• Before the monument (from 8000 BC) Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around
    8000 BC, beneath the nearby old tourist car-park in use until 2013.

  • [4][5] A 2018 study of the strontium content of the bones found that many of the individuals buried there around the time of construction had probably come from near the source
    of the bluestone in Wales and had not extensively lived in the area of Stonehenge before death.

  • The stone was identified by its unusual pentagonal shape and by luminescence soil dating from the filled-in sockets which showed the circle had been erected around 3400-3200
    BC, and dismantled around 300–400 years later, consistent with the dates attributed to the creation of Stonehenge.

  • Two, or possibly three, large portal stones were set up just inside the north-eastern entrance, of which only one, the fallen Slaughter Stone, 16 feet (4.9 m) long, now remains.

  • The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge’s sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument’s use and demonstrates that it was still
    very much a domain of the dead.

  • [28] If this were the case, it would advance the earliest known stone structure at the monument by some 500 years.

  • Other previously overlooked stone or wooden structures and burial mounds may date as far back as 4000 BC.

  • There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6500 years.

  • Stonehenge 3 II (2600 BC to 2400 BC) Sketch showing the tongue and groove and mortise and tenon joints used in the outer Sarsen circle Plan of the central stone structure
    today; after Johnson 2008 During the next major phase of activity, 30 enormous Oligocene–Miocene sarsen stones (shown grey on the plan) were brought to the site.

  • It is not known whether the stones were taken directly from their quarries to Salisbury Plain or were the result of the removal of a venerated stone circle from Preseli to
    Salisbury Plain to “merge two sacred centres into one, to unify two politically separate regions, or to legitimise the ancestral identity of migrants moving from one region to another”.

  • Roman coins and medieval artefacts have all been found in or around the monument but it is unknown if the monument was in continuous use throughout British prehistory and
    beyond, or exactly how it would have been used.

  • These stone sockets are only partly known (hence on present evidence are sometimes described as forming ‘crescents’); however, they could be the remains of a double ring.

  • Analysis of animal teeth found two miles (3 km) away at Durrington Walls, thought by Parker Pearson to be the ‘builders camp’, suggests that, during some period between 2600
    and 2400 BC, as many as 4,000 people gathered at the site for the mid-winter and mid-summer festivals; the evidence showed that the animals had been slaughtered around nine months or 15 months after their spring birth.

  • [48] The most common theory of how prehistoric people moved megaliths has them creating a track of logs which the large stones were rolled along.

  • [15][16] Early history Mike Parker Pearson, leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project based around Durrington Walls, noted that Stonehenge appears to have been associated
    with burial from the earliest period of its existence: Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C.

  • [35] Evidence of a 110-m stone circle at Waun Mawn near Preseli, which could have contained some or all of the stones in Stonehenge, has been found, including a hole from
    a rock that that matches the unusual cross-section of a Stonehenge bluestone “like a key in a lock.”[37] Each monolith measures around 6.6 feet (2 m) in height, between 3.3 and 4.9 ft (1 and 1.5 m) wide and around 2.6 feet (0.8 m) thick.

  • [dubious – discuss] This ambitious phase has been radiocarbon dated to between 2600 and 2400 BC,[40] slightly earlier than the Stonehenge Archer, discovered in the outer ditch
    of the monument in 1978, and the two sets of burials, known as the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen, discovered three miles (5 km) to the west.

  • [58][59] These Neolithic migrants to Britain also may have introduced the tradition of building monuments using large megaliths, and Stonehenge was part of this tradition.

  • [10] Deposits containing human bone date from as early as 3000 BC, when the ditch and bank were first dug, and continued for at least another 500 years.

  • [35] Other standing stones may well have been small sarsens (sandstone), used later as lintels.

  • [citation needed] After the monument (1600 BC on) Main article: Y and Z Holes The Y and Z Holes are the last known construction at Stonehenge, built about 1600 BC, and the
    last usage of it was probably during the Iron Age.

  • [33] The number of postholes dating to the early third millennium BC suggests that some form of timber structure was built within the enclosure during this period.

  • [20][21] Salisbury Plain was then still wooded, but 4,000 years later, during the earlier Neolithic, people built a causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood’s Ball, and long barrow
    tombs in the surrounding landscape.

  • The holes held up to 80 standing stones (shown blue on the plan), only 43 of which can be traced today.

  • In approximately 3500 BC, a Stonehenge Cursus was built 2,300 feet (700 m) north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the trees and develop the area.

  • At first, it was accompanied by a second stone, which is no longer visible.

  • [4][5] As there was evidence of the underlying chalk beneath the graves being crushed by substantial weight, the team concluded that the first bluestones brought from Wales
    were probably used as grave markers.

  • [36] The long-distance human transport theory was bolstered in 2011 by the discovery of a megalithic bluestone quarry at Craig Rhos-y-felin, near Crymych in Pembrokeshire,
    which is the most likely place for some of the stones to have been obtained.

  • Although this would seem the most impressive phase of work, Stonehenge 3 IV was rather shabbily built compared to its immediate predecessors, as the newly re-installed bluestones
    were not well-founded and began to fall over.

  • Function and construction Main article: Theories about Stonehenge See also: Archaeoastronomy and Stonehenge Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records.

  • The first monument consisted of a circular bank and ditch enclosure made of Late Cretaceous (Santonian Age) Seaford chalk, measuring about 360 feet (110 m) in diameter, with
    a large entrance to the north east and a smaller one to the south.

  • [citation needed] Computer rendering of the overall site Stonehenge 3 V (1930 BC to 1600 BC) Soon afterwards, the northeastern section of the Phase 3 IV bluestone circle was
    removed, creating a horseshoe-shaped setting (the Bluestone Horseshoe) which mirrored the shape of the central sarsen Trilithons.

  • [27] The pits may have contained standing timbers creating a timber circle, although there is no excavated evidence of them.

  • Three of the posts (and possibly four) were in an east-west alignment which may have had ritual significance.

  • The Heel Stone, a Tertiary sandstone, may also have been erected outside the north-eastern entrance during this period.

  • Other features, loosely dated to phase 3, include the four Station Stones, two of which stood atop mounds.

  • [65][66] At the Summer solstice an observer standing within the stone circle, looking northeast through the entrance, would see the Sun rise in the approximate direction of
    the Heel Stone, and the Sun has often been photographed over it.

  • Like the sarsens, a few have timber-working style cuts in them suggesting that, during this phase, they may have been linked with lintels and were part of a larger structure.

  • According to a team of British researchers led by Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, Stonehenge may have been built as a symbol of “peace and unity”, indicated
    in part by the fact that at the time of its construction, Britain’s Neolithic people were experiencing a period of cultural unification.

  • The wealth from such trade probably permitted the Wessex people to construct the second and third (megalithic) phases of Stonehenge and also indicates a powerful form of social

  • Parker Pearson speculates that the wooden circle at Durrington Walls was the centre of a ‘land of the living’, whilst the stone circle represented a ‘land of the dead’, with
    the Avon serving as a journey between the two.

  • [19] A settlement that may have been contemporaneous with the posts has been found at Blick Mead, a reliable year-round spring one mile (1.6 km) from Stonehenge.

  • The bones were considerably older than the antler picks used to dig the ditch, and the people who buried them had looked after them for some time prior to burial.

  • Another theory is that they were brought much nearer to the site as glacial erratics by the Irish Sea Glacier[34] although there is no evidence of glacial deposition within
    southern central England.

  • Notable is the massive Iron Age hillfort known as Vespasian’s Camp (despite its name, not a Roman site) built alongside the Avenue near the Avon.

  • [citation needed] Within this circle stood five trilithons of dressed sarsen stone arranged in a horseshoe shape 45 feet (13.7 m) across, with its open end facing northeast.

  • It seems that whatever the holes’ initial function, it changed to become a funerary one during Phase two.

  • [30] Between 2017 and 2021, studies by Professor Pearson (UCL) and his team suggested that the bluestones used in Stonehenge had been moved there following dismantling of
    a stone circle of identical size to the first known Stonehenge circle (110m) at the Welsh site of Waun Mawn in the Preseli Hills.

  • Within the outer edge of the enclosed area is a circle of 56 pits, each about 3.3 feet (1 m) in diameter, known as the Aubrey holes after John Aubrey, the seventeenth-century
    antiquarian who was thought to have first identified them.

  • [44][45] A natural landform at the monument’s location followed this line, and may have inspired its construction.

  • A recent excavation has suggested that the Aubrey Holes may have originally been used to erect a bluestone circle.

  • Stonehenge 3 I (c. 2600 BC) Graffiti on the sarsen stones include ancient carvings of a dagger and an axe Archaeological excavation has indicated that around 2600 BC, the
    builders abandoned timber in favour of stone and dug two concentric arrays of holes (the Q and R Holes) in the centre of the site.

  • This first stage is dated to around 3100 BC, after which the ditch began to silt up naturally.

  • [57] DNA studies clarify the historical context Researchers studying DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains across Britain determined that the ancestors of the people
    who built Stonehenge were farmers who came from the Eastern Mediterranean, travelling west from there.

  • [64] It has been known by many names in the past, including “Friar’s Heel” and “Sun-stone”.

  • [46] The excavated remains of culled animal bones suggest that people may have gathered at the site for the winter rather than the summer.

  • [41] Stonehenge 3 III (2400 BC to 2280 BC) Later in the Bronze Age, although the exact details of activities during this period are still unclear, the bluestones appear to
    have been re-erected.

  • [4][5] Radiocarbon dating of the remains has put the date of the site 500 years earlier than previously estimated, to around 3000 BC.

  • This phase of the monument was abandoned unfinished, however; the small standing stones were apparently removed and the Q and R holes purposefully backfilled.

  • “[12] Christopher Chippindale’s Stonehenge Complete gives the derivation of the name Stonehenge as coming from the Old English words stān meaning “stone”, and either hencg
    meaning “hinge” (because the stone lintels hinge on the upright stones) or hen(c)en meaning “to hang” or “gallows” or “instrument of torture” (though elsewhere in his book, Chippindale cites the “suspended stones” etymology).

  • Despite being contemporary with true Neolithic henges and stone circles, Stonehenge is in many ways atypical – for example, at more than 24 feet (7.3 m) tall, its extant trilithons’
    lintels, held in place with mortise and tenon joints, make it unique.

  • At least twenty-five of the Aubrey Holes are known to have contained later, intrusive, cremation burials dating to the two centuries after the monument’s inception.

  • The Altar Stone may have been moved within the oval at this time and re-erected vertically.

  • Over the years, various authors have suggested that supernatural or anachronistic methods were used, usually asserting that the stones were impossible to move otherwise due
    to their massive size.

  • He suggests that the area around Durrington Walls Henge was a place of the living, whilst Stonehenge was a domain of the dead.

  • Many aspects of Stonehenge, such as how it was built and for what purposes it was used, remain subject to debate.

  • [31][32] The cessation of human activity in that area at the same time suggested migration as a reason, but it is believed that other stones may have come from other sources.

  • Thirty further cremations were placed in the enclosure’s ditch and at other points within the monument, mostly in the eastern half.

  • They had been raised on Mount Killaraus to form a stone circle, known as the Giant’s Ring or Giant’s Round.

  • [24] The University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute believes that the community who built Stonehenge lived here over a period of several millennia, making it
    potentially “one of the pivotal places in the history of the Stonehenge landscape.

  • Evidence of huge fires on the banks of the Avon between the two avenues also suggests that both circles were linked.

  • The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

  • [18] Similar but later sites have been found in Scandinavia.


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Photo credit:’]