Thursday, May 01, 2008

Stonehenge Secrets Revealed

Stonehenge Decoded, premiering Sunday, June 1, 2008, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT

People have speculated about its purpose for centuries, associating the structure with everyone from King Arthur’s magician, Merlin, to the druids and the sun god Apollo. Shrouded in mystery for thousands of years, new evidence uncovered during expeditions supported by National Geographic and led by British archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson may point to the true purpose of Stonehenge and offer new insight into the community that first constructed it.

Stonehenge is one of the most iconic structures in the world. Now, National Geographic Channel (NGC) presents an exclusive look at groundbreaking evidence that places this ancient monument at the center of one of the largest prehistoric religious complexes in the world. Premiering Sunday, June 1, 2008, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, Stonehenge Decoded details the first proof of a 4,500-year-old Stone Age settlement just a few miles from Stonehenge.

With at least 300 houses, it is the largest Stone Age settlement ever found in northern Europe, and at its center are the remains of a mysterious second circle. Excavations and radiocarbon dating reveal that this second circle was a near replica of Stonehenge built of wood — and that both monuments stood at the same time. Narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Donald Sutherland, the two-hour documentary describes this radical new vision of Stonehenge and the people who built it.

“It’s not just a stone circle and that’s all there is to it,” says Parker Pearson. “It’s actually part of something much bigger … the building project for Stonehenge was just one element of a greater design.”

Parker Pearson believes that Stonehenge was built for the ancestors, a monument in stone to house the spirits of the dead. New excavations reveal that it was linked by grand processional avenues to the other nearby great circle, built of wood — which represented the world of the living. On the longest and shortest days of the year, both monuments align dramatically with the rising and setting sun.

Stonehenge Decoded presents further evidence suggesting that on special days, such as the summer and winter solstices, thousands of people gathered from across Britain — and perhaps beyond — for two great festivals. They traveled for the summer solstice to thank the ancestors for bringing back life and fertility to the land, and in midwinter to lay their dead to rest.

“Up until this time, this was a world of monuments, great public works, where you’ve really got to gather people from all over the place to spend years of labor … we don’t see any of this largest scale cooperation ever again. So it’s the end of an era. It’s a world which has really become transformed,” concludes Parker Pearson.

Stonehenge Decoded is produced for National Geographic Channel by National Geographic Television (NGT). The Executive Producer for NGT is Ben Goold. For National Geographic Channel executive producer is Mike Welsh, senior vice president of production is Juliet Blake, and executive vice president of content is Steve Burns.