What were the different stages of the construction of Stonehenge? Stonehenge is a monolithic monument that is situated in Wiltshire, an English county 13km north of Salisbury. It is composed of earthworks surrounding larger standing stones in a circular setting. One of the most famous stone sites ever created, it is the centre of a complex site of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including several hundred burial mounds. Stonehenge was constructed in three stages, with each stage being an ‘improvement’ to the site. Recently, there have been efforts to restore destroyed or stolen sections of the monument.
Theories have been made concerning what Stonehenge was used for. Many people believe it was used as a temple of Sun-worship for various Sun-cults. Modern scientific beliefs state that it may have been used as a burial site. Professor Michael Parker Pearson, the leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, agrees with this hypothesis. He said in an interview with Washington AFP: “Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. 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.”
The tools and building methods for constructing Stonehenge all those years ago must have been the height of building technology of the time. The ditches that the huge stones were placed in were dug from tools made from the antlers of red deer, and possibly wood. The underlying chalk on the stone were loosened with picks and shovelled with the shoulder blades of cattle. It was then loaded into baskets and carried away. Timber A-frames were erected to raise the stones, and that teams of people then hauled them upright using ropes. The topmost stones may have been raised up on timber platforms and slid into place or pushed up ramps. The carpentry-type joints used on the stones imply that Stonehenge was built by highly skilled workers, who would have easily been able to erect it using their techniques. Estimates of the sheer manpower needed to erect this magnificent monument are numbered in the millions of hours of work.
The First Stage
The first stage of Stonehenge construction was a circular enclosure outlined by a ditch and two banks, with an entrance to the northeast and a standing stone a few metres from the entrance. This circular complex was created from earth, and even though it is now mostly destroyed, it was about 116 metres in diameter, nearly a metre high and around 2.5 metres wide. The ditch, which was more of a pit than anything else, varied in width from 3-6 metres and a depth of 1-2 metres.
Next was the chalkwood inner bank of the complex. It was an impressive sight, standing at about 2 metres high, was around 6 metres wide and had a diameter of 97 metres. It is, or at least was composed of solid chalk that seemed to make up most of the surface region around Stonehenge. Stonehenge is unique in that its largest bank is within the ditch, unlike other monuments which have their bigger banks outside their ditch.
Inside the enclosure are 56 ‘Aubrey’ holes, named after their discoverer John Aubrey. They vary in depths from 0.7-2 metres and 0.6-1.2 metres in width. They were spread out in a circle with an 87 metre diameter. The fifty-six Aubrey holes contained timber poles, which were later either removed or destroyed. This first period of construction dates between 2950-00BC and is known as the ‘Earthwork Monument’.
The Second Phase
Referred to as the ‘Timber Monument’, the second phase of construction took place between 2900-2940BC. The most obvious outward change during this time period was the placement of the timber posts. Unlike the Aubrey holes, these timber posts were placed in seemingly random clumps, one in particular emerged as a circle, in the centre of the rest of the larger circle. It is believed that the...
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