The New York Times has an interesting roundup of recent discoveries made at and around Stonehenge that could shed new light on the famous monument and the people who built it nearly 5,000 years ago. Last month, archaeologists dug up an ancient house at an area called Blick Mead about a mile from Stonehenge. Built around 4300 BC, they believe the house is one of the oldest in England. In September, a team of archaeologists using radar imaging found what they believe are 90 standing stones buried at another nearby site called Durrington Walls. Teams also think they've found where Stonehenge's builders lived around 2600 BC. Fatty acids still inside ancient pots show the people of the time had a "very meat-heavy diet" of grilled and boiled pork and beef with some apples, berries, and hazelnuts.
But despite the recent discoveries, the major question remains: Why was Stonehenge built? Some archaeologists believe it was a "land of the dead" used to honor the builders' ancestors, the Times reports. Others believe it was the opposite: an area renowned for its life-giving healing properties. A team used an isotope contained in ancient cattle teeth to deduce people came to the area around Stonehenge from far and wide. Archaeologists are also left wondering if Stonehenge was built atop a site that was already revered by ancient peoples. For example, charcoal and bones found in nearby pits left by large posts—possibly totem poles—date back to nearly 8000 BC. “The stone monument is iconic,” one archaeologist says. “But it’s only a little part of the whole thing.” Read the full story here. (Read more Stonehenge stories.)