At last, the mass media (well, the BBC at any rate ) are beginning to home in on the real (thus far unmentionable purpose!) that Stonehenge and other megalithic sites almost certainly served in Neolithic society, 5000 years ago :
Function of those mighty stones, aka megaliths, first of which (those lighter Welsh bluestones, pre- more local sarsens ) were lugged all the way from west Wales?
Answer – bird-attracting excarnation, aka initial defleshing -pecking away – of a recent deceased loved one, aka ‘sky burial’ – a preliminary to fuel-efficient cremation.
No, not pleasant to contemplate. But then, neither were the alternatives, like difficult and inefficient cremation of an entire corpse.
Solution: let the gulls etc get a look in first, at a dedicated, fit-for-Neolithic- purpose, easily visible-from-afar site, one where the avian scavengers would feel safe from ground-based predators and other scavengers – and indeed welcome.
More later… like the preference for those igneous, non-sedimentary bluestones… Ringing tone when struck – not too different from church bells? Why use a ringing rock?
It’s a topic I touched on briefly some 6 months back:
Think need to alert hungry local bird life each time there’s a new offering …
If new to this site, then here’s a link to my audacious thinking on the REAL purpose of Stonehenge and other sites (stone circles, standing stones, dolmens etc). I believe that megaliths were deemed an essential part of the furniture required for an efficient bird-attracting, bird-retaining place to permit pre-cremation excarnation. Cremation was deemed the appropriate means of body disposal, but NOT difficult and time-consuming whole body cremation! Thus the need for preliminary excarnation (“sky burial”).
Saturday Aug 4, 2008
Am presently reading “The Megalithic Monuments of Britain and Ireland” by Prof. Chris Scarre of Durham University. (How I wish I’d discovered his splendid fact-jammed book sooner , the English language version of which was first published in 2007, preceded by one in French). Warning: it’s quite heavy-going in parts…
My next posting will take some of the many gems of observant detail from the book that backs up my thinking re Stonehenge and indeed megalithic monuments in general (whether the good prof’ agrees with me is another matter!).
For now, here’s a foretaste of what’s to come. Below is a a schematic diagram from Page 60 (Chapter 2, “Scotland”).
Did my neighbours hear the yell of delight when I came across that two part diagram on the Tomnaverie Neolithic site, due west of Aberdeen, and the accompanying caption?
It shows its initial design, serving simply it seems as a “cremation pyre”, but later converted to a more complex “recumbent stone circle” without the on-site cremation focus, but with added timber posts instead.
“Recumbent stone”? Ring any bells? Like the description applied to a certain “Altar Stone” many hundreds of miles south?
Why would a cremation pyre be replaced with a circle of timber posts AND a flat recumbent stone? Sea change in technology, with the focus on making cremation quicker, simpler, more fuel efficient? Go figure…
Oh, and note the final sentence in my cut-and-paste with its reference to stone circles in general that feature a recumbent:
“Often the recumbent is of different geological material from the other stones of the circle and contrasts with them in colour”.
Again, ring any bells?