Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument that was built around 3,000 BC in Wiltshire. It is believed to have ritual significance as a burial site. The people of England started the construction of Stonehenge during the Neolithic period.
Most archaeologists agree that Stongehenge was constructed in three phases that span across millenia.
The monument of Stongehenge started with a circular ditch enclosure dug up with deer antlers. The enclosure is around 350 feet in diameter, and the ditch encircling it was 20 feet in width and nearly 7 feet in depth. Around the innerside of the enclosure were 56 smaller holes each around 3 feet in depth, which are called Aubrey holes (after John Aubrey, a 17th century scholar said to have discovered them). The rubble that came from the ditches were used to build a steep bank around the outerside of the circle. Two entrances made a path into Stonehenge: one large entryway at the north and another smaller one near the south. One of the stones used to make these entrances, the Slaughterstone, still survives to this day.
People who study the area say that thousands of people may have gathered at Stonehenge for festivals. This is evidenced by the remains of animals found in excavation sites near the area.
A century after its construction, the second phase of the construction of Stonehenge happened. Scholars are intrigued by the presence of bluestones, granite with bluish hues, which were installed within the bank and ditches of Stonehenge. These bluestones came from South Wales, and must have been taken from the Preseli mountains. Each stone weighs tons, and precisely how they were brought to the Stongehenge site is still a matter of inquiry for modern scholars. These monolithic stones were erected at the site, possibly as grave markers. Chalky deposits in the ditches reveal that they have been pressed by a tremendous amount of weight.
Archaeological findings suggest that the Aubrey holes were primarily used as burial sites during this phase. Scholars have put forward the idea that the rituals and funerals held in Stonehenge were for the prehistoric elite. It was one of the probable reasons for dragging the bluestones 250 miles just to build Stonehenge. The entrances have also been found to be linked to the midwinter sunset and the midsummer sunrise, and its significance is supported by the building of additional banks and ditches that approached it. This was called the Stonehenge Avenue which leads about two miles into a river.
The stone circles that Stonehenge is known for were said to be erected during the third phase of its construction. After a millennium, people brought gigantic sarsen stones to Stonehenge and stood them upright 3 feet apart to form an inner circle. Pairs of sarsen stones were capped with horizontal lintels that curved to form a circular capstone. These stones were said to have been brought from Marlborough Downs, each of them about 13 feet high, 3 feet thick, and weighs around 30 tons each. Out of the original 30 sarsen stones, 17 still stand today.
Within the ring of sarsen stone was a horseshoe formation of 10 sarsen stones. The trilithons were erected separated from each other in five pairs. Out of the 10, 8 still stand today. The horseshoe arrangement was formed opening towards the Avenue. It is suggested that the rituals held in Stonehenge may have been related to the solstices.
There is evidence found that after a century of the construction of the sarsen circle and horseshoe, some of the bluestones were moved and shuffled to the center of Stonehenge in order to form another horseshoe shape. One of these stones is called the Altar stone, which is the central megalith standing about 6 feet tall.
What to See
Stonehenge is located in Wiltshire, England. It is a very impressive location, even before the Stonehenge was built. However, modernity has watered down the moody atmosphere of the place due to the construction of nearby highways and the inevitable tourist development in the area. In this regard, Avebury, another Neolithic henge in Wiltshire, preserved its prehistoric appeal more.
Even so, Stonehenge is a magnificent megalith monument that would inspire much awe and greatness to anyone who will see it. The reconstruction of Stonehenge allows visitors to see a portion of its original grandeur and beauty. It is also very difficult not to appreciate the labor and effort that went into its construction. Its charm also comes from unresolved mysteries surrounding the reason for its construction and the purpose it was used for.
The transcendent aura of Stonehenge makes one of the most popular locations in England. No matter the time of the year or the weather of the day, it is enveloped in enigmatic beauty. A visit to Stonehenge starts at the Visitor’s Centre, which is across the highway near Stonehenge. An audio guide can be purchased on top of the admission fee, and there is paid parking in the area. A passageway leads to the monument, and in this path you are allowed to view Stonehenge from all angles. Due to conservation efforts, tourists are no longer allowed to approach the stones except on the summer solstice. However, a special tour access can be arranged by contacting us here.