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Old 13-11-2018, 03:59 PM   #440
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Outside the Circle: The Ancient Stonehenge Landscape – A Wider Perspective
RiseEarth 11:26 AM human history

by Maria Wheatley; Ancient Origins

Stonehenge stands on the windswept Salisbury Plain reminding us of the engineering, astronomical, and mathematical skills of our distant ancestors. Undoubtedly, Stonehenge is recognised worldwide as one of Britain’s most iconic stone circles. Yet, Stonehenge is a part of a much wider ceremonial landscape that contains some of the most enigmatic and mysterious monuments ever constructed. Stonehenge has its origins rooted in antiquity. Around 10,000 years ago the Mesolithic peoples of Salisbury Plain created a thriving community close to where Stonehenge would eventually stand some five thousand years later.

Totem poles or temple structure?

In the old visitor’s car park next to Stonehenge are three large white circular markers which signify the position of Mesolithic postholes. Excavated in the 1960s these timber features were interpreted as ‘totem poles’ which instantly conjures up an image of free standing timbers of no complexity. However, laboratory carbon dating sent a shock wave through the archaeological community as the postholes dated from 8800 BC; although one post may have been a later addition.

Aligned to face the direction of the spring and autumn equinoxes, the posts that once stood 14 feet high, reveal astronomical precision at a time when we are told that prehistoric communities were hunter-gathers. Granted, at sites such as Goblecki Tepe megalith temples were constructed during the Mesolithic era; the Far East being considered the cradle of civilization, however, ancient Britain was seen as a primitive backwater.

What did the posts signify and were they a section of a much wider timber structure – a temple complex? Questions abound as the excavation had many flaws. In 1988, some thirteen years after the initial excavation, a fourth posthole was discovered suggesting that other features may have been missed. Labelling timber posts ‘totem poles’ robs our prehistoric ancestors of their ingenious skills which will soon become evident.

Mesolithic Buildings

Close to Stonehenge is Vespasian’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort which was a Druidic ceremonial centre dated to 500 BC. In 2005, at the base of the camp, archaeologists unearthed yet more surprises about our distant Mesolithic past. Thought to be nomadic wanderers that followed game and wild herds, Mesolithic people roamed the British landscape and lived in temporary huts or dwellings. However, new evidence dismisses this old opinion from which a new view of our remote past emerges.
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