Study: For Centuries Stonehenge Was a Burial Site
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- England's enigmatic Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings and for several hundred years thereafter, new research indicates.
Dating of cremated remains shows burials took place as early as 3000 B.C., when the first ditches around the monument were being built, researchers said Thursday.
And those burials continued for at least 500 years, when the giant stones that mark the mysterious circle were being erected, they said.
"It's now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages," said Mike Parker Pearson, archaeology professor at the University of Sheffield in England and head of the Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project.
In the past many archaeologists had thought that burials at Stonehenge continued for only about a century, the researchers said.
"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead," Parker Pearson said in a statement.
The researchers also excavated homes nearby at Durrington Walls, which they said appeared to be seasonal homes related to Stonehenge.
"It's a quite extraordinary settlement, we've never seen anything like it before," Parker Pearson said. The village appeared to be a land of the living and Stonehenge a land of the ancestors, he said.