Stonehenge


Stonehenge
Wiltshire

SP4 7DE





About Stonehenge
The great and ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world. What visitors see today are the substantial remnants of the last in a sequence of such monuments erected between c. 3000 BC and 1600 BC. Each monument was a circular structure, aligned with the rising of the sun at the Solstice.

There has always been intense debate over quite what purpose Stonehenge served. Certainly it was the focal point in a landscape filled with prehistoric ceremonial structures. It also represented an enormous investment of labour and time. A huge effort and great organisation was needed to carry the stones tens - and sometimes hundreds - of miles by land and water, and then to shape and raise them. Only a sophisticated society could have mustered so large a workforce, and the design and construction skills necessary to produce Stonehenge and its surrounding monuments.

Stonehenge's orientation in relation to the rising and setting sun has always been one of its most remarkable features. Whether this was because its builders came from a sunworshipping culture or because - as some scholars have asserted - the circle and its banks were part of a huge astronomical calendar, remains a mystery.

What cannot be denied is the ingenuity of the builders of Stonehenge. With only very basic tools at their disposal, they shaped the stones and formed the mortises and tenons that linked uprights to lintels.

The first monument in the Stonehenge landscape consisted of a circular bank and ditch with a ring of 56 wooden posts, the pits for which are now known as Aubrey Holes. Later monuments all used and reused the great stones we see today, many of which were brought from some distance away. The final phase comprised the construction of an outer circle of huge standing stones - super-hard sarsens, from the Marlborough Downs. These were topped by lintels, forming a ring. Inside this stood a horseshoe of five still-larger constructions, known as trilithons: pairs of uprights with a lintel across each. All the stones were connected using mortise-and-tenon joints. Smaller bluestones, from the Preseli Mountains in South Wales, were arranged in a ring and a horseshoe, within the great circle and horseshoe of sarsen stones. In an earlier phase, these bluestones had been erected in a different arrangement.

Burial mounds, possibly containing the graves of ruling families, are also integral to the landscape. Neolithic long barrows and the various types of circular barrows which came later are still visible. So too are other earthworks and monuments. Some remain enigmatic, such as the long oval earthwork to the north, the Cursus - once thought to be a chariot racecourse. You can visit the Cursus and other parts of the Stonehenge landscape. Woodhenge, two miles to the north east, was a wooden ovalpost structure, also aligned with the Solstice sunrise. It is believed to be contemporary with the first phase of Stonehenge.


Website:
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Directions

Stonehenge 
2 miles W of Amesbury on junction of A303 and A344/A360

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