The movie Secrets of Stonehenge describes the investigative hypotheses made during the large-scale Stonehenge Riverside Project, scientific archeological research led by Mike Parker Pearson. Scientists concluded that Stonehenge might have served as a cemetery for the royal persons who initiated its construction. Archaeologists have also discovered that Stonehenge is connected with the River Avon by a long avenue.
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Pearson’s theory was that this relationship had some symbolic meaning. It has been supported by the fact that another massive henge was connected to the same river in the same way. The movie states that “in the 1960s, when a road was cut through” the giant henge of Durrington Walls, “archeologists discovered the postholes of a timber circle nearly identical in size to Stonehenge” (Willumsen, 2010). Since Stonehenge was a burial site, researchers have reasoned that it was associated with the realm of the dead, and hence the henge of Durrington Walls represented the realm of the living. The present paper explores the evidence and information provided by the documentary in support of this conclusion and provides a critical analysis of it.
Evidence and Conclusions of the Movie
The documentary presents a logical chain of reasoning from one thesis to another, and each of them is supported by specific evidence. The group examined the bones found at the Stonehenge burial site with anthropological expertise. It was discovered that most of them belonged to healthy, robust males aged 25 to 40. The movie demonstrates the examination and also presents interviews with researchers who give their comments.
The bones belong to the most powerful group of the population, which may suggest that Stonehenge could indeed serve as a cemetery for the ruling individuals. This, however, does not explain either how it was built from a technological point of view or what caused its shape and geometry.
Another researcher, Andrew Young, was concerned about the purpose of the stone balls, which are often found by archaeologists in this area. His assumption was that since balls were generally of the same diameter, they could be used as wheels to transport the huge stone blocks of Stonehenge. It is stated in the documentary that “people may have pulled large stones over rollers made of tree trunks” (Willumsen, 2010).
In order to test this hypothesis, a group of scientists organized a historical experiment in which this technology was recreated. The documentary presents the episodes of the experiment, as well as the discussions of the two leading organizing researchers. The experiment ends successfully, supporting the hypothesis that offers an explanation for the process of building Stonehenge.
The movie also documents the archeological investigations and presents interviews with the specialists of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The avenues that lead from Stonehenge and henge of Durrington Walls to the Avon River are not the only connections they have. The movie discusses their unusual alignment with the astronomical phenomena of the summer and winter solstice. For instance, “on the morning of the winter solstice, the timber circle” of the Durrington Walls henge “pointed at the rising sun, and at the end of the day, Stonehenge framed the setting sun” (Willumsen, 2010).
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It was emphasized that six months later, during the summer solstice, the direction was reversed. This confirmed the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a cemetery representing the realm of the dead, and the Durrington Walls Henge was a place for seasonal feasts of the living. The Avon River was a special symbol of the connection between these two worlds. The movie includes in-depth interviews with researchers who describe this hypothesis and provide archaeological and culturological evidence in its favor.
Critical Analysis of the Movie’s Arguments
It should be noted that the movie contains a considerable amount of information that can be used as evidence for the various scientific theories presented in it. The assumption that Stonehenge is a cemetery for the royal persons is confirmed by the anthropological expertise and the comments of the experts who conducted it. In this case, the reasoning seems very convincing, and the hypothesis is supported by the fact that the bones belonged to the most physically strong and healthy part of the population.
The most convincing part of the documentary is the description of a historical experiment to test the operability of a transport device model for moving huge stone blocks. The movie demonstrates the device itself and the comments of its creators on its functionality and purpose. Moreover, the viewer can observe successful and unsuccessful attempts to implement the experiment, that is, the whole course of the study. Thus, the movie documents each stage of the research, from the first theoretical constructions and hypothesis to the actual implementation of the experiment and its discussion.
The final conclusions of the Stonehenge Riverside Project are supported by a number of data, which can be interpreted in different ways. Under these circumstances, scientists are required to make certain assumptions that connect the two avenues leading from the henges to the River Avon, their astronomical alignment, and the presence of specific archaeological evidence. Nevertheless, the documentary Secrets of Stonehenge sequentially explores every piece of evidence and scientific opinion that is relevant to them. It should be concluded that the movie itself makes a rather convincing point concerning Pearson’s theory through consistent coverage of the information and scientific assumptions gathered during the study.
The movie Secrets of Stonehenge describes modern scientific research on the origin, construction, and purpose of Stonehenge. It includes a variety of data such as interviews with researchers, scenes of anthropological expertise and historical experiment, as well as video clips from archaeological investigations. It should be stated that the documentary consistently analyzes the evidence in favor of various hypotheses that convince the viewer of their validity.
Willumsen, G. (Director). (2010). Secrets of Stonehenge. Web.