Stonehenge is one of the world’s best known sites, both historically and culturally relevant to the entire civilisation. This prehistoric arrangement of standing stones is situated in Wiltshire (a county in England), right in the heart of an area that is considered to be the most prolific in monuments from the Bronze Age and Neolithic Period. This area is also home to hundreds of burial mounds, which supports the theory that the Stonehenge was a burial ground when it was constructed. When this was remains somewhat of a mystery as the constructors were not of a culture that left written records. Some archaeologists and scientists believe that the burials began in 3000 Before our Common Era (BCE). According to others, the first stone was erected in 2500 BCE while yet others date its erection to about 2300 BCE.
Stonehenge is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and is legally protected as an official ancient monument. It remains the property of the Crown and the land around it is that of the National Trust’s.
The construction of Stonehenge, as it appears today, took some 1500 years to complete. There are major assumptions made regarding the original appearance, and some scholars believe that large portions of the original monument were destroyed somehow, giving us a very incomplete picture of how it once looked. The construction has been divided into phases to assist others to get a greater understanding of its evolution and development.
Some of the facts that remain regarding Stonehenge include:
The sun pierces through a dense cloud layer to illuminate the iconic ancient temple of Stonehenge
• The first monument was a circular bank and ditch that measured about 110 metres in diameter. This was in about 3100 BCE. • There is no longer any evidence of the second phase. • In about 2600 BCE, the timber being used in constructed was replaced by stone. • Between 2600 BCE and 2400 BCE, 30 huge stones were brought to the Stonehenge site and were erected to form a circle of standing stones with a diameter of 33 metres. • Some of the newer phases of Stonehenge were built in a considerably lower standard than the earlier pieces, causing a number of the stones to topple over. • The last known building work conducted at this monument was in approximately 1600 BCE. • Stonehenge was last used as a burial site during the Iron Age.
Despite the fact that relatively little is known about the original structure and the purpose of Stonehenge, it has been established that there is definitely a spiritual element to its existence. In addition, there is a function for celestial observation, indicating that it may have been used to predict important celestial occurrences (such as the equinox or eclipses). The mystery around it has led to a number of tales that, collectively, grant this monument a strong presence in English folklore.
Since the early 20th century, Stonehenge has also played an important role in Neopaganism and witchcraft. Druids used Stonehenge as the site of their initiation ceremonies and, later (1972 – 1984), the area was used as the venue for free festivals.
Although the public used to have free access to the stones, they were cordoned off in 1977 as a result of severe erosion caused by such public contact. Today, visitors from all over the world visit this uniquely wondrous attraction to marvel at its impressive dimensions and age-old history.