stonehenge

Stonehenge – Great Britain, United Kingdom

Built in several stages from about 3000 BC, Stonehenge is Europe’s most famous prehistoric monument/ We can only guess at the rituals that took place here, but the alignment of the stones leaves little doubt that the circle is connected with the sun and the passing of the seasons, and that its builders possessed a sophisticated understanding of both arithmetic and astronomy. Contrary to popular belief, the circle was not built by the Druids; this Iron Age priestly cult flourished in Britain from around 250 BC, more than 1,000 years after Stonehenge was completed.

THE BELL-BEAKER CULTURE

It is believed that the Beaker people emerged in Britain around 2200BC. Their name derives from the distinctive bell-shaped pottery cups found in their burial mounds. They are credited with building the Bluestone Circle at Stonehenge because concentric circles were typical of their culture and much of their pottery was unearthed in the vicinity. Their advanced construction techniques suggest that the Beaker people were sun worshipers, as well as highly organized and skilled craftsmen. They created the Avenue, which runs directly toward the midsummer sun, and widened the entrance to the henge, aligning it more precisely with the sunrise of the summer solstice.

THE SITE

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An impression of the completed prehistoric monument

Despite centuries of archeological, religious, and mystical interest in Stonehenge, this site’s original purpose remains unknown. The building of this inscrutable prehistoric megalith has been attributed to Greeks, Phoenicians, Druids, and Atlanteans. Theories on the reason it was built range from sacrificial ceremonies to astronomical calendars. Unearthed evidence of burials suggests that human sacrifices took place here, and most experts agree that Stonehenge has religious foundations. The arrangement of the stones fuels beliefs in an astronomical purpose. The significance of this site must have been great, as the stones used were not quarried locally but brought from as far away as Wales.

THE DRUIDS

Archeologists once claimed that Stonehenge was built by the Druids, the priestly class of the ancient Celts, who performed ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifices here. Although the site is still associated with the Druids, radiocarbon dating has proven that it was raised more than 1,000 years before they were established in the region, and they may have used the existing site as a temple. Today, Stonehenge is famous for modern Druid ceremonies and festivals. English Heritage, who control the site, permit Druid gatherings in the inner circle each year for the solstices and equinoxes. However, the site itself is cordoned off to protect against damage caused by an increasing number of tourists.

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Avenue

Buit by the Beaker people. This dirt patch forms a ceremonial approach to the site.

Bluestone Cricle

Erected around 2000 BC out of some 80 slabs quarried in Wales, it was never completed.

Horseshoe of Sarsen Trilithons

There were originally five trilithons (three stones) within the Sarcen and Bluestone circles, each comprising two upright sarcen (hard sandstone) stones topped by a horizontal lintel.

Sarsen Circle

The central part of the monument is made up of four concentric stone arrangements: two circles and two horseshoes. These 30 stones form the outermost circle.

Horseshoe of Bluestones

These stones are thought to have been transported from Wales on a combination of sledges and rafts.

Finds

From a burial mound near Stonehenge, these prehistoric finds are now part of Devizes museum’s exceptional collection.

Winter Solstice

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There are many lunar and solar alignments. The inner horseshoe faces the winter solstice sunrise.

Stonehenge as it is today

The ruins of Stonehenge reflect the grand structure that existed 4,000 years ago. Only half of the original stones remain, due to natural weathering and human destruction.

Restoration of Stonehenge

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Formal excavation and restoration work on the site only began during the 20th century.

The Prehistoric Site

This was possibly a ceremonial area for fertility, birth, and death rituals. Evidence of burials and cremations exists nearby and inside the circle.

Station Stones

Four pillar stones stood inside the bank. Two, diagonally opposite each other, had mounds and ditches.

Outer Bank

Dug around 3000 BC, this is the oldest part of the site.

Slaughter Stone

Named by 17th -century antiquarians who believed Stonehenge to be a place of human sacrifice, this was in fact one of a pair of stones that formed a doorway.

Heel Stonehenge

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A large sarsen stone quarried in the Marlborough Downs stands at entrance to the site. It casts a long shadow straight to the heart of the inner circle on midsummer’s day.

PREHISTORICAL WILTSHIRE

Ringing the horizon around Stonehenge are scores of circular barrows, or burial mounds, where ruling class members were honored with burial close to the temple site. Ceremonial bronze weapons, jewelry, and other finds excavated around Stonehengecan be seen in the museums at Salisbury and Devizes.

KEY DATES

3000-1000 BC: Stonehenge is constructed in there phases.
1648: The site is recognized as a prehistoric religious base.
1900: On New York’s eve, two of the Sarcen Circle stones fall down.
1978: The British government prohibits visitors from walking within the stone circle.
1984: Stonehenge is added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.

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