Take a Trip Back in Time: Discover the History of Stonehenge
The History of Stonehenge
Stonehenge was created between the Neolithic Age and Bronze Age (Between 3000 - 2000 BC). There are no written records about its creation, which is why much of the Stonehenge is shrouded in mystery. Over the years, however, experts have been able to unearth some of its secrets.
There was once a widespread theory that Druids, (Celtic high priests) created the Stonehenge. However, radiocarbon dating showed that the monument was erected at least a millennia before the Celts were in the area, thus debunking the theory.
It is believed that different tribes contributed to the different stages of its construction and that Neolithic agrarians were the first to start. The identity of the other tribes is still under debate.
The megaliths are sarsen stones. It was discovered that the sarsen megaliths came from Marlborough Downs, which is about 32 kilometers away from the monument. The largest megalith is the Heel Stone, which weighs about 30 tons - a little higher than the average 25 tons of the other stones.
Bluestones are the smaller stones present at Stonehenge. They are called as such due to the blue hue they get when wet or freshly broken. The bluestones at Stonehenge all come from Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales. There is much debate about how the bluestones were brought from Wales to the Salisbury Plain. Some believe that glaciers brought along the stones, while others think that humans carried them, but remain unsure about how.
We know that these massive stones were artificially cut, as hammerstones made of sarsen and flint were found just north of Stonehenge London. The larger hammerstones would have been used to roughly cut the stone into shape, while the smaller ones would have been used to give them a smooth finish.
To make the sarsen stand straight, the people constructing Stonehenge dug a large hole with a slope. The back of the hole was lined with wooden stakes. The megalith was then erected in this hole using ropes made of plant fiber. It is theorized that weights and wooden A-frames were used to help secure the stones. Once the stone was erect, the hole was packed with rubble to ensure the stone remained upright.
The people who constructed Stonehenge also ensured that the outer ring of stones is at equal height, even though the area is not flat and level.
The sarsens that lay horizontally on the standing ones are called lintels. These were connected using tongue and groove joints, which was unusual for that era. It is believed that timber platforms were used to bring them up and set them into position.
Stonehenge was created in three major stages, which were further divided into several smaller stages. Initially, the Stonehenge was simply an earthwork enclosure where the dead were cremated. The monument with the stones was constructed much later.
Significance of Stonehenge
One of the greatest ancient monuments in Great Britain, Stonehenge London is a powerful testament to the capabilities of our ancestors. This Neolithic site gives us an understanding of the burial, ceremonial, and funeral practices of this era.
Stonehenge, along with other associated sites like Avebury and Durrington Walls, gives us an insight into life during the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. The stone circle is an architectural marvel considering the megaliths were artificially cut and were erected and positioned using interlocking tongue and groove joints, unlike any other monument of the period.
Stonehenge and Astronomy
Stonehenge may have an astronomical purpose, as it shows alignment with the sun and moon. Thousands of people gather at this monument every Summer and Winter solstice to witness its relation to the annual solar cycle.
During the Summer Solstice, one can see the sunrise on the Heel Stone from the center. It isn’t a perfect alignment but is close. Currently, the Summer Solstice sunrise happens along the left side of the Heel Stone. However, some evidence points out that the Heel Stone is a part of a pair. Thus, it is theorized that the actual arrangement of the stones was in a way that the sun would rise between the two stones, shining right into the middle of the monument.
Similarly, the site is aligned in such a way that one can witness the Winter Solstice sunset through the monument.
The Mystery of Stonehenge
The biggest mystery surrounding this monument is its purpose. For decades, experts have debated why Stonehenge was built. Was it purely ceremonial? Was it to predict major astronomical events? Was it a place of worship or a place of healing?
Due to its astronomical alignment, many people theorize that it was a sort of astronomical calendar used to predict major events. Additionally, some believe that the purpose of this astronomical calendar was to predict seasons that would affect agriculture. However, this is widely debunked as other settlements around the same time were able to farm successfully without using such a structure.
Some theories suggest that Stonehenge was a place of healing, based on the many skeletons found around the landmark, some with significant injuries and illnesses. The skeletons were discovered to come from cultures that were far, far away from Salisbury, leading to speculation as to why someone would cover such a long distance. Additionally, during that era, bluestone was believed to have healing properties, which could be a reason why those who created the Stonehenge were willing to bring them from over 250 kilometers away - to benefit from its magical healing properties.
Given the evidence of Stonehenge being used for burial purposes, it is believed to be a burial ground reserved for elites, as objects like incense bowls were found in the area, which were typically associated with the elite.
While there are many more such theories, the purpose of the Stonehenge remains under speculation and covered in mystery.
All Questions Answered About Stonehenge London
The nearest town is Amesbury, which is a 15-minute drive away.
The construction of the landmark started roughly around 3000 BC.
Yes, Stonehenge is open to the public during the summer solstice.
Stonehenge is mostly derived from Old English; stan meaning 'stone' and hencg referring to 'hinge' or hen(c)en, which means 'to hang'.
Stonehenge is on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England.