September 30, 2008

Headlines and Stonehenge

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Occasionally I get mad at the press for misleading headlines. This time, though, they got it right. The headline as seen on reads:
“Experts ‘solve’ mystery of Stonehenge.” Note the quotation marks around the word solve. They add much clarity.

Removing those marks would make the sentence stronger, to be sure, but it would also misconstrue the article. It would be foolish to think that we could ever “prove” or “solve” such things. Instead, we make theories, using the evidence we have to make an inference. It may be a very valid and tight inference if there is a lot of evidence, but it is an inference nonetheless and not definitive. We must be open to the possibility that a piece of information may arise that would clarify or invalidate our theory.

At this point you may claim I am missing the forest for the trees, and you would be right. So here is my point: Professors Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill, both professors of archaeology at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, have uncovered evidence for what Stonehenge was built for. They are the first team to excavate inside Stonehenge since 1964, and they’ve pulled out a winner.
They claim Stonehenge was a place of healing. The evidence includes a double circle of spotted dolomite (also known as bluestones) in Stonehenge’s center. These rocks were thought to have healing powers. Further evidence includes excavated skeletons that showed signs of serious injuries and diseases.
Stonehenge has long been a magnificent yet mysterious monument. It’s exciting not only to realize that it still holds archaeological information and surprises for us, but also that now we understand at least in part what this monument was. Unless we find alternative evidence, that is.