There are few mysteries in the UK which attract the same sort of attention and fascination as that of Stonehenge, the mystical stones situated next to Salisbury in the county of Wiltshire. There are many questions which remain unanswered including the mystery of how the stones were transported to the site and how the structure itself was built. But what was it used for? What is the basis for the design?
Many people will not be aware but Stonehenge was actually constructed in three separate phases so what we see left today is an amalgamation of what is left of the overall project. There is some controversy as to when Stonehenge was built but it could have been as early as 1100BC or as late as 3100BC, nobody really knows when the different stages began or when they ended.
What is known about Stonehenge is the fact that the stones are all placed in positions which show a truly remarkable understanding of mathematics and geometry. They have not been ‘thrown’ onto the site as it might look to many but they have actually be carefully placed into the exact positions required for their use – whatever this may have been!
The circle of stones is said to have great mystical powers and is aligned perfectly to the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunrise and the most northerly and southerly settings of the moon. The fact that these stones were placed in such a perfect fashion has spawned many different theories about Stonehenge, which has become one of the UK’s more popular tourist destinations.
There were actually two types of stones used in the construction of Stonehenge, ‘Bluestones’ which weigh up to 4 tons and were said to have been transported from over 200 miles away and ‘Sarsen stones’ which were enormous, measuring up to 18 feet in height and weighing a gigantic 25 tons!
While we know where the ‘Bluestones’ came from, and the rough origins of the ‘Sarsen stones’, nobody has been able to clarify with exact detail how the stones were transported. The workers would only have had access to some of the most rudimentary equipment ever seen. Tests have shown that it would have been impossible to drag the stones up hill and over dale even today and while some have suggested the use of the river, a recent project showed that boats of that age just would not take the strain. So how did they get there?
Depending upon who you speak to it is claimed that the construction of Stonehenge in its full glory took up to 2000 years to complete. While we know there were 3 phases to the project nobody is able to confirm the exact time span for each phase, when it started and when it actually finished. However, there is evidence to show that the ‘Bluestone’ circle was the final piece of the jigsaw, having been taken from another nearby site. Whether this was the result of some form of religious battle or an amalgamation of the two sites is unknown but many prefer to see the ‘Bluestone’ circle as a memento of a successful war.
While all that we see today is a mysterious circle of stones there is evidence to suggest that there was an outer circle made of wood and possibly a central building within the parameters of the main circle which remains today.
One of the strangest elements concerning the building of Stonehenge is not just the mystery as to how the stones arrived at the venue but how they were hoisted into their positions with such minuet accuracy. Some how this was done without any equipment even slightly resembling anything which we have today, so how did they lift stones which weighed up to 18 tons into position?
There are some theories as to how this was done, from basic brute force to the use of wooden racks onto which the stones were tied and pulled into position by vast bands of workers. Quite how they did it will never be revealed in detail but however it was completed it must go down as one of the most amazing construction ventures of all time – don’t forget that we are talking about up to 74 stones for each circle.
Uses of Stonehenge
There are many theories as to why Stonehenge was built and what it was used for, was it an ancient burial ground, a place of spiritual healing or even an astronomical observatory. Over the years there have been many coins and objects retrieved from the site showing that each and every civilisation through history has used the site for different purposes.
The sad thing is that Stonehenge was built by a culture which had no written language at the time and no way of recording how or why the structure was built. This is the main reason why myths, truths and untruths have arisen over the years, the very fact that nobody can prove or disprove them.
Additional facts about Stonehenge
Nobody is quite sure how many stones were used to build the original Stonehenge but just one of the outer circles required over 70 stones to complete, all of which weighed between 4 and 25 tons.
Despite the Druids having claimed their part in the history of Stonehenge it has been proved that they had nothing to do with the project. However, they regularly gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice and other Pagan celebrations.
Amazingly Stonehenge is just one of 900 stone circles across the UK suggesting a concerted effort to build these monuments across the whole of the country – but what were they for?
It has been suggested that the building of Stonehenge took a mind blowing 34 million hours of labour which maybe explains why the project took so long to complete. In order to compare the modern day cost of labour required to build Stonehenge v the Great Pyramid of Giza, check out the figures below :-
34,000,000hrs x £4.77/hr (minimum wage in the UK today 18-21 year olds) = £162.18 million
So the final figures are :-
Stonehenge £162.18 million v £17 billion Great Pyramid of Giza