Excavations reveal Stone Age life.
Excavations at the ancient monument Stonehenge reveal it was used as a cemetery at the time it was created just after 3000 BC.
Many archaeologists had previously thought people had been buried at the site between 2700 and 2600 BC.
This was before the larger stones were put in place.
The new dates give strong clues about the original purpose of the monument and show that its use as a cemetery went on for more than 500 years.
"It's now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages," said Mike Parker Pearson, archaeology professor at the University of Sheffield, whose team has been excavating the Wiltshire site.
"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium BC.
"The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones (the larger stones) phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead."
The earliest cremation burial dated - a small pile of burned bones and teeth - came from a pit around Stonehenge's edge known as the Aubrey Holes and dates to 3030-2880 BC.
The second burial, from the ditch surrounding Stonehenge, is that of an adult and dates to 2930-2870 BC.
The most recent cremation, Professor Parker Pearson said, came from the ditch's northern side and was of a 25-year-old woman.
This dates from 2570-2340 B.C, around the time the first arrangements of sarsen stones appeared at Stonehenge.
Another 49 cremation burials were dug up at Stonehenge during the 1920s, but all were put back in the ground because they were thought to be of no scientific value.
Archaeologists estimate that up to 240 people were buried within Stonehenge, all as cremation deposits.
Posted by The Eternal
30th May 2008ce