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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Stonehenge -- Prehistoric Tourist Attraction

 Here we go again -- following hot on the trail of the Neolithic hospital, the Neolithic mausoleum and the Neolithic concert hall, we have the Neolithic tourist attraction.  Below is an extract from Discovery News --  Stonehenge Drew Prehistoric Tourists -- Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi. 
And Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology attempts, naturally enough, to flag up just how magnificent it must have been to the grockles pouring in on their holidays towards Salisbury Plain from all points of the compass and indeed from the continent.    Maybe they came for the Neolithic barbeques which Jane Evans and MPP described so enthusiastically some time ago?  I would like to know how AF knows that Stonehenge was "awesome" rather than just a ruinous partly-finished project, and how he knows that there were more Neolithic tourists in the Stonehenge area than there were at exactly the same time everywhere else in Britain.......

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Stonehenge’s circle of large standing stones was a top international tourist attraction already in prehistoric times, according to chemical analysis of the teeth of individuals found buried near the mysterious megaliths.
Presented this week at a science symposium in London to mark the 175th anniversary of the British Geological Survey (BGS), the study involved a technique known as isotope analysis, which measures the ratio of strontium and oxygen isotopes in tooth enamel.
Strontium isotopes provide information on the geological setting of a person’s childhood, while the oxygen isotopes can pinpoint the climate in which the subject was raised.
The researchers tested the teeth from two males. One, known as the “Amesbury Archer,” was found in 2002, buried three miles from Stonehenge.
The other, dubbed “the Boy with the Amber necklace,” was found more recently on Boscombe Down, some three miles south-east of Stonehenge.
“Isotope analysis of tooth enamel from both these people shows that the two individuals provide a contrast in origin, and highlights the diversity of people who came to Stonehenge from across Europe,” Jane Evans, head of archaeological science at the British Geological Survey, said.

The Bronze Age boy had traveled to Britain from “the heat of the Mediterranean,” said a BGS statement.
Radiocarbon dated to around 1550 B.C. -- a time when the monument was already more than 1,500 years old -- the boy’s virtually intact skeleton was found wearing a necklace of around 90 amber beads.
“He’s about 14 to 15 years old and he’s buried with this beautiful necklace. From the position of his burial, his age, and this necklace, it suggests he’s a person of significant status and importance,” Evans said.
The young age suggests he might have traveled with a wealthy family group.
Chemical analysis on the teeth of the other individual, the so-called "Amesbury Archer," showed that he came from the Alpine foothills of Germany.
He was buried some 800 years earlier than the boy, with a treasure trove of copper and gold. His grave, which included a pair of gold hair clasps and three copper daggers, is the richest Copper Age (2450–2300 B.C.) burial found in Britain.
Human remains indicate that other long distance travelers had visited Stonehenge. The archaeologists believe that the Boscombe Bowmen -- a group of seven men, women and children found in 2003 -- came from Wales or Brittany.
It is not known what drew these elite travelers to Stonehenge. The mysterious circle of large standing stones built between 3000 and 1600 B.C. has long baffled archaeologists, who still argue over its original purpose.
Two main theories took shape in recent years. One implies that the site was a healing space, a sort of "Neolithic Lourdes" to which the sick traveled from around Europe to be healed by its magical powers.
The other theory is that it was a place of the dead -- a cemetery or memorial.
According to Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, Stonehenge would have been well known across Europe, and foreign visitors would have stared in amazement at the megaliths.
"They may have come to trade but visited Stonehenge a long the way. It would have been an awesome sight. It would have been one of the greatest temples of its time," Fitzpatrick told London’s Daily Telegraph.

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