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Rock 'n' roll: Stonehenge may have been a giant xylophone

The prehistoric monument Stonehenge may have been built as a giant xylophone, researchers have claimed. The Royal College of Art spent months tapping more than 1,000 types of rock to study the monument's musical qualities.

Most rocks produced a "dull thud" while the bluestones, which formed the earliest stone circle, were found to "sing" when struck. The rocks made a range of metallic sounds like bells, gongs and tin drums, the study confirmed.

Stonehenge may have been a giant xylophone Credit: PA

Paul Devereux, who led the study with Jon Wozencroftfrom, said: “We have had percussionists up here who have been able to actually get proper tunes out of the rocks. This is real rock music.”

This unique sonic nature could explain why neolithic men dragged the huge stones 200 miles from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire more than 4,000 years ago to build Stonehenge.

Reconstructed face of Neolithic man at Stonehenge

The exhibition will be the first to explain Stonehenge to visitors, with 250 prehistoric objects - many unseen before - on loan from various collections.

One highlight is the most advanced forensic reconstruction of an early Neolithic man's face, based on a 5,500-year-old skeleton buried in a long barrow 1.5 miles from Stonehenge.

A Neolithic skeleton and reconstructed head on display at the new visitor centre.
A Neolithic skeleton and reconstructed head on display at the new visitor centre. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Two rare 14th century manuscripts, including some of the earliest drawings of the monument, Roman coins and jewellery are also on display

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Virtual tour of stones opened at Stonehenge centre

The £27 million project to modernise facilities at Stonehenge will finally open after decades of planning.
The £27 million project to modernise facilities at Stonehenge will finally open after decades of planning. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

The new facilities are housed in a pair of single-storey "pods", sitting beneath an undulating canopy that mimics the rolling plains nearby.

Further work to decommission the existing facilities, built in 1968, and returning the car park to grass will start in the New Year.

The new visitor centre.
The new visitor centre. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

There is a 360-degree Stand in the Stones experience, using state-of-the-art laser scans, to allow visitors to experience summer and winter solstices.

Young visitors experience the virtual tour of the stones.
Young visitors experience the virtual tour of the stones. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire
Meridian

Stonehenge revamp unveiled

Visitors to the historic site will be allowed inside a special exhibition Credit: PA

The much-anticipated new Stonehenge exhibition will open tomorrow, giving visitors a special exhibition surrounding the story of the historical monuments.

The transformation comes as part of an English Heritage £27 million project to enhance the visitor experience of the iconic site.

A 360-degree virtual experience will allow visitors to 'stand in the stones' where they can be transported back in time with the stones.

Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said:

"At last, visitors to Stonehenge will be able to get a sense of the people who built this monument, of their lives, their deaths and their ceremonies. Visitors will learn the astonishing history of the stones and will see objects, many never seen before, that will bring the stones to life."

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Stonehenge was Glastonbury of its day

Researchers said around 4,000 people would have gathered at the site each year. Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

Stonehenge was not built for astronomy but was constructed by thousands of people who flocked to the area for the ancient equivalent of Glastonbury festival, researchers have said.

Experts said the placement of the enormous stones united people from across Britain who joined together for mass feasts and to celebrate the winter solstice.

The findings come after a decade of research from University College London which included excavations, laboratory work and the analysis of 63 ancient human remains.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who led the team, said the findings overturn the belief that Stonehenge was built as an astronomical calendar or observatory.

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