Stonehenge will make a move into modern days with the opening of a new visitor’s center on December 18th. According to the British government, the new center is hoping to “restore the dignity” to Stonehenge. The center was built in hopes to accommodate more than the one million annual tourists that visit the ancient burial site. Tourists can either take a bus from the center to the monument, or walk down a mile-and-a-half ancient processional path.
The cost of the tourist center is said to be $44 million and will include a number of new displays. Part of the exhibition will include a forensic reconstruction of a Neolithic man that is based on a 5,500-year-old skeleton. The Neolithic skeleton was found near Stonehenge buried in a long barrow burial site.
Other displays will include prehistoric objects that have been found in or around the site. Two 14th century manuscripts will be displayed that illustrates early drawings of the stone monument along with some ancient survey equipment, Roman coins and jewelry. The center will have enough room to have a total of 250 pre-historic objects to view, many of these object have not been previously seen by the public.
Chief executive of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, said that Stonehenge has not had adequate visitor facilities until now even though it is recognized as one of the most famous ancient monuments in the world. Thurley thinks that this will be a radical change for the million visitors every year as they move into a modern day center.
The old existing visitor facility, dating back to the 1960’s, will be closed as well as the busy highway that runs nearby. The A344 highway was planned to be closed in 1927, but was only grassed-over in June of this year.
Previously there were no displays at the existing center and Thurley also stated that people did not even have an opportunity for having a cup of tea. Thurley thinks that the new tourist center is “now worthy of one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.”
Maria Miller, Cultural Secretary said that Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most iconic sites and definitely worth its Unesco world heritage status. Miller is glad to finally be able to offer the visitors from around the world, an experience and a new exhibition center that they deserve. Nearly two thirds of the 1 million annual visitors travel overseas to come and see the stone monument.
Stonehenge’s ancient ceremonial path, called The Avenue, has been reconnected to the monument and all the landscaping around the stones has been upgraded and improved. Since the 1960’s the site had accrued clutter and rubbish and now the area is free from this debris. An old road that once ran past the Heel Stone was also closed and removed along with all the tall fences that used to be an eye-sore to visitors.
Scientists speculate that Stonehenge was built for a variety of religious ceremonies sometimes around 1,600 BC and 3,000 BC. As Stonehenge’s new tourist and exhibition center opens it will bring many modern day amenities to the visitors of this ancient site. The move to decommission the old and outdated visitor center will begin next month.
By Brent Matsalla