Red social de Arqueologos e Historiadores
Foto: Interpretación artística del llamado 'Bluestonehenge' provista por la Universidad de Manchester. AP.
Un grupo de arqueólogos británicos ha descubierto pruebas de lo que creen es un segundo Stonehenge, el famoso monumento megalítico de la Edad de Bronce (2500 años antes de Cristo) situado en el condado de Wiltshire, Gran Bretaña. El hallazgo se encuentra a poco más de 1,5 kilómetros del original, informa The Guardian.
Vía: AP, Londres | El País.com, 7 de octubre de 2009
Los científicos de la Universidad de Sheffield trabajan en la orilla occidental del río Avon y han bautizado al emplazamiento Bluestonehenge (Stonehenge azul) en referencia al color de las 25 piedras de Gales que en un tiempo llegaron a formar el complejo, señala el rotativo. Las excavaciones sugieren que en ese lugar se erigió un círculo pétreo de 10 metros de diámetro, rodeado por una zanja.
Foto: Bluestonehenge: Aerial view of the site of a 'second Stonehenge' discovered on the west bank of the Avon river. Photograph: Aerial-Cam/Stonehenge Riverside Project.
Varias son las conjeturas del objeto de estas construcciones: enterramientos rituales, observatorio astronómico, cultos religiosos... Lo que los científicos han hallado en esta ocasión son los huecos que hace siglos, piensan, albergaron gigantescas moles de piedra azul, traídas de las montañas de Preseli, en Gales, a más de 240 kilómetros del lugar. Esas piedras habrían sido luego retiradas, hace miles de años.
Los expertos creen que las piedras marcaban el fin del corredor que conduce desde el río Avon hasta Stonehenge: una "ruta procesional" de casi tres kilómetros construida junto al famoso círculo de piedra.
El profesor de la Universidad de Sheffield Mike Parker Pearson señala a The Guardian que están esperando los resultados de las pruebas de datación efectuadas con carbono para determinar si las piedras que en la actualidad conforman el círculo interno de Stonehenge estuvieron en algún tiempo en el emplazamiento ahora localizado. "La gran pregunta es cuándo fueron erigidas nuestras piedras y cuándo fueron retiradas", afirma Pearson.
"En el pasado conjeturamos que debía existir algo al final de la avenida, junto al río. Pero no estábamos preparados para descubrir que se trataba de un nuevo círculo de piedras. Pienso que hemos encontrado una prueba incontrovertible de que el río era muy importante para la gente que utilizaba Stonehenge. Creo que el río constituía un conducto entre los vivos y los muertos. Éste es el punto en el que uno dejaba el reino de los vivos en el río y entraba en el reino de los muertos, en Stonehenge". añade el profesor.
Las excavaciones realizadas en el Stonehenge Riverside Project, señala The Guardian, han posibilitado el descubrimiento hasta el momento de numerosos hallazgos, como el de la villa neolítica de Durrington Walls, en 2005.
*** Artículos sobre Stonehenge en Terrae Antiqvae:
Hallan niño prehistórico enterrado en Stonehenge
Stonhenge data del 3000 a.C.
¿Fue Stonehenge el santuario de Lourdes del Neolítico?
Stonehenge, santuario para los antiguos druidas
Luz sobre el misterio de Stonehenge; arqueólogos británicos hallan un poblado neolítico cerca del monumento
Mini-Stonehenge Found: Crematorium on Stonehenge Road?
James Owen in London for National Geographic News, October 5, 2009
Sorry, Spinal Tap fans—though a newfound stone circle in England is being called a mini-Stonehenge, it was never in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.
Thirty-three-foot-wide (ten-meter-wide) "Bluestonehenge" was discovered just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the original Stonehenge near Salisbury, United Kingdom, scientists announced today.
The 5,000-year-old ceremonial site is thought to have been a key stop along an ancient route between a land of the living, several miles away, and a domain of the dead—Stonehenge. At least one archaeologist thinks Bluestonehenge may have been a sort of crematorium.
Named for the color of its long-gone stones, Bluestonehenge, or Bluehenge, was dismantled thousands of years ago, and many of its standing stones were integrated into Stonehenge during a rebuilding of the larger monument, according to the archaeologists.
Mini-Stonehenge: Prehistoric Crematorium?
Bluestonehenge was found in August along the banks of the River Avon during excavations led by Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield in the U.K.
The circle of an estimated 25 bluestones was surrounded by a henge—an earthwork with a ditch and bank. The henge has been tentatively dated to 2400 B.C. But flint arrowheads found at the stone-circle site are of a type that suggests the rocks were erected as early as 3000 B.C.
More precise dates will have to wait until prehistoric deer antlers—used as pickaxes at Bluestonehenge—have been radiocarbon dated, the team said.
Made from a hard dolerite rock, the four-ton megaliths were hewn from ancient quarries in the Preseli Mountains of Wales, 150 miles (240 kilometers) away, Parker Pearson said. The manpower and logistics required to transport the stones suggests they had deep significance to ancient Britons, experts say.
Unlike Stonehenge, which aligns with the sun at the summer and winter solstices, Bluestonehenge shows no sign of a particular orientation, or even an entrance, the team reported.
Nor is there any evidence that people lived at the site. There's no pottery, animal bones, ornaments, or relics such as those unearthed at the nearby Stone Age village of Durrington Walls, found near Stonehenge in 2007.
However Bluestonehenge's empty stone holes were filled with charcoal, indicating that large amounts of wood were burned there—signifying, perhaps, a prehistoric crematorium. Perhaps not coincidentally, ashes have been found in holes at Stonehenge.
"Maybe the bluestone circle is where people were cremated before their ashes were buried at Stonehenge itself," Parker Pearson said in a statement.
Parker Pearson proposes that Stonehenge represented a "domain of the dead" to ancestor-worshiping ancient Britons.
"It could be that Bluestonehenge was where the dead began their final journey to Stonehenge," he added. "Not many people know that Stonehenge was Britain's largest burial ground at that time."
The Bluestonehenge discovery was made as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, a seven-year archaeological investigation of the Stonehenge area, supported in part by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.) Other funders include the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Key Piece in Stonehenge Puzzle
Bluestonehenge may represents a vital part of the jigsaw as researchers slowly piece together the meaning of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge expert Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine, said, "Up to now we've really thought of Stonehenge as this [one] stone circle. ...
"Maybe we need to actually start thinking about Stonehenge as a series of stone structures that are not necessarily all contained within that circular ditch [at Stonehenge proper]," added Pitts, who was not involved in the project.
The excavation team now believes Stonehenge incorporates the 25 bluestones that originally stood at Bluestonehenge. Only a few bluestone pieces were found at the new site, and "that is telling you that the stones are being taken out whole," said dig co-director Julian Thomas of the University of Manchester.
Bluestonehenge's stones were dragged along the avenue to Stonehenge during a major rebuilding phase around 2500 B.C., the archaeologists speculated (time line of the stages of Stonehenge).
If Bluestonehenge had been demolished much later—in Roman times, when reverence for the stones would have been diminished, for example—"they'd be breaking them up and turning them into building stone," Thomas said.
"I think it's very likely that the new stone circle is contemporary with the very earliest stages of Stonehenge," the archaeologist added.
British Archaeology's Pitts agreed that Bluestonehenge's rocks were likely appropriated for Stonehenge.
"It makes a lot of sense," Pitts said. "The megaliths that were in the pits down by the river had to have gone somewhere, and they clearly weren't broken up at the site, because its not covered [in fragments] of stone."
Mini-Stonehenge a Pit Stop on Route to Afterlife?
Parker Pearson agrees, seeing Bluestonehenge's location—on the river and at the beginning of a 1.75 mile (2.8 kilometer) earthen avenue leading to Stonehenge—as highly significant. (See map—Bluestonehenge, though unmarked, is where the long avenue meets the River Avon.)
Previous excavations have drawn a picture of seasonal festivities at Durrington Walls, which some see as part of the "domain of the living" in the spiritual geography of the people of Stonehenge.
The dead would be celebrated at Durrington, then carried along a short avenue to the River Avon, archaeologists speculate. The procession would continue down the river, then "dock" at the foot of the avenue leading to Stonehenge—stopping, it's now thought, at Bluestonehenge, perhaps for cremation, before continuing to Stonehenge for burial.
Whatever Bluestonehenge's role along the route was, "it emphasizes the connection with the whole monumental complex," Thomas, of the University of Manchester, said. (See "Stonehenge Didn't Stand Alone, Excavations Show."
"We tend to think of monuments as cultural, and a river or a mountain as something that's natural," he added. "What's fascinating about the Stonehenge complex is that these different elements are being threaded together.
"By constructing these monuments you're not just adding a cultural veneer on the surface, you're actually reengineering the world."
Given the Bluestonehenge discovery, British Archaeology's Pitts said, "I'm sure there are very significant discoveries still to be made in this landscape."
Foto: Archaeologist Andrew Chamberlain of the University of Sheffield uses a laser scanner in September 2009 to document a hole that once held one of Bluestonehenge's monoliths. In Stone Age Salisbury Plain, Mike Parker Pearson of the Universty of Sheffield believes, the dead would often be celebrated at the nearby village of Durrington Walls, then carried along a short avenue to the River Avon. The procession would continue down the river, then "dock" at the foot of the avenue leading to Stonehenge—stopping, it's now thought, at Bluestonehenge, perhaps for cremation, before continuing to Stonehenge for burial. Dig co-director Julian Thomas of the University of Manchester said, "We tend to think of monuments as cultural, and a river or a mountain as something that's natural. What's fascinating about the Stonehenge complex is that these different elements are being threaded together. "By constructing these monuments you're not just adding a cultural veneer on the surface, you're actually reengineering the world." Photograph courtesy Adam Stanford/Aerial-Cam.