Function and construction
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Main article: Theories about Stonehenge
Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records. Many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. This multiplicity of theories, some of them very colourful, is often called the “mystery of Stonehenge”.
There is little or no direct evidence for the construction techniques used by the Stonehenge builders. Over the years, various authors have suggested that supernatural or anachronistic methods were used, usually asserting that the stones were impossible to move otherwise. However, conventional techniques using Neolithic technology have been demonstrably effective at moving and placing stones of a similar size.16 Proposed functions for the site include usage as an astronomical observatory, or as a religious site.
More recently two major new theories have been proposed. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, has suggested that Stonehenge was part of a ritual landscape and was joined to Durrington Walls by their corresponding avenues and the River Avon. He suggests that the area around Durrington Walls Henge was a place of the living, whilst Stonehenge was a domain of the dead. A journey along the Avon to reach Stonehenge was part of a ritual passage from life to death, to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased.14 On the other hand, Geoffery Wainwright, president of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University have suggested that Stonehenge was a place of healing – the primeval equivalent of Lourdes.17 They argue that this accounts for the high number of burials in the area and for the evidence of trauma deformity in some of the graves. However they do concede that the site was probably multifunctional and used for ancestor worship as well.18 Isotope analysis indicates that some of the buried individuals were from other regions. A teenage boy buried approximately 1550 BC was raised near the Mediterranean Sea; a metal worker from 2300 BC dubbed the “Amesbury Archer” grew up near the alpine foothills of Germany; and the “Boscombe Bowmen” likely arrived from Wales or Brittany, France.19
Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion 20
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