By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
A piece of Stonehenge missing for 60 years has been returned. Researchers have studied it with technology invented since its disappearance, learning more about its age and composition. Events in modern history surrounding Stonehenge are unbelievable.
In 1958, a man from a drilling company that was in charge of restoring Stonehenge took a cylindrical core from one of its mighty pillars after the core had been drilled out. He soon moved to the United States, taking the core with him. In 2018, the core was returned. However, in the time between the drilling and the core’s return, Stonehenge earned a protected status, making further drilling impossible.
Now, using technology invented since then, archaeologists have determined that the monument’s stones were made from sediment that formed in the age of the dinosaurs. Some small pieces of rock date back 1.6 billion years.
Stonehenge is often associated with ancient astronomy. But in his video series Ancient Astronomy, Dr. Bradley E. Schaefer, Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, said its modern history is also incredible.
The Legends of the Druids
“British antiquarians were the first to pay attention and study Stonehenge, and they attributed the monument to Merlin or the Druids,” Dr. Schaefer said. “The Druids were the intelligentsia of the Celtic peoples through the British Isles. They are perhaps best known as being religious leaders with a passion for human sacrifice.”
However, despite their fame—or perhaps infamy—little is known about the Druids. One testimony as to their lifestyle comes from none other than Julius Caesar, who said they held various lectures and discussions on astronomy as well as about the extent and geographical distribution of the globe. This has led to the common image of Stonehenge as a Druid religious temple that hosted human sacrifices, although Stonehenge also appeared to be some kind of eclipse monitoring structure.
“Starting in 1965 with Gerald Hawkins, the astronomical alignments and the ‘eclipse computer’ were widely taken to be the critical component of Stonehenge, to the exclusion of most else,” Dr. Schaefer said. “With this, it was like astronomers were telling us that Stonehenge was just one big astronomical observatory and computer. Putting together the two themes, the fusion was that some mystic Druid astronomer-priests ruled their society and built Stonehenge for their own astronomical observatory.”
After the Drilling
Meanwhile, modern pagans invented a new religion centered around Stonehenge. Acting as neo-Druids, they dressed in white robes, sometimes adorning fake beards, and paraded around Stonehenge with large staffs.
On the summer solstice every year from 1974 to 1984, Stonehenge became the site of a free festival, hosting rock bands on six stages and plenty of recreational drug use. Hippies and motorcycle gangs clashed violently, finally being suppressed by British police in 1985. In an event known as “The Battle of the Beanfield,” hippies fought back and 537 were arrested.
“All this rebranding of Stonehenge got absurd in 2003 when a British medical journal ran an article claiming that the monument design was intended to model female genitalia,” Dr. Schaefer said. “The authors were a pair of Canadian gynecologists. Through all this, the archaeologists were telling us that Stonehenge and all the tombs and burial mounds in the area were just part of a huge Neolithic burial grounds.”
It seems the drilled fragment of Stonehenge from 1958 missed quite a bit of fun.