Stonehenge Biography of a Landscape

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More than a million people visit Stonehenge World Heritage Site every year, pondering the stones and soaking up the surrounding landscape. Timothy Darvill questions; When was it built? Who built it? What was it? How did it work? Here Tim Darvill argues that around 2600 BC local communities transformed an existing sanctuary into a cult centre that developed a big reputation: perhaps as an oracle and healing place. For centuries people came from near and far, and even after activities at the site began to decline the memory lived on and people chose to be buried within sight of the stones. But Stonehenge itself is only part of the story that involves the whole landscape. People came to the area during the last Ice Age nearly half a million years ago. Long before Stonehenge was built they were erecting posts, digging pits to contain sacred objects, and constructing long mounds to house their dead. By the Age of Stonehenge this was a heavily occupied landscape with daily life focused along the River Avon. Later, farms and hamlets were established, Roman villas came and went, and from about AD 1000 the pattern of villages dotted along the valleys and the town of Amesbury came to prominence. In the last hundred years or so the army established training grounds and camps, but the biggest battles in recent years have been over the future of Stonehenge landscape.

Timothy Darvill