleton being called the Amesbury Archer.
In fact, the school which is built on his grave is named after him.
And this skeleton was very unusual because it was so complete, and well preserved.
Jackie McKinley is a leading expert in the analysis of ancient bones.
So, is there anything in this skeleton that might support Darvill and Wainwright's healing theory?
As soon as this skeleton was laid out, there's one thing that struck us as immediately obvious,
and that was that there had been some major trauma to this left knee, something that had involved great
force hitting that kneecap, possibly that person falling off something and hitting the ground with great force.
One possible explanation for this injury could be a horse riding accident.
4,500 years ago this was a new and dangerous way of getting around.
So what were the physical consequences of his injury?
The most obvious effect of this trauma is evident at the end of the femur, or the thigh bone.
What you've got is a groove running down there towards the knee joint, and a hole.
Now, that hole is evidence of infection within the bone itself,
the pus from which is draining through this hole.
I mean, it would have been excruciatingly painful.
He wouldn't have been able to move easily, he wouldn't have been able to bend his knee, he would have
to change the way he walked.
Professor Tim Darvill believes that this is what brought the Amesbury Archer to Stonehenge.
This is a man who was not awfully well when he got to this part of southern England.
This is a man who was probably motivated in his travels to find some relief, to find some way of getting
better, and to come here, perhaps to have found that, perhaps to have found a few extra years of life.
So the archer could possibly have visited Stonehenge to cure his very serious knee problem.
And there's evidence in the bones to suggest that he lived with this injury for a very long time.
He suffered with this for years.
It wasn't something that happened just a week or so before he died,
it happened quite a long time, years probably, before he died.
And we can see that because there are changes to the skeleton, particularly
on the legs, to the left and right side.
And this will become most apparent if I hold up these two femurs.
The right one is considerably heavier in build, it's more robust, it's a stronger bone.
There's been wastage to this left side, and the individual has been favouring, or putting most weight,
on the right side, which has consequently built up more strength
in order to deal with that extra stress that's being put upon it.
Darvill and Wainwright believe that the archer came here to be healed,
drawn by the special qualities of the bluestones.
But that medicinal magic wasn't a local phenomenon,
it had to be brought here.
The source of the henge's healing power lies 150 miles to the west,
at Carn Menyn, in the Preseli Hills, South Wales.
These mist-shrouded Welsh hills hold a long association with the Celts, and their mysteries.
An ancient stone circle, a tiny forerunner of Stonehenge, lies here, as do dozens of tombs.
The archaeologists know that the bluestones are from this area,
and they have known it for nearly 90 years.
A geological analysis in 1923 proved that the mineral make-up of the stones was a perfect match.
This is a wafer thin slice of Stonehenge bluestone, 30 microns thick, magnified under a microscope.
It's like a fingerprint of the rock,
revealing its constituent crystals and minerals,
and when compared like this, the Welsh bluestones
and their Stonehenge counterparts look the same.
And the evidence of the shaping of these stones litters the area.
Look at that. Just as it was abandoned.
-You could hear the swearing when that came down.
-But it just shows, you just lever these out of the ground and you've got the thing.
-And then you start shaping it.
And look at that shaping along there, you see, that's really good.
-It's been struck off.
Now that's a beauty, and it would fit into Stonehenge like a hand in a glove.
This is the home of the bluestones of Stonehenge.
But for Darvill and Wainwright what makes these Welsh bluestones really special
are the springs which proliferate at the base of the outcrop,
springs which were once seen as sacred.
Healing springs have a very long history around here, and, and even until comparatively recent times,
and indeed at the present, these springs are visited by people who want to cure warts on their hands.
I went to one myself last weekend,
who want to cure a bad chest, or want to cure headaches.
Darvill and Wainwright have discovered stones right next to
ancient springs which are inscribed with Neolithic markings.
But what really makes it for me is this stone here, when you first found it, do you remember?
-That's right, I do.
-And across it we've got four of these little cut marks.
Here's the first one, at the top, there's the second one, round here, here's the third, and here's
the fourth one, which is actually going off the edge of the rock.
It's been broken off at some point.
And I can well believe this stone, which is a bit loose already,
-was really standing up somewhere just where you're sitting now.
-Yes, oh, I think there's no doubt about it.
It must have been standing up at the head of the spring.
These stones were considered to be so powerful and so important
that they were moved 150 miles to Stonehenge.
There's no archaeological evidence been uncovered to tell us how it was
done, but most archaeologists think they were put on a raft
and floated around the Welsh coast, up the Bristol Channel and on along the River Avon to Stonehenge.
Even for mariners of today, these are treacherous inland waters.
For Bronze Age sailors, the dangers must have been extreme.
To transport 80 plus bluestones 250 kilometres all the way from Preseli in North Pembrokeshire to
Stonehenge was one of the greatest engineering feats in prehistoric Europe, if not THE greatest.
Once they had completed their journey, the bluestones transformed Stonehenge.
They were the first stones erected at the monument, and through all of the different phases of construction
over the course of hundreds of years they held a central position in the circle.
But just when did they make their journey?
The search is on to find the elusive piece of evidence that will date the beginning of Stonehenge.
Archaeologists work down from the top,
and we're not going to get the material that we wish to date,
to date the bluestone phase, until the very last few days of the excavation.
The dig has been blessed with almost perfect weather, and the foundations
of Stonehenge are slowly revealed as each separate layer of stone, earth and gravel is excavated.
And the archaeologists appear to have uncovered new evidence
which supports the idea of the power and importance of the bluestones.
In order to investigate the Stonehenge layer, we cut it up into small squares.
And we took out each square separately, and we took out each square
as a series of separate layers, so that we could quantify the amount of stones that are represented in each.
And I've got here the material which was extracted from just one of those
small squares, and you can see straightaway that the amount of bluestone, which is this pile here,
is far greater than the amount of sarsen, which is this little pile just beside me here.
Now this is the stuff which of course comes from these massive great big stones around the edge of the site.
This is the stuff which is essentially local, and it's, as you can see, quite a light colour.
This is the material imported from Wales,
and I would guess there's three times as much here as there is there.
So why is there more bluestone than sarsen?
The sarsens are obviously much, much bigger.
Well, I think what we've got here is, is people flaking off
pieces of stone, in order to create little bits to take away.
Some of it is rubbish, these sort of bits, but the piece
in my hand is the sort of sample that folk might want to take away.
It's actually quite nicely shaped, as it turns out.
It's one they've left behind, but you can well imagine them taking
that off as an amulet, as a talisman, as a lucky charm of some sort and keeping it with them for a while
in the hope that this is going to do them good, and heal them.
This discovery delights the archaeologists.
The preponderance of bluestone chips, they believe, marks
the bluestone out as being special, and powerful.
But there's another crucial find that Darvill and Wainwright are interested in.
However, it's not from this dig.
In 1976, a body was discovered in the ditch surrounding the monument,
which is not far from where they are digging.
Perhaps the proximity of the grave to Stonehenge could indicate that this was a very important person,
and if Darvill and Wainwright are right, someone looking to be healed.
Well, this is the skeleton of a young adult male.
And unusually for archaeological material we can actually tell what he
died of, because this young man was shot several times, from different angles, probably by different people.
He was assailed from two different sides, from both the left and the right side.
As far as I can tell, the first arrows are likely to have gone in
when he was upright, and they've gone in on the right side.
You can see there are two small marks, one at the top
end of the ninth rib and one at the bottom end of the eighth rib.
A later shot appears to have hit him in the sternum.
He's also been hit on the left side of his body, and this is the tenth
rib, so we're talking about this kind of area here,
but again, towards the back.
And looking at the angle of this, it looks like he's likely to have
been hit while he was perhaps on the ground.
He was hit again on the left-hand side, but much higher up than the rib cage.
It's likely that he was down on the ground by this stage, and maybe his
arm was up slightly because he's been hit probably in that region there.
It seems clear that this young man was murdered, but the key question is why?
Are there any clues in the way that he was buried that
could be related to the special healing qualities of the monument?
Doctor Alison Sheridan from the National Museum of Scotland believes she knows the answer.
She's an archer, and a specialist in Bronze Age burials.
It's intriguing, it's not like a normal burial of its time.
It dates to around 2300, 2200, and it's unusual in several respects.
In a formal burial, you would expect somebody to be
lying on their side in a crouched position as if they're asleep, and as you can see this guy is on his back.
OK, there's been some disturbance to the body, because animals have
been burrowing here, so the ribs are, are moved around a little bit, but essentially he's on his back.
And the other thing is that he hasn't been buried with any grave goods, cos normally in graves of this time
you would at least have a pot, which may have contained something like ale
for the journey into the afterlife, because people certainly believed that you go somewhere after you die.
He has nothing like that.
So why was this man murdered?
If we put it all together we know that he was shot in the back,
we know that he was buried in a shallow grave in the ditch close to the entrance.
He's on his back, so they must have turned his body over.
It looks almost as though they just chucked him in, from the way that his body is lying.
And to me that suggests that here was somebody who was trying
to get into the sacred area, but it was being protected, by security guards if you like.
And so he went somewhere where he shouldn't have gone, and he's paid the heaviest price for it.
He may not have been buried with any grave goods, but perhaps
significantly, three pieces of bluestone were found in the grave.
It may be that actually he had those pieces of stones about him.
It's just possible that when we see them in the grave, it was that
individual who'd snook in, taken some pieces of stone, and was shot going out.
This young man would almost certainly have known about the security surrounding the monument,
because he was from the Stonehenge area.
And we know that because the secrets of where he lived are locked in his teeth.
Hidden in the enamel are two tell-tale chemicals, strontium and oxygen.
The strontium allows scientists to work out what kind of soil his food was grown in,
and the oxygen, what kind of climate he grew up in.
Once they have a read-out, the scientists can plot the information
on specially prepared maps of the geology and climate of Europe.
And they have examined thirteen sets of Bronze Age teeth
to try to track the movements of our ancient ancestors.
If we can tell where the Stonehenge intruder was from, what about the more celebrated Amesbury Archer?
In an age where getting around was difficult, did he travel far on his journey to Stonehenge?
His teeth analysis revealed something quite unexpected and remarkable.
We analysed two teeth from the archer, and the results we got were astounding, they were one
of those kind of scientific moments when you think, wow!
Because he turned out to have an oxygen isotope value that couldn't have been picked up in Britain.
He had to come from somewhere outside Britain, and to the east.
And so that was a really exciting result.
And when we looked at it, he probably came from an area that included
Austria, Switzerland, parts of Germany, the Alpine region.
The Alps are six hundred miles from Stonehenge,
but they were linked by a newly emerging pan-European culture.
A culture marked by beautiful pots, called beakers.
This new beaker culture was driven by an economic revolution.
The hunting and small scale farming communities of the Stone Age
were being replaced by a bigger and more intensive agrarian economy.
And farming allowed people to create the time, technology and wealth to
take on the mammoth building project that Stonehenge had become.
Stonehenge is an epic project, it's an outrageous project.
To bring these stones to one place involved thousands of people,
not just to carry the stones but to make the ropes, to get the food, to prepare the accommodation.
So it's a huge project, the scale of it is really quite extraordinary.
So is there any evidence of this culture being unearthed in the dig?
-A bit of Bronze Age pottery.
Oh, Ed, well done! It's a piece of beaker. Fantastic!
It's a piece of beaker.
You little beauty!
Let's have a look. My word, look at that, that's very good.
This is probably so far one of the best, most important
finds of the excavation because it really dates to the time of Stonehenge that we're interested in.
Beaker pottery is very distinctive, it's very thin, as you see, but also
what is most important is it's got very particular types of decoration,
sometimes impressed with cord, and in this case it's been incised, as you see, in various sections.
Now we know that these pots are around Stonehenge around 2000 BC
or thereabouts, and that there are very rich burials associated with this particular type of pottery.
So just one shard represents a really beautiful vessel.
Unfortunately we don't have the rest of it obviously, but this one shard
gives us a really good hint that there's beaker around Stonehenge at this time.
This 4,000-year-old piece of pottery is the oldest thing that's
been found yet, but Darvill and Wainwright believe Stonehenge is almost certainly older than that.
And the proof lies in the grave of the Amesbury Archer.
Archaeologists know that the remains of the Amesbury Archer date to around 2300 BC,
and if he came here to be healed, that means the bluestones must have been here at that time.
And Darvill and Wainwright believe that the healing powers of the henge
brought the archer back to this area on more than one occasion.
The clue is once again in the bones.
One other problem this individual suffered from,
you can see the results of in his mandible.
And here you can see he's got two quite large holes in his teeth.
That's called dental caries, and that's caused by the acid produced by bacteria that live in the mouth.
Now that opens the tooth up to infection, and that's what's happened in this case.
You've got infection that's tracked down into the sockets of the teeth, and have formed a dental abscess.
This abscess was so severe that it burst through the jawbone.
Of course, there may have been herbal remedies and medicines around at this time,
but nothing that could take away the pain of an extremely serious and potentially fatal dental infection.
The pain is continuous, throbbing,
excruciatingly tender to go anywhere near that tooth, so he can't bite on anything.
So for two days he's not going to eat,
all right, he's just going to feel like eating, he's not going
to be able to chew anything anywhere near that tooth.
Perhaps for longer because the tooth's already going to start
getting tender before it gets to its peak.
So he's not going to be eating, he's going to be in a lot of pain.
Once the infection has progressed, and is actually burst through
into the tissues, he's going to start to feel unwell on top of it.
So his overall condition is fairly acute at that stage.
Unfortunately for the Amesbury Archer,
his painful toothache had developed into something life threatening.
The main problem is instead of being a localised problem just to his tooth, once it starts
spreading into the tissues it then becomes a systemic problem, affecting possibly his whole body.
The infection that ensued from the tooth decay may well have killed him.
It may well have been the final straw.
Well, the tooth problem for the Amesbury Archer must have been
absolutely critical, and it must have been absolutely excruciating.
And I guess when you're in a great deal of pain, and you have a working knowledge of where you may get
some relief from that pain, that's the place you're going to go to, and hope that somebody can help you.
I think this is a well travelled man who knew perhaps where he could find some relief, and headed for it.
In this desperate condition,
could the Amesbury Archer have travelled to Stonehenge on his own?
In fact, anyone in life threatening circumstances would need help to travel here,
and it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect
that they would be accompanied by members of their own family.
So did the Amesbury Archer make his last journey to Stonehenge with someone close to him?
The clues lie in the grave that was excavated at the same time
the Amesbury Archer's last resting place was uncovered.
These are the remains of a young adult male who came out of a grave adjacent to the Amesbury Archer
and has therefore been dubbed the Archer's ompanion.
Now we know they date to roughly the same phase, and having two graves of the same sort of date in the middle
of a field suggests there was some relationship between them.
But in this case, quite unusually, we've been able to see
that is the case from looking at the bones, and the clue is in the feet.
There's a very rare connection between two bones
in their feet that only occurs in around 2% of the population.
And archaeologists believe that in this case there is a very close family link.
So these two individuals may well have been father and son,
or nephew and uncle, but they were obviously quite closely related.
And the teeth analysis of the Archer's Companion may back up the skeletal science.
It shows that, like the Archer, he may have spent some of his
late childhood in the Alpine regions of Europe.
The early results of the survey of thirteen sets of Bronze Age teeth found near the monument
may offer some support to the idea that Stonehenge was a place of pilgrimage for people from far away.
At the moment we're running at about 50% of the burials we've found
not being from the Stonehenge area.
But the other side of it is that we are getting other people that
definitely do come from the Stonehenge area, so these aren't just weird and anomalous results.
We can also show that the other 50% are entirely consistent with having been raised in and around the area of
Stonehenge. So that in a way adds to my sort of belief that
the unusual ones are genuine and come from some distance away.
The dig is now reaching its end,
and for nearly two weeks they have been searching for that
elusive piece of organic material that will allow them to definitively date the monument.
And on Friday the 11th April 2008, their diligence and patience is rewarded.
I'm very pleased to report that from one of the bluestone sockets
we've got a grain of cereal, and that is exactly what we're looking for, and I hope it's the first of many.
This tiny grain of cereal is the dig's needle in a haystack.
It means they should now be able to get an accurate date for when the first stones were erected.
It's an enormous relief for the archaeologists.
It is a wonderful feeling.
I have to say that I never really doubted it.
Tim and I are the dream team, and we came here to prove something,
to find something, and we've found it.
We told the world we were going to date Stonehenge and in a sense it's a risk, but I
was confident there would be something in here that we could use.
It would have been incredibly bad luck if there was nothing at all.
This single grain of cereal is fundamental to the Stonehenge story.
It's a window into a world which was changing from hunting
and small scale farming into a new, more intensive agrarian economy.
So this is a very small carbonised fragment of grain.
It's a whole grain that's been charred by being thrown away in the fire.
If it wasn't for this grain, if it wasn't for farming, Stonehenge couldn't have been built.
So the meaning of Stonehenge and what Stonehenge was used for is one thing,
but without having a large agricultural population here,
where they've got times of the year where they can sit down and relax rather than rush out and grab their
food all the time, without that large population we couldn't have actually built Stonehenge.
Stonehenge could not have been built. So this enables the construction of the stone phase of Stonehenge.
Archaeologists are convinced that agriculture didn't just create the conditions for
the construction of Stonehenge, it also heavily influenced the layout of the monument.
Traditionally, it was assumed that the orientation of Stonehenge favoured the midsummer solstice,
which is why thousands of people turn up here every year at this time.
Many of them believe that they are taking part in a tradition that's thousands of years old,
but they've almost certainly come at the wrong time of year,
and they are looking in completely the wrong direction.
Most archaeologists now believe that it was the midwinter solstice, which falls around the 21st December
every year, that was important for the builders of Stonehenge.
The entrance to the monument faces the remaining upright stone of the biggest of the sarsen trilathons.
At this one time of year, as the sun sets,
its rays would have shone directly through the narrow gap between the trilathons' two upright stones.
In essence, the layout of Stonehenge is a very elaborate way of marking the passage of time.
The theory is they needed to mark midwinter because this
was the symbolic beginning of the new agricultural year.
Stonehenge is a symbol of the success of this new agrarian economy.
A local community grew up around it, a community which Darvill and Wainwright believe developed
to service the needs of pilgrims seeking healing.
A community which would have its fair share of doctors and physicians.
Stonehenge as a healing centre would attract not only people who were unwell and
hoping to get healed, but people who were capable of helping them become healed, that people want to go there
to find some, not just simple relief but actually find people who are the best of their kind,
the best magicians, the best medicine men and women that they can have to help them out.
But is there any evidence to back up that theory?
Could there be any clues in some of the skeletal remains?
Like this unusual skull, which was unearthed in a burial mound near to Stonehenge.
It really is the most strange shape.
It's exaggerated in its shortness, and
how round it is, particularly how broad it is at the back, and slightly flattened across this area here.
You can see it best from that side.
Now the kind of thing that's likely to have produced this kind
of variation in shape is things like trauma at childbirth, so it's likely
that this individual sat oddly in the womb, and as she was born maybe something got squeezed in the wrong
direction, and it just didn't really fully get back into the normal shape that you would see in the skull.
So there's no obvious skeletal reason for her to come to Stonehenge to be healed.
But Doctor Chris Kanuzel believes that she may have come here to be a healer.
Basically, this is a difficult birth made physical in the adult,
and it's kind of a marker for that
being, that time of life being somewhat difficult.
It's the kind of thing one would associate with a special person in the past.
Many ritual healers actually attain their ability to heal
others because they've overcome their own impairments,
and that might be contributing to this person's social make-up.
So it's not improbable that
a minor disfigurement might actually be much more important
if the disfigurement is connected
to the event of birth itself,
and that in itself may have made this person
quite special, and occasioned their burial at a very famous monument.
The dig is now nearly over.
The excavation has exposed a patchwork of holes,
which is evidence of the continued re-shaping and re-structuring of Stonehenge over thousands of years.
And most of them were occupied by bluestones.
What the dig has uncovered is an apparent obsession with moving and chipping away at the bluestones.
It's proved that there are three times as many bluestone flakes in the soil as sarsen.
In the twelve days of the dig, they have excavated eight cubic metres of soil.
And when they sift through it all, they uncover one hundred bits of organic material,
and select the fourteen most promising pieces for carbon dating.
And all of these vital pieces of evidence are sent to Oxford University's specialist lab,
to undergo the most up to date carbon analysis.
This complex technology is designed to accurately date organic material.
The results are unexpected and startling.
It was previously thought that the bluestones arrived at
Stonehenge around 2600 BC, but that was essentially an educated guess.
The new, accurate date from the Stonehenge dig
shows that the bluestones actually arrived in 2300 BC,
three hundred years later than was thought.
Now, for the first time, we have an accurate dating sequence
for this most iconic of Bronze Age monuments.
The first stones to arrive were the bluestones.
We now know they were erected at the site in 2300 BC.
We don't know why, but they were taken down two hundred years later.
The great sarsen trilathons were put up around 2100 BC.
The bluestones were then slotted into the centre of that ring,
hinting at their symbolic importance.
Then, another outer circle of bluestones was added,
before the massive circle of sarsens enclosed the whole thing.
This was the heyday of the monument,
and it lasted for about two hundred years, until 1900 BC.
Over the next 4,000 years Stonehenge fell into a long, slow
decline, neglect, theft and time producing the iconic structure we're left with today.
And what's even more remarkable is that the new date for the arrival of the bluestones at Stonehenge
coincides exactly with the date of the burial of the Amesbury Archer.
Our new date for Stonehenge actually gives us, if you like, a glimpse
of a moment in pre-history
when things are happening at and around Stonehenge.
And it's quite extraordinary that the date of the Amesbury Archer
is identical with our new date for the bluestones of Stonehenge.
These two things happening within living memory of each other for sure is something very, very important.
They even think that the archer may have had
an important role to play
in promoting the healing powers of the henge.
This is a very significant person.
The grave goods that eventually go into his grave
represent the richest collection of material that we have for the whole of north-west Europe at this time.
This is a person with connections, this is a person with influence, this is a person who's travelled a great
distance to be at Stonehenge for a particular purpose, I'm sure.
This is just the sort of person who, when they appear at Stonehenge and recover from their ailments,
can actually go out there and be an evangelist for this great monument.
But there is one final unexpected revelation from the carbon dating process.
A tiny fragment of organic material showed that people had been at Stonehenge since 7000 BC,
that's 9,000 years.
When we got the date of 7000 BC to about 7200, that was absolutely fantastic because we knew Mesolithic
people, the middle Stone Age, the hunter gatherer people, were living
in the area, were building upright pine posts in the area of Stonehenge.
Why they would have chose that landscape
is still a mystery, but this now proves beyond all doubt
that they were at Stonehenge thousands of years before Stonehenge was even conceived as a monument.
Up until now, the earliest evidence for any kind of activity
on the site of the monument is around 3600 BC.
This new date pushes the Stonehenge story back another 3,500 years.
For the archaeologists, this historic dig at Stonehenge has surpassed all of their expectations.
When we look back over the results of that tiny little hole, it's hard to
imagine that we could actually have got so much out of such a small area.
We've actually managed to re-write whole sections of Stonehenge's
history from those very small excavations.
It took Tim and I, I think about an hour around a kitchen table to plan it
but that small hole produced big results.
The bluestones, for years the poor relations of the imposing sarsens,
are now assuming the central role in understanding the monument.
They are, after all, the centre of the henge.
And the reason for that might now be becoming clear.
This may have been a place where the sick came to get better, the injured came to get healed.
To discuss their theory, log onto our Open University hosted forum.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
An investigation into a radical theory that Stonehenge, far from being a place of burial as is commonly assumed, was in fact a place of healing - a Bronze Age Lourdes. The investigation takes in forensic testing of bones excavated over the past decades and hard-won permission for the first dig in 50 years at the Henge, watched live online by millions of viewers around the world. Does the theory of the healing stones bear up to modern-day forensic science?