Stonehengeprehistoric stone circle monument, cemetery, and archaeological site located on Salisbury Plainabout 8 miles 13 km north of SalisburyWiltshireEngland. It was built in six stages between and bceduring the transition from the Neolithic Period New Stone Age to the Bronze Age. As a prehistoric stone circle, it is unique because of its artificially shaped sarsen stones blocks of Cenozoic silcretearranged in post-and-lintel formation, and because of the remote origin of its smaller bluestones igneous and other rocks from — miles — km away, in South Wales.
Stonehenge has long been the subject of historical speculation, and ideas about the meaning and significance of the structure continued to develop in the 21st century. English antiquarian John Aubrey in the 17th century and his compatriot archaeologist William Stukeley in the 18th century both believed the structure to be a Druid temple.
This idea has been rejected by more-recent scholars, however, as Stonehenge is now understood to have predated by some 2, years the Druids recorded by Julius Caesar. Most of these speculations, too, have been rejected by experts. In English archaeologist Colin Renfrew hypothesized that Stonehenge was the centre of a confederation of Bronze Age chiefdoms.
Other archaeologists, however, have since come to view this part of Salisbury Plain as a point of intersection between adjacent prehistoric territories, serving as a seasonal gathering place during the 4th and 3rd millennia bce for groups living in the lowlands to the east and west.
In Malagasy archaeologist Ramilisonina proposed that Stonehenge was built as a monument to the ancestral dead, the permanence of its stones representing Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia eternal afterlife. In British archaeologists Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright suggested—on the basis of the Amesbury Archer, an Early Bronze Age skeleton with a knee injury, excavated 3 miles 5 km from Stonehenge—that Stonehenge was used in prehistory as a place of healing.
A large, deep hole was dug within the stone circle in by George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckinghamwho was looking for treasure.
A century later Stukeley surveyed Stonehenge and its surrounding monuments, but it was not until —77 that Flinders Petrie made the first accurate plan of the stones. In Charles Darwin dug two holes in Stonehenge to investigate the earth-moving capabilities of earthworms.
The first proper archaeological excavation was conducted in by Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia Gowland. About half of Stonehenge mostly on its eastern side was excavated in the 20th century by the archaeologists William Hawley, in —26, and Richard Atkinson, in — The results of their work were not fully published untilhowever, when the chronology of Stonehenge was revised extensively by means of carbon dating.
Major investigations in the early 21st century Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia the research team of the Stonehenge Riverside Project led to further revisions of the context and sequence of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge was built within an area that was already special to Mesolithic and Neolithic people. It was unusual for prehistoric hunter-gatherers to build monuments, and there are no comparable structures from this era in northwestern Europe. Within a 3-mile 5-km radius of Stonehenge there remain from the Neolithic Period at least 17 long barrows burial mounds and two cursus monuments long enclosuresall dating to the 4th millennium bce. Between and bceduring the Bronze Age, the Stonehenge-Durrington stretch of the River Avon was at the centre of a concentration of more than 1, round barrows on this part of Salisbury Plain.
The oldest part of the Stonehenge monument was built during the period from to bce. It consists of a circular enclosure that is more than feet metres in diameter, enclosing 56 pits called the Aubrey Holes, named after John Aubrey, who identified them in The ditch of the enclosure is flanked on the inside by a high bank and on the outside by a low bank, or counterscarp. The diameters of the outer bank, the ditch, the inner bank, and the circle of Aubrey Holes are equivalent to,and long feet a long foot is an ancient unit of measurement equivalent to 1.
Deposits in the bottom of the ditch included antler picks, which were used to dig the ditch itself, as well as bones of cattle and deer that were already centuries old when they were placed there.
The circular enclosure had two entrances: Although it once was believed that the Aubrey Holes served as pits for wooden posts, excavation and archival research by the Stonehenge Riverside Project revealed that they probably held Welsh bluestones.
Human cremation burials were found within and around most of the holes, as well as within the encircling ditch and bank. Of an estimated — cremation burials at Stonehenge, 64 had been excavated by the first decade of the 21st century. The great majority of the burials were of adult males, and pieces of unburned human bone were also found scattered around Stonehenge.
The area surrounding the Aubrey Holes was used as a place of burial from roughly to bce ; it is the largest known cemetery from the 3rd millennium bce in Britain. A second, smaller bluestone circle, 30 feet 10 metres Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia diameter and known as Bluestonehenge, was built on the bank of the River Avon over 1 mile 1.
Found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project init consisted of about 25 Welsh bluestones and may have been used for cremating and removing the flesh from the bodies whose remains were buried and scattered at Stonehenge. Most of the surviving 45 original bluestones of Stonehenge are of spotted dolerite also called diabase from southwest Wales, specifically the Preseli Mountains. Other stones of rhyoliterhyolitic tuffvolcanic ash, and dolerite are believed to be from the same region.
A source for one of the rhyolites, however, was identified in as Pont Saeson, north of the Preselis.
The Altar Stone a toppled upright so called because it looked to the 17th-century architect Inigo Jones like an altar at the centre of the monument and another two sandstone monoliths likely came from the Brecon Beaconsa cluster of mountains about 60 miles km east of the Preseli range.
Although most experts consider these Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia stones to have been brought by human agency, some geologists argue that they might have been carried toward the Salisbury Plain thousands of years earlier by ice-age glaciers.
The Heelstone, a large unworked sarsen outside the northeastern entrance, also may have been erected during the first stage of Stonehenge, if not earlier. In addition, rows of timber-post holes within the northeastern entrance to the circular enclosure are thought to date to this period; the posts that they contained may have served to mark the movement of the moon toward its northern major limit. About bce the sarsen stones were brought from the Avebury area of the Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles 32 km to the north.
Outside the northeastern entrance of Stonehenge they were dressed smooth by pounding with sarsen hammers. They were then arranged inside the circle in a horseshoe-shaped setting of five tall trilithons paired uprights with a lintel —the central and largest of which is known as the giant trilithon—surrounded by 30 uprights linked by curved lintels to form a circle.
The stones appear to have been laid out systematically in units and subunits of the long foot; the circumference of the sarsen circle is long feet. The lintels, weighing some 7 tons each, are held on top of the uprights by mortise-and-tenon dovetail joints, and the ends of the curved lintels of the sarsen Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia fit together with tongue-and-groove joints.
All the joints were created using hammer stones, presumably in imitation of woodwork. Most of the sarsen uprights weigh about 25 tons and are about 18 feet 5. The uprights of the giant trilithon, however, were 29 feet 9 metres and 32 feet 10 metres high, weighing more than 45 tons.
Only six lintels out of a total of sit in place on the sarsen circle, with two more lying on the ground. Three of the five sarsen trilithon lintels are in place, with the other two on the ground. Four of the uprights from the sarsen circle are absent, and one is much shorter than the others.
Although it is possible that the sarsen circle was never completed, Adults dating are we gonna do stonehenge history encyclopedia existence of a hole for an absent sarsen suggests that this stone and others were reused as construction materials for Roman buildings and medieval churches in the vicinity.
The bluestones were observed by Atkinson to have been arranged into a double arc, which, for convenience, he called the Q and R Holes. It is more likely that the bluestone arc was indeed constructed as part of the sarsen circle and trilithon monument, with bluestones brought from the Aubrey Holes. Bluestones may also have been brought to Stonehenge at this time, or slightly later, from Bluestonehenge where they had been removed by at least bce.
The bluestones weigh up to 4 tons each, and the taller ones are over 6 feet 2 metres high. Most of them are unworked natural pillars. Only two of the stones—both of sarsen—have survived. The four Station Stones were placed in a rectangular formation, aligned along the same solstitial axis as the great trilithon and the bluestone arc.
From this entrance an undated passageway marked by timber posts led toward the centre of the monument. Other sarsens were erected within the northeastern entrance. Three of them formed a facade across the entrance, of which the sarsen known as the Slaughter Stone is the sole survivor. Beyond them lies the Heelstone, set within a circular ring ditch.
About the same time the sarsens were erected, two sets of concentric timber circles were built within a large settlement almost 2 miles 3 km to the northeast of the Stonehenge monument. One of these circles, called the Southern Circle, was set at the centre of an ancient settlement of small houses. The other, the smaller Northern Circle, was built on the north side of the settlement. Nine houses, up to about 18 feet 5. Outside its south entrance stood a third concentric timber circle—Woodhenge.
Radiocarbon dating indicates that the side ditches and banks of a ceremonial avenue almost 2 miles 3 km long were dug from Stonehenge to the River Avon at some time in the period between and bce.
The avenue varies in width from about 60 to feet 18 to 35 metres and terminates at a small henge at the riverside.
This henge, measuring feet 30 metres in diameter, was built after the bluestones at its centre were removed. About the first 1, feet metres of the avenue from Stonehenge are aligned toward the summer solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset.
At Durrington Walls a similar avenue about feet metres long and feet 30 metres wide had been built about bce between the Southern Circle and the River Avon and remained in use for several centuries.
The Durrington avenue was aligned toward the summer solstice sunset, while the Southern Circle faced the winter solstice sunrise. This solstitial alignment raises the possibility that Stonehenge and Durrington were built as complementary halves of a single complex, articulated by the River Avon.
About bce the bluestones were rearranged to form a circle and an inner oval. Atkinson thought that this inner oval was subsequently modified in prehistory to form a horseshoebut this transformation may have been the result of Roman removal of the stones or of later stone-robbing. As with all radiocarbon dating, the precise dates of such events can only be estimated within many decades, if not centuries. For well over a century, people have gathered at the monument to celebrate the summer solstice.
Although banned in as a result of violent clashes with policethe annual gathering resumed in and now draws a crowd of more than 30, Modern-day Druidic societies have claimed Stonehenge as their own templeeven though the identification of Stonehenge with the original Druids is suspect.
The first such society, the Ancient Order of Druids, was formed in ; more recently, the number of similar Druidic and other Neo-Pagan groups has risen in tandem with the decline in conventional religious belief.