A Moment of Science

Surprise at Stonehenge

Have scientists solved the mystery of Stonehenge? Find out on this Moment of Science: "Surprise at Stonehenge".

Wizards and aliens aside, actual scientists don’t have much to say about Stonehenge that hasn’t already been said. That is, until now. Just recently, a four-thousand-year old gravesite was found within three miles of Stonehenge. The tomb contained what some archaeologists think may be one of the original craftsmen. Even better than that, he isn’t British.

The ancient bones are referred to as “the archer,” because, whoever he was, he was buried with several arrows. The fact that the grave is so close to the stones suggests that the archer was somehow connected to Stonehenge, as does the fact that he lived in 2300 BC, the same time when the monoliths were erected. Was he its founder, a designer, a priest? It isn’t clear. But the archer was an important person. Along with the arrows, he has copper knives, ornaments, and pottery. Several of these have been identified as coming from what archaeologists call “the Beaker Culture.”

There’s one of the surprises. The Beaker Culture had its Bronze-age heyday in the Alps, not in England. Researchers did chemical analysis of the remains and found that the archer most likely came from what is now Switzerland.

Next surprise? Another grave was found nearby, this containing a younger man. This fellow grew up in England, but an unusual foot bone shows he’s related to the archer–the archer, it seems, came to England and raised a family.

Who was this foreigner who was treated with such reverence? We won’t ever know for sure. His fame has disappeared into history. But the stone circle he may have built has never been forgotten, even four thousand years later.

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