A new Stonehenge theory by a renowned museum director and historian proposes a new way of looking at the 5,000-year-old mysterious stone circle — a way that reveals what the ancient structure on England's Salisbury Plain was actually used for — and one that, its author says, makes much more sense than any other theory with regard to the ancient world when most religious world was carried out not on flat ground, but from high places.
The stone circle was long believed to be merely a semi-circle until a remarkable discovery last year revealed that numerous stones had been removed, proving that Stonehenge was a full, circular structure.
But while it has long been believed that generations of ancient Britons worshipped the heavens from the feet of the massive monoliths, in his new book Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding — The Origins of Art, Julian Spalding says that the Stonehenge structure was actually a support foundation for an elevated, high altar.
The stones supported a massive wooden platform, Spalding believes, one that vanished millennia ago — but served to bring the ancient sun and moon worshippers closer to the heavenly bodies.
"We've been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way — from the earth, which is very much a 20th-century viewpoint. We haven't been thinking about what they were thinking about," Spalding told the Guardian on Sunday.
"In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be... The people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth."
The stone supports of Stonehenge, in Spalding's theory, would have allowed the "circular raised wooden altar" to safely support "thousands of worshippers," who made pilgrimages to Stonehenge from "the four corners of the kingdom," he writes in the new book.
In fact, Spalding describes the Stonehenge of 4,000 to 5,000 years ago as "an ancient Mecca on stilts," attracting the faithful — which in those days was basically everybody — from miles away.
Not every Stonehenge expert is buying Spalding's new theory, however.
"He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it," Oxford University archaeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe said of Spalding's new Stonehenge theory.
[Image: Tim Ireland/Getty Images]