Stonehenge in a Polytheistic Context

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When discussing Stonehenge, modern people often forget to place this monument into a greater cultural context. Nearby Stonehenge is a similar stone monument at Avebury, which was built around 2500 BCE. Meanwhile, there are signs of a similar circle made of timber at Durrington Walls, which was believed to be built before Avebury. Archeologist Mike Parker Pearson, who has worked at the site, said that Durrington Walls marked the realm of the living, and Stonehenge, the Dead.

Parker Pearson who heads The Stonehenge Riverside Project sees the stones as linked to the Ancestors. Durrington Walls, with its post holes of wood in a circle, is linked to the Living. The physical connection between the two realms is the River Avon, the water.

The new theory is that Stonehenge was a monument of unification. During the solstices, people travelled from as far away as the Orkneys, the islands north of Scotland. At those times, crowds would feast on the animals that they have brought with them. Stonehenge became an axis mundi for devotion, since it brought the Living, the Dead, and the Cosmos together in one place.

The building of Stonehenge can be regarded in the same light as the building of a Gothic cathedral. From the beginning of the project, the entire community is dedicated to seeing the building finished. Everyone involved understood that this construction project would take several generations to complete. Therefore, the entire community dedicated themselves to the process, and organized themselves accordingly. Some people regarded it as a fulfilling of their religious duties, while for others it was their community obligations. Although the specific vision may have been altered through the years, the newer residents of the community resolved to finish the original project. Stonehenge became a monument of devotion.
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Works Used:
Bradshaw Foundation, “Stonehenge: The Age of the Megaliths,” 2011, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/stonehenge/index.php.
NOVA, “Astronomy at Stonehenge,” 30 September, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/astronomy-stonehenge-au.html
“Secrets of Stonehenge,” 12 December, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-stonehenge.html
Richards, Colin, “Rethinking the Great Stone Circles of Northwest Britain,” Orkney Archaeological Trust, 2004, http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/dhl/papers/cr/index.html.

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