The Enduring Mystery of Stonehenge

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Duration 01:10:08

University College London /

Mike Parker Pearson is Professor of British Later Prehistory at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. He has worked on archaeological sites around the world in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Syria, the United States, Madagascar, Easter Island (Rapanui) and the Outer Hebrides. Dr. Pearson has been UK Archaeologist of the Year and is a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of 24 books on a wide variety of archaeological topics, including Stonehenge – A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument.


Stonehenge, the world’s most famous stone circle, is one of the great mysteries of our prehistoric past. After centuries of speculation, archaeologists have made many new discoveries over the last few decades, using ground-breaking scientific techniques that have revolutionized our knowledge about when and how it was built, who the people were that built it, and why.

There are plenty of theories about Stonehenge: Was it an astronomical observatory? A calendar? A temple for ancient druids? A place of healing? And that’s not to mention space aliens! The wealth of new evidence–not just about Stonehenge, but about its wider world of the Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age–has led to new interpretations about its role as a monument to ancient ancestors, uniting people from different territories across prehistoric Britain.

In this course, we will explore the 1500-year prehistory of Stonehenge through its five stages of construction, from 3000 BC to 1500 BC. Professor Parker Pearson’s twenty years of research on Stonehenge has helped to transform our understanding of this enigmatic stone circle, including the discovery of a new henge, a settlement where Stonehenge’s builders may have lived, and the quarries for Stonehenge’s bluestones in the Preseli hills of west Wales.


Recommended Reading:

Stonehenge: A New Understanding, by Michael Parker Pearson

Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery, by Michael Parker Pearson with Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas and Kate Welham

Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape, by Francis Pryor

Stonehenge: The Story So Far, by Julian RIchards


Discussion Questions:

  1. What has been learned from new scientific techniques, such as ancient DNA analysis, isotope analysis and geophysical survey?
  1. Did you know that Stonehenge is the largest known burial ground of the 3rd millennium BC in Britain? Who was buried there? And how has this helped our understanding of the monument?
  1. How did a man from Madagascar point Stonehenge researchers towards a new theory, and how has it stood the test of uncovering new evidence?
  1. What events may have triggered each of Stonehenge’s five construction stages? What do we know of the world of the pastoralist farmers of this period, and the circumstances that brought them together for monument-building?




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Mark Brazitis

Fascinating lecture

Really nicely done! Great visuals which helped my knowledge of the topic. The professors is obviously an expert in his field and I appreciate him sharing his vast knowledge regarding Stonehenge. Thank you!

3 years ago
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