Stonehenge

(There is a diagram of Stonehenge
near the bottom of this page)

A few things to remember about Stonehenge:

1.   It was built in stages.   We mistakenly imagine a large group of primitive people getting together, drawing up a plan, and then spending a hundred years or so doing all the work, from start to finish.   Then when they're finished, they have a festival and a dedication ceremony.   It didn't happen that way.   The construction was done in stages, over a period of about 1700 years, and involved more than one "people" or culture.

The construction of Stonehenge didn't progress in a "straight line."   At various times, structures that had been erected were taken down, and later were put back up.

In other words, it's like the house you rented back in 2011. You weren't the first one to use it, and you weren't the last one either. After you left, the Indonesian family moved in and redecorated it.

2.   Nobody knows for certain why it was built, who built it, or what it was used for.   "Stonehenge" (the word "henge" means "a hanging thing" or "a circle," depending on whose book you read) is located in the plain of Salisbury in England, 80 miles west of London and 30 miles north of the English Channel.

3.   It is not a Druid site. It was not built by Druids. It was never used by (the original historical) Druids. No stage of the building of Stonehenge is later than about 1200 BCE, and any connection with the Druids, who flourished a thousand years later, is nonsense. It was not used in any meaningful way after ca. 500 BCE (well, not until ca. 1900 CE, when it was "rediscovered"); the Druids originated in ca. 200 BCE.

4.   Stonehenge might have once been a place where people worshipped a god or goddess; later on, a municipal courthouse; later on, a daycare center; later on, a site for animal sacrifice. We just don't know.

5.   What we are certain about is the dates of the various stages of construction, because of radiometric dating of the stones.

There are more than 1300 stone "rings" (most of them are not circles, but are elliptical, or are in other geometric shapes) in Britain, Ireland, and France.


Stonehenge has a long and complicated history.

Stonehenge I:   The site was first established ca. 3200 BCE (200 years before the construction of the Great Pyramid of Egypt) by the building of two "structures:" (1) a large circular trench, 320 feet in diameter, with an opening toward the northeast, and with a built-up bank around its inner edge, and (2) a concentric partial circle made up of 56 pits, the "Aubrey holes," named after the man who discovered them.   These pits may have once held wooden posts to support a fence or a wall.   The bones of cremated humans were found in these holes, along with indications that the holes have been filled in and dug out more than once.

This is when the "Slaughter Stone" (located at the break in the big circle, slightly off to one side) and the "Heel Stone" (located outside the circle) were probably erected, along with the "Station Stones" (see diagram below).

At this point, "Stonehenge" was not a stone circle at all, and it wasn't very spectacular.

Near the site (outside the circles) are "barrows" (caves) containing skeletal human remains, some of which are oriented toward the north; the remains were placed there with small stones (possibly talismans).


Stonehenge II:   Ca. 2800 BCE.   Sometime during this period, a double circle of free-standing stones inside the large circle was erected and subsequently dismantled.


Stonehenge III:   Ca. 2500 BCE, the "Wessex culture" took over the site, and brought stones from a site 20 miles north of Stonehenge   -   the "Sarcen stones."   These stones (30 upright stones in all), twelve feet tall, form(ed) a "stone fence with stones on top," 100 feet in diameter and 16 feet high.   This "fence" is still partially standing.

Inside the Sarcen stone circle, the Wessex people also set up the five "trilithons" (dolmens).   A trilithon is two upright stones topped by a horizontal "lintel" stone.   The five trilithons form a semicircle/horseshoe shape.   In each trilithon, the upright stones are made up of one smooth and one rough stone.   The trilithons are not of equal height, but "ascend" as one goes around the horseshoe.   Inside the horseshoe is the so-called "Altar Stone."

The Wessex culture seems to have worshipped (or may have just been concerned with) the sun rather than the moon, judging by the orientation of the structures they erected.   This particular group "worked on" the site for about a thousand years, from ca. 2500 BCE to ca. 1500 BCE.

During this time, the "Avenue" was built.   It leads from the inside of the circle out the opening, toward the northeast.

It is believed that after 1200 BCE, there was no further construction done on Stonehenge.


Around 500 BCE the site was abandoned, and was never thereafter used in any meaningful way.   It is believed that the Romans deliberately knocked down some of the trilithons, and that they would otherwise still be standing today.

In other words, for the past 2,500 years, people have been treating Stonehenge as a tourist attraction (something to stare at and not utilize) or as a place to commit vandalism. How sad!


From a great height, one can still see the "Avenue" leading into the structure from the northeast (or perhaps leading away from it?)   -   on summer solstice day, if one looks "back" down the avenue (i.e.,toward the northeast), one sees the rising sun appearing "at the end of the road."


Stonehenge - diagram
STONEHENGE as it would have looked at the time of its "completion" (ca. 1200 BCE).
Stonehenge

There is one website that puts forth the proposition that much of what we see standing today at Stonehenge is the result of modern (18th Century) restoration. The process of rebuilding an ancient structure using the original pieces is called "anastylosis."

And believe it or not, the state of Texas features an outdoor replica of Stonehenge, about 60% actual size.

There's a full-size replica of Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington.


News Item:
Badgers Threaten Stonehenge
(Jan. 2005)


Badgers living near Stonehenge are damaging various archaeological sites and ancient human remains around the protected monument.   The animals are digging into prehistoric burial mounds and have already disturbed some of the remains and artifacts buried there.   Though the Ministry of Defence has been trying to coax the badgers away to other locations, there has been little success.   Officials will not consider culling the badgers.   An archaeologist employed by the Ministry said some of the sites will have to be given up to the badgers because the damage is too extensive.   Studies on the best methods to relocate the badgers continue.
—   Llewellyn's 2005 Wicca Almanac, p. 199


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