Mike Parker Pearson and Julian Thomas, both NGS grantees, announced today that new dating of burial remains at Stonehenge support their idea that the "first and foremost" purpose of the place was for burial, perhaps of royalty.
In 2007, the same team announced the discovery of a huge settlement at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge. Their report suggested that these were the people that built Stonehenge. The new dating helps support their idea that Stonehenge was a vast ceremonial landscape, including the settlement, focused around a mortuary function.
Just weeks ago, however, Timothy Darvill and Geoff Wainwright announced that they knew what Stonehenge was for. It was a center for healing, a "prehistoric Lourdes," Wainright was quoted as saying. In a conversation I had with Parker Pearson, he quipped that if it was a healing center, then perhaps it wasn't a very good one, since there were quite a lot of burials there.
The cover story in June's National Geographic explores both of these hypotheses.
I first encountered Parker Pearson when I was writing a children's book called "Bury the Dead." He worked with me as a consultant and I recall how impressed I was with his insight into burial archaeology world wide. Science isn't a horse race, but if I had to bet on a hypothesis, I would bet Parker Pearson and Thomas are right about it being first and foremost a royal burial ground.
What do you think? Burial ground? Healing center? Observatory? Something else?