The origins of Stonehenge, the mystical monument in Wiltshire, England, has always been shrouded in mystery. Thanks to modern archaeologists and technology, this riddle has now been solved!
According to the English Heritage website, Stonehenge was built in many stages; the first monument was built about 5,000 years ago, the stone circle was constructed around 2500 BC during the Neolithic period, and the burial mounds were built in the Early Bronz Age. ‘Sarsens’ and ‘bluestones’ are the different types of stones that make up this monument. The larger sarsens form the inner horseshoe and outer circle while the small bluestones form the double arc. In the later years, both stones underwent rearrangement until it reached the final form that constructed the Stonehenge that we know today.
This monument was always looked at in fascination because of its mystical origins. Over the decades, there was much deliberation about who (or what) placed these stones here and why. One folklore stated that the wizard Merlin, from Arthurian legend, transported the stones from Ireland and had giants construct them. Other theories involved invading Danes who built these stones or that these were the ruins of a Roman temple. The more outlandish theories are that Stonehenge is the landing site for an alien spacecraft or that it is a fertility symbol in the shape of female genitalia (not going to lie, that one is pretty funny).
Through high-tech chemical tracing called ‘portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry’, it was found that some rocks came from a two square mile area of woodland 15 miles away and located south of the village of Lockeridge. The smaller ‘bluestones’ came from about 180 miles away, or from Preseli Hills in Wales. It was thought that the sarsens came from Marlborough Downs located west of London but new information came to light. They were sampled then compared to the boulders around Britain and it was concluded that they came from the West Woods in Wiltshire before being transported to their current spot.
Now for the burning question that has been long unanswered, how did these stones get there? These stones are about 20 tonnes (or 40,000 pounds – props to the tons to pounds converter) and they were hauled to their current spot in 3,000 BC by Neolithic builders. These stones were chosen because of their flat shape (as well as their spiritual value) and the route of transportation was also flat. The builders placed the stones on logs and rolled them to the current site.
It was also used as a cremation site and still holds spiritual significance for many people today. The scientists who worked on this fascinating finding made the point that this discovery would not have been possible without the new tech. Brighton University’s David Nash stated, “Until recently we did not know it was possible to provenance a stone like sarsen. It has been really exciting to use 21st century science to understand the Neolithic past and answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries.” How right you are, David.
Stonehenge has been a mystery for centuries and we are lucky enough to get to experience the discovery of its origins. It is truly an amazing sight to see (having seen it myself) and if you get the chance to see this still-mystical monument, definitely go pay it a visit. If you’re interested in monuments or statues with a bit of a twist, check out this statue based on a Japanese children’s game.