Turns out some high-profile women of the late Neolithic rest in only slightly disturbed peace at Stonehenge.

The famous standing stones are just the most conspicuous part of a whole series of interesting sites, which—as the New York Times explained recently—archeologists are still trying to figure out. But they’re getting closer, with the help of advances in technology.

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People lived nearby, but it was also obviously an important ceremonial hub. Discovery News reports on a paper just published in the journal British Archeology about burials circa 3100 B.C. to 2100 B.C., which “supports the theory that Stonehenge functioned, at least for part of its long history, as a cremation cemetery for leaders and other noteworthy individuals.”

What’s really interesting is how many of those people were women.

“In almost every depiction of Stonehenge by artists and TV re-enactors we see lots of men, a man in charge, and few or no women,” archaeologist Mike Pitts, who is the editor of British Archaeology and the author of the book “Hengeworld,” told Discovery News.

“The archaeology now shows that as far as the burials go, women were as prominent there as men. This contrasts with the earlier burial mounds, where men seem to be more prominent.”

He added that essentially anyone buried at Stonehenge likely would have been a big deal; hence these were important women. Pitts added that the findings could suggest “a move from a focus on male lineage and hierarchy to both genders and family or class. Christie Willis, who’s with University College London Institute of Archaeology and worked on the site, told Discovery News women’s status:

“probably declined again towards the 3rd millennium B.C…both archaeological and historical evidence has shown that women’s status has gone up and down quite noticeably at different times in the past.”


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

Photo via Getty Images.