Stonehenge History & Architecture
Find out interesting facts and hear captivating stories about one of the most famous ancient wonders of the world.
Stonehenge – Ancient Wonder of the World
Stonehenge is one of the most sophisticated prehistoric stone circles globally and one of the most famous monuments located on Salisbury Plain in England. The iconic Stonehenge was built in several stages between 3000 and 1520 BCE. The true purpose of Stonehenge is still unknown to us. There are assumptions it was a burial ground, ceremonial site, or even an ancient calendar. There is evidence pointing that Stonehenge was used for ceremonial purposes in the 8000 – 7000 BCE. Stonehenge was home to 150 and more cremation burials from 3000 to 2300 B.C., and it became Britain’s biggest cemetery.
Today Stonehenge stands as a true masterpiece and a fantastic example of sophisticated ancient architecture. It’s a monument to engineering and building by well-organized people using only simple tools and technologies. A gem of English heritage, Stonehenge is a spiritual place, a source of inspiration, and a true wonder of the world.
The building of the iconic Stonehenge monument
To build the Stonehenge we know today, people used primitive prehistoric technology. To erect the stones, they had to dig up large holes with a sloping side. Those holes are lined with a row of wooden stakes on which the rocks were then moved into position. The stones were held upright using ropes made out of plant fiber. You can see the demonstration of how the rocks were transported in an open gallery outside of the Stonehenge Visitor Center, ner the reconstruction of Neolithic houses.
There are several myths, stories, and legends about Stonehenge. Various people have attributed the Stonehenge monument to the Danes, Saxons, Romans, Greeks, Atlanteans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Celts, and even Aliens. But still, archaeological evidence shows us that early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers made the first modifications to Stonehenge. The DNA analysis of buried bodies near Stonehenge suggests that the Stonehenge builders came from places outside England, perhaps from the Mediterranean or Wales. Many also believed Stonehenge was a Druid temple for religious worship in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Purpose of Stonehenge
There are many theories about the original purpose of Stonehenge. Scholars and archeologists speculate that the stone circle monument served as a ceremonial site of pagans, an ancient cemetery, or even a calendar. There is no sure way of telling its original purpose, but we can deduce that it changed over the 5000 years of its existence.
Stonehenge was a religious site, and it served as an expression of wealth and power for aristocrats, priests, and chieftains. The monument was possibly used as an ancient calendar and to observe solar and lunar changes and mark seasons changing. This can be concluded because the landmark is perfectly aligned with the sun. There are assumptions that Stonehenge was dedicated to the world of ancestors or that it was even a healing center.
Stonehenge Throughout The Centuries
In the 17th century, John Aubrey and William Stukeley in the 18th century believed that the Druids built Stonehenge. But that belief is doubtful. However, today the Druids gather every year to hail the midsummer sunrise. During the 20th century, there were some different theories about Stonehenge’s purpose. English archeologist Colin Renfrew hypothesized in 1973. that Stonehenge was the center of the confederation of Bronze Age chiefdoms. In 1998. archaeologist Ramilisonina proposed that the monument Stonehenge was built for the ancestral dead and represented the eternal afterlife.
Archaeologists Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright suggested in 2008. that Stonehenge is a place of healing. After analyzing human remains from around and within the monument, there is no difference from other parts of Britain regarding the population’s health.
Stones of the Stonehenge monument
The sarsens stones were brought from West Woods, 25 km north of Stonehenge on the edge of the Marlborough Downs. And the bluestones were obtained from the Preseli Hills 250 km away from the monument. The Stonehenge stones were dressed using sophisticated techniques and erected using precise interlocking of joints, unseen at any other prehistoric monument.
82 sarsens stones were used for the building of the site, and approximately 80 bluestones were required. There are only 52 original Stonehenge sarsens stones that remain at the monument’s site today. They include 15 stones forming the Trilithon Horseshoe center, 36 of the 60 uprights and lintels from the outer sarsen circle, Heel Stone, Slaughter Stone, and two original Station stones. Silcrathe rock, sarsen, weighs around 25 tons. While the most prominent Heel Stone weighs about 30 tons. The Stonehenge bluestones are smaller and weigh between 2 and 5 tons each.
Stonehenge Sunset Tour
On this private full-day tour learn everything you could ever want about England's most famous prehistoric landmarks, the Stonehenge. The tour takes place at sunset so you'll be able to dodge the crowds and explore Stonehenge at your own pace.
Architecture of Stonehenge
The Stonehenge monument we know today was built in several stages.
First stage of Stonehenge reconstruction: 3000-2935 BCE
The oldest parts of Stonehenge were built from 3000 to 2935 BCE. They consist of a circular enclosure, enclosing 56 pits called the Aubrey Holes. The enclosure’s ditch is flanked by a high bank on the inside and a low bank on the outside. The bottom of the Stonehenge ditch includes the antler pick, which is used to dig the trench. Human cremation burials are found within most of the holes inside Stonehenge. The area surrounding the Aubrey Holes of Stonehenge was used as a burial place. It is the largest cemetery from the 3rd millennium in Britain.
Most experts believe that humans bring the Welsh Stonehenge stones. The geologists think they might have been carried toward the Salisbury Plain by ice-age glaciers thousands of years earlier.
Second stage of Stonehenge reconstruction: 2640-2480 BCE
Sarsens stones are brought from the Avebury area about 2500 BCE. Most of the Stonehenge sarsen stone uprights weigh around 25 tons, and they are about 5.5 meters high. The uprights of the giant trilithon were 9 meters and 10 meters high, weighing more than 45 tons. Only one of the Stonehenge giant trilithon’s uprights still stands. Six lintels of a total of 230 sit on the sarsen circle, with two lying on the ground. Four of the Stonehenge uprights are absent.
A bluestone arc is constructed as part of the Stonehenge sarsen circle. The bluestones are brought from the Aubrey Holes and weigh up to 4 tons each, and the taller ones are over 2 meters high. Only two of four upright Stonehenge stones, called Station Stones, have survived. The two missing Station Stonehenge Stones are partially covered by low mounds, the South Barrow and the North Barrow. Two sets of concentric timber circles were built within a large settlement almost 3km to the northeast of the Stonehenge monument.
Third stage of Stonehenge reconstruction: 2470-2280 BCE
In the third stage of Stonehenge construction, the Q and R holes appear. The avenue varies in width from about 18 to 35 meters. It is aligned toward the summer Stonehenge solstice and the winter Stonehenge solstice sunset.
Fourth, fifth and sixth stage of Stonehenge reconstruction: 2280-1520 BCE
The Stonehenge bluestones in England were rearranged about 2200 BCE to form a circle and an inner oval. Between 1640 and 1520 BCE was the final stage of Stonehenge reconstruction.
Replicas of Stonehenge
There are many efforts to recreate the iconic Stonehenge monument by using different materials. Giant permanent replicas of Stonehenge exist all over the world. The only astronomically aligned Stonehenge is the one in Western Australia – Esperance Stonehenge. Also, a well-known Stonehenge replica is the Maryhill Stonehenge, where the altar stone is placed to align with the sunrise on the summer solstice. There are also Stonehenge replicas in New Zealand, Virginia, and Tasmania.
Stonehenge is the most popular stone circle monument in the world. It is visited by more than a million people every year. Visitors gather at this ancient landmark to celebrate the Stonehenge summer solstice. In 1986 Stonehenge was pronounced a UNESCO World Heritage site in a co-listing with Avebury located 17 miles away from English heritage – Stonehenge.