River of Avon—Providing a Wetland Link Between the Living and the Dead, Mysteries of Stonehenge Revealed in an Ancient Streambed

When it comes to Stonehenge, many theories abound. What was its purpose? Why build there? One of the recent theories comes from an archaeologist, Mike Parker Pearson at University of Sheffield in England, who has been researching the link between Stonehenge and the Durrington Walls. He found a correlation between the two monuments—and the geographic and ecological connection to the River of Avon. If Stonehenge was a cemetery, as many believe, and the Durrington Walls stood for the living, then the River of Avon connected the land of the living to the domain of the dead, carrying the ashes of cremated loved ones after royal burial rites.

Pearson leads the team of researchers on the Stonehenge Riverside Project.http://www.shef.ac.uk/archaeology/research/stonehenge The team discovered natural underground gullies in an ancient streambed that made a direct path between Stonehenge and the river—strangely enough, in perfect line with the sun’s rays during the Winter and Summer Solstices. This astrological event might have influenced the monuments’ architects and engineers, thought to have built Stonehenge around 2900 B.C.http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/
05/080529-stonehenge-cemetery.html

The River of Avon is Britain’s largest unimproved floodplain and has been a favored area for anglers, naturalists and conservationists. But land use changes over time have broken the links between the adjacent wetlands in the floodplain and the river. As a result, there have been a number of recent wetlands restoration projects, including the 2009 Strategic Restoration and Management of the River Avon, which won a Living Wetlands Award in 2010http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id430-Ciwems_Living_Wetlands_Award_For_STREAM.html and Wetlands West, formerly known as the Severn and Avon Vales Wetlands Partnership, which aims to protect wetland habitat and create floodplain and water resources management practices for that watershed. http://www.severnwetlands.org.uk/restorationzones.asp In addition, there have been other local municipal wetland restoration projects like this one that created the community Avon Meadows Wetland in 2008:http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1059717.

For a virtual tour of the World Heritage Site, including Stonehenge, the Durrington Walls and the River of Avon, go to: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/
properties/stonehenge/explore/stonehengemap/
 This ancient and mysterious tie to wetlands is one of several that I unearthed in an earlier Strange Wetlands blog post on Lost Worlds, Lost Wetlands.

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