Stonehenge was the centre of ancient Britain, according to a study which claims the monument symbolised the unification of eastern and western communities
|Stonehenge was probably at the centre of the world for prehistoric Brits, archaeologists believe|
Stonehenge was probably at the centre of the world for prehistoric Brits, archaeologists believe
Centuries of speculation have attributed countless functions to the famous Wiltshire landmark, describing it variously as a prehistoric observatory, a place of healing and a temple for ritual sacrifice.
But a new study by researchers from five British universities suggests Stonehenge may in fact have been built as a sign of peace between people from the east and west of the country after a period of conflict.
The stones, which come from different locations as far afield as southern England and west Wales, may have been used to represent the ancestors of some of Britain's earliest farming communities, researchers suggest.
Prof Mike Parker Pearson, of Sheffield University, said during Stonehenge's main period of construction from 3,000 to 2,500 BC there was a "growing island-wide culture" developin in Britain.
He added: "Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification."
The Stonehenge Riverside Project, which also included the universities of Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and UCL, suggests that the Stonehenge site may have been a place of special significance before the monument was built.
The solstice-aligned avenue between the stones sits on a series of natural landforms which mark out the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, suggesting people may have seen the spot as the "centre of the world", prof Parker Pearson said.
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent (Telegraph)
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