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Take a Trip Back in Time: Discover the History of Stonehenge

Stonehenge has intrigued and puzzled humanity for millennia. Situated on the Salisbury Plain in England, this enigmatic circle of massive stones stands as a testament to the ingenuity and beliefs of an ancient civilization. Its construction spanned centuries, beginning around 3000 BC and continuing in phases until around 1500 BC. As the sun dips behind the horizon, casting shadows on these time-weathered stones, one can't help but wonder how these colossal pillars came to be.

Stonehenge timeline

  • 3000 BC: The first Stonehenge is constructed - an earthwork enclosure with a circular ditch and 56 timber or stone posts serving as a cremation cemetery for several centuries.
  • 2500 BC: Over 80 large sarsen stones from the Marlborough Downs are raised in two concentric arrangements, with smaller bluestones in a double arc between them.
  • 2400 BC: The Beaker culture introduces new burial practices, with well-furnished individual Beaker graves.
  • 2300–2200 BC: Bluestones are rearranged to form a circle and inner oval, and burial mounds for individual burials are raised in Stonehenge.
  • 1750–5th century: Four sarsens are adorned with over 100 carvings, and Stonehenge sees activity during the Iron Age.
  • 14th-19th centuries: Stonehenge gains national interest from writers, artists, and antiquarians, but the monument deteriorates, and some stones fall.
  • 1918: Local landowner Cecil Chubb gives Stonehenge to the nation, marking a pivotal moment in its history.

History of Stonehenge explained

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When was Stonehenge built?

Stonehenge was created between the Neolithic and Bronze Age (between 3000-2000 BC). There are no written records about its creation, so much of the Stonehenge is shrouded in mystery. Over the years, however, experts have been able to unearth some of its secrets.

who built stonehenge

Who built Stonehenge?

There was once a widespread theory that Druids (Celtic high priests) created 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.

stonehenge stones

What are the large stones and where did they come from?

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.

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What are the smaller stones and where did they come from?

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 come from Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales. There is no explanation about how the bluestones were brought from Wales to the Salisbury Plain. Some believe that glaciers brought along the stones, while others think humans carried them, but remain unsure how.

history Stonehenge

How were the stones cut into shape?

We know these massive stones were artificially cut, as hammerstones made of sarsen and flint were found just north of Stonehenge. 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.

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How did the people who constructed Stonehenge ensure that the sarsens remained upright?

Those constructing Stonehenge dug a large hole with a slope to make the sarsen stand straight. The back of the hole was lined with wooden stakes. The megalith was then erected in this hole. Once the stone was erect, the hole was packed with rubble to ensure the stone remained upright. They also ensured that the outer ring of stones was at even height, even though the area was not flat and level.

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What are lintels?

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 construction

Was Stonehenge created at once?

Stonehenge was created in three major stages, 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.




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Significance of Stonehenge

One of the greatest ancient monuments in Great Britain, Stonehenge 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 and other sites like Avebury and Durrington Walls give 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 and astronomy

Stonehenge may have an astronomical purpose, as it shows alignment with the sun and moon. Thousands 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 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 so that one can witness the Winter Solstice sunset through the monument.  

The mysteries of Stonehenge

The biggest mystery surrounding this monument is its purpose. For decades, experts have debated why Stonehenge was built. Due to its astronomical alignment, many people theorize that it was an 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 could 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 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 why those who created 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, typically associated with the elite.

While there are many more such theories, the purpose of Stonehenge remains under speculation and is covered in mystery.

Frequently asked questions about the history of Stonehenge

Which is the nearest town to Stonehenge?

The nearest town is Amesbury, which is a 15-minute drive away.

When was Stonehenge built?

The construction of the landmark started roughly around 3000 BC and continued till 2000 BC.

How many people visit Stonehenge London annually?

Stonehenge is visited by about a million people every year. Here's everything you need to know to plan your visit to Stonehenge.

Can I visit Stonehenge during the summer solstice?

Yes, Stonehenge is open to the public during the summer solstice and the winter solstice. However, the summer solstice also sees peak crowds, especially between June and August, so plan your visit accordingly.

What is the meaning of Stonehenge?

Stonehenge is mostly derived from Old English; stan means 'stone' and hencg refers to 'hinge' or hen(c)en, which means 'to hang'.

Where is Stonehenge located?

Stonehenge is on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England.