NEW Sheffield University research has revealed the truth about Stonehenge - as 10 years of archaeological investigations draw to a close.
Experts believe the monument was built to unify the peoples of Britain, after a long period of conflict and regional differences between eastern and western Britain.
Its stones are thought to have symbolized the ancestors of different groups of the earliest farming communities in Britain, with some coming from southern England and others from west Wales.
The Sheffield team working with historians from four other universities explored not just Stonehenge and its landscape but also the wider social and economic context of the monument’s main stages of construction about 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson said: “When Stonehenge was built there was a growing island-wide culture - the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast.
“This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries.
“Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them.
“Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.”
Stonehenge may have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons. The team have found its solstice-aligned avenue sits upon a series of natural features that by chance form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.
Professor Parker Pearson said: “When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realised that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance.
“This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area, a number unmatched anywhere else. Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world”.
The team reject ideas that Stonehenge was inspired by ancient Egyptians or extra-terrestrials.