Who Was Buried at Stonehenge?

By Pearson, Mike Parker; Chamberlain, Andrew et al. | Antiquity, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Who Was Buried at Stonehenge?


Pearson, Mike Parker, Chamberlain, Andrew, Jay, Mandy, Marshall, Peter, Pollard, Josh, Richards, Colin, Thomas, Julian, Tilley, Chris, Welham, Kate, Antiquity


The human remains at Stonehenge

Stonehenge is Britain's largest cemetery of the third millennium cal BC and yet we know very little about who was buried there and when. Excavations across almost half of its area have yielded 52 cremation burials, many cremated fragments and over 40 fragments of unburnt human bone (Figures 1 and 2; McKinley 1995). The total number of individuals buried at Stonehenge has been estimated as 240, based on the assumption that many of the cremation deposits each contain the remains of two or three persons (Pitts 2001: 121). If single-individual cremation burials were the norm, a more conservative estimate might be 150 people buried at Stonehenge in the third millennium cal BC.

During his work at Stonehenge between 1919 and 1926, William Hawley excavated cremations from the western half of the monument (mostly from the ditch and the Aubrey Holes; Figure 2). It seems that no museum was prepared to curate these remains, since the scientific value of cremated bone was not appreciated in Britain at the time. In 1935, William Young and R.S. Newall reburied an estimated 58 of the cremation deposits excavated from Stonehenge; packed into four sandbags and accompanied by an inscribed plaque, they were tipped into the previously excavated Aubrey Hole 7. A few cremated remains from later excavations at Stonehenge by Richard Atkinson have remained available for study, being curated in Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. Only three cremations have been subjected to osteological analysis (McKinley 1995: 456-8) and only one has had associated charcoal radiocarbon-dated, too imprecisely to be of use (C-602; 3798 [+ or -] 275 BP; 2890-2220 cal BC [95% probability]). Previous researchers have assigned the cremation burials to the end of Stonehenge's timber phase (Phase 2; see Table 1) and the beginning of its bluestone and sarsen phase (Phase 3), estimated as around the twenty-seventh to twenty-sixth centuries cal BC (Cleal et al. 1995: 154, 163).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Some of the unburnt human bones from Hawley's excavations have been lost (Pitts 2001: 116-8), but a number of these have also been kept safely in Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum's collections. The only prehistoric inhumation from Stonehenge, an arrow-pierced adult male known as the Stonehenge Archer, was buried within the ditch (Cutting 61; Evans 1984) and dates to the Beaker period (2340-2195 cal BC [95% probability]).

In 2007 the Stonehenge Riverside Project and Beaker People Project jointly embarked upon a dating programme of these surviving remains to establish when Stonehenge was used as a burial space. With new techniques available for dating cremated human bone (Lanting et al. 2001) and improved methods of analysis for cremated bones (McKinley & Roberts 1993; Mays et al. 2002; Brickley & McKinley 2004) this is an opportune moment to study these neglected people. Furthermore, the contexts and dates of the cremations have led to an amendment of Stonehenge's overall sequence of use.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Cremations

Of the 34 Aubrey Holes so far excavated, all but eight have contained cremated bones (Figure 2). The cremation burial within Aubrey Hole 32 is the one instance in which human remains are likely to be primary depositions within these pits. Hawley's records of these pits are sketchy at best (Hawley 1921 and unpublished archive). Nonetheless, it is possible to gain some understanding of the stratigraphic positions of cremation deposits within at least some of the Aubrey Holes. Reviewing his descriptions and section drawings, it is possible to establish the positions of some of these deposits within the fills of the pits (see below).

Samples from three cremation burials produced radiocarbon dates within the third millennium cal BC but at different periods within it (Table 2 and Figure 3). The earliest date comes from the cremated remains of an adult from Atkinson's 1950 excavation of Aubrey Hole 32 (Figure 4, layer 4 [context 3008]; Cleal et al. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Who Was Buried at Stonehenge?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.