In today’s podcast, we talk about some theories. We talk about things which may be true, or may not be true. We use words like “perhaps” and “maybe” and “it could be that..”. See how many examples you can find.
We English have not lived in England for long. Our ancestors, the Saxons, came to England from northern Germany in the fifth century. They spoke a language which we call Anglo-Saxon or Old English. Over the centuries, Anglo-Saxon changed to become modern English.
Before the Saxon invasions, people called the Celts lived here. The modern Welsh language is descended from the languages of these Celtic people. But the Celts had not lived in Britain for long, either. There were people here before the Celts came. These people had no written language, so they left us no manuscripts or inscriptions to tell us about them. However, they left us plenty of archaeological evidence – burial places, pottery, tools and so on. And they left us a remarkable and mysterious monument called Stonehenge.
If you drive by car south-west out of London, along a road with the romantic name A303, you will reach Stonehenge after about an hour and a half. You will see a circle of great stones, with other stones placed carefully on top of them. There are other, smaller stones – called “bluestones”. Around Stonehenge, there are other ancient places – burial places, for instance, and ancient paths.
The archaeologists tell us that Stonehenge was not all built at one time. The oldest parts of Stonehenge are about 5,000 years old. The “bluestones” came about 1000 years later, and the great circle of stones a few hundred years after that. The great stones probably came from a place about 40km away. They each weigh about 25 tonnes. Experts say that perhaps 500 men pulled each stone, while 100 more placed logs on the ground for the stone to roll over. The “bluestones” are even more remarkable – they are much smaller, about 4 tonnes each, but they come from Preseli in south Wales, a distance of nearly 400 km. How did they get to Stonehenge? Maybe people carried them on small boats, over the sea and along rivers.
The big question is “Why?” Why did these people, four or five thousand years ago, build Stonehenge, and what did they use it for? Here are some of the theories:
- Perhaps Stonehenge was a religious temple. Perhaps priests sacrificed animals or even human beings here.
- Maybe Stonehenge was a centre of political power, a place built by a great and powerful king.
- Possibly, it was a place to celebrate the dead, a place to send them on their way to the next world.
- Or it could have been a place where sick or injured people came to be cured, like Lourdes in France is today.
- Or Stonehenge might have been a place to watch the movement of the sun, moon and stars, and to forecast important events like eclipses.
- Or, conceivably, it was all of these things, or it had different purposes at different times.
Today, Stonehenge is an important tourist site, and a place for people who like to believe in magic. At the summer solstice (that is June 21st, the longest day of the year) people go to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise. This year, about 30,000 people were there. And, because this is England, it rained.
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