I just watched Timewatch on BBC iPlayer which was about Stonehenge and it reminded me that Jamie and I visited it last year on our way to the Eden Project, with Reg. I haven’t seen it since I was eleven, on a school trip to Swanage, Dorset. In those days, it was possible to walk up to the stones and touch them, not like today.
I’d always thought Stonehenge was a temple, an ancient calendar or an alien art installation. But two scientists, Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright think they’ve shown that it was a Neolithic place of pilgrimage for the sick and injured. A bit like an ancient, draughty hospital. The NHS for Neolithic Man and Woman.
Another thing I’d always thought was that the enormous stones, the sarsens, were the important bits of the monument but in fact, the crucial parts were the much smaller bluestones in the centre. They were in fact the first stones to be erected – about 200 years before the big chaps. The bluestones were transported over 200 miles from Carn Menym, in the Preseli Hills, Wales. By contrast, the sarsens were dragged 20 to 30 miles to their final position. Which just goes to show that size isn’t everything. Tiny chips found during excavations indicate that people chipped off bits of the bluestones to take away with them, perhaps to help with continued healing or luck.
Apparently several years ago, a 4,500-year-old skeleton of a man was unearthed in Amesbury near Stonehenge. Scientists have dubbed him the ‘Amesbury Archer’ because arrow heads, amongst other treasures were found in his tomb. Tests on his teeth show that he came from Europe, probably from somewhere in the Alps and also that he probably died from a tooth abscess. It’s thought that he may have come to Stonehenge to seek healing. Adjacent to the Amesbury Archer’s tomb, another grave was found of a man who had the same rare bone formation in his foot as the Archer. Tests on his teeth show that he too came from the Alps , so they’re certain the two men were related and think that he may have accompanied the Archer on his pilgrimage. About fifty percent of the people whose graves have been found near the stones did not come from the Stonehenge area, which suggests that people came from far and wide to visit.
Previously, no one knew the age of Stonehenge but a grain of cereal found during the excavation work allowed scientists to date it at about 2,300BC
The other thing that interested me was that the most important time at Stonehenge isn’t the summer solstice, when people still gather to watch the sun rise, but the winter solstice, as the sun sets. The sun’s rays would have shone through the narrow gap between the largest of the trilithon’s two upright stones (a trilithon is two large vertical stones which support one set horizontally across the top). Scientists think it would have marked the passage of time and shown people when the beginning of the new agricultural year began.
If a ‘thin place’ is somewhere that people gathered and had positive thoughts and wishes, then I imagine Stonehenge is a thin place. If you’d like to read about another much smaller and much less well known (although still very interesting) thin place, why not buy your copy of the ebook ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’, a time slip story which takes place in St. Nicholas Church, Laindon with Dunton, Essex.
It’s a real place and if you fancy it, you can visit too! Anyway, you can get a copy of the book here on the Muse It Up Publishing website or from any major ebook seller. All profits will go towards the church renovation fund. #MuseItUp #DaffodilAndTheThinPlace