Around 3500 BC the semi-nomadic peoples that populated the
Salisbury Plain began to build the monument now known as Stonehenge.
The original construction was a circular ditch and mound with
56 holes forming a ring around its perimeter. The first stone
to be placed at the site was the Heel Stone. It was erected outside
of a single entrance to the site. 200 years later 80 blocks of
bluestone was transported from a quarry almost 200 miles away
in the Prescelly Mountains. It is surmized that these blocks
were transported by way of rafts along the Welsh coast and up
local rivers, finally to be dragged overland to the site. These
stones were erected forming two concentric circles.
At some point this construction was dismantled and work began
on the final phase of the site. The bluestones were moved within
the circle and the gigantic stones that give Stonehenge its distinctive
look were installed. Some of these massive stones weigh as much
as 26 tons! It remains a mystery how such huge stones could have
been moved from the quarry at north Wiltshire by a supposedly
As much of a mystery is how the construction itself was accomplished. Carefully carved lintels were placed on top of pairs of upright stone blocks, held in place by the use of ball and socket joints. These constructions have become known as "trilithons". The final element to be added was the alter block, a large block of green sandstone from South Wales that was placed in front of one of the trilithons. (right) Close up of stonework on top of trilithon Over 1500 years had passed since the beginning of construction.. Each generation carefully tended to the monuments, increasing its size as technology to move and finish the large blocks improved. It is almost inconceivable for us, in this age were nothing lasts more than a few decades at best, to image a people maintaining a monument for almost 2 millennia.
So the fundamental question that needs to be asked about Stonehenge is not how it was built, but why...
In the 1960's astronomer Gerald Hawkins used a computer to
provide the first concrete evidence that Stonehenge was used
as a device for observing the heavens. He found that the placement
of key stones lined up precisely with certain events such as
the Solstices and Equinoxes. He claimed that Stonehenge could
even be used as a type of computer to predict eclipses and track
heavenly bodies across the sky. The numerous alignments are clearly
no accident, but whether this was the monuments true purpose,
however, is still far from being agreed on. The monument seems
too grand to be a simple calendar and many of the alignments
touted would not even be visible due to the stone's great height.
There are many stone circles and standing stones
in the British countryside. It is likely that they all had a
similar purpose and as with other ancient sites it is not unusual
to find alignments with major astronomical events. But Stonehenge
is unique among all the other sites in England. Its sophistication
goes beyond the simple stone circles found in other areas.
It looms over the landscape, taunting
us with its mystery. One viewing this powerful structure gets
the distinct impression that they are in the presence of something
very important. Something with a purpose that perhaps has still,
after all these centuries, not been utilized. For over 5000 years
it has stood silent vigil over the earth. What will it do when