Stonehenge a royal cemetary.
Stonehenge ‘a royal cemetery’
From a TV programme by National Geographic reporting on the findings from the 2007 season of work carried out by Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues from the five universities (Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cardiff) involved in the Stonehenge Riverside Project (see the Sheffield University website at
The headlines focused on the carbon dates obtained from samples of bone from the Stonehenge area, five of which proved to date from the third millennium BC, and three of which dated from the Middle Bronze Age, Iron Age and late Roman period.
The earliest date of 3030-2880 BC came from the lower fill of Aubrey Hole 32, and provides a terminus ante quem for the Aubrey Holes, hitherto undated, placing them as part of the monument’s initial construction (3015–2935 BC). The second in chronological order dates from 2930–2870 BC, shortly after the initial construction. And two others date from 2890–2630 BC and 2880–2570 BC, falling within the period before the sarsen stones were erected. Stonehenge´s ditch was then partially re-cut during the period 2560–2140 BC and the third cremation burial was placed in this new ditch in 2570–2340 BC, within or after the period when the sarsens were erected.
Mike interprets this data as meaning that Stonehenge was in use as a burial ground throughout the third millennium BC, and not just in the early period (the 28th and 27th centuries BC). Forty-nine other cremation burials have been excavated from Stonehenge in the past and were reburied in 1935 (half of which came from the Aubrey Holes and half from the upper fills of the ditch) and the estimated total number of third millennium burials at Stonehenge is 240; that makes Stonehenge the biggest cemetery of its time, larger than fourteen other comparable cemeteries known elsewhere in Britain from this period. These figures represent an average of one person every two years for a period of around 500 years, suggesting that the people buried here might have come from a small and select population; burial at Stonehenge might have been reserved for members of an elite dynasty of rulers. ‘I don’t think it was the common people getting buried at Stonehenge,’ he said: ‘it was clearly a special place at the time’.