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The Stonehenge Hospital

The Prehistoric Health Spa – A Perspective by Timothy Darvill and Robert John Langdon (The Stonehenge Hospital)

spa roman algiers
Traditional Roman Spa

Introduction

Timothy Darvill, a distinguished figure in Archaeology at Bournemouth University, has put forward a groundbreaking theory. His proposition that Stonehenge was a healing sanctuary, as detailed in his book ‘Stonehenge: The Biography of a Landscape ‘, is supported by compelling evidence from human remains found in burial mounds near the site. These remains, Darvill argues, belonged to individuals who were ailing before their demise, suggesting a unique purpose for the monument.

Darvill’s theory also carries an international dimension. He suggests that the remains found near Stonehenge, including those of the Amesbury Archer from what is now Switzerland, point to a diverse population that visited the site. He further proposes that Stonehenge’s primary function was during the winter solstice, a time when it was believed to be under the influence of Apollo, the Greek and Roman god of healing. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

The Stonehenge Hospital
Amesbury Archer with bad leg from the Alps

Adding to Darvill’s hypothesis, Robert John Langdon’s revelations in his book, The Stonehenge Enigma, suggest that the ditch surrounding Stonehenge was not merely a ditch but a series of post holes and chalk seats. These were likely used for people to sit and bathe in the waters of the moat. British Geological Survey (BGS) superficial deposits and carbon-dated excavations in the old Stonehenge car park indicate that these water-filled ditches were active during the Mesolithic period. This suggests a higher water table at that time, allowing the Stonehenge ditch to fill with water.

Langdon emphasises that the old car park, now recognised for its historical significance, reveals evidence of three giant circles (similar to mini roundabouts) where post holes were discovered during its construction. These post holes, each at least 1 meter in diameter, contained pieces of bone and charcoal dated to be 10,000 years old, over twice the age of any other structure at Stonehenge. Traditional archaeology describes these posts as ‘totem poles,’ but Langdon argues that they were more likely functional mooring posts for boats. These posts could have supported a lifting device using simple mortise and tenon joints, allowing stones to be raised from boats during high tide and transported to Stonehenge. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

(The Stonehenge Hospital)
The Ditch is really a series of pits with seats and stone holes – (The Stonehenge Hospital)

Langdon’s theory aligns with the idea that Bluestone chippings were used as ‘bath salts.’ When placed in the water-filled moat, these chippings would enhance the healing properties of the baths. Although unremarkable igneous rocks like Dolerite and Rhyolite take on a bluish hue when wet and have been attributed with mystical properties over centuries.

The 13th-century British poet Layamon, inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s folklore, wrote:

The stones are great

And magic power they have

Men who are sick

Fare to that stone

And they wash that stone

And with that water bathe away their sickness

This poem indicates that the sick would bathe away their ailments using water that had encountered the stones. Surprisingly, Darvill did not link this poem to his hypothesis. However, recent findings by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University reveal a smaller version of Stonehenge, aptly named ‘Bluehenge,’ made of 27 Welsh stones and linked to the River Avon, reinforcing the connection between Bluestones and water. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

Excavations have uncovered numerous stone holes at the bottom of the moat surrounding Stonehenge, suggesting they once housed Bluestones. These stones, smaller than the more prominent Sarsen Stones, have been overlooked by archaeologists but played a crucial role in the site’s healing practices. Archaeologists have found 3,600 Bluestone chippings scattered around Stonehenge, suggesting they were deliberately broken up to enhance their healing properties when placed in water. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

Page 117 Y Z post holes Q R post holes
Stonehenge was an excarnation site – (The Stonehenge Hospital)

Contrary to the belief that these chippings were merely remnants of reshaping efforts, the high number of Bluestone fragments compared to the fewer Sarsen Stone pieces found suggests a deliberate practice. The discrepancy indicates that the Bluestones were intentionally fragmented for use in healing rituals, possibly to be placed in the moat where people bathed.

Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright’s excavations in 2008 support this theory, revealing that Bluestones began to be chipped away almost immediately after being set up in successive arrangements. The notion of prehistoric man using water to heal may seem far-fetched, but such practices have deep roots in human history, evidenced by the widespread use of spas in Roman Britain. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

The Stonehenge Hospital
The Ditches were used as a spa to bathe away illness – (The Stonehenge Hospital)

Langdon’s theory also posits that Stonehenge had a ‘lost’ processional walkway on the northwest side of the monument, leading towards the ancient shoreline and mooring station. This area, aligned with the midsummer moonset, highlights the site’s connection to the moon rather than the sun. The lack of human remains from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods has led to theories of ‘excarnation,’ where bodies were left to decompose naturally. The Q and R holes at Stonehenge, arranged in a crescent moon shape, suggest a space designed for laying out the dead, aligned with the setting moon.

Further supporting Langdon’s hypothesis is the Palisade Ditch, a lesser-known feature running in a southwest-to-northeast direction between Stonehenge and the visitor’s car park. This ditch likely served as a barrier or entrance, creating a secluded sacred space. The Palisade would have kept the monument hidden from outsiders and protected the corpses laid out on slabs from wild animals.

As the Bronze Age progressed and the moat at Stonehenge dried up, these smaller Bluestones were abandoned and scattered throughout the site. Larger Bluestones where moved to the inner stone circle, accounting for today’s varied bluestone shapes and sizes. This perspective reimagines Stonehenge as a prehistoric health spa and highlights the enduring human quest for healing and wellness through natural elements. (The Stonehenge Hospital)

(The Stonehenge Hospital)
The Stonehenge Hospital 8

(The Stonehenge Hospital)

Further Reading

For information about British Prehistory, visit www.prehistoric-britain.co.uk for the most extensive archaeology blogs and investigations collection, including modern LiDAR reports.  This site also includes extracts and articles from the Robert John Langdon Trilogy about Britain in the Prehistoric period, including titles such as The Stonehenge Enigma, Dawn of the Lost Civilisation and the ultimate proof of Post Glacial Flooding and the landscape we see today.

Robert John Langdon has also created a YouTube web channel with over 100 investigations and video documentaries to support his classic trilogy (Prehistoric Britain). He has also released a collection of strange coincidences that he calls ‘13 Things that Don’t Make Sense in History’ and his recent discovery of a lost Stone Avenue at Avebury in Wiltshire called ‘Silbury Avenue – the Lost Stone Avenue’.

Langdon has also produced a series of ‘shorts’, which are extracts from his main body of books:

The Ancient Mariners

Stonehenge Built 8300 BCE

Old Sarum

Prehistoric Rivers

Dykes ditches and Earthworks

Echoes of Atlantis

Homo Superior

Other Blogs

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