Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, has long posed a problem for archaeologists. Namely: what is it? A place of worship? A burial ground? An ancient site of healing? Or all of the above?
The 5,000-year-old monument was built piecemeal over a period of more than 1,000 years, archaeologists have said, suggesting, in part, that its use might have also changed over time.
Now, a British archaeologist, Mike Parker Pearson, who has long studied the rocks, has proposed a new theory: the monument began life in Wales, before being dismantled and shipped to its current resting place in Wiltshire, England, according to the Telegraph.
Some of Stonehenge’s stones came from Welsh quarries, after all, a fact well understood by archaeologists, who nevertheless could not explain why Stonehenge’s builders did not use stone from sources closer to Wiltshire. But at a conference recently in England, Pearson offered a simple explanation: Stonehenge started in Wales as a tomb, and when its builders moved east, they couldn’t leave their monument to the dead behind.
“Their idea of packing their luggage was rather more deep and meaningful than our own,” Pearson said, according to the Telegraph. “They are actually moving their heritage and these stones represent the ancestors.”
If you want to pay your respects to the prehistoric dead, you can visit, of course. Officially owned by the British government, the site is operated by English Heritage, a non-profit charity.