“The more we dig, the more the mystery seems to deepen”, said William Hawley, the official archaeologist of Stonehenge. Located on Salisbury Plain, about 8 miles north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, Stonehenge is a site of concentric rings of stone and paths leading to nearby burial sites. People come from all over the world to stare at the world’s most enigmatic ancient monument and wonder how and why they were put in place. As archaeologists study this area, mystery after mystery unfolds into a coherent story.
Stonehenge a massive stone monument was built roughly 5,000 and 4,000 years ago in six stages between 3000 and 1520 BCE, during the transition from the Neolithic Period to the Bronze Age. As a prehistoric stone circle, it is unique because of its artificially shaped Sarsen stones (blocks of Cenozoic silcrete), arranged in post and lintel formation (object that rests across two pillars, called trilithons), and because of the remote origin of its smaller bluestones (igneous and other rocks) from 100-150 miles (160-240 km) away, in South Wales.
There are four stone alignments –two are circles and two others are horseshoe-shaped patterns. The outer circle is about 100 feet in diameter and originally consisted of 30 upright stones linked on top by a ring of stones. The stones composed of Sarsen, a kind of sandstone average about 26 feet in height and 25 tons in weight, are the biggest of Stonehenge’s stones. It is widely believed that they were brought from Marlborough Downs, a distance of 20 miles to the north. A second ring consists of bluestones, smaller sized stones within which five linteled pairs of Sarsen stones in horseshoe shape with another horseshoe of bluestones at center are present.
Many theories have emerged about why Stonehenge was constructed and what purposes it served, such as by Geoffrey of Monmouth, William Stukely and many more. Sir J. Norman Lockyer also contributed in these theories by his findings which were controversial but helped spur further studies of astronomical interests and received a tremendous boost during 1960s and 1970s. Lockyer came to the conclusion that Stonehenge served as calendar dividing the Celtic year into eight parts, which was used to determine key points of the year, such as the coming of warmth weather for planting. Gerald Hawkins, an astronomer studied the site by using a computer to compare historic solar and lunar alignments, which offered the most convincing scientific evidence yet.
Though information has come forth about Stonehenge construction but the identity of its builder remains unknown and where and how the stones came. But it surely emphasis that the Neolithic people had huge skill and ambition. It seems that Stonehenge will only continue to throw up new questions to ponder which is not something easy for us to understand in our modern world.