LONDON: The first excavation of Stonehenge in more than 40 years has uncovered evidence that the stone circle drew ailing pilgrims from around Europe for what they believed to be its healing properties, according to new research by archaeologists.
Archaeologists Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill said the content of graves scattered around the monument and the ancient chipping of its rocks to produce amulets indicated thatStonehenge was the primeval equivalent of Lourdes, the shrine venerated for its supposed ability to cure the sick.
An unusual number of skeletons recovered from the area showed signs of serious disease or injury. Analysis of their teeth showed that about half were from outside the Stonehenge area.
“People were in a state of distress, if I can put it as politely as that, when they came to the Stonehenge monument,” Mr. Darvill told journalists at London’s Society of Antiquaries.
He pointed out that experts near Stonehenge have found two skulls that showed evidence of primitive surgery, some of just a few known cases of operations in prehistoric Britain. “Even today, that’s the pretty serious end of medicine,” he said.
Also found near Stonehenge was the body of a man known as the Amesbury Archer, who had a damaged skull and badly hurt knee and died around the time the stones were being installed. Analysis of the Archer’s bones showed he was from the Alps.
Mr. Darvill cautioned, however, that the new evidence did not rule out other uses for Stonehenge. “It could have been a temple, even as it was a healing centre,” he added. — AP
6 months ago