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), they have also discovered antecedents and precursors to the architecture of Stonehenge elsewhere in Britain, notably in timber.
In fact, many of these innovations and architectures now appear to have originated on the margins of Britain, notably in Wales and Orkney ().
Certainly until a few decades ago, it was easy to perceive Stonehenge as a mysterious intrusion into an under-populated land where the few inhabitants eked out a miserable subsistence using only the most primitive technology for farming.
As archaeologists have learned otherwise about population densities and early farming efficiency (e.g.
) who later developed a social evolutionary model of Stonehenge as the product of a confederation of chiefdoms at the Early Bronze Age apogee of Wessex’s evolution from tribal Early Neolithic farmers to Late Neolithic and Early Bronze chiefdoms ().
By this point in time, however, the views of professional archaeologists had largely separated from those of numerous amateur enthusiasts pursuing alternative theories about earth and sky mysteries, ley lines, astrology and megalithic yards, a split that remains today.
Over the years archaeologists connected with the Institute of Archaeology and UCL have made substantial contributions to the study of Stonehenge, the most enigmatic of all the prehistoric stone circles in Britain.
Two of the early researchers were Petrie and Childe.
Although Classical authors referred to ancient druids worshipping only in wooded groves – there is no mention of any link between druids and stone monument, let alone Stonehenge – the association of druids with Stonehenge has become fixed in the public consciousness.
As the counter-culture of the 1970s and early 1980s claimed Stonehenge as spiritual inspiration for a lost world of mysticism, so the archaeological ‘fringe’ imputed a new range of earth mysteries, ley lines and hidden forces responsible for Stonehenge’s location and raised stones.
Following on from Hawkins, the astronomer Fred Hoyle developed his own explanation of astronomical prediction at Stonehenge ().
With the publication of the 20th-century excavations at Stonehenge () came radiocarbon dates which demonstrated that its ditch and bank were dug at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC and that the sarsen circle was put up around 2500 BC.
These new dates pushed Stonehenge back into the Late Neolithic, contemporary with Woodhenge (Fig.) and the other timber circles of Renfrew’s Late Neolithic chiefdom phase.Although the solstitial alignment of Stonehenge and its avenue has been long known, it was only in the 1960s that claims were widely accepted for Stonehenge’s role as an astronomical observatory or computational calendar.