Though Stonehenge is iconic of the entire Mysteries of the ancient world genre of speculation, it isn’t a mystery at all. Stonehenge is a reflection of the spectacular capacities of human beings to produce monumental structures through collective labor. Stonehenge is certainly the most elaborate and complex of the megalithic stone circles and appears to have been a pilgrimage site, not just for the ancient farmers who lived in the south of England but perhaps for people across the breadth of western Europe.
Construction of Stonehenge
Construction of Stonehenge began sometime around 5000 years ago with the inscription of a circular ditch about 330 feet (100m) across in the chalky soil of the Salisbury Plain. At about the same time or soon thereafter, the builders erected a massive monolith called the “heelstone” outside the circular ditch. Then, about 700 years later (about 4300 years ago), a new spurt of construction was commenced, and builders transported about 80 hard, dense stone to the site. These are the so-called bluestone from the Preseli Hills in southern Wales. The easiest way of transporting the stones, each weighing about 9,000 of pounds (4000 kg), involved a route that included land, river and coastal segments for a total distance of about 250 miles (400kilometers). The remaining bluestones and the empty sockets left where bluestones had been erected but were then removed much later, show that the builders erected them in two concentric semicircles, which were, in turn, concentric with the monument’s large original circle. About 10 years later (4200 years ago), the monument started taking its iconic form when the builders began erecting the 30 massive sarsen stones. The sarsens are from sandstone outcrops in the area of Avebury, about 30 kilometers distant. Each of the sarsens stands nearly 3 meters above the ground and the weight about 22.5 tons. Following the already established theme of the monument, the sarsens were erected in another circle, concentric with the original circle and the bluestones. The circle is about 30 meters in diameter. Though Stonehenge’s sarsens are taller than most of the component stones of other stone circles in Western Europe, if its builders had stopped there, Stonehenge , though impressive, might have been, for the most part, just another stone circle. But they didn’t stop there. The builders carved two substantial bumps on the top of each sarsen and then carved thirty curved crosspieces in stone called lintels. Smaller than the sarsens, thelintels are still substantial stones, each weighing more than 5 kilograms. On the bottom of the lintels, they carved mortisens in the precise spots to match the bumps on adjoining sarsens. Then, in a brillind and remarkably well-executed feat of engineering, likely using wooden platforms and levers, the builders raised each lintel up-remember, each weighed about six tons-and carefully placed it on top of a pair of adjoining upright sarsens, essentially connecting each sarsen to its adjacent neighbor. Because the lintels had to fit snugly with the sarsen to its adjacent neighbor. Because the litels had to fiot snugly with the sarsens and with the adjacent lintels on top of the great sarsen circle, each lintel had to be precisely curved on its interior and exterior faces with its ends angled properly to fit within a continuous circle on top of the sarsens. It was an amazing accomplishment that the entire thing hung together. And that’s not all. In the center of the sarsen circle. The builders erected 10 more sarsens-five sets of two-even taller and more massive than the stones used in the circle. The tallest of these are an astonishing 26 feet(8 meters) tall(with additional 2 meters set into the chalky ground) and wigh about 50 tons. These large uprights break the pattern of concentric circles and were positioned in a horseshoe shape, with its opening toward the precise direction of the heel stone, the first...
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