Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summer Drought Reveals Stonehenge Secret

For many years archaeologists have argued over whether or not Stonehenge was originally a complete circle. Now, thanks to a dry summer and a short hose, the question appears to be resolved.

Stones buried in the ground affect the growth of grass, long after they fall down, break, or are removed. This last summer was particularly dry in England, and those charged with maintaining Stonehenge found themselves with a hose that was too short to reach all the way across the circle. So part of it was left to dry out, which revealed a pattern of "ghost stones," areas of grass that died off faster than the surrounding turf.

"A lot of people assume we've excavated the entire site and everything we're ever going to know about the monument is known,” said Susan Greaney, from English Heritage.

"But actually there's quite a lot we still don't know and there's quite a lot that can be discovered just through non-excavation methods. It's great that people who know the site really well and look at it every day were able to spot these parch marks and recognise them for what they were.

"We maintain the grass with watering when it's very dry in the summer, but our hosepipe doesn't reach to the other side of the stone circle. If we'd had a longer hosepipe we might not have been able to see them. It's really significant, and it shows us just how much we still have to learn about Stonehenge.”

Historians have long wondered whether Stonehenge was an intentionally-incomplete circle, but countless high resolution geophysical surveys and excavations have failed to give the answer.

So it seems where high-tech archaeology failed, drought and a short hose may have succeeded. From a magical standpoint it makes sense that the site would have been built as a complete circle. The magical circle is an ancient construct, and in order to serve as an effective spiritual boundary it should not be broken. But speculative conjecture can only go so far until you need real data to fill in the gaps - pun intended.

And now it seems that we have it.

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