It took a few thousands years, but researchers think they’ve finally solved the mystery of why Stonehenge was built.
It’s way more boring than you’re probably hoping: Far from the human-sacrificing, wooly-mammoth eating den of Druid devil-worshipping we imagine in popular lore, it turns out scientists and historians now think it was built for the same basic reason every old monument from the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty was built: to symbolize unity and peace.
At the time Stonehenge was built, roughly 4,500 to 5,000 BC, England was shifting from a regionalized tribalism to a cohesive, unified culture. The actual act of building Stonehenge would have required major cooperation, since it involved hauling the massive stones from as far as 130 miles away, from west Wales—and this before the invention of the wheel. A member of the research team notes Stone Age England was “isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel.” So “just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.”
So there you have it—no ritual sacrifice, no aliens, just good old fashioned teamwork and unity. The research team from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, and University College London spent ten years working on the project, called Stonehenge Riverside Project, so hopefully their findings will stand for at least a couple thousand years.
[Image via Shutterstock]