Facts about Stonehenge
Presumably, the world of the dead
Despite insightful archaeological research, we have not yet fully understood the method of construction and the purpose of Stonehenge to this day. Unfortunately, the people who built and used this temple have left no written sources. It is admirable that the civilization that built Stonehenge could process blocks of rock weighing tens of tons. It is also worth mentioning that some elements were transported to the construction site from a distance of 240 kilometers.
1Stonehenge is a complex of prehistoric temples in Salisbury Plain in the south-western part of central England.
It contains deposits of limestone dating from the Late Cretaceous period (100.5 to 66 million years ago).
2Stonehenge is a story that stretches over thousands of years. It begins in the Stone Age, continues into the Bronze Age, and probably goes back to the Iron Age.
First pits, into which pine pillars about 75 cm in diameter were inserted, date back to about 8,000 BC. There were four or five of them (one pit may have been a remnant of a tree growing there). Three or four pillars were arranged in an east-west line and were probably used to perform religious rituals. Over time, these pillars decayed and fell apart.
3Structures similar to the original wooden Stonehenge have been found in various corners of northern Europe.
Such structures were found in Blick Mead (1.6 km east of Stonehenge), Aberdeenshire in Scotland or Scandinavia, dating from a later period.
4The structure has been under development for over 1,400 years. The stages of development can be divided into eight parts.
The first stage of construction was Stonehenge 1, whose construction began around 3100 BC. The structure comprised a circular shaft, and the ditch reinforced with chalk rock. The circle had a diameter of 110 meters and two entrances: one, the larger one located to the northeast, and a smaller one facing south. Within the rampart, 56 chalk-filled pits were also excavated, the significance of which is still unknown. They were named Aubrey Holes in honor of John Aubrey, who was the first to spot and describe them during his visit to Stonehenge in 1666.
5The second stage of development, Stonehenge 2, was carried out around 3000 BC.
Few elements from this period have survived to the present day. It is suspected that it involved the installation of irregularly spaced wooden pillars in the sanctuary area, after which traces of holes in the ground with a diameter of 40 cm remain. During this time, more cremation burials were carried out in Aubrey’s holes. Stonehenge is the first fenced cremation cemetery in the British Isles.
6The next stage - Stonehenge 3 I - occurred around 2600 BC.
During this stage, timber was replaced with stone. In the central part, there were (probably) two arrays of holes called Q and R Holes. They held 80 stone blocks, although only 43 have been discovered today. Some blocks were probably made of sandstone and some of the diabase. Some of these blocks were transported to Stonehenge from a distance of 240 kilometers from the Preseli Hills in Wales.
7The fourth stage of construction, Stonehenge 3 II, lasted from 2600 to 2400 BC. During that phase, 30 sarsen stones - glacial sandstones - were set.
They were transported from a quarry 25 kilometers away from the temple and set up circularly, 33 meters in diameter. Each sarsen measured 4.1 meters high, 2.1 meters wide, 1.1 meters deep, and weighed about 25 tons. To join the structural elements together, builders used mortise and tenon joints. The construction, along with the transverse beams, reached a height of 4,9 meters. The circle’s inward-facing wall surface was more finely finished and smoothed. Five triliths - two vertical boulders topped with a lintel - made with dressed sarsen stone were erected in a horseshoe shape within the circle.
8The trilithon structure was 13.7 meters wide, and its open end faced the northeast.
The horseshoe made of trilithons was a symmetrical structure. Each of the stones weighed about 50 tons and was linked using fanciful techniques.
9Between 2600 BC and 2400 BC, Stonehenge hosted religious festivals attended by up to 4,000 people.
The festivals, including animal sacrifices, coincided with the winter and summer solstices. Since sacrificial animals were transported from distant regions, such as the highlands of Scotland, it led to a theory that Stonehenge may have been the center of the unification of the inhabitants of the British Isles.
10The diabase from the Stonehenge 3 I phase was rearranged at least twice between 2400 BC and 1930 BC.
Initially, they were placed in the circle surrounding the sarsen ring and then moved into the circle between the sarsen rings. These phases are called Stonehenge 3 III and Stonehenge 3 IV, respectively.