Observatory? Solar calendar? Add this to the theory on the origins of Stonehenge: Researchers say it began earlier than thought as a cemetery for elite Stone Age families, reports the Guardian. The most extensive analysis yet of remains excavated from the site suggests that men, women, and children were buried there in a circular graveyard beginning about 3000 BC. That would push back the origins of the site about 500 years.
"The whole history of the monument is inseparably linked to death and burial, but I believe that there are hundreds more burials to be found across the site, which will tell us more of the story," says one archeologist. The researchers also say that at least 4,000 people—a massive number relative to the population at the time—traveled from afar as Scotland to construct the monument we know today over a 10-year period, reports AP. That's based on the analysis of animal teeth the workers brought along for ritual feasts. "Stonehenge was a monument that brought ancient Britain together," the lead researcher tells the BBC. The findings will be detailed in a BBC documentary airing tomorrow. (Read more Stonehenge stories.)