Stonehenge has undergone a $44 million (£27 million) renovation that includes a new visitor center to be opened Wednesday.
Visitors will be transported about a mile and a half from the center to the stones via shuttle bus. They also have the option to walk down a newly-reconnected ancient processional approach. The center will feature an exhibition of 250 prehistoric objects, many of which are previously unseen. The exhibition also includes the most advanced reconstruction of an early Neolithic man’s face, based on a 5,500-year-old skeleton buried in a long barrow a mile and a half from Stonehenge.
According to the Daily Mail, further work to decommission existing facilities built in 1968 will begin in January.
Work to “restore the dignity” of the stones led by English Heritage began last year. Plans to close the nearby A344 were originally announced in 1927, but it wasn’t until last June that the road was permanently closed.
“This is the end of an incredibly long journey,” Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said.
“Stonehenge is almost certainly the most famous ancient monument in the world and up until now it hasn’t really had adequate visitor facilities. There’s been no exhibition, no opportunities for people to have a cup of tea, even,” he added. “This is a radical change for the million people a year who come to Stonehenge. They can see the stones for the first time free from the clutter and rubbish that have accrued around them since the 1960s.”
Visitors will be able to view two rare 14th century manuscripts that include some of the earliest drawings of the monument, as well as Roman coins and jewelry. There is also a 360-degree “Stand in the Stones” experience that allows tourists to experience summer and winter solstices using state-of-the-art laser scans.
“Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most iconic sites, undeniably worthy of its Unesco world heritage status, attracting one million tourists every year from the UK and all over the world,” Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.
“So it’s only right that, after decades of indecision, we can now offer them a visitor exhibition centre and experience they deserve.”
In 1923, geologist Herbert Henry Thomas theorized that the stones were transported to Wiltshire by Neolithic man by land and sea. Some scientists believed that the stones were carried to the area on a glacier during the Ice Age.
Last month, researchers from Aberystwyth University, the National Museum of Wales, and University College London used X-ray equipment to determine the 11 bluestone rocks that compose the inner ring of the monument, were harvested from Carn Goedog in the Preseli Mountains. Geologists believe the other stones came from up to six different locations.
In May, researchers from more than a dozen universities across Britain concluded that the original ancient Stonehenge structure was used as a grave site for entire families based on the study of cremated human remains excavated from the site.