Stonehenge (Great Britain, Bronze Age)

Stonehenge (Great Britain, Bronze Age)

The world famous monument in England still poses mysteries for archeologist.

History

Keywords

Stonehenge, Salisbury, Wiltshire, World Heritage, Bronze Age, deposit, archeology, Great Britain, England, edifice, Station Stone, heel stone, druid, cromlech, altar, barrow, altar stone, megalithic, sandstone, culture, history, mystery

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Questions

  • Which archeological period is Stonehenge the monument of?
  • What does the word "henge" mean?
  • How many kilometers (miles) away is the sandstone quarry that provided the material for Stonehenge?

Scenes

  • - They were probably placed around 3100 B.C., in the first phase of the construction. Originally there were four of them.

Stonehenge, the unique

The world-famous monument is located in Southern England, on Salisbury Plain. The stone structure was discovered by John Aubrey (an antiquarian), in 1666.
Stonehenge was constructed in several phases. Numerous bones were found during excavations.

The radiocarbon dating method showed that the oldest structures were created about 5,000 years ago, probably by a megalithic bronze age culture. 500 years later, the construction work was already in the third phase – this phase was probably interrupted. Stonehenge, as we know it, was created by another modification and extension.

The structure, that was already forgotten by the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C., fell into disrepair by the storm of centuries and weather conditions, and locals used the stones for the construction of their own buildings.

Structure of the monument

Magnificent Stonehenge

In the first phase of construction, a circular rampart (henge) was created. 56 pits were excavated within the rampart. These pits may have contained wooden poles. Additional holes were dug later, in which the stones visible today were placed.

In the second phase, which took place at the end of the Neolithic Period, straight timber rows were formed at the southern and the northeastern entrance.

In the third phase the site was reconstructed. This time the legendary bluestones were used, set up in pairs. The Station Stones, the Altar Stone and the Heel Stone were also put in place at this time.

The structure visible today was shaped by sandstone blocks, brought to the site later. 30 of them were joined by lintels and set up in a circle. In the inner circle, five similar pairs of blocks (trilithon) were placed. The rampart was reconstructed, and additional banks were raised. The road leading to the river Avon was prepared. Finally, the bluestones were arranged in a circle, and new pits were dug in two concentric circles.

The rings of Stonehenge

Curious archeology

Since their discovery in the 17th century, the stone circles were investigated by many groups of archeologists, but some of its mysteries have still not been solved. Stonehenge (together with Avebury and the surrounding megalithic monuments) became a World Heritage cultural site in 1986.

Recent archeological research brought something very important to the attention of scholars: Stonehenge should not be investigated in isolation, but together with the artifacts found in the surrounding areas (e.g. Boscombe Down, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, Avebury). Several neolithic objects imply that the famous stone circles were not unique entities, but were components of a large system.

Stonehenge, the creation

The 20-30 ton, 2-7 meter (6.5-23 feet) stone pillars originally formed four concentric circles. The radius of the outer ring was probably about 50 meters (164 feet).

The transportation, arrangement and assembly of the stones required a great deal of planning and engineering knowledge. The bluestones, weighing 5 tons on average, were brought from a quarry almost 400 kilometers (250 miles) away, probably on sea and on land. The origin of the sandstones visible today is 32 kilometers (20 miles) away from Stonehenge. (According to a 12th-century chronicle, Merlin, the wizard helped to put the huge blocks in place.)

The blocks of stones were shaped with stone "mauls" – large rounded stones. For the stable placement of lintels, the sarsen were carved, mortise and tenon joints were formed.

Even today, we only have likely and less likely hypotheses about the original purpose of Stonehenge. Assumptions are very diverse. Some scholars believe it was a cultic building. Others think it served as a calendar (at the time of the summer solstice, the sun lit the Altar Stone over the top of the Heel Stone). According to others, it functioned as an astronomical instrument. Recent research (2008) supports the idea of Stonehenge as a cultic, healing site.

The legendary rocks of Stonehenge

A walk in history

Stonehenge, a Bronze Age stone building is located in Southern England. It was built in several phases; the structure visible today only partially reflect the original form. We can only guess its original function.

The mysterious group of stones were surrounded by a henge. From the original four concentric circles of stone blocks, only the two inner rings are visible today, the outer circles are only indicated by the holes. Within the circles there are five trilithons (column pairs joined by lintels) and the Altar Stone. The Altar Stone is the endpoint of the avenue leading to the river Avon.

The stones of the northern and southern barrows were placed outside the stone circles. Marker stones were placed along the avenue leading to the river Avon, and the Heel Stones were erected further away.

  • - They were probably placed around 3100 B.C., in the first phase of the construction. Originally there were four of them.

Narration

Stonehenge is located on Salisbury Plain, Southern England. This mysterious stone structure is a monument to the Bronze Age megalithic culture that stretched along the Atlantic coast of Europe. Estimated to be five thousand years old, the site was discovered in 1666 by an English antiquarian, John Aubrey.

The name Stonehenge comes from the word "henge," which refers to a round or oval-shaped area of about 20 meters (65 feet) in diameter, surrounded by earth banks and ditches within the banks. Interestingly, according to current research, Stonehenge is not a true henge, since the ditches are outside the banks (probably because of their defensive role).

Stonehenge was built in several phases; the structure visible today only partially reflects the original form. The stone circles were surrounded by earth banks – a circular rampart – and ditches constructed in the first phase. From the original four concentric circles, only the two inner rings are visible today; the outer circles are only indicated by the holes dug for the poles in the second phase – these were named Aubrey holes, after their discoverer.

The stones of the northern and southern barrows were placed outside the stone circles. Marker stones were placed along the avenue leading to the River Avon, and the Heel Stones were erected further away. Within the circles there are five trilithons (column pairs joined by lintels) and the Altar Stone. The structure visible today is dominated by the sandstone blocks brought from the quarries of Marlborough Downs 32 kilometers (20 miles) away.

Even today, we only have hypotheses about the original purpose of Stonehenge. Some scholars believe it was a cultic structure, while others think it served as a calendar to determine the exact time of the summer solstice. Recent research suggests that people traveled from remote regions to visit the legendary blue rocks because they attributed healing properties to them.

Stonehenge has silently safeguarded its secrets to this day. In 1986, UNESCO decided to include the site – together with other megalithic monuments in Southern England – on the list of World Heritage Cultural Sites.

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