Once thought to be built by immigrants from other geographical locations in Europe, a recent archaeological dig near the site of Stonehenge has painted a different picture. Amesbury, the home of the great monolithic structure, is far older of a settlement than was previously believed. Carbon dating done by researchers from the University of Buckingham (UB) has revealed that Amesbury has been constantly occupied since as early as 8820BC. It looks as though Stonehenge was a Mesolithic London.
The carbon dating was done on bones found at a dig site not far from Stonehenge. The animal bones were from aurochs, a huge bovine creature that was common sustenance for ancient Britains, wild boar and red deer. These findings have dated the activities of people who were likely the ones who built the earliest monuments at the site, somewhere between 8820-6590 BC.
Unlike the massive stones that make up what is now Stonehenge, the earlier “gathering place” was made of huge pine posts. Communities continued to thrive in what is now Amesbury until Stonehenge was erected, around the beginning of the Neolithic Era, 3000 BC. The long held belief that Stonehenge was built in a vacant landscape has now been proven to be incorrect. The site had been in use by the indigenous population for a long time, which better explains the site being chosen for Stonehenge.
Other surprising results from the dig bring into question accepted definitions for the Neolithic and Mesolithic ways of life. Land clearing, a practice that was attributed to Neolithic immigrants may have already been in use at Blick Mead, near Stonehenge. At that time, 7500-4600 BC, it has been believed that Mesolithic society was entirely nomadic. Tools were also found at the dig site. Purposed for domestic use rather than hunting, the tools are another indication that the area was settled long before previously thought. It may well be that the area around Stonehenge was indeed a Mesolithic London.
The archaeologist who led the dig, David Jacques, is a Research Fellow at UB. Through the efforts of his team, they have been able to finally answer the often asked question, “Why was Stonehenge built here?” It is now clear that the area was populated, popular and established at a time when people were believed to be wandering around aimlessly, eating what they found and moving on.
Jacques likens Blick Mead to the first Visitor Center at Stonehenge. People on longboats would have used the River Avon to access the site. Remains from big animals, like the Aurochs, and flint from huge fires have been found. Various types of tools hint at a multi-cultural society and the population could have been tremendous. This highly successful archaeological dig has garnered 31,000 pieces of worked flint – a rather staggering number. This has proven to be the highest concentration of such findings in all of Europe.
An additional attraction may have been the unusual pink hue of the flint from the region. Caused by an algae, named Hildenbrandia rivularis, the bright pink shade develops from a combination of mottled light and especially warm water from the springs of the area. The springs themselves could have easily been a reason for so many visitors and settlers. As if my magic, any normal colored flint could be placed in a spring pool and after five hours it would have the same bright pink hue of the local flint. Indeed, the site has long been considered to be a place of strong spiritual energy. Due to these recent findings, Jacques has said that Stonehenge could easily be compared to a Mesolithic London.
by Stacy Lamy