Stonehenge stands on Salisbury Plain in the English county of Wiltshire. It is a mysterious collection of ancient stones, arranged into a man-made structure believed to be approximately 5000 years old.
Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage register, Stonehenge is one of the world’s most recognisable structures. Whilst many are familiar with the popular image of the site, in reality Stonehenge is quite a diverse location.
Having gone through many construction phases throughout its early life, Stonehenge consists of a circular bank of earthworks where concentric rings of sarsen stones majestically rise from the Plain. The standing stones consist of massive blocks up to nine metres tall weighing around 25 tonnes, set vertically into the earth. The smaller ring within the sarsens are ‘bluestones’ (due to their colour when wet or cut) weighing up to four tonnes. Researchers agree that the blue stones originated from Wales, 170 miles away and the giant sarsens from 25 miles north from a glacial deposit on the Marlborough Downs.
Two of the mysteries surrounding Stonehenge are what was its purpose? And how did the ancient people transport and erect such massive stones?
The henge stones appear to mark and accentuate important stages of the year such as the passing of seasons and particular sunrises and sunsets. This has led many experts to surmise the site was a religious or spiritual landmark used as an astrological observatory. It is believed that Stonehenge also sits proudly on the most prominent Ley line in Britain.
Over the centuries many different explanations have been put forward as to how the monument was built. One theory being that the builders cut the blue stones and transported them by river and the sarsens were moved overland using logs and animal fat. This method was replicated in the 1990s’ and proved to be possible. It is further postulated that a glacier melting caused the blue stones to be deposited closer to the area.
Throughout English history people have promoted differing theories as to who constructed Stonehenge. These range from the magician Merlin, through to Celtic Druids and local shepherds and even alien visitors!
Stonehenge is not a unique structure within Great Britain, more than 900 stone circles have been located in the British Isles; however Stonehenge is the most well-known. Whilst it is not fully understood how and why this henge was important for ancient people, it is obvious that the site was relevant and for thousands of years it was built, modified, utilised and honoured.
By Glen Woodward
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