Archaeologists now believe that Stonehenge was a healing centre like Lourdes. © English Heritage
Preliminary findings from the first major dig at Stonehenge since 1964 have been revealed today at the Society of Antiquaries in London.
The most significant discoveries from the dig, which took place at the monument between March 31 and April 13 2008, were a series of small stones chipped from the larger standing stones.
Archaeologists believe they were lucky charms that reveal ancient people's belief in the healing properties of the stones.
Professors Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright suggested that the presence of the smaller stones meant that Stonehenge was perhaps a healing centre or ‘multifunctional monument’ that operated much like Lourdes does today.
"It could have been a temple at the same time as it was a healing centre, just as Lourdes is still a religious centre," explained Professor Wainwright, who is also President of the Society of Antiquaries.
The inner blue stones hold the key to the use of Stonehenge. © Richard Moss / Culture24
Professor Darvill of Bournemouth University added that 60% of the stones were broken off the monument’s blue stones, compared with under ten per cent of the large, iconic Sarsen stones.
The blue stones have long been regarded as the key to the age and origin of the monument and this latest excavation is the culmination of six years of research undertaken by the two archaeologists at the source of the blue stones - the Preseli Hills of North Pembrokeshire.
"Their meaning and importance to prehistoric people was sufficiently powerful to warrant the investment of time, effort and resources to move the bluestones from the Preselli Hills to the Wessex downs," explained Professor Darvill.
Further anlaysis of the blue stones has now led the the archaeologists to being closer to pinpointing the date at which the blue stones were brought to the site in Wiltshire from West Wales, as 2,300 BC, which is 300 years later than previously thought.
The closer dating of the henge means that archaeologists can now be surer of the chronolgy of the monument. Some are theorising about Stonehenge’s links to the Amesbury Archer, the remains of whom date from within the same timeframe.
Analysis of the skelton, which was discovered just three miles from Stonehenge, show that he travelled from central Europe and was suffering from a potentially fatal dental disease.
It is thought by some that he came to the area because of the healing power of the stones – much in the same way that the sick make pilgrimages to Lourdes today.
A documentary about the excavation will be screened on BBC2’s Timewatch programme on Saturday September 27 2008 at 8pm.