Stonehenge, one of the most iconic historical monuments, is located in Wiltshire County, England.
Situated at the equally famed Salisbury Plain, the site has been a major attraction as a per historic standing stone to tourists as well as archeologists and researchers for a significant period now.
The site consists of a circular pattern of vertically standing silicified sandstones, each weighing around 25 tons and measuring 13 feet tall. These standing stones are topped with flat lintel stones.
On the inside is another ring of somewhat smaller bluestones. The innermost section comprises free-standing triliths, two massive sarsen stones standing vertically and connected by one lintel at the top.
This megalithic circle prompts wonder and fascination, but also acute debates regarding its history and construction by the former Brits who left no written documentation.
Was Stonehenge used as a calendar?
The orientation of Stonehenge suggests that it might have been used as a type of Solar calendar by the ancient astrologers. The purpose is said to be to track the movement of the sun and moon and mark the changing seasons.
What destroyed Stonehenge?
Stonehenge was never destroyed or neglected on purpose. Due to the heavy stones comprising its structure, some fell out of their original spot. Some stones were stolen as well. In the 1700s, stones were even smashed and used to construct walls and roads.
Was Stonehenge moved from its original location?
No, the monument has never been shifted from the location of its first phase construction. Some restorations and changes took place over time, but the site has remained untouched and preserved.
A short timeline of Stonehenge
Despite the debate surrounding its construction, an approximate foundation timeline of the monument has been put together over time.
Research and study have helped construct a display of the different phases of Stonehenge construction throughout subsequent eras.
Underneath is a brief timeline of Stonehenge starting from the very initial phase:
|Time period ||Events of Stonehenge timeline|
|8500 – 7000 BC||Mesolithic posts were raised to the northwest of the site, marking the first construction phase.
|3500 BC||Farmers built early monuments in the north of the site, including rectangular earthworks and long barrows.|
|3000 BC||An enclosure of about 100 meters of a circular ditch and two banks were constructed, signifying the first Stonehenge.|
|2500 BC||Sarsens were raised in a concentric arrangement with bluestones in a double arch in between.|
|2300 BC||Well-furnished individual graves were dug near the megalithic circle.|
|2300 – 2200 BC||Central bluestones were re-arranged in a circle, and earthwork connecting the site to river Avon was built.|
|1800 – 1600 BC||Two pit rings were carved around the stones, possibly for a rearrangement that was never finished.|
|1750 – 1500 BC||Four sarsens were embellished with over 100 engravings of axles and daggers.|
|700 BC||A significant iron age hillfort was built about one mile to the east of Stonehenge.|
|Early 5th century AD||Many Roman artifacts were left at Stonehenge, suggesting that the site may have been of ritual significance to the Roman Brits.|
|14th – 19th centuries AD||Stonehenge became a place of attraction to antiquarians, artists, and writers.|
|1897 AD||A vast area of Salisbury Plain was converted to military training grounds after the Ministry of Defense bought the area.|
|1901 AD||The re-erection of the leaning tallest trilithon was organized by the owner Sir Edmund Antrobus.|
|1915 – 1918 AD||Landowner Cecil Chubb purchased Stonehenge from the Antrobus family and bestowed it to the nation.|
|1964 AD||The last stones were consolidated, and the final restoration was completed.|
|2013 AD||A new visitor and exhibition center was built 2 kilometers away, and the road which ran past the stones was closed.|
The possible construction of Stonehenge
Archeological studies suggest the construction period of Stonehenge started from early 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The monument was constructed in several stages throughout this period.
The earliest phase of construction of the monumental structure was a circular ditch, with an interior bank and a smaller exterior bank, built around 3000 BC.
A circle of 56 pits lay within the enclosure, known as the Aubrey holes after the antiquarian John Aubrey.
A recent excavation discovered over 50,000 cremated bone fragments indicating that these pits were used for burial initially.
The next major phase of Stonehenge’s construction is dated between 2600 – 2400 BC, when a total of 30 sarsens were brought to the site from a quarry about 16 miles away.
These stones were dressed and erected vertically in a circle with the help of mortise and tenon joints. Another 30 lintel stones were placed on top of the standing stones.
Within this circular arrangement stood five triliths in a horseshoe shape and connected through complex jointing.
Between 2300 – 2200 BC, in the Bronze Age, the bluestones were re-arranged and placed within the outer circle of sarsen stones.
Further re-arrangement of the bluestones was seen up to 1930 BC when these stones were arranged between the concentric sarsen rings and in the center. The linking lintels were removed, and the stones were well spaced.
Minor changes took place after this re-arrangement, including removing the north-eastern section of the bluestone circle, leaving it in a horseshoe shape.
The absence of any written records related to the now ruinous site left a lot of space for speculation and theories about its possible construction stages.
Although no clear evidence exists as to the intended purpose of Stonehenge, it is believed to be a religious site and an expression of the power and wealth of the persons who had it built.
Another belief suggests that it might have been built as a dedication to the world of ancestors. Despite its unclear objective, present-day Druids gather to hail the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge every year.
The Legends of Stonehenge
The questionable history of Stonehenge has invited major predictions and theories. A couple of folktales detail how Stonehenge was built alongside the legitimate ideas about its construction.
A famous tale about Merlin the wizard constructing Stonehenge came from the writer Geoffrey of Monmouth from the 12th century.
The story suggests that the site was built to honor the British nobles killed during a battle in the 5th century and buried in the Salisbury Plain.
The King sent Merlin with an army to retrieve stones from a stone circle in Ireland since those stones had magical properties.
Upon the army’s failure to move the stones, Merlin transported them magically to England using wizardry.
Another popular tale conveys that the Devil was behind the construction of Stonehenge. This story says that an elderly Irish woman owned the stones originally, and the Devil wanted possession of those stones.
For that purpose, the Devil disguised himself and worked out a deal with the woman where he suggested that he would pay her as many gold coins as she could count in the time it took him to transport the stones.
After the woman agreed, the Devil betrayed her by using his magical powers to transport the stones.
The same tale also suggests that the Devil had claimed that no man could ever guess the number of stones at Stonehenge.
When a wise man guessed the said number correctly, the Devil was infuriated and threw a stone at the man. The stone hit the man on the heel, causing a dent in it.
This stone illustrated in this tale sits near Stonehenge and is called the Heel Stone.
Another interesting legend claims that Stonehenge was formed when giants dancing in a circle on the Salisbury Plain suddenly turned to stones.
Regardless of being far from the authentic way of construction of the monument, these tales represent an enjoyable approach towards the mystery surrounding Stonehenge.
Numerous historical monuments are accompanied by folktales and myths that supplement their actual theories and interpretations.
Stonehenge was listed as a World Heritage site in 1986 AD, being one of the very first sites of the United Kingdom to be a part of that list.
It is the most architecturally sophisticated and only surviving linteled circular monument around the globe.
The complicated technique used to connect the stones and the complex nature of the structure is unseen in any other prehistoric monument.
This makes it an attraction for the archeological study of the early construction methods.
Stonehenge is a powerful example of ancient achievement, and at present-day, it attracts a massive number of tourists who are drawn to the site every year.