Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England. It is said to be one of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks.
The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The dating of cremated remains found on the site indicate that deposits contain human bone from as early as 3000 BC, when the ditch and bank were first dug. Such deposits continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years.
Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1,500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6,500 years.
Dating and understanding the various phases of activity is complicated by disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing, poor quality early excavation records, and a lack of accurate, scientifically verified dates.
As early as the 1970s, geologists have been adding their voices to the debate over how Stonehenge came into being. Challenging the classic image of industrious Neolithic builders pushing, carting, rolling or hauling the craggy bluestones from faraway Wales, some scientists have suggested that glaciers, not humans, did most of the heavy lifting.
The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one meter wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC.
Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli Mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto raft.
In the Iron Age, probably about 700 BC, a major hill fort later known as Vespasian’s Camp was constructed 1¼ miles east of Stonehenge overlooking the river Avon. Stonehenge appears to have been frequently visited in the Roman period (from AD 43), since many Roman objects have been found there.
Commencing the 1880s, various stones had been propped up with timber poles, but concern for the safety of visitors grew when an outer sarsen upright and its lintel fell in 1900. The then owner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, with the help of the Society of Antiquaries, organized the re-erection of the leaning tallest trilithon in 1901.
From 1927, the National Trust began to acquire the land around Stonehenge to preserve it and restore it to grassland. Large areas of the Stonehenge landscape are now in their ownership.
Stonehenge has undergone several restorations over the years, and some of its boulders have been set in concrete to prevent collapse. It is a place where much human effort was expended for a purpose we can only guess at.
Some people see it as a place steeped in magic and mystery, some as a place where their imaginations of the past can be fired and others hold it to be a sacred place.