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article imageStonehenge slabs were stilts for an overhead religious temple

By Stephen Morgan     Mar 17, 2015 in Science
A new theory about the role played by Stonehenge in ancient times says that its huge slabs could have been used as stilts for holding up a large, circular, wooden temple designed for religious ceremonies.
Stonehenge has long been a mystery. No one is absolutely sure how it was created and what it was used for. Theories abound from mythical Merlin and the Druids, to a healing center, burial tomb or a religious site.
Many believe that the stones' astronomical alignments signify that it was a major place of pagan worship, where ceremonies were performed within the circular slabs and at ground level.
However, historian, art critic and former director of some Britain's most important museums, Julian Spalding, has come up with a theory, which would challenge the validity of all previous ones.
He has suggested that religious ceremonies at the site were not conducted at surface level, but in a circular, wooden building on top of the stones, which could have been reached by a ramp or stairway.
However, because it was made of wood, the pagan church has inevitably rotted away and with it has gone any obvious signs of its existence. Even so, a few well-known facts could be construed to support his arguments.
For example, archeologists have recently discovered that the stones once formed a perfect circle, rather than being left unfinished, as some imagined. That could lend some support to Spaldings theory of a raised circular temple.
Moreover, we also know that there were many wooden buildings constructed in the surrounding area during that era, which might give his ideas some more credibility.
And another reason why it can't be ruled out is that Stonehenge still hasn't been fully excavated and therefore it may yet be hiding other evidence of its past.
In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Spalding also cited the existence of post holes in the famous circle, which would have been the bases for wooden supports.
He has dubbed the circular structure a sort of "Mecca on stilts." In an email to the Huffington Post, Spalding proposed that the platform could have had an outer rim for pilgrims to walk around and an inner one reserved for priests and royalty. With the strong foundations provided by the massive stones, the temple could have held hundreds of worshipers at the same time.
Spalding has also cited how many other ancient cultures at the time raised their temples above the ground from Egypt to China, Turkey and South America. He thinks that this is because conducting ceremonies on the dirty earth below would have been considered an insult to the gods.
According to the Mail Online, Spalding said,
"The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried - as the Pope used to be… The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground."
"All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth…"
Responses to his ideas from archeologists have been mixed with some saying its worth looking into and others who are extremely skeptical.
The Guardian quotes three experts, who offered their opinion on the theory.
"Prof Vincent Gaffney, principal investigator on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project at Bradford University, said he held “a fair degree of scepticism” and Sir Barry Cunliffe, a prehistorian and emeritus professor of European archaeology at Oxford University, said: “He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it”.
The archaeologist Aubrey Burl, an authority on prehistoric stone circles, said: “There could be something in it. There is a possibility, of course. Anything new and worthwhile about Stonehenge is well worth looking into, but with care and consideration.”
Spalding himself admits that putting forward his theory is "a bit cheeky," given that he is not an archeologist and that he also lacks physical evidence.
But who knows? Even if it isn't correct, it might shake up scientists to investigate other aspects of the ancient circle, which will unearth even more fascinating facts about its mysterious past.
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