Friday, 3 August 2018

Origin of Stonehenge Builders

Strontium isotope analysis on cremated human remains from Stonehenge support links with west Wales | Scientific Reports.

I have previously written about Stonehenge and the other mysterious monuments and earthworks in Wiltshire, especially about what little we know of the builders, their society and culture and particularly about their god(s) of whom we know nothing.

Now, due to the painstaking research carried out by archaeologists from Bournemouth University, Poole, Dorset, UK, we are perhaps just a little closer to knowing just a little more about who the people who built Stonehenge were.

Their gods remain a mystery. Like the gods of ancient cultures, some of whom we know about because their believers left records, they are gone now, yet in their time they inspired great works and no doubt devotion. In their name vast armies of workers toiled to build and vast armies of soldiers conquered and spread their cults. In their name taxes and tithes were paid and privileges and blessings bought, and in their name, priesthoods practised the sacred rituals and spoke the magic incantations without which the rains would not come, the crops would fail and civilisation as they knew it would come to an end. Nothing happened unless these ancient gods willed it and because they happened this was proof enough.

And yet the rains still come and the crops still grow, now maintained by different priesthoods practising different rituals and speaking different incantations to different invisible gods.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the research team provide evidence that some of the cremated remains found buried around the stone ring were of people who had lived their lives, and maybe died and were cremated, in Wales in the area from which the bluestones of Stonehenge came from. The bluestones were probably used to build the first stone circle and came from the Preseli Hills in South-west Wales, over 200 km (125 miles) away. The larger sandstone sarsens came from a mere 20 Km (12.5 miles) away.

Incidentally, the word sarsen for the large megaliths found in Wiltshire comes from a Wiltshire dialect word for Saracen, or Muslim. It comes from a time when the people saw the world as divided between Christians and 'Saracens'. Since the stones were clearly not Christian they were assumed to be 'Sarsen', i.e. Satanic.

The cremated remains of these individuals were found in the bottom of circular pits which may once have held a standing stone, giving each interred person as memorial or marker stone forming an outer ring - of guardians?

Cremated human remains from Stonehenge provide direct evidence on the life of those few select individuals buried at this iconic Neolithic monument. The practice of cremation has, however, precluded the application of strontium isotope analysis of tooth enamel as the standard chemical approach to study their origin. New developments in strontium isotopic analysis of cremated bone reveal that at least 10 of the 25 cremated individuals analysed did not spend their lives on the Wessex chalk on which the monument is found. Combined with the archaeological evidence, we suggest that their most plausible origin lies in west Wales, the source of the bluestones erected in the early stage of the monument’s construction. These results emphasise the importance of inter-regional connections involving the movement of both materials and people in the construction and use of Stonehenge.

The cremated bone remains have been carbon-dated to the centuries between 3180–2965 and 2565–2380 BC. Further carbon analysis showed that the wood used for the cremation fires most probably came from the dense, broad-leaf woodlands of west Wales rather than wood local to the burial site, so their remains were probably brought to Stonehenge for interment, indicating the religious importance of the site as well as the cultural connection to west Wales, although that wasn't the strongest indicator of their origins. That came from an analysis of the ratios of isotopes of strontium (87Sr/86Sr) in the cremated bone, and comparing it with those ratios in plants growing in eight locations in Wales and previous analysis of these ratio in plants, water and dentine from Britain.

It seems likely then that, rather than as had previously been suggested, people from West Wales moved into the area and appropriated the monument as 'evidence' of their claim to the area, they were involved in the earliest construction of the monument and at least an elite retained the right to be interred there. What the religious origins of this right were is as unknown as their god(s) are to us.

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