Reimagining Stonehenge – Rejecting the Three Phases

The three phases of Stonehenge? Wrong. In fact you can throw your three phases out the window – it just doesn’t work any more. “We were wrong about Stonehenge,” says anthropologist Mary-Ann Craig during today’s HKTV live lecture. “(Three phases) doesn’t explain it properly: we need phase 3.1; 3.2 and then 3.2b, it doesn’t seem to work.”

Mary-Ann’s lecture on the history of Stonehenge and the mystery of stone circles was an instant hit with the HK office, and our many viewers online. Personally I was fascinated by the idea that Bluestonehenge, a stone circle discovered just last year, may have been a place for women – whose remains have never been confirmed at Stonehenge. Mary-Ann points to the myriad modern religious links between rivers, fertility and femininity. “It’s possible (women) were cremated and instead of their ashes being buried at the stone structure, they were thrown into the river.”

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I also found amazing the idea that Stonehenge could have been made to segregate society, rather than embrace the wider community: “Neolithic farmers weren’t being quite so nomadic,” says Mary-Ann. “They were carving up territory. The monuments say, ‘you’re one of us,’ and ‘you’re not.'”

View video highlights alongside times here

The lecture came in two short halves – both of which you can see right here – where Mary-Ann not only talks on radical new ideas about Stonehenge but shows you examples of groundbreaking archaeology in Heritage Key’s very own Stonehenge Virtual – check out the screenshot above. And with the summer solstice coming up don’t forget you can see it from your own home just by logging on. What do you think about Mary-Ann’s theories?

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At the end of the lecture Mary-Ann took some of your questions which were flying in via Twitter. Skip to video highlights here.

Ellie asked:”What’s the difference between an anthropologist and an archaeologist?”

Mary-Ann: “Anthropology is the study of people…archaeology is the material culture of human beings.”

Behave1223: “Was Stonehenge a kind of castle?”

Mary-Ann: “No, I wouldn’t say it was fortified, it’s not like an Iron Age hillfort. This is more about sacred realms, rituals and non-human power. So not a castle, but definitely a structure that harnesses power.”

Jack_Curly: “How big do you think the society of Stonehenge was?”

Mary-Ann: “In the Mesolithic they were probably in groups of around a hundred, then Neolithic you start to build bigger communities – maybe 10,000 in the area?”

Video Highlights

Video 1:

6m00s: How the three phases of Stonehenge can’t work.

10m40s: The first Stonehenge structure was actually a stone structure.

18m00s: Did Bluestonehenge belong to women?

20m00s: The mystery of the Marlborough sarsens.

Video 2:

3m20s: Mesolithic living wasn’t much fun

7m00s: Avebury, Sanctuary et al – made to keep the neighbours out?

8m00s: Banks and ditches – how Stonehenge kept in its occupants.

Summer solstice is just days away: how will you celebrate? If you’re planning on visiting Stonehenge then make sure you check out Ann’s vital guide. If you can’t make it to Wiltshire then take a look at these alternatives. And keep checking into HKTV: we’ll have our next live lecture this Friday!