Stonehenge was the Lourdes of the ancient world for pilgrims on a health kick

Stonehenge was a major international healing centre, according to a leading British archaeologist.

Up till now, most scholars have accepted that the 4,600-year-old stone circle was used mainly for ritual purposes but new research suggests that it was a prehistoric version of Lourdes packed full of pilgrims from all over the ancient world.

Professor Timothy Darvill, who has just published the most detailed study of the area ever carried out, says it is much more associated with water sources, traditionally imbued with healing properties, than thought.

The scientific theories also tally with legend - such as why stones were imported from Preseli in south-west Wales (by Merlin, naturally), a region with a dense concentration of holy wells.

As for pilgrims: the oracle at Delphi closed at the winter solstice so the sun god Apollo could visit the Land of the Hyperboreans - believed to be Britain. And where better than its celebrated solar temple?

'Stonehenge: Biography of a Landscape' (Tempus)

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