Stonehenge is a set of earthworks and an ancient monument located in Wiltshire, England. It is considered the most famous and visited site in the world and is one of the mysteries in the world which has never been revealed. However, many people have created numerous myths and fables to explain mysteries behind it. Despite the numerous myths and fables, there has been limited information regarding Stonehenge's creation/development. Most researchers and theorists refer to it as a stone monument, a giant or ancient megalith.
Archeologist Mike Parker Pearson has proposed a number of hypothesis regarding Stonehenge and its surrounding. He indicated that Stonehenge was used as a burial ground from historical beginnings. In other words, Stonehenge represented a place of the dead. The cremated remains found at the site acted as evidence and they indicated that burials took place at the site as early as 3000 BC (Gargen 112). Mike Pearson further indicated that the placement of artifacts and graves around Stonehenge provided good evidence that the site was reserved as a domain of the dead. New radiocarbon dates of human remains dug from the ancient Stonehenge in Southwest England indicate that the monument was used as a cemetery.
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Initially, archeologists had believed that Stonehenge had acted as burial grounds as early as 2700 and 2600 BC (Gargen 114). People buried at Stonehenge were believed to have been the elite of the surrounding society; an early royal British dynasty. This hypothesis appears to be scientific due to the evidence provided by new radio carbon dates of human remains found in the monument.
Parker Pearson also held the hypotheses that Stonehenge was a centre for ancestor worship that was connected by River Avon and two other ceremonial avenues to a matching wooden circle near Durrington Walls. The reason as to why he held the hypotheses is due to the large settlements of houses found nearby Stonehenge. This reinforced his belief that both the settlement and Stonehenge created a part of a large ancient ceremonial complex. He went ahead and indicated that the two circles with permanent and temporary structures made a clear representation of the living and the dead domains respectively. He also pointed out that the orientation of the stone circle pointed to sunrise and sunset on key seasonal dates which clearly indicated it was a place of ceremony.
On his hypotheses, Mike Pearson stated that Stonehenge was not a monument in isolation; rather it was actually one of a pair implying that it was made of both stone and timber. The theory behind this is that Stonehenge is a type of spirit home to the ancestors. This hypothesis appears to be pseudo-scientific since there is no scientific evidence behind it.
Gargen, Josphath. Theories behind Stonehenge. 2nd ed. New York: New York Press, 2003.
ANTH 160 - Section 02
SJSU - Fall 2009
Instructor: Robert Simpkins
2 B) Describe the basic cultural features and evolution of the Mound building Cultures of Eastern North America (and especially distinguishing between the Woodland and Mississippian Cultures), and explain why they were attributed to a 'lost race' by nineteenth century scholars.
It is believed that mould builders were greatly involved in building of earth works as well as mounds. The ceremonial and burial structures were characteristically flat topped pyramids or flat topped cones and at some times a variety of other forms. Some mounds took after unusual shapes such as the sketch of cosmologically significant animals and were branded effigy mounds name. Monk's mound is one of the best known flat topped pyramidal earthen ware at Cahokia, while Serpent mound found in southern Ohio is 5 feet tall, 1330 feet long and 20 feet wide takes the shape of a serpent (Ian 86). The mound builders included numerous different tribal groups and chiefdoms that held unto a bewildering collection of beliefs and exclusive cultures which were united together by the shared architectural practice of mound construction. The initial mould building was an early marker of just beginning political and social complexity among the cultures in the Eastern United States.
Woodlands culture: a prehistoric culture of eastern North America dates back in the 1st century. It is used to refer to Native American societies staying in eastern United States. Adena and Hopewell were the earliest woodland groups who inhabited Mississippi river valleys and Ohio between 800 BC and 800 AD. Adena and Hopewell are commonly known for their massive burial mounds, often modified with finely crafted grave items. Initially, Adena were hunters and gatherers while Hopewell lived in villages.
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The Mississippian culture was developed around 700 A.D. It was developed by a population of farmers who practiced agricultural farming and planted crops such as corns, beans and squash. They also engaged in a day to day hunting. Mississippian culture was initially a mound building Native American culture. However, from approximately 800 CE to 1500 CE, it greatly flourished in what is commonly known as Eastern, Midwestern and Southeastern United States (Ian 76).
Mississippian culture is considered different from the woodland culture on the basis that the Mississippian mounds appear to be rectangular or square, large, flat topped, mesa like platforms on which temples or houses were built. On the other hand, the woodland mounds are conical, earthen structures covering burials in which marvelously carved stone pipes and mica cutouts that are found along with skeletal remains. In addition, burial mounds were dominant during the woodland period (100 B.C. to 400 A.D.), while temple mounds predominated during the Mississippian period (1000 AD).
Both Mississippian and woodland cultures were attributed to as a 'lost race' by the 19th century scholars due to the fact that the new euro-American settlers were not willing to accept the fact that the mounds had been built by the Native American People. They were therefore displacing and destroying most of the mounds so as to plow away evidence. Consequently, the cultures came along as a lost race in America.
Ian, Bridgeston. The Mould Building Cultures. California: Anvil Press, 2000.
ANTH 160 - Section 02
SJSU - Fall 2009
Instructor: Robert Simpkins
3B) Describe the history of Easter Island as it has been reconstructed by archaeologists; is this history a useful metaphor for the Earth? Is it similar or different from what happened in to other civilizations, and what can be learned from studying it?
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui is one of the worlds famous but least visited archeological sites located in the Pacific Ocean. The island is mostly famous due to its 887 existing monumental statues (moai) which were created by Rapanui people. It is a tiny, currently treeless, hilly Island of volcanic nature; rising over 10,00ft from the floor of Pacific Ocean. Peterson (23), states that Easter Island is among the youngest inhabited territories in the world, and a larger part of its history is that it was one of the most isolated inhabited territory.
Easter Island was discovered three hundred years ago by European explorers amidst the large space in South Pacific Ocean. Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen rediscovered it on Easter day in 1722, hence the acquisition of its name; Easter Island. During that time, the Island was inhabited by a populace of Polynesian origin who had arrived from Marquesas Islands many centuries earlier. This has been proven by the DNA extracts that were collected from the location. It is also believed that the inhabitants had come in with various plants, foods, tools and animals such as bananas, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, pigs, and chickens among others so as to start a new life.
Archeologists hold that there were three cultures which lived on Easter Island around 400 AD. During this time, the island was inhabited by people who specialized in making small stone statues. After some time, another civilization broke down the statues and greatly used them to construct long temple platforms known as ahus. They also carved 600 plus enormous stone busts taking the form of human beings and placed them on the ahus. It is believed that approximately 15 statues are still held by some ahus.
Archeological evidence indicates a fast destruction of the forests within a few centuries after the arrival of human beings. This played a major role in the reduction of forests and plantation in the island. The society played a role in the reduction of forests and plantations since they cleared land to plant grasses, cut down trees to construct canoes, they had also come in with rats which devoured the seeds. By the end of fifteenth century, the entire forest had disappeared, the fruits had died out and tree species were extinct. The extermination of the animals in the Island was as thorough as that of the forest. All species of native land birds became extinct and the shellfish were exploited. This led to the collapse of Easter Island's society.
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The history of Easter Island is a useful metaphor of the planet earth. The lesson obtained from Easter Island was that inequality and scarcity of crucial resources played a great role in occurrence of genocide. Consequently, a social collapse of the society living in the island took place. David (43), states that during the 7th century, around 50 people arrived on Easter Island and increased to more than 70,000 by 17th century.
David, Myer. The history of Easter Island. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge Press.
ANTH 160 - Section 02
SJSU - Fall 2009
Instructor: Robert Simpkins
4) Stonehenge as an ancient centre of healing
This appears to be an interesting topic since Stonehenge is commonly known as a burial site among the archeologists. However, Tim Darvil and Geoff Wainwright have come up with the evidence that the monument acted as a centre of healing. Margaret (57), states that massive numbers of Britons flocked at the sight with the aim of curing their diseases and healing present injuries. Many inhabitants believed that the stone found at the site had magical and healing qualities which greatly attracted numerous pilgrims to the site.
A man's Remains at approximately five miles from Stonehenge were discovered by the two archeologists. The remains collected indicated that the man had a knee cap infection and a severe tooth eruption. This was therefore used as strong evidence by the two archeologists and they came up with the theory that the man may have died on his way to the healing grounds (Stonehenge).
In addition, a skeleton analysis which was found three miles from the monument indicated that the man had travelled a long distance and was suffering from a potentially deadly dental disease. It was therefore concluded that he had travelled that long distance as a way of searching for the stones associated with the healing power. Most archeologists remain adamant that the site and the surrounding area were majorly used as a burial ground.
To back their healing hypothesis, Darvill and Wainwright studied the blue stones found at the site and which were believed to have been there since 2400 BC and 2200 BC. Having studied 14 samples of organic material such as the bone in the trench and carbonized plant remains, they indicated that it was good evidence that the grounds provided excellent healing grounds to the community.
The blue stone study undermines the main theory suggested by Mike Parker Pearson that the monument acted primarily as burial grounds and ancestral site where people held ceremonies and offered sacrifices to the ancestors. Other significant discoveries from the dig have been made at the monument. A series of small stones broken down from the larger standing ones were discovered and the archeologists believed that the stones were used as lucky charms. This provided the evidence that the ancient people believed in the healing properties of the stones.
The archeologists also believed that the blue stones had numerous healing properties since there were a number of sacred springs in Preseli which were considered to have health giving qualities. The two archeologists also quoted the 12th century Monk indicating that the stones were thought to have medicinal property. The evidence uncovered by their digs portrayed that people were chipping and moving off pieces of the bluestones through the roman era through the middle ages. In relation to the discoveries made concerning Stonehenge, it can be concluded that Stonehenge is a popular and powerful place of pilgrimage. However, there is no support that the monument's healing power really worked.
Margaret, Katherine. The mystery behind Stonehenge. Harvard: Harvard Press, 2002.