Just when you thought scientists had Stonehenge all figured out, we can add yet another ancient use to the list already featuring astronomical observatory, cemetery, and party grounds to celebrate the dead and living.
Research appearing in the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine describes its use as a Lourdes, where pilgrims came to have their wounds and illnesses magically healed.
From the LA Times article:
"Bluestones are thought to possess healing powers, according to medieval literature and folklore, but researchers have assumed that this was a recent association unrelated to the monument's initial purpose.
But archaeologists Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University and Geoffrey Wainwright, president of the Society of Antiquaries of London, speculated that the tradition had its origin much earlier.
To investigate, they first surveyed the Preseli Mountains in South West Wales, site of the quarry known as Carn Menyn and the source of the bluestones. They found that many springs around the quarry had been dammed to create 'enhanced springheads,' or pools of water that the sick could bathe in.
That idea was supported by prehistoric art and burial cairns associated with the pools, created by the same early Britons who built Stonehenge. When they saw the artifacts, Wainwright recalled, "Tim and I looked at each other and said, 'It's got to be about healing.' ""