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The Mystery of Stonehenge-Theories About its Construction and Usage

No place has generated so much speculation and wild theories as to the standing stones of Stonehenge. Stonehenge’s great age, massive scale, and mysterious purpose continue to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It makes the construction not only the most famous Britain’s monument but also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The incredible monument stands on the open downland of Salisbury Plain two miles (three kilometres) west of the town of Amesbury, Wiltshire, in Southern England.

Archeologists are not sure about the concrete date of its creation, but they agree that the first stones had to be erected between 2400-2200 BC. Although Stonehenge began as a Neolithic monument, it was built and re-built in several stages over more than 1400 years culminating in a final building stage in the early Bronze Age. Nowadays, it consists of a ditch and bank surrounding huge stones — many weighing between one and 45 tons – arranged in circle and horseshoe patterns, along with a lane connecting it to the nearby River Avon.

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Through centuries Stonehenge has been excavated, x-rayed, measured, and surveyed. Yet, despite that, many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. What is more, even though the stones that we can see today represent Stonehenge in ruin, it remains Britain’s most significant national icon symbolizing mystery, power and endurance. No one is quite sure how old it is, who built it or what its function was. There are plenty of theories explaining the monument’s function and history, but very little is known for sure.

This diversity of theories, some of them very colorful, is often called the “mystery of Stonehenge.” For thousands of years, after Stonehenge was built, nobody was sure who built it, how it was created, and the purpose of the construction. In my work, I will describe the most popular theories about the usage and construction of Stonehenge. Many questions are primarily unanswered even today. One of them is who built Stonehenge. Some people believe that Druids built Stonehenge. In the seventeenth century, well before the development of archaeological dating methods and proper historical research, the antiquarian John Aubrey claimed that the Druids constructed Stonehenge and other megalithic structures.

He described his theory in a book titled ‘Templa Druidum,’ which ultimately formed a chapter in his ‘Monumenta Britannica.’ In the early 18th century, Aubrey’s views became known to William Stukeley, who declared Stonehenge and Avebury a temple of the Druids. Although the idea became very popular and many people still believe that Druids were responsible for building Stonehenge, historians and archeologists claim that druids had nothing to do with the construction of the stone rings. The Celtic society with the Druid as priests came into existence in Britain only after 300 BC, more than 1500 years after the last stone rings were constructed.

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Moreover, no evidence suggests that the Druids, upon finding the stone rings situated across the countryside, ever used them for ritual purposes- they are known to have conducted their ritual constructions. Other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century visitors to the stone rings suggested that the Romans constructed these monuments. Still, this idea is even more lacking in historical possibility than the Druid theory because the Romans did not set foot on the British Isles until the final years of the first century BC, nearly 2000 years after the construction of the stone rings.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prehistorians attributed Stonehenge and other stone rings to Egyptian and Mycenaean travellers who were thought to have come to Europe in the Bronze Age. But with the development of modern research techniques, this theory was also abandoned as the megalithic monuments of Britain and Europe were shown to predate those of the eastern Mediterranean, Egyptian, Mycenaean, and Greek cultures. After years of different theories, now the more probable is that the stones were built by three different cultures- Windmill, First Wessex and the Beakers.

Here appears another question. How these prehistoric people, without the usage of modern tools, could build such an incredible construction? It indeed required great power and vast amounts of manual labor. It’s important to say that everything was done before the wheel was invented. Over the years, various authors have suggested that supernatural or anachronistic methods were used, usually asserting that the stones were impossible to move otherwise. Although it seems to be impossible archeologists, claim that they discovered how Stonehenge was created.

Those who built Stonehenge knew how to cut and move huge pieces of stone and place horizontal stone beams across the upright pillars. They also had the authority to control large numbers of workers add fetch some of the stones from distant parts of Wales. The site was built during three distinct periods. In the beginning, Stonehenge was a circular ditch with an internal bank. The circle had a single entrance, 56 mysterious holes around its perimeter and a wooden sanctuary in the middle. It’s believed that the ditch was dug with tools made from the antlers of red deer and possibly wood. The underlying chalk was loosened with picks and shovelled with the shoulder blades of cattle. It was then loaded into baskets and carried away.

Modern scientists recreated the process and found the prehistoric instruments to work almost as well as modern tools. During the 2nd period dated around 2500 BC, the wooden sanctuary was replaced with two circles of eighty “bluestones” transported from the Prescelly Mountains in Wales, 240 miles away, some weighing as much as four tons. Since the bluestone quarry was so far away, this poses another question: how did the Beaker people, responsible for building the second stage of Stonehenge, transport them to Salisbury Plain? Scientists think they know the answer.

The Beaker People first loaded the bluestones onto sleds with wooden runners on the bottom. Then they drug the sleds over a long line of rounded logs. Carried by roller and sled across the land to the headwaters of Milford Haven, they then floated on rafts to what is today Frome in Somerset. From there the Beaker peoples hauled the stones overland to Warminster in Wiltshire. Floating down the River Wylye, they went up the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury. From there the workers had only a short 2-mile drag to the Stonehenge. In the final stage (2075 BC) the bluestones were taken down and the enormous stones which still stand today were erected.

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Each weighted as much as 50 tons. They probably were transported from near the Avebury stone rings twenty miles to the north. Between 1500 and 1100 BC sixty of the bluestones were placed in a circle immediately inside the first circle, and another nineteen were placed in a horseshoe pattern, also inside the circle. How they did it? One theory suggests that the Wessex peoples only transported stones when there was ice on the ground so the stones would just slide along. Stonehenge was probably completed around 1500 BC.

Despite years of archeological research it’s very hard to understand the motives behind the building of a monument such as Stonehenge. If the builders and the construction process are somewhat a mystery to us, then the reasons to build Stonehenge can only be based on assumptions. Stonehenge is interpreted to be a structure with multiple purposes, and there is no way we could say that one idea is better than another. So here are the most known and popular theories about the purpose of Stonehenge.

Many researchers have argued that Stonehenge was a site of religious rites of its time. Remains of pig bones found on the site emphasize that theory because no pig skulls were found among the bones. This means that the animals had to have been brought to the site ready to cook, which could be done for the sake of the gods or the clergymen. Some people believe that Stonehenge was also the place for human sacrifice. But what was the nature of the rituals performed at Stonehenge? Archeologists theorize that because Stonehenge is situated in an area rich in burial tombs, some burial rituals might occur there.

Mike Parker Pearson, head of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, suggested that Stonehenge was part of a ritual landscape and was joined to Durrington Walls by their corresponding avenues and the River Avon. The area around Durrington Walls Henge was a land of the living, while Stonehenge was a domaidead domainourney along the Avon to reach Stonehenge was part of a ritual passage from life to death, to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased. But was religion or sacrifice the main reason for building Stonehenge? The question derives from the fact that no verbal or written heritage has survived through the times about the ideas and motives of builders of the stones.

The other popular theory says that the stones served as an astronomical observatory. For some archeologists Ston,ehenge is like an astronomical computer- it is designed so that Midsummer sunrise and Midwinter moonrise fall within the horseshoe. So Stonehenge could also be used to mark or calculate other astronomical events such as the summer and winter solstice. With this information, ancient people could establish where they were in the circle of seasons. Probably the best-known study of “astronomical Stonehenge” is Gerald Hawkins’ Stonehenge Decoded, in which he uses a modern computer to calculate all the sightlines (line of sight from one point in Stonehenge to a body of sky via landmarks such as stones) and their relation to objects of the sky, mainly the Moon and the Sun, though.

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It means that Ancient people could measure the movements of the sun, the moon, and perhaps, the stars. Some archeologists claim that it can easily be called a calendar. Stonehenge offered a way to establish calendar dates when no other way existed. Accurate dating allowed for far more efficient and successful agriculture as weand markedrtant social and religious events. In modern research new ,theory appears. Professors Darvill and Wainwright are not convinced that Stonehenge was a tool for calculating dates. Instead, they believe that the site was a centre of healing to which the sick and injured travelled from far and wide, to be healed by the powers of the bluestones.

They suggest that the smaller bluestones in the circle, rather than enormous sarsen stones had ,the powerhealing powery were transported from about 250 km and there must be a good reason for it. Professors add that a huge number of the corpses found in tombs nearby Stonehenge display signs of severe physical injury and disease. What Moreysis of teeth recovered from graves shows that around half of the corpses were from people not native to the Stonehenge area? That may suggest that Stonehenge would attract not only people who were unwell but also people who were capable of healing them.

Every year a million tourists make their way to Stonehenge. Although many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by previous generations the monument still art act as people from all over the world. There is a lot that has to be done to solve the mystery of the stones. After years of research, we are almost certain that Stonehenge was built in several stages spanning over 1500 years. We know too that it was probably erected by three cultures- Windmill, First Wessex and the Beakers. Archeologists can also predict which tools were used. They have gone some way in answering the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ of Stonehenge. But what we don’t know is perhaps the most important question of all. They’re still some way from a definitive answer to the question ‘why’.

Taking into consideration the time and effort involved in the building of the construction we can be pretty sure that Stonehenge was one of the most significant points on the landscape of late Neolithic Europe and only something very important to ate ancients would have been worth the effort and investment that it took to construct the monument. Perhaps some facts about Stonehenge will never be known but it is a mystery that makes the site one of the most popular places in the world that attracts visitors and fascinates them.

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