Stonehenge is being welcomed into the 21st century thanks to a $44 million makeover.
A new, museum-quality visitor center, complete with cafe and souvenir shop, opens Wednesday 1.5 miles from the archeological marvel, enabling curators to dismantle an old ticket office and other nondescript structures that were near the monument. The 1 million people who visit the site annually will now take a special shuttle to reach their destination and a road ferrying thousands of cars to the stones daily has been completely grassed over.
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Simon Thurley, who oversees Stonehenge’s governing body English Heritage, told The Associated Press that the changes
mean visitors can see the ancient site “free from the clutter and rubbish.”
Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3000 and 1600 B.C. and served as a temple, though archaeologists are unclear as to what gods. Cremated bodies have been found in the area, and many say the area may have once been a burial ground.
Stonehenge Director Loraine Knowles told The Express that the changes
will provide for a more rewarding experience. “The stones have never failed to impress visitors, but for too long their setting has marred people’s appreciation and enjoyment of this special place. At last, this is going to change. For the first time in centuries, when all the works are complete, people will be able to experience this complex and extraordinary monument in a more tranquil, natural setting.”
The new center houses a 360-degree “virtual tour” of the monument and includes what the AP calls an extensive exhibition on the Neolithic Britons who built Stonehenge. One of the highlights is the forensic reconstruction of an early Neolithic man, a reconstruction based on a 5,500-year-old skeleton found buried near the stones.
The project was funded through donations and a levy on profits from Britain’s national lottery.
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