Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument that sits on the Salisbury plains in the county of Wiltshire, Southern England. Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of upright standing stones and earthworks to form a henge or a horseshoe formation. It is made up of roughly 100 stones in a circular layout. The Stonehenge is believed to have emerged in the Neolithic and bronze age. Archaeologists believe that it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There is a lot of mystery surrounding who built the monument and for what purpose. Some theories have divided the construction of the Stonehenge in various phases. Nevertheless, Stonehenge is a great landmark, a historic site and a tourist attraction point in Great Britain.
Stonehenge is comprised of three stones, the sarsens, bluestones and the welsh sandstones. Its biggest stone the sarsens are up 9 meters tall and weigh 25 tons. The stones are believed to have come from Marlborough Downs, a distance of 32 kilometers to the north. Its bluestones, called so because of the bluish tinge when broken or wet, weigh up to 4 tons. They are believed to have originated from the Preseli Hills in Wales a distance of 250km away. It is unclear how the stones reached the site but they serve as evidence that the Stonehenge is a man made structure of the ancient times (Southern, 2012).
Archaeologists believe that the Stonehenge was built in multiphase stages. First, the Neolithic builders used primitive tools to dig circular ditches and relied on Salisbury plain. Deep pits located within the circle may have once held a ring of timber posts. The second phase was marked by the Stonehenge builders hoisting the bluestones into standing positions and placing them in a circular formation. The third phase was marked by the placement of sarsen sandstone into an outer ring. Some were assembled in trilithons; the iconic three pieced structures that stand tall in the middle of the Stonehenge. The stones were linked using complex jointing. Furthermore, they are arranged symmetrically to form two circles. There is evidence that the bluestones were repositioned multiple times (Parker and Stonehenge Riverside Project, 2013).
How the builders moved the stone remains a mystery to many. The time was characterized with no sophisticated tool or engineering skills. Some scholars argue that the Neolithic builders transported the stones with the help of sledges and ropes. The builders had fashioned rollers from tree trunks to lug the bluestones from Preseli Hills. They then transferred the boulders into rafts and transported them along the welsh coast towards Salisbury plain. Conversely, other scholars argue that the classic image of Neolithic builders pushing, rolling or hauling the stones is false. They came up with the theory that glaciers not humans did most of the heavy lifting. They believe that during the ice age period the stones were snatched from Preseli Hills by glaciers and deposited near the archaeological site. However, this theory is challenged by scholars who wonder how the force of nature could deposit enough stones to complete the circle (Davies, 2013).
The next mystery surrounds who was the builder of the Stonehenge. There are three established theories that explain the builders. First, Stonehenge is the work of the great wizard, Merlin. The story goes, in the mid-fifth century hundreds of British nobles were slaughtered and buried in the Salisbury plain. The king wanted to erect a memorial for his fallen soldiers. He sent out his soldiers to look out for the giant rings, which were a stone circle in Ireland. The soldiers in their mission defeated the Irish but failed to lift the stones (Christie, 2005). Merlin came to help with his sorcery, spirited the stones across the sea, and erected them above the mass grave. Second theory was believed to be the work of high priests known as Druids. The place was believed to bury the Celtic high priests. Radiocarbon dating has eliminated these two theories as the Stonehenge is proved to have existed before the Celts and Merlin existed. The relevant constructer of the Stonehenge was the distinct tribes of people who undertook the different phases of its construction.
There are several purposes attached to the Stonehenge. First, it is believed the Stonehenge served as a burial site. Research indicates that the burials took place from its beginning and it served like the final resting place for royalties. The stone perhaps was erected to commemorate them (Steiger and Steiger 2003). Others held the Stonehenge as a place for healing due its bluestones, also as a ceremonial site or even a spiritual connection to the ancestors. Other geographers argue that the Stonehenge acted like an astronomical calendar with different points corresponding to astrological phenomena like eclipses. Stonehenge is recognized as a world heritage site and its ownership is shared between English heritage, the national trust, the ministry of defense, farmers and householders in Amesbury and Woodford valley (Atkinson, 2010).
In the modern
world, Stonehenge is one of the famous and recognizable
prehistoric sites of the world. In 1986, Stonehenge
was added to UNESCO register of world heritage sites (Troubled Treasures, 2011).
It serves as one of the major tourist attraction points. Over the years, the Stonehenge has undergone numerous restorations to
facilitate the increasing numbers of tourists. Positive changes to maintain the
Stonehenge have occurred despite the unclear
purpose still a mystery. Stonehenge will continue to be built, utilized, honored
and modified in the Great Britain as it demonstrate technological and creative
achievements in prehistoric times.
Atkinson, R. J. C. (2010). Stonehenge. London, England: Penguin Retrieved from http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/about.php
Christie, J. B. T. (2005). Stonehenge: A new understanding. Victoria, BC: Trafford Retrieved from http://factualfacts.com/mysterious-facts/stonehenge-facts/
Davies, J. O. (2013). A year at Stonehenge. Retrieved from http://sacredsites.com/europe/united_kingdom/stonehenge_facts.html
Parker, P. M., & Stonehenge Riverside Project (England). (2013). Stonehenge: A new understanding: solving the mysteries of the greatest Stone Age monument. New York: The Experiment. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373
Southern, P. (2012). The story of Stonehenge. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/stonehenge
Steiger, B., & Steiger, S. H. (2003). Gale encyclopedia of the unusual and unexplained. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/light-on-stonehenge.html
Stonehenge. (2009). Stonehenge. Mosman: Minds. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/22427-stonehenge-facts.html
Troubled Treasures: World Heritage Sites. (2011). Checkerboard Library. Retrieved from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/world-heritage-site/why-is-stonehenge-a-world-heritage-site/facts-and-figures/