Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Photo Source http://owlinthedark.blogspot.com.au

The breathtaking prehistoric monument located near Salisbury in the English county of Wiltshire stands as strong today as it did 3600 years ago. Documented as one of the most famous places in the world to visit, Stonehenge was built in three phases that consisted of over 30 million hours of labour.

There are no written records as to why Stonehenge was built. There are many theories but no confirmations. Some theorise it was a place of dying, others a place of healing and others speculate it's all about astronomy a calender showing sunrise, sunset, eclipse, moon phases.

For me it is a place of mystery and wonder, and an acknowledgement that there are things that we have simply lost as a people's that is greater than we are able to understand today.

The impressive circular landmark of large standing stones dates back as far as 3100 B.C. the estimated time of construction.

Although total construction was not completed at that time, Stonehenge was built in three phases with a time span of 1500 years. There is also evidence at the construction site that it could actually date back as far as 6500 years.

It shows it's true beautiful when the sun rises and when the sun sets. Both show the colours of the bluestones and sarsen stones with different hues if you look closely.

The first stage of Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were probably made, not for the purpose of graves, but as part of the religious ceremony. Shortly after this stage Stonehenge was abandoned, left untouched for over 1000 years.

Photo Source http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

The second stage the arrival of the bluestones and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC. Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.

This astonishing journey covers nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. ( During the same period the original entrance of the circular earthwork was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. Also the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.)

The third stage of Stonehenge, about 2000 BC, saw the arrival of the Sarsen stones, which were almost certainly brought from the Marlborough Downs near Avebury, in north Wiltshire, about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. The largest of the Sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weigh 50 tonnes and transportation by water would have been impossible, the stones could only have been moved using sledges and ropes. Modern calculations show that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the huge rollers in front of the sledge.

These were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels. Inside the circle, five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, whose remains we can still see today.

The final stage took place soon after 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that we see today. The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, these have long since been removed or broken up. Some remain only as stumps below ground level.

Photo Source http://mikepitts.wordpress.com

Myths and legends of Stonehenge shed light on the nature of the activities and ceremonies performed at the festivals. For example, the legendary Merlin tells King Aurelius:

Laugh not so lightly, King, for not lightly are these words spoken. For in these stones is a mystery, and a healing virtue against many ailments. Giants of old did carry them from the furthest ends of Africa and did set them up in Ireland what time they did inhabit therein. And unto this end they did it, that they might make them baths therein whensoever they ailed of any malady, for they did wash the stones and pour forth the water into the baths, whereby they that were sick were made whole. Moreover they did mix confections of herbs with the water, whereby they that were wounded had healing, for not a stone is there that lacketh in virtue of leechcraft.

The question of who built Stonehenge is largely unanswered, even today. The monument's construction has been attributed to many ancient peoples throughout the years, but the most captivating and enduring attribution has been to the Druids. This erroneous connection was first made around 3 centuries ago by the antiquary, John Aubrey. Julius Caesar and other Roman writers told of a Celtic priesthood who flourished around the time of their first conquest (55 BC). By this time, though, the stones had been standing for 2,000 years, and were, perhaps, already in a ruined condition. Besides, the Druids worshipped in forest temples and had no need for stone structures.

The best guess seems to be that the Stonehenge site was begun by the people of the late Neolithic period (around 3000 BC) and carried forward by people from a new economy which was arising at this time. These "new" people, called Beaker Folk because of their use of pottery drinking vessels, began to use metal implements and to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors. Some think that they may have been immigrants from the continent, but that contention is not supported by archaeological evidence. It is likely that they were indigenous people doing the same old things in new ways.

Photo Source http://www.heritagedaily.com
Several sarsen uprights have prehistoric carvings on their sides. The earliest of these, high up on the inside face of the fourth trilithon of the horseshoe, is a shallow oblong shape thought to be similar to carvings found in Neolithic stone burial chambers in Brittany, which are sometimes thought to represent in a simplified and symbolic way the figure of a mother goddess. This carving is out of reach of the ground and was therefore made, probably, before the stone was set up.

The carvings on the other stones are all nearer the ground, and probably made after the stones had been erected. Most of them are full size representations of bronze axe-heads of the Early Bronze Age, of a kind commonly made in Britain and Ireland between 1800BC and 1500BC, but there is one carving also of a bronze dagger, which could represent a foreign dagger, of the kind found in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae in Greece, though doubt has been cast on this hypothesis. 

All of the carvings are now much weathered by time, but is is clear that they were shaped by abrasion with small stone hammers, much as the surfaces of the sarsen stones had themselves earlier been dressed smooth. Sarsen stone is far too hard to be cut with bronze chisels.

There is some evidence to suggest that it was visited by Romans stationed in the region and the burial of a Saxon man on the site confirms that it was seen as a place of religious importance during both the dark and middle ages. The earliest known written reference appears in 937 AD with regard to a land deed from King Athelstan to Wilton Abbey which refers to 'Stanheyeg' . It next appears seventy years after the Norman Invasion. Archdeacon Henry of Huntingdon referred to it at 'Stanenges' and recorded in his book 'Historia Anglorum', "No one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built here". Henry Almost 1,000 years later historians, archaeologists and mathematicians are still working on the same puzzle.

The Stonehenge World Heritage Site covers 2,665 hectares (26.6 square km - 6,500 acres). Ownership and management of the World Heritage Site is shared between English Heritage, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence, the RSPB, farmers and householders in Amesbury, Larkhill and the Woodford Valley. Stonehenge, Woodhenge and parts of Durrington Walls are owned by the state and managed by English Heritage. A large part of the landscape surrounding Stonehenge is owned by the National Trust (827 ha, 31% of the World Heritage Site).

Photo Source http://theballyblog.com

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