standing stones for which Stonehenge is best known, were brought to the site
in the third and final phase of construction of the Henge. The first two
phases, which archeological analysis dates to 3050-2600 B.C., created the
initial ditches, barrows (or mounds), Aubrey holes and other holes used to
hold wooden beams. The final phase, the placement of huge stones is
believed to have been completed around 1600 B.C. The English Heritage
organization owns the ancient site, near Amesbury in southern England, and
works to maintain it and ensure its preservation for the nation as well as
for visitors from all over the globe.
has been classified into three stages, many hundreds of years elapsed between
the start and the completion of each phase, and this is especially
true of the final stage. The standing stones arrived over the course of
approximately 1,000 years.
resources of the people living in that era would have been extremely limited.
The difficulty of moving many tons of stone several hundred miles without
roads, vehicles or man-made waterways is simply staggering. This final stage
of development actually involved two separate sets of stones being hauled
by hand across the land and sea, no minor feat.
THREE, 2600-1600 B.C.
- THE STONES
The first set of
stones to arrive at Stonehenge were Bluestones, which are thought to come
from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some 240 miles (385 km.) away. The photo
shows how small and smooth these Bluestones were in comparison to
later stones, however each of these stones weighs approximately 4 tons each.
It is likely that
rafts were used to transport the rock via the shoreline and then via rivers.
Then, they were likely hauled over land employing some form of log-rolling
method. The most likely route for transportation would have had six miles
of land (10 km.) over which each and every Bluestone would have had to be
moved manually in this fashion.
It is thought that
the 60 Bluestones (which are bluish in colour and slightly warm to the touch)
were at first embedded into the land in a double crescent arrangement, in
the middle of the circle created by the outer rim ditches. This formation
was later changed into a horseshoe when the larger Sarsen Stones arrived.
The Bluestone phase is estimated to have lasted until approximately 2400
The Sarsen Stones
are what springs to mind when one thinks of Stonehenge, the large formation
reminiscent of croquet pins. Sarsen Stones are considerably larger than
Bluestones; each Sarsen weighs about 25 tons in comparison to the
light-weight 4 ton Bluestones. The Sarsen Stones probably
came from Marlborough Downs, some 25 miles (40 km.) away, so considerably
nearer than the site of the Bluestones source.
took the form of an outer circle of 30 upright standing stones with lintels
of Sarsen Stone on top forming a continuous circle. All of these lintels
were shaped into curves by pounding the stones. Five massive Trilithons were
set in a horseshoe shape in the centre of the outer circle of stones, and
the Bluestones were reset in the centre of the Trilithons.
The Avenue entrance
into Stonehenge has a Heel Stone a short way from the main entry, and it
is thought to have once had three Portal Stones at the actual entrance of
the circle, but only the fallen Slaughter Stone remains today. Four Station
Stones mark the alignment to the lunar cycles and vernal equinox.
These four Station
Stones, along with the Heel Stone, may predate the circles and Trilithons,
as they are not dressed in the same way, but are rough and un-tooled. It
is possible that the need to understand lunar and solar movements was to
assist with farming at the time, acting as an indicator of when to
is the Altar Stone, which is now partially buried in the middle of the stone
circle under a fallen lintel. It is thought to have once stood upright like
the other stones. The name Altar Stone is misleading, as this stone probably
was used like the arm of a sundial. When the midsummer (and midwinter) Sun
is rising, it aligns perfectly with this stone. According to English Heritage
Society, there is no scientific evidence that there ever were any bloodletting
sacrifices conducted within the circle.
in the completed monument must have been regal affairs. One can picture
processions up the Avenue, past the Heel Stone, and through the Slaughter
Stones gate-like entrance into this magnificent structure. Imagine
proceeding next under the archway lintels, then past the Bluestones to the
centre of the circle, to behold the Altar Stone surrounded by the horseshoe
of Bluestones and giant Trilithons. All this would be by torchlight, leaving
participants waiting patiently for the first rays of dawn to edge up and
illuminate the Altar - a spectacular sight, and the culmination of 1,500
years of construction.
In current times
many of the stones are missing or have fallen. Some of the missing stones
may have been used in the construction of later communities, given the lack
of suitable building material locally.
The English Heritage
Society, who own the Stonehenge and some of the land around the site, has
conducted some preservation work on the stones and has fenced the area off
to limit further deterioration by the hoards of tourists who visit each year.
Its a precious monument to the centuries of people who worked to complete
this spectacular construction.