Stonehenge cremations shed light on where mysterious monument builders came from

Science | AAAS | 8/2/2018 | Staff
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Five thousand years ago, the people of Stonehenge buried cremated bodies under the ancient and mysterious site, near Amesbury, U.K. Archaeologists have long believed that the remains belonged to individuals connected with the monument, but for more than a century, they’ve been unable to figure out where they came from or why they were buried there. Now, a new analysis of these remains is providing some answers.

“This is an extremely important study,” says Martin Smith, a biological anthropologist at Bournemouth University in Poole, U.K., who was not involved in the research.

Burials - Individuals - Bones - Containers - Bags

The burials of 58 individuals were uncovered in 1919. The cremated bones had been interred in now vanished organic containers, perhaps leather bags, in round pits near the monument. Intriguingly, these pits may once have held standing stones, as well as the human remains.

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Dating of the remains later revealed that the cremations were interred during the earliest stages of the construction of Stonehenge, from 3000 to 2480 B.C.E. Experts still disagree on the purpose of Stonehenge; the prevailing hypothesis is that it was a temple connected with observing the movement of the sun. Others have argued it was a monument to the dead, where, as at nearby Durrington Walls, people from all over came together to feast.

Scientists - Builders - Monument - Rocks - Bluestones

Scientists do know that the builders brought some of the monument’s giant rocks, known as bluestones, from quarries in the Preseli Hills—a range of hills 220 kilometers away in western Wales. Researchers have also shown that people brought cattle to nearby Durrington Walls from all over, including Wales, though this site postdates the majority of the cremations at Stonehenge. These researchers didn’t have much or any human data, however.

Scientists have been unable to glean much information from the human remains...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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