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A large, deep hole was dug within the stone circle in 1620 by George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, who was looking for treasure.
In 1973 English archaeologist Colin Renfrew hypothesized that Stonehenge was the centre of a confederation of Bronze Age chiefdoms.Within a 3-mile (5-km) radius of Stonehenge there remain from the Neolithic Period at least 17 long barrows (burial mounds) and two cursus monuments (long enclosures), all dating to the 4th millennium Aubrey Holes, named after John Aubrey, who identified them in 1666.The ditch of the enclosure is flanked on the inside by a high bank and on the outside by a low bank, or counterscarp.The Stonehenge that is visible today is incomplete, many of its original bluestones having been broken up and taken away, probably during Britain’s Roman and medieval periods.The ground within the monument also has been severely disturbed, not only by the removal of the stones but also by digging—to various degrees and ends—since the 16th century, when historian and antiquarian William Camden noted that “ashes and pieces of burnt bone” were found.The circular enclosure had two entrances: the main access on the northeast and a narrower entrance on the south.
Although it once was believed that the Aubrey Holes served as pits for wooden posts, excavation and archival research by the bluestones.
The area surrounding the Aubrey Holes was used as a place of burial from roughly 3000 to 2300 Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2009, it consisted of about 25 Welsh bluestones and may have been used for cremating and removing the flesh from the bodies whose remains were buried and scattered at Stonehenge.
Bluestonehenge’s stones were later dismantled and presumably brought to Stonehenge.
This idea has been rejected by more-recent scholars, however, as Stonehenge is now understood to have predated by some 2,000 years the Druids recorded by Julius Caesar.
Gerald Hawkins proposed that Stonehenge had been constructed as a “computer” to predict lunar and solar eclipses; other scientists also attributed astronomical capabilities to the monument.
About half of Stonehenge (mostly on its eastern side) was excavated in the 20th century by the archaeologists William Hawley, in 1919–26, and Richard Atkinson, in 1950–78.