Stonehenge – One Of The Seven Wonders Of The World
Stonehenge is hailed as one of the seven wonders of the world. But why is it called a “wonder” ? With science so advanced as to being able to clone mammals, one would thing their would be rarely any discoveries left to be made. However Stonehenge is shrouded in nothing more than merely theories and guesses based on little or no fact. Being that we do know very little, You have yo ask yourself a few questions. What was the purpose of Stonehenge being built, and that being said how was it constructed. There are thousands of ideas and speculations.
The more likely correct and accepted theories may just surprise you. As you know, there has not been even one major structure built in the future nor the past that was ever completed by one man alone. Like Stonehenge they were major undertakings involving many people with many skills. Those who made Stonehenge succeeded in creating an incredibly complex and mysterious structure that lived on long after its creators had passed on. The many aspects of Stonehenge and the processes by which it was built delve into the levels of intelligence and sophistication of the civilizations used to designed and build massive the monument, despite the fact that it is difficult to find out who exactly these people were. They have left very little evidence behind with which we could get a better idea of their everyday lives, their culture, their surroundings, and their affairs with other peoples. The technology and wisdom that are inevitably required in constructing such a monument show that these prehistoric peoples had had more expertise than expected.
The planning and assembling of Stonehenge took a very long time ( 1000 years, from 2900 B.C. to 1600 B.C.), and not one but many different groups of people were involved in the process. How they came about plays an important role in understanding them. Some of the first men to come to England that are identified as Stonehenge architects came when the massive mountains of sheet ice that were then blocking England and France melted around 12,000 B.C. After their safe journey through the barrens, people came from the mainland, and had great influence on those already living there.
The first Tribe involved in the construction of Stonehenge was the Windmill Hill Tribe who arrived in the Neolithic Era of time. These people were semi-nomadic agriculturalists who mainly just fed and maintained their flocks of cattle, sheep, goats, and wild dogs. Not only were they agriculturalist, but they also hunted, mined for flint, crafted and bartered axes, and could almost be called early industrialists. The Windmill Hill people had a very strong ties and beliefs in their religion with a great respect for their dead and their ancestors. They have exceptional collective graves, in the form of long burrows, or long manmade piles of dirt, sometimes 400 feet long. Many riches such as food, tools, and pottery were buried with the dead.
The next group to contribute to Stonehenge was the Beaker people; known for the beaker-like pottery they would frequently bury with their dead. These people did not practice the ritual of collective burials, rather single or double burials, and the dead were accompanied by more items used as weapons during the time, such as daggers and battleaxes. These single burials were in the form of round barrows. The Beaker people were well organized, active, and powerful, and also probably more territorial. They practiced commerce with other cultures, and their graves give an impression of there being an aristocracy in the society.
The last major group to put time into the construction of Stonehenge was the Wessex Tribe.
They arrived on Salisbury plain around 1450 B.C., and were involved in building the most prominent part of Stonehenge, the great stone circles. These people were well organized, and probably less aggressive or assertive than their predecessors, while more industrious with the technology they used to farm as well as build the great monuments. The people of Wessex were less concerned with war and centered rather around art, poetry, and trade. Philosophically and scientifically the Wessex were far ahead of the rest of the world, some rival their ingenuity to that of the Ancient Greeks. In the graves of their chieftains, were goods such as daggers, bows, and various other ornaments. Their access to such luxuries can perhaps be attributed to their great international barters who probably traded with people from the Mediterranean Sea area. They built the final phase of Stonehenge, and brought about many cultural changes to the monument such as giving the monument visual magnificence, through artistic designs portraying the afterlife,
It is important to understand the problems and great strife that was encountered during the assembling of Stonehenge. As well as to understand the process the surrounding environment was put through in order to start the great and unsurpassed undertaking. By the time Stonehenge was built, the landscape around the area on Salisbury Plain was rather open with more tilling soil and open prairie land, and less woodland. Underneath the first few feet of soil on Salisbury Plain there was a large layer of hard chalk, which made putting together rudimentary structures somewhat
The first phase of construction for Stonehenge was that of the earth monument, which consisted of a circular bank of dirt with a ditch running along the outside of the bank. There are two breaks in the ditch and bank, forming two entrances, and in addition there are 56 Aubrey Holes, named for John Aubrey, their discoverer, in a circle just inside the earth bank. This first phase, Stonehenge I, built by the Windmill Hill people, took from about 2,950 B.C. to 2,900 B.C.
The second phase of Stonehenge brings on the building a large intricate wooden monument. This stage is backed by evidence of wooden stabilizing poles which are scattered all along the project area. There also seems to have been a roughly octagonal shaped structure at the southern entrance of the earth monument, and a more complex foundation around the northwestern entrance. The Avenue which is made up of a pair of straight, long, and parallel trenches was also said by many to have been part of this second phase of Stonehenge as well. Stonehenge II has been be linked to the Beaker people, approximately between the years 2,900
The third and most architecturally impressive stage of the landmark is that of the stone constructions. The builders of Stonehenge III were the people of the Wessex Tribe. This phase of building spanned from 2,500 B.C. to 1,00 B.C. , it was the longest and most painstaking of the three different phases. Because of its challenge level it was split up into six different sub-phases. First in the sequence was the arrival of the Bluestones, followed by the use of the Sarsen stones. After that the Bluestones were put together in an efficient yet ornamental fashion. Then the Sarsen stones were arranged in a very particular order and then raised by using ropes and thousands of men to pull the 7,000 pound stones to an erect position. This was followed by the cutting of Y and X holes around the perimeter of the Sarsen stones in order to help maintain their
If we look at how heavy these stones are and how little technology was available at the time it is obvious as to why it took so long to raise this beautiful yet technically very simple structure. For instance, the bluestones had to be carried 300 miles from a quarry in the Prescally Mountains back to Salisbury Plain. They were then dragged to a nearby waterway which most likely on the coast near the Bristol channel and through the English riverways to the Stonehenge Avenue by way of ship or more likely floating rafts. They were dragged by putting the stones on rollers and dragging them like pulling something on a ancient style dolly.
Transport of the Sarsen stones were very similar o that of the Bluestones, but their location was much closer. They were only 20 miles away in a quarry in the Marlborough Downs. The path in which they were carried over was relatively clear so they just had to roll them but, with each stone wearing roughly 30 tons each, they used around 4,000 men and it took nearly 15
The Sarsen stones were placed into deep holes in the ground. Then they were joined to their lintels by a mortis and tenon joint. The lintels joined to each other with a tongue and groove joint. Very orlaborate organization skills are needed to coordinate such a large project that involves thousands of men and thousands of years of work. The effort put into constructing this monument is incomparable to construction projects that are done today since we are so far advanced technologically. When all of the construction was at its final stage of completion , the end product was an extraordinary piece of art. There is an outermost circleand bankof 30 of the Sarsen stones, each averaging 13 feet 6 inches tall, and each connected by a lintel stone to each stone on either side. Just inside that circle of Sarsens is a circle of bluestones, smaller stones which are usually not taller than 6 feet. Inside of the bluestone circle is the trilithon horseshoe, or a horseshoe-shaped setting of Sarsens in trilithons, or two Sarsens standing next to each other with one lintel across the top. The open end of the horseshoe faces the northeast. Inside the trilithon horseshoe is a bluestone horseshoe. Inside the bluestone horseshoe, somewhat towards the center, is the altar stone, which might not have been used for that purpose. At the entrance to the monument, the heel stone stands just south of the line that runs down the center of the avenue, and not far off lies the slaughter stone, lying on the ground in the break of the circular bank. There are four station stones just inside the earth bank- one that points north, one that points to the south, and two that together make a line perpendicular to the axis of the avenue. The faces of all of the Sarsen stones were dressed and shaped, and they were mostly given a convex shape to exaggerate the impression of insignificance one gets when looking up at
Being that there is little evidence for what Stonehenge could have been created for, other than the people buried there and what we directly observe about the monument, there have been many hypotheses about its purpose, and many of these hypotheses seem to be appropriate. Among the most accepted of these conjectures is that the stone monument was meant to be a temple, a burial ground, and, seemingly the most apparent of these, a solar/lunar observatory. The main entrance of Stonehenge that has the Avenue’s opening, towards which the entire stone monument is situated, points directly at the sunrise on the summer solstice. When standing in the center of the monument, on the longest day of the year, one can see the sun rise directly over the heel stone. This seems to force a viewer to notice the sunrise on the longest day of the year. The original four “station stones” placed around the circle make many alignments to point to rise and set points of the sun and moon on winter and summer solstices. Interestinglly is that the combination of sun and moon solstice rise and set points could only be collectively arranged in a perfect rectangle at the latitude at which Stonehenge is situated. A few miles north or south and the combination would have to be a parallelogram. In addition to the station stone alignments, each trilithon in the center horseshoe corresponds to certain alignments, as there are two sunset trilithons, a sunrise trilithon, and two for lunar alignments. Not only does this show that the builders and planners of Stonehenge had a great regard for the heavens, but also that they had great knowledge of geometry and science to be able to find exact angle measurements and proportions. It can also be seen that the Aubrey Holes could be used as a system of predicting eclipses. The 56 Aubrey Holes correspond to 3 cycles of the moon’s orbital wobble, these could be used to line up with various solar alignments in Stonehenge to predict when the sun and moon would be at the same point in the sky. By a system of moving three markers around the 56 positions of the Aubrey holes, when all three were in the same spot, an eclipse was to occur. Within places in Stonehenge, such as the Aubrey Holes and the outer ditch, cremation remains of hundreds of people were found. This infers that Stonehenge was used as a primary burial site in the Stone and Bronze Ages. Remarkable is that a great amount of cremations were found on the southeast side of the circle, which is where the moon rises at its most southerly point.
The many cultures of the Neolithic and Bronze ages seemed to have a pre-occupation with death and the afterlife, and consequently took great regard to having the dead buried properly. In addition, since it is not possible to give each member of a society a proper burial in such a small area, the people must have had a hierarchical society in which some individuals had precedence over others for a glorious afterlife. As a place of worship, Stonehenge shows much detail and substance. Many of the celestial alignments put focus on things that are greater and more eternal than human beings, and these things could very well be the basis of the religion of the prehistoric
When seen from above, the lintels on the outer Sarsen circle form a perfect circle that is impeccably level with the ground. Since this cannot be appreciated by people standing on the ground, it seems as if it is meant to be seen by someone above. The fixation with death and the afterlife among the peoples of Salisbury Plain seems to be a religion in itself. Perhaps the sun and moon gods, in being born and dying within their own cycles of rising and setting could aid the soul of the human in being reborn in the afterlife. The strategy for showing their gods of their worth was clearly well thought-out and well planned by the builders and peoples of the Stone
The complexity and intelligence of the peoples of Stonehenge can also be seen in surrounding monuments created by them and their neighbors. Most of the enclosures and round barrows in the vicinity of Stonehenge were created for burial purposes, with one or two people buried within them, usually accompanied by valuables such as daggers, pottery, and in some cases, gold ornaments. These treasures often represent high status or high political position, indicating a structured government and system of beliefs that the cultures of Salisbury Plain possessed. Stonehenge represents the evolving and changing society of prehistoric times that gradually changed into a well-developed society with rulers, priests, and a working and farming class, as well as relations with other cultures from far away with which to engage in trade and associate. The idea that men from the Stone Age were unintelligent, ill-mannered barbarians is far from the truth in the case of Stonehenge. The cultures of Windmill Hill, the Beaker people, and Wessex all thoroughly demonstrate organized systems and communities of the Stone and Bronze Ages. So what this means in terms of what the actual truth is, Mr. Vitaly, is that there will never be a positive answer as to why and to what purpose Stonehenge was built. In my strenuous studies spanning many books as well as many web pages, I found probably over a hundred different theories on Stonehenge. I only printed the more well known theories, but one professor from the University of Connecticut believes that it was made by the risen christ as an entry way for the saints to pass from the Earth to the Heavens.
Cohen, I.L. The Secret of Stonehenge. Greenvale, NY: New Research Publications, Inc., 1977.
Dimitrakopoulos, Sandra. (2000). Mystic Places: Stonehenge, [Online}. Available HTTP: http://www.exn.ca/mysticplaces/stonehenge.cfm.