Mystery of Stonehenge solved?

Mystery of Stonehenge solved?

21 Jan 2010

New research indicates the centre of Neolithic knowledge.

StonehengeLa Trobe University doctoral researcher Lynne Kelly has developed a new theory to explain the purpose of Stonehenge - it was used as a site at which to ritually communicate knowledge.

Ms Kelly is a science writer who has been working on the technologies oral cultures use to present and pass on scientific knowledge.

Delivering the inaugural Marshall McLuhan Lecture at the National Communications Association convention in Chicago late last year, she demonstrated the constant changes in the archaeology at Stonehenge are consistent with the mnemonic needs of the knowledge elite as they settle.

“Instead of moving between sacred places to perform the cycle of ceremonies which encode all the formal knowledge of their culture, the Neolithic Britons replicated that landscape in the monuments they built over 1500 years in transition from a mobile hunter-gathering to settled agriculture,” says Kelly.

The Neolithic Britons who built Stonehenge, like other cultures starting to settle, lacked a written language with which to preserve their knowledge. She says the most reliable recording system they had were mnemonic methods, whereby knowledge ranging from animal behaviour to astronomy could be communicated through chants and rituals. To facilitate this, she argues that Stonehenge itself acted as a knowledge centre, a function that it had in common with many other sites around the world.

Ms Kelly’s research draws parallels with oral cultures such as Native American, African and Aboriginal Australian, and finds clues in the physical remains of Stonehenge. “When people settle in the one place, solstices can be observed. So the monument was aligned, 500 years into its use, with the winter and summer solstices to better retain the calendar for both resource management and the ceremonial cycle. The 240 or so burials, mostly bones apparently used as relics, would have been those of Elders whose wisdom is revered and recalled.”

Ernest Raetz

Media and Communications
Phone: +61 3 9479 2315



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