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"Therefore, in a sense, Stonehenge becomes 'the A & E' of southern England." Modern techniques But without a reliable carbon date for the construction of Stonehenge, it has been difficult to establish this, or any other, theory.Until now, the consensus view for the date of the first stone circle was anywhere between 2600BC and 2400BC.And analysis of teeth recovered from graves show that "around half" of the corpses were from people who were "not native to the Stonehenge area"."Stonehenge would attract not only people who were unwell, but people who were capable of [healing] them," said Professor Darvill, of Bournemouth University.

The radiocarbon date is said to be the most accurate yet and means the ring's original bluestones were put up 300 years later than previously thought.That was a risk, but I was always confident," said Professor Darvill.Intriguingly, the date range ties in closely with the date for the burial of the so-called "Amesbury Archer", whose tomb was discovered three miles from Stonehenge.Professors Darvill and Wainwright believe that Stonehenge was a centre of healing - a "Neolithic Lourdes", to which the sick and injured travelled from far and wide, to be healed by the powers of the bluestones.They note that "an abnormal number" of the corpses found in tombs nearby Stonehenge display signs of serious physical injury and disease.

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Some archaeologists believe the Archer is the key to understanding why Stonehenge was built.

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