Did the stone age concept in the famous cartoon, ‘The Flintstone,’ intrigue you as a child?
Does visiting an archaeological site invigorate your epistemic curiosity for more insights into stories or secrets spanning thousands of years?
If so, the mysteries of Stonehenge-a world-famous prehistoric monument in England, will be a topic of great interest.
Let’s highlight the human story behind these stones and understand why the Stonehenge from London tour needs to be in your UK Travel itinerary.
Where is Stonehenge?
Stonehenge is the world’s most spectacular and awe-inspiring Neolithic monument. Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
It is located on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, United Kingdom, and is managed by the English Heritage.
Every year, millions of tourists visit the monument to glimpse this mighty historical marvel.
Interesting Facts About Stonehenge
- Stonehenge belongs to the age when people left no written records. It is one of the most mysterious and ancient landmarks in history. I shiver just thinking about those Neolithic secrets they sought to keep hidden from the rest of the world!
- Research suggests that the structure of this Neolithic monument is 5000 years old. Around 180 generations have gone since Stonehenge came into existence. It’s an old, ancient school, man!
- This Neolithic architectural marvel was built in three phases, and these buildings are believed to have taken more than 30 million hours of labor.
- Cecil Chubb, a local businessman, paid £6,600 for it. Three years later, in 1918, Chubb presented the memorial to the country’s then-Ministry of Works. From then, a series of extensive restorations and excavations were carried out. A noble deed, indeed!
- As per folklore, in the 12th century, Stonehenge was the creation of Merlin, the Arthurian legend’s magician. He magically transported the gigantic stones from Ireland, where giants had erected the monument. Why don’t you dress as Merlin this Halloween?
- Every year, thousands gather at Stonehenge to commemorate the Summer Solstice. They are present there when the sun rises. A hint of celebration, though!
- The stones used in constructing Stonehenge were massive. Bluestones that make up the inner circle weigh around 3,600 kg each. The Sarsen stones weighing 25 tons apiece, make up the outside circle. The monument now has only 52 of the original 80 sarsen stones.
- The smaller bluestones originated from the Preseli Hills in Wales. How these mighty stones reach 240 km from the Stonehenge site is still a mystery.
- A new BBC story broadcast in June 2020 established the origins of the gigantic sarsen stones. A lost site component was found 15 miles north of the location, near Marlborough Downs, after 60 years. A great thrill for Historians after century-long research!
- Stonehenge has yielded over 1500 Roman artifacts. The items discovered were coins, pins, jewelry, and ceramic pieces. Cremated human bones, cow and deer bones, and crude tools fashioned from deer antlers, were found in some chalk infills during excavations.
- Lieutenant Phillip Henry Sharpe of the Royal Engineers Balloon Section shot the first aerial view of Stone Circle in 1906.
Did I read it right, someone bought Stonehenge from an Auction!!
Let’s visualize a conversation between husband and wife regarding the wife’s birthday present.
Husband: Hey dear, what present should I get you for your birthday?
Wife: I would be the happiest on my birthday having supper sitting on the finest wood dining chairs in the town.
The husband goes to the market to fulfill his wife’s wish for her birthday, but something catches his attention.
An auction in the market announces “Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland.”
A flashback of all this man’s visits to this monument since childhood floods his mind, and on a whim, he buys The legendary Stonehenge for £6600.
This is how Cecil Chubb became the proud owner of a prehistoric architectural marvel for which he had an inexpressible attraction.
However, women will be women, like men will be men. The wife was not fond of the historical move that Cecil made. Three years later, in 1918, Cecil gifted Stonehenge to the British people with his feelings poured down in his letter-
“To me, who was born close to it and during my boyhood and youth visited it at all hours of the day and night, under every conceivable condition of weather—in driving tempests of hail, rain and snow, fierce thunderstorms, glorious moonlight, and beautiful sunshine, it always has had an inexpressible charm. I became the owner of it with a deep sense of pleasure and contemplated that it might remain a cherished possession of my family for many years. It has, however, been pressed upon me that the nation would like to have it for its own and would prize it most highly.”
In honor of his noble deed, Cecil Chubb was made the First Baronet of Stonehenge, and locals dubbed him Viscount Stonehenge.
Read: The Man who owned Stonehenge to get more insights.
Was Stonehenge Privately Owned?
King Henry VIII took it from a neighboring Benedictine convent in about 1540, followed by some Dukes and Earls.
Later, the Antrobus Baronetcy owned Stonehenge for four generations. Sir Edmund Antrobus was the First Baronet to become owner in 1825.
Inquisitive tourists have been drawn to the monument since Roman times. Souvenir seekers armed with chisels often chipped away at the old blocks and engraved their names in the antique stones.
Due to these long ongoing acts, an exterior sarsen upright stone and a massive lintel fell to the ground in 1900, while wooden boards supported other stones.
The next year Antrobus, whose family owned Stonehenge, walled it off and began charging a 1-shilling admittance fee to cover the cost of a guard and the maintenance of the neglected ruin.
What did Stonehenge Originally Look Like?
The Stonehenge Circle’s outer wall consisted of sarsen sandstone superimposed with lintels. The bluestones were set in a circle inside the outer sarsen circle. Also, they were placed semicircularly within the sarsen trilithon horseshoe. (Trilithons are the two upright stones supporting a horizontal lintel).
The number of stones used originally was 165 (estimation).
Read: Get a clear idea of Ancient Stonehenge here.
The Modern-Day Stonehenge
Stone Circle and other outlying stones
Ninety-three stones are remaining at Stonehenge today.
It is an architectural masterpiece of around 85 massive Bluestones and Sarsen stones, upright, fallen, and buried.
One can imagine the beauty of creativity of our earliest ancestors!
- Two Station Stones remain at their places. They were four in number that formed a rectangle around the central monument.
- The Heel Stone, a massive unshaped sarsen rock, stands outside the northeast entrance.
- The Slaughter Stone, a fallen sarsen that formerly stood erect with one or two other stones across the entrance of the causeway.
- The Altar Stone
Special Exhibitions in Visitor Centre
Here you can find special exhibitions of fascinating artifacts from the time of Stonehenge builders found during archaeological excavations and research.
The Neolithic huts at Stonehenge are also constructed as per archaeological evidence from dwellings discovered at Durrington Walls. Each hut features a chalk floor, a fire, and walls made with stakes. Some had furnishings as well as chalk cob walls.
Stonehenge From London Tour
Stonehenge is 100 percent worth the trip from London. It is about 90 miles west of London. If you chose to travel by road, it will take around 2 hours. The train will take around 1.5 hours to reach Salisbury Station, after which a bus to the Stonehenge site will be required.
Can We Push the Stones of Stonehenge?
One can find a duplicate sarsen stone behind the visitor center in the outdoor gallery. It gives visitors a sense of how large the Stonehenge stones are. It’s an accurate replica of an upright stone from one of Stonehenge’s renowned trilithons.
According to modern estimations, it would require 500 men to draw one stone with leather ropes, and 100 men set the massive rollers in front of the sled.
Is it Permissible to Touch the Stones of Stonehenge?
One could walk between the stones until a few years ago, and in the 1970s and 1980s, you could even touch and climb them. This caused significant damage and erosion to the monument. So, it is now roped off, and you can only see the stones from 10 yards.
One can stroll among the stones during Special Access Visiting hours.
Visitors can enter the inner circle at the summer and winter solstices. The 21st of June and the 21st of December. However, they are not permitted to touch or stand on the stones.
Is Stonehenge a Henge?
There are around 100 surviving henges in Britain and Ireland. A Henge has a circular bank outside, and a ditch inside that marks out the main circular area of earthwork. They all have causeways that go out of the central circle, passing via the earthwork circuits.
Stonehenge isn’t considered a ‘true’ henge because the main ditch is external to the main bank. We can call it a ‘proto-henge.’
Henge means ’hanging’. There are lintels across the pair of vertical stones in Stonehenge architecture(trilithon). This could be the interpretation of Stonehenge-‘Stones hanging in space.’
Historical Multiphase Construction of Stonehenge
The awe-inspiring structure of Stonehenge was built in multi-stages between 3000 BC and 1500 BC.
Phase 1(Around 3100 BC)
- The earliest Stonehenge was a massive earthwork or Henge, consisting of a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes.
- The Aubrey holes were named after English antiquarian John Aubrey, who discovered these holes.
- These are shallow spherical trenches in the chalk plain of the landscape.
- The specific function of the holes is unknown.
- Their purpose likely was to support wooden stakes (or smaller bluestones) before burying cremated remains.
Phase 2:(Around 2150 BC)
- Eighty-two bluestones were carried to the location from the Preseli Mountains in southwest Wales.
- It is assumed that these stones had been hauled to Milford Haven’s headwaters on rollers and sleds before being hoisted into rafts. They were pulled overland from near Warminster in Wiltshire. They were transported by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome. The journey’s last leg was mainly on water. Down the Wylye to Salisbury and then the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury.
- This incredible excursion spans approximately 240 km.
- These stones were placed in the center of the site to make an incomplete double circle.
- At the same time, a pair of Heel Stones were built at the circular earthwork’s original entrance.
- The Avenue’s closer section was also constructed to coincide with the midsummer dawn.
Third Phase: (Around 2000 BC)
- The Sarsen stones arrived in the third stage of construction.
- These massive Sarsen stones could only have been hauled by sleds and ropes.
- With a continuous series of lintels, they were placed in an outside circle. Five trilithons in a horseshoe layout were put inside the circle, the ruins of which may still be seen today.
Fourth Phase:(After 1500 BC)
- The bluestones were reconfigured in the horseshoe and inner circle we see today.
- The bluestone circle originally had roughly 60 stones. But they were subsequently removed or broken apart. Some only survive as stubs beneath the earth.
Learn more about ancient structures here.
Why Was Stonehenge Built?
Stonehenge has long been the subject of historical inquiry and theories. The structure’s meaning and importance have evolved in the twenty-first century.
A Druid Temple:
In the 17th century, English antiquarian John Aubrey and his fellow archaeologist William Stukeley thought Stonehenge was a Druid temple.
A Solar Calendar :
In 1963, American astronomer Gerald Hawkins argued that Stonehenge could be a “computer” to expect lunar and solar eclipses.
A Confederation Centre :
According to English archaeologist Colin Renfrew, Stonehenge was the center of a confederation of Bronze Age chiefdoms.
A Healing Site :
An Early Bronze Age skeleton with a knee injury was unearthed 3 miles from Stonehenge in 2008; British archaeologists Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright proposed it could be a healing site in prehistory.
A Place of Ancestor Worship:
As per Mike Parker Pearson, co-leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, Stonehenge was a place of ancestor worship. It was linked by the River Avon and two ceremonial roads to a close wooden circle at nearby Durrington Walls. It represented the realms of the living and the dead.
In the End, The Mystery of Stonehenge Remains Unsolved
Stonehenge’s history extends back roughly 5000 years.
And it represents that Stonehenge’s first construction phase predates that of Egypt’s Great Pyramids!!
The mysteries related to the monument have prompted a host of tales and interpretations.
The questions ‘Who built Stonehenge, why was it built, where did the missing Stonehenge stones go, how Neolithic transported massive stones from a distance of 240 km without any technology, etc.’ continue to perplex antiquarians, historians, archaeologists, and whoever else interested in the subject.
What are your thoughts on this? Do share in the comment section.
Satisfying your quest to know more about this Neolithic engineering feat will cost you a ticket to this marvelous and ancient masterpiece of Neolithic Architecture- Stonehenge. Go and grab one! Make your Stonehenge from London tour a memorable one.
FAQs | Stonehenge
Are Stonehenge and Easter Island connected?
There is no evidence that Stonehenge and Easter Island are connected. Easter Island is more than 3,000 miles from Stonehenge, and there is no evidence that either site was built by the same people or served the same purpose. Easter Island is home to massive stone statues called moai, which were carved between A.D. 1100 and 1600. Stonehenge was built in several stages, beginning about 3,100 years ago.
Can Stonehenge fall?
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. English Heritage manages the site, and is open to the public.
The answer to this question is yes, Stonehenge can fall. It is an ancient structure; as with any ancient structure, it is susceptible to deterioration and damage over time.
Can Stonehenge be seen from space?
No, Stonehenge cannot be seen from space. It is located in a rural area and is not very large.
Can Stonehenge tell time?
It’s been suggested that Stonehenge was used as a solar and lunar calendar. Some believe that the stones were aligned to track the movement of the sun and moon, allowing people to mark important dates on the calendar.
Can Stonehenge be rebuilt?
As the stones that make up Stonehenge are so heavy, it would be not easy to move them. Additionally, many stones have been damaged or destroyed over time, so it would be not easy to accurately replicate the original structure.
Stonehenge, can you touch the stones?
The stones at Stonehenge are not meant to be touched. They are sacred to the Druids and other pagans who visit the site.
Which is older, Stonehenge or the pyramids?
Stonehenge, estimated to have been constructed about 3100 B.C., was already 500-1,000 years old before the construction of the first pyramid.
Why is Stonehenge sacred?
Stonehenge is a sacred place because it is a reminder of the connection between the Earth and the sky. The stones are aligned with the sun and the moon and are said to be a portal between the worlds. People have been coming to Stonehenge for thousands of years to connect with the divine and to experience its power.
Is it worth paying for Stonehenge?
Everyone may have a different opinion on the matter. Some may find the experience and history behind Stonehenge to be worth the price of admission, while others may not feel it is worth the cost.