Stonehenge is a famous arrangement of megaliths weighing several tonnes in the south of England, the construction of which represents an incredible human feat of the Neolithic period.
Stonehenge is one of Britain's most famous monuments and a symbol of mystery and ancient power. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, along with Avebury, a larger but lesser-known site with similar monoliths 30km to the north. The mysterious site is also on our list of the top 10 places to visit in the UK.
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Mystical relic from the Neolithic Age
The famous monoliths of Stonehenge are located near Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, about 13 kilometres north of Salisbury. The peculiar structure, made of a total of 80 stones weighing up to 50 tonnes, was erected as early as the Neolithic period around 3,000 years before Christ and was used until the Bronze Age.
Why Stonehenge was built, or by whom, is still not fully understood. For some, the mystical stone structure is regarded as the secret temple of an unknown deity, as a prehistoric calendar or as the burial place of Stone Age tribal leaders. Whatever it was, the reason must have been weighty, because placing the stones, which weigh several tonnes, in their present form was certainly not an easy exercise back then.
Stonehenge consists roughly of vertical stone blocks grouped around each other in two circles. Some of them were bridged with capstones. The outer circle is closed, the inner one represents a horseshoe shape. Between the individual megaliths are smaller stones and holes in the ground. In the immediate vicinity are other megaliths and also two tumuli.
Construction of Stonehenge - an act of violence
According to experts, the holes and foundations of Stonhenge were dug with tools made of wood and antler bones; the shoulder blades of cattle were used as shovels. The inner stone circle was erected first and was finished around 2,000 BC.
The bluestones used for this purpose, weighing up to 4 tonnes, probably came from the Prescelly Mountains on the south-western tip of Wales, almost 400 kilometres away. Large parts of the transport route could be covered by water, but in between the stones had to be repeatedly carted overland on sledges, rollers or just like that.
The sandstone monoliths of the outer ring weigh up to 50 tonnes. They come from the Marlborough Downs, a good 30 kilometres away. According to the latest research, it took the strength of 600 men to climb Redhorn Hill. On site, the stones were manoeuvred into the designated holes by pushing and pulling with the help of ropes and erected. All around, the blocks were fixed with stones that held the megaliths in place for thousands of years.
Many of the original stone blocks have nevertheless fallen over or been removed today, so that only remains of the original Stonehenge can be seen today.
Some attribute the construction of Stonehenge to the Celtic priests, the Druids. But their heyday was during the time of Julius Caesar, shortly before the birth of Christ, by which time Stonehenge had been standing for over 2,000 years. Moreover, the Druids worshipped nature and the forest and hardly needed stone structures for their homage.
Visit to Stonehenge
Since 1978, the mysterious site may no longer be entered by visitors, but only viewed from a distance. The closer you get to the impressive stone blocks, the more clearly the ancient aura of Stonehenge can be felt. Some consider it magic, some see a scientific challenge or admire the human feat, but no one can escape the effect of the ancient monument in the south of England.
Despite the tourist circus around Stonehenge, perfect with car parks, highways and souvenir shops, the time-honoured site should be given the respect it has deserved for thousands of years.