Stonehenge: English Monument
Located on the Salisbury Plain in Southern England, Stonehenge is a megalithic monument composed primarily of thirty upright stones (sarsens) each over ten feet tall and weighing 26 tons. They are aligned in a circle, with thirty lintels weighing 6 tons each and perched horizontally atop the sarsens in a continuous circle. There is also an inner circle composed of similar stones which was also constructed in the same fashion.
It is thought that Stonehenge dates back thousands of years, to approximately 2800 BC. Who built it or what it's function was remains a mystery, although there are many theories, ranging from an astronomical observatory to religious temples to a calendar. The monument is aligned in such a way that it can predict eclipses and other phenomenon.
For example, Stonehenge is angled so that on equinoxes and solstices, the sun rising over the horizon appears to be perfectly placed between gaps in the megaliths. But this appears to be just coincidence since the Earth's orbit would have shifted several times in the 5000 years since it was built, and at the time of it's construction, the sun would not have lined up with the gaps at all.
Stonehenge is a mystical place, though, since it sits on a major Grid Point on our planet.
Stonehenge was erected many miles from the quarry from which the stones came. Built without the use of draft animals and shaped by stone tools, it's an amazing feat of engineering. Many stories through the ages have named Merlin, the famed Magician of King Arthur's court, as the engineer and attributed the building as a construction project commissioned by the King of Britain (Arthur, Uther). However, the archaeological evidence at Stonehenge doesn't support this. Construction has been dated between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago, more than likely, several construction dates over the Arthurian period.
Site excavations revealed that there were 3 main periods of construction. The first beginning, about 3100 BC, was late in the Neolithic age and included the digging of a circular ditch and ring of 56 pits called the Aubrey Holes.
In the second period, approximately 1,000 years later, the massive rock pillars were somehow transported from Southernwestern Wales, and put up in two distinct concentric rings around the center of the site. It is believed that this double circle was never finished and was dismantled during the period of rebuilding.
A 35 ton heel stone is thought to have been placed during this second period. This provides evidence that the people of the age used astronomy because if one stands in the center of the circle during the summer soltice, the sun can be seen to rise directly above this heel stone.
Purpose of Site: A Calendar?
The monument is believed to have been an astronomical calendar used for clocking and predicting the seasons. Some researchers have even tied it to the more recent Crop Circle phenomenon and aliens.
Scientists believe that Stonehenge, which was used continuously for thousands of years, allowed the people of the time to foretell eclipses of the sun and moon by where the positions of the celestial bodies were in relation to the stones.
Stonehenge has been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. Others claim that it was a sacred site for the burial of high-ranking citizens from the societies of long ago.
Building the Inner Ring
About 2,000 BC, the first stone circle (now the inner circle), comprised of small bluestones, was set up, but abandoned before completion. The stones used in that first circle are believed to be from the Prescelly Mountains, located roughly 240 miles away, at the southwestern tip of Wales. These stones weigh up to 4 tons each and about 80 stones were used, in all.
Theorists speculate that the stones were dragged by roller and sledge from the inland mountains to the headwaters of Milford Haven where they were then loaded onto rafts, barges or boats and sailed along the south coast of Wales and up to a point near present-day Frome in Somerset. From this point, they would have been hauled overland again for some distance before going back into the water to West Amesbury, leaving only a short 2 mile drag from West Amesbury to the Stonehenge site.
Building the Outer Ring
The giant sarsen stones (the outer circle), weigh as much as 50 tons each. To transport them from Marlborough Downs would have been a difficult haul involving as many as 600 men. Once on site, a sarsen stone was prepared to accommodate stone lintels along its top surface. It was then dragged until the end was over the opening of the hole. Great levers were inserted under the stone and it was raised until gravity made it slide into the hole. At this point, the stone stood on about a 30° angle from the ground. Ropes were attached to the top and teams of men pulled from the other side to raise it into the full upright position. It was secured by filling the hole at its base with small, round packing stones. At this point, the lintels were lowered into place and secured vertically by mortice and tenon joints and horizontally by tongue and groove joints. Stonehenge was probably finally completed around 1500 BC.
So Who Built Stonehenge?
Stonehenge's construction has been attributed to many ancient peoples throughout the years, but the most enduring attribution has been to the Druids. This erroneous connection was first made around 3 centuries ago by the antiquary, John Aubrey. Julius Caesar and other Roman writers told of a Celtic priesthood who flourished around the time of their first conquest (55 BC). By this time, though, the stones had been standing for 2,000 years, and were, perhaps, already in a ruined condition. Besides, the Druids worshipped in forest temples and had no need for stone structures.
The best guess seems to be that the Stonehenge site was begun by the people of the late Neolithic period (around 3000 BC) and carried forward by people from a new age and economy which was arising at this time. Called "Beaker Folk", the new people used pottery drinking vessels and metal implements and they began to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors. Some think that they may have been immigrants from the mainland continent, but that too is not supported by archaeological evidence. It is likely that they were indigenous people doing the same old things in new ways.