First excavation at Stonehenge in over 40yrs underway

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London, April 1 : A two-week excavation inside the ring at Stonehenge, the first in more than 40 years, got underway on Monday.

The dig is expected to establish some precise dating for the creation of the monument, and the significance of the smaller bluestones that stand inside the giant sarsen pillars.

People associated with the BBC-funded project believe that the rocks brought from Wales hold the secret to the real purpose of Stonehenge as a place of healing.

Professor Tim Darvill of the University of Bournemouth and Professor Geoff Wainwright of the Society of Antiquaries, two of the UK's leading Stonehenge experts, are amongst the researchers leading the project.

The two researchers believe that the dominating feature on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire was akin to a "Neolithic Lourdes", a place where people went on a pilgrimage to get cured. As per them, some of the evidence supporting this theory comes from the dead.

Modern research has shown that many people travelled huge distances to get to south-west England, seeking supernatural help for their ills.

Darvill and Wainwright have also traced the bluestones, the stones in the centre of Stonehenge, to the exact spot they came from in the Preseli hills.

"This small excavation of a bluestone is the culmination of six years of research which Tim and I have conducted in the Preseli Hills of North Pembrokeshire and which has shed new light on the eternal question as to why Stonehenge was built," the BBC quoted Professor Wainwright as saying.

"The excavation will date the arrival of the bluestones following their 250km journey from Preseli to Salisbury Plain and contribute to our definition of the society which undertook such an ambitious project. We will be able to say not only why but when the first stone monument was built," he added.

They say that neolithic inscriptions found at this location indicate the ancient people there believed the stones to be magical and for the local waters to have healing properties.

The expert duo hopes that the excavation will demonstrate that such beliefs also lay behind the creation of Stonehenge, by showing that the make-up of the original floor of the sacred circle at the monument is dominated by bluestone chippings that were purposely placed there.

Dr. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "Very occasionally, we have the opportunity to find out something new archeologically - we are at that moment now.

"We believe that this dig has a chance of genuinely unlocking part of the mystery of Stonehenge," Thurley added.

The BBC is filming the excavation at the 4,500-year-old UK landmark for a special Timewatch programme to be broadcast in the autumn.

ANI

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