One of the World’s Great Mysteries
Stonehenge can still be the magical, mystical, mysterious kind of place it was probably meant to be—but only if you catch it between tour bus caravans. No one knows who built Stonehenge or why (far-fetched theories credit aliens from outer space, King Arthur, Merlin and the ancient people of Atlantis) although it is pretty certain this stunning collection of artfully placed rocks was used for rituals or ceremonies pertaining to the sun.
The massive trilithons—two upright stones with a cross lintel on top—were assembled some 4,000 years ago. Some of the standing stones weigh up to 50 tons—it is estimated that to drag each one into position took over 1,000 men. Scholars disagree about where the stones came from (some say southern Wales) and how they got to the windswept Salisbury Plain. In the 17th century, the widely held view that the circle was somehow connected to the Celtic druids took hold and has never died, even though it has since been proven that the site predates the Iron Age priestly cult by at least 1,500 years and probably more.
Researchers believe the stones were to be put together in three distinct stages (two of which were never completed), in alignments made possible by sophisticated builders with a knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, and engineering unparalleled anywhere in Europe at that time. It was probably intended as a solar or lunar calendar, among other things; today, thousands gravitate here for the summer solstice.