On Salisbury Plain in southern England lies a worldly known megalithic structure know as Stonehenge. The whole area is considered mystical, as ley lines are said to crisscross over the center of the site. Stonehenge was built in three separate stages. The first stage began in 3,000 BC, when a ditch in the form of a circle was dug around the site 6 feet deep, and the dirt was piled up around it creating a bank 6 feet high. There was only one opening which was the main entrance, and had a ceremonial route leading up to it, which was why some speculate Stonehenge was initially used for ceremonies. Just inside the bank, 56 pits known as Aubrey holes, were dug, then refilled, and the first stone was established, the ‘Heel Stone’. This large stone was positioned to mark the axis of sunrise at the summer solstice. Two smaller entrance stones were then put in place, while also erecting 40 wooden posts to mark the positions of the sun.
In rougly 2,000 BC, a 2-mile avenue stretch was created to the Avon River. The builders imported 82 ‘bluestones’ from southwest Wales, which weighed at 6 tons each. That means in order for the heavy stones to reach the site they would have to travel 240 miles over land and water. It is unknown as to how these ancient people were able to move these gigantic stones from the mountains to the river, but a primary speculation is that they built a mechanism consisting of huge logs and rope which were able to roll the stones down the river. The bluestones were used to construct a double circle inside the site. Another stone known as the ‘Altar Stone’, which came from Milford Haven on the south coast of the Prescelli Hills. This stone lays flat and is used as the center of Stonehenge, and it can only be seen in person, or from a birds eye view. The stones didn’t remain in this fashion very long as the third, and most impressive phase was already planned.
The bluestones were in place for a 100 years, until around 1900 BC, where they were dug up and repositioned. In an area called Avebury, which was 18 miles from Stonehenge, the transport of 30 loose blocks of sandstone commenced. These blocks were called ‘Sarsen Stones’, which were 10 feet tall, and weighed over 27 tons each. The stones were pulled to the site using rollers, and ropes which were then shaped and lifted into upright positions. Atop of the sarsen stones, 30 lintels were connected using a mortise and tenon joinery. The lintels were sculpted into a curve to match the shape of the arc of the circle. The Welsh bluestones were then reset into position indicating the completion of the structure.
In each of the stages, the stones were placed at specific points demonstrating the position of the sun and moon at important times. The site was in continuous use until around 1,000 BC, but it’s still unknown exactly what it was used for. There can be no conlcusive answers as minimal human and cultural debris were found on the mystical site.
Some experts believe that with the absence of historical detritus leads to the proposition that the structure was a sacred site such as a temple. Many of the several hundred stone circles in the United Kingdom served as meeting places, so they possessed remnants of day-to-day life. With the amount of of trouble, and effort put forth into the construction of this massive structure, surely it was something of immense importance to the ancients.
Due to Stonehenge’s blatant correlation to important astronomical events, a whole series of other theories have arisen. Perhaps it was used as an observatory, or a giant lunar calendar. An astronomer at Boston University, Gerald Hawkins, wrote a book entitled, Stonhenge Uncoded. In the book he claimed that a computer analyzed Stonehenge, and had proven that the site marked many astronomical alignments. He even went on to say that Stonehenge was a computer in itself, designed by the Ancient Britons to read the stars and figure out upcoming eclipses. However, many experts considered his notions to be speculations and that he had not discovered the true nature of the site.
The legend of King Arthur involves another story of the construction of Stonehenge. It is told by 12th century writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, that Merlin brought the stones to the Salisbury Plain from Ireland. During the 5th century, there was a massacre of 300 British noblemen by the duplicitous Saxon leader, Hengest. Geoffrey describes that the high king, Aurelius Ambrosius, sought out to construct a memorial in honor of the slain men. Merlin proposed a voyage to Ireland for the sole purpose of transplanting the Giant’s Ring stone circle to Britain. According to Geoffrey, the stones of the Giant’s Ring were originally brought from Africa to Ireland by giants. The stones were situated on ‘Mount Killaraus’ which were used as a site for healing, and performance of rituals. The journey arrived in Ireland which was led by King Uther and Merlin. The Britons had a difficult time in retrieving the stones, as none of them were giants. At this point in during the expedition, Merlin realized that only his magical powers would be able to accomplish their goal. So, the stones were dismantled and shipped back to Britain where they were set up exactly as they had been before, in a great circle around the mass grave of the murdered noblemen. The legend goes on to tell that Uther, Aurelius, and Arthur’s successor, Constantine were all buried there in their time.
On the unfortunate side, over the last few centuries many of the stones have been stolen, lost, or collapsed and substandard restoration work has been performed on some of the remaining stones. Eventually, the secrets of Stonehenge will be revealed as the magic of the sacred site never seems to wane.