The festival showcased the techniques used to construct Stonehenge, highlighting its similarities to human methods.
The Festival of Neolithic Ideas at Stonehenge will offer a scientific perspective on the famous circle and its surrounding landscape, challenging the common belief that it is a supernatural or otherworldly entity.
Various professionals, such as academics, engineers, and craftspeople, will offer their knowledge on the scientific methods utilized by ancient societies to construct the monument. They will also demonstrate modern techniques that provide insight for present-day humans into the prehistoric activities that occurred at the site.
According to Dominique Bouchard, the head of learning and interpretation at English Heritage, the festival at Stonehenge in Wiltshire on November 11th and 12th aims to provide a greater understanding of the site’s significance in human history.
“It may seem simplistic to view Stonehenge as separate from the realm of science and engineering,” she remarked. “Traditionally, the history of science is traced back to the 16th or 17th century, which can detach Stonehenge from that narrative.”
The result is that it may seem like a mystical and ethereal experience. Our goal with the festival is to emphasize that the individuals who built Stonehenge were similar to us. They were not only organizers, builders, and leaders, but also believers and adventurers who journeyed to the stones and celebrated there. Bouchard further emphasized, “Much like ourselves.”
The main focus of the inaugural festival will revolve around reexamining the construction of Stonehenge. One aspect that will be explored is the technique used to achieve such precise levelness in the placement of the lintels. While modern civil engineers utilize lasers, it remains a mystery how ancient civilizations were able to accurately position heavy stones in uneven terrain and lower them onto the top with such accuracy.
How were they able to ensure that the entire temple was perfectly aligned with the sunrises, sunsets, solstices, and other astronomical events?
According to Bouchard, the project was a huge task that demanded a deep understanding of the terrain, materials, and celestial patterns in order to construct. Bouchard also admires the ability of the builders to transport large stones from far distances and precisely place them in the ground, without the use of modern tools. This feat is even more impressive considering they did it without any written plans or calculations.
The focus of the festival will not only be on the construction of Stonehenge. It will also showcase how contemporary methods, like radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis, shed light on the daily activities of prehistoric humans. This includes their food, clothing, social structure, and cultural beliefs during the neolithic era.
Academics from the University of Cambridge, one of the partners in the festival, will discuss the role of “chemical signals” found in tooth enamel in identifying the origins of individuals associated with Stonehenge. The community at Stonehenge was not stationary, but rather traveled through the area and shared ideas and technologies.
The “guerilla archaeology” group at Cardiff University is constructing a temporary prehistoric market to showcase the types of food that were consumed during that time period, such as roasted meat, flatbreads, and dairy products, but notably lacking in fish.
Academics from Bournemouth University will showcase the impact of the sun, moon, and stars on beliefs and practices through an inflatable planetarium.
Manchester Metropolitan University and the Francis Crick Institute will explore family dynamics in the stone age people – what they may have worn, how they may have done their hair and how they may have decorated themselves and their houses.
There will be showcases of abilities such as pottery making, cooking, thatching, bronze casting, and flint tool crafting. The National Trust is offering a landscape tour to trace the paths and explore the thoughts of the creators not only of Stonehenge, but also of the surrounding burial mounds known as barrows.
Additional information can be located on the website english-heritage.org.uk. The cost of a ticket for entry includes access to the festival.