Stonehenge is the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, cemetery, and archaeological site located on Salisbury Plain, about 13 Km north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. It is comprised of roughly 100massive upright stones placed in a circular structure. The name of ‘Stonehenge’ is derived from the old English words Stan meaning “stone”, and either henge meaning “hinge” or hen(c)en meaning “gallows” or ‘instrument of torture”.
Two types of stones are used at Stonehenge, the smaller ‘bluestones’ and the larger ‘sarsens’. The sarsens were built up in two monocentric arrangements, an inner horseshoe, an outer circle, and the bluestones were set up between them in a double arc. The bluestones have a bluish tinge when broken, weigh up to 4 tons and come from several different sites in Western Wales, having been transported as far as 140 miles. The sarsens are up to 30 feet tall and weigh 25 tons on average. It’s widely believed that sarsens were brought from Marlborough Downs, a distance of 20 miles to the north, the closest area with substantial scatters of large sarsen bounders.
Archaeologists believe Stonehenge was built in several stages.
The first stage (Stonehenge Ⅰ), about 3100BC, has done by Neolithic people, using deer anthers for picks, excavated a roughly circular ditch about 98 m in diameter; the ditch was not uniform in shape or depth and about 6 m wide and 1.4 to 2 m deep, and excavated chalky rubber was used to build the high bank within the circular ditch. It was made up of the solid chalk that makes up most of the surface region around Stonehenge. An interesting fact to note that rather than other Stonehenge type monuments, Stonehenge has its bigger bank within the ditch. No one has been could to find out why this was done like this.
Inside the circle are 56 Aubrey holes which vary from 2-4 feet in depth and 2.5 -6 feet in width. They were spaced quite accurately in a 88 m diameter circle with an average center point of each hole of 19 inches. They also erected two parallel entry stones on the northeast of the circular. It is about 11m wide and is set so that a person standing in the center of the Stonehenge can see the sunrise on the midsummer morning just to the left of heel stone. The heel stone is buried in the ground and made up of sarsen stones.
During Stonehenge Ⅱ, about 2100BC, two monocentric circles, of 80 ‘bluestone’ pillars were erected at the center of the monument, with the main entrance to the northeast. The entranceway of these circles was aligned approximately upon the sunrise at the summer solstice, the alignment being continued by a newly built and widened approach, called the Avenue, together with a pair of Heel stones.
The Stonehenge Ⅲ was the3 longest and contained the most changes of all the period, starting about 2000BC, saw the erection of the lintel circle and horseshoe shape setting of five sarsen trilithons with its opening pointing to the northeast side whose remains can still be seen at present. The sarsen stone is of exceptional size up to 9m long and 50tons weight. Their visible surfaces were laboriously dressed smooth by pounding within stone hammers. The lintels are not rectangular; they were curved to produce all together with a circle. The pillars are tapered upward. In this stage, some of the bluestones were shaped, dressed, and then re-erected in an oval structure within the center of the sarsen horseshoe. Right around 1900-1800 BC, Stonehenge was almost complete as we see it now. The now fallen Alter Stone was the focal point of two circles of bluestones and sarsen stones and two horseshoes of bluestones and sarsen stones. One of the last completing activities at Stonehenge was digging around the stone setting of two rings of concentric pits, the so-called Y and Z holes, radiocarbon dated by antlers within them between 1800-1500BC. They may have been intended for rearrangement of stones that were never completed.
There is or no evidence revealing the construction techniques used by the Stonehenge builders. A recent experiment shows that it is possible for a one-tone stone to be moved by 12 people on a wooden trackway, but whether this technique was actually used by the ancient builders is uncertain. They have also raised the possibility that during the last ice age glacier carried these bluestones closer to the Stonehenge area and the monument markers did not have to move them all the way from Wales.
The sites and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of world heritages in 1986 in a co-listings with Avebury henge monument, and it is also a legally protected scheduled ancient monuments.
It is not clear who built Stonehenge, many believed this Stonehenge is the handiwork of the wizard Merlin, whom the tale of King Arthur. Legend has it that Ambrosias and, King Arthur’s father and his brother Uther, are buried there as well.
There is an strong evidence that Stonehenge was used as a burial site, at least for part of its long history, but most academicians believe of its served other functions as well-either as a religious pilgrimage destination, a ceremonial site, a final resting place for royalty or a memorial erected to honor and perhaps spiritually connected with distant ancestors.
At present Stonehenge is one of the most famous and recognizable tourist destinations in the world, Stonehenge draws more than 800000 tourists a year. Stonehenge has undergone several reconstructions over the years, and some of its boulders have been set in concrete to prevent collapse.