Stonehenge is perhaps one of the most peculiar sites in existence today. Image a large circle of rocks that no one knows exactly what it’s doing there, who put it there, what it was used for, or how it even got to that location. Put all of that together and you have Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument of roughly 100 massive upright stones laid out in a circular arrangement. Nearly one million people visit this location every year since it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Stonehenge is located in southern England and sits on the Salisbury Plain.
So what exactly is known about this mysterious circle of rock? Archaeologists agree that Stonehenge was built in several stages, starting over 5,000 years ago. It began with the digging of a large circular ditch, or henge, on Salisbury Plain. Primitive tools, including deer antlers, were used to dig in the area. However, the actual arrival of the stones did not begin until several hundred years later. An estimated 80 non-indigenous bluestones were hoisted and placed into the circular formation, 43 of which remain today. Then in around 2,000 B.C., the three sandstone slabs were assembled into the iconic three-pieced structures in the center of Stonehenge. These structures are referred to as Trilithons. According to archaeologists, work continued until 1600 B.C., including different repositioning of the stones.
Where did all of this stone come from? Where they in the area, or did the builders bring them in from other locations? Stonehenge’s largest structure weights more than 40 tons and rises 24 feet. This piece was most likely from quarries 25 miles north of the area and transported using sledges and ropes. Many of the other pieces may have already been scattered in the area when the architects first started constructing. Other, smaller stones have been traced back to over 200 miles away to the Preseli Hills in Wales. This raises the question of why builders, without the aid of tools would bother to move stones that weigh more than four tons over 200 miles.
Since we’ve answered the question, or at least attempted to answer, how the stones were brought there, the next question is who built Stonehenge? Mythical accounts of English history state that Merlin moved the stones with his sorcery to the area. However, more realistic is to say that anyone from the Saxon, Danes, Romans, Greeks, or Egyptians could have been responsible. However, the consensus among historians today is that several distinct tribes of people were responsible and contributed, especially since the whole thing was built over the course of many years.
And finally, what was the function or significance of this construction? There is still no definitive answer to this question. There is no doubt that this location was of great importance. There is evidence that it was once used as a burial site, but other scholars believe that it was also used for other functions as well. It could have been a ceremonial site, religious destination, or even a final resting place for royalty. In 1960, it was even suggested that the structures could have even operated as a calendar. Whatever its purpose was, Stonehenge is one of the most famous and recognizable sites in the world. Work has already been done to help restore the area to prevent collapse so people can continue to visit the area.Tweet