Stonehenge: New Discoveries

(Kress Lecture)

Stonehenge has long captivated the world with the mystery of its origins and use, and after seven years of new excavations there is now a completely new understanding as to the date and purpose of this enigmatic structure. One of the key breakthroughs has been to understand how Stonehenge formed part of a wider complex of monuments and landscape features on Salisbury Plain. The Riverside Stonehenge Project and the Feeding Stonehenge Project have been key in these new discoveries, and we now know much more about the people who built Stonehenge – where they came from, how they lived, and how they were organized. Not only has the recent work discovered a large settlement of many houses—thought to be for Stonehenge’s builders—at the nearby henge enclosure of Durrington Walls, but it has also helped to re-date Stonehenge and investigate its surrounding monuments and sites, many of which were hitherto undated and unknown.

Principal Investigator for the Riverside Stonehenge Project and the Feeding Stonehenge Project, Professor Mike Parker Pearson, will be speaking on the current theories about Stonehenge – as an astronomical observatory, a centre of healing or a place of the ancestors – and the identity of its Neolithic builders. Parker Pearson will also touch on the discovery of a new monument called Bluestonehenge, located about one mile from Stonehenge, and what its discovery signifies. Potentially the most captivating question of all is how and why stones from 180 miles away were used to create Stonehenge, and while this is currently being investigated, Parker Pearson will give his professional opinion along with brand new results from the field.

Parker Pearson is with the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, and has also been Vice-President of the Prehistoric Society and the UK Archaeologist of the Year 2010. He attended undergraduate studies for European Archaeology at the University of Southampton, and received his Ph.D. from Kings College, University of Cambridge. His research interests include Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Europe, funerary archaeology, society and change in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean, the ‘Barbarian’ Europe of the first millennia, and public archaeology and heritage. His work was featured on the National Geographic channel in the documentary “Stonehenge Decoded” (2008).

Co-sponsored by the Willamette University Center for Ancient Studiesand Archaeology and the Archaeological Institute of America’s National Lecture Program. Funding for this lecture has been provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York, which strives to support the work of scholars in the fields of ancient art.