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Home >> Travel Diaries  >> Stonehenge, a doorway to the past

Stonehenge, a doorway to the past

For many, beaches and hills are ideal holiday destinations. For me, it’s historic sites. The stories behind these sites fascinate me. This time, my quest for stories took me to a place that’s a reservoir of stories of different dynasties, wars, revolutions, and expeditions of the last 5,000 years—Stonehenge.

Experts and theorists claim this prehistoric monument is where fiction meets reality, for no one knows why it was created, and more importantly, by whom. While science fiction enthusiasts wonder if it could actually be an alien landing pad, experts speculate it might have been a graveyard. For me, Stonehenge is a treasure trove of stories about our ancestors, narrated through artefacts and symbols.

As soon as I reached the site at Wiltshire County, I went straight to the 30 feet tall, 25-tonne monolith to see the engravings that have roused the world’s curiosity. The carvings on the stones, the Aubrey holes around them, and the graffiti on the monoliths date back to 3000 BCE.

It is said that when the site was first assembled, Stonehenge looked nothing like it does today. The monument had a circular bank and a ditch enclosure made of chalk, called the Late Cretaceous Seaford Chalk, with a large entrance to the northeast and a smaller one to the south. The whole arrangement stood in open grassland on a slightly sloping area. Today, only a fraction of the original structure remains, but enough to keep the researchers and tourists alike hooked to the site.

I was excited to be visiting such a mysterious site. I wondered about the people who might have once roamed here. Thanks to the years of research, we have a glimpse into their lives. One such study was conducted by renowned archaeologist Professor Geoff Wainwright. He found that 5,000 years ago, our Neolithic ancestors lived in an agrarian life, with livestock and crops as a source of livelihood. Hunting and fishing were their occasional pastime. But more than anything, they cherished hosting carnivals near the Stonehenge—one where animal bones were thrown half-eaten and ales are poured from huge barrels, like in the epic movie Troy.

In his book, Stonehenge Decoded, Hawkins claims that our ancestors used the anatomy of Stonehenge to find the position of stars and predict lunar eclipses.

However, many experts don’t agree with Wainwright. They say Stonehenge was erected by the Windmill Hill group. They believe this Neolithic group carried out mass burials in large stone-encased tombs. Then, there are other experts who believe it was the Beaker folks who constructed Stonehenge, after migrating from Spain and establishing colonies in Northwest Europe. These people started the tradition of burying the dead with beakers, pottery drinking cups, axes, and daggers.

While archaeologists are trying to find out who built Stonehenge, archaeoastronomers are figuring out the application of the monument. American astronomer Gerald Hawkins’ studies reveal that Stonehenge was a ‘Neolithic Computer’ that was used for ancient astronomy. In his book, Stonehenge Decoded, Hawkins claims that our ancestors used the anatomy of Stonehenge to find the position of stars and predict lunar eclipses. If that’s true, the research would advance the earliest known civilisation by hundreds of years. With so many speculations surrounding the monument, it is difficult to believe just one.

As I walked around Stonehenge, I was strongly reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s 2012: A Space Odyssey. Just like Stonehenge, the movie too is full of mysteries, and hidden messages and insights. Interestingly, the movie also has a black monolith, constructed by unknown people to help human civilisation grow and prosper. Such uncanny resemblances between the two.

I wonder if it was the mysterious Stonehenge that inspired Kubrick’s movie. But whether or not that is the case, Stonehenge certainly stimulated my imagination. It compelled me to think about the possible history, the various mysteries, and the several untold stories of our ancestors.

Perhaps, this is why Stonehenge is a site of wonder—because we humans love inexplicable things.

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