There are few ancient structures in the world that captivate the imagination and the critical mind of both the scholarly and ordinary individual as Stonehenge. This intriguingly mysterious Neolithic monument is located near Amesbury in Wiltshire, England and draws thousands of spectators to its arena each year.
The oldest part of Stonehenge, called Stonehenge I (constructed ca. 3100 BCE), consists of little more than a circular ditch dug in the soil of the Salisbury plain, with the excess soil piled up to make an embankment approximately six feet tall. This area is approximately three hundred thirty feet in diameter, and encompasses “Stonehenge proper” – the familiar circles of massive stones that once stood upright as well as the large horseshoe arrangement of standing stones near the center of Stonehenge. (Trefil 48)
The outer ring of Stonehenge proper, also known as the “sarsen circle,” consists of several upright sarsen (gray sandstone) stones. According to the text of Art History, each stone in this circle weighs up to fifty tons and stands up to twenty feet tall, and was once “capped by a continuous lintel.” To accomplish this architectural structure, the builders used the technique of mortise-and-tendon joints to join and ensure the security of the lintel sections. With this technique, a projecting pin (tenon) located on a lintel fits tightly into a hole designed for it (mortise) on an upright stone. (Stokstad 59)
Inside the sarsen circle was once a ring of bluestones. These special stones consisted of various grades of bluish dolerite, which (many individuals conclude) were only found one hundred fifty miles away in the mountains of southern Wales. The inner horseshoe arrangement of five paired lintel-topped uprights, or trilithons, dominates the center of Stonehenge. These sandstone trilithons range in height of up to twenty-four feet, weigh up to forty-five tons, and radiate the mysterious majesty of the megalithic structure. (Stokstad 59)
Whatever the method by which the stones arrived on Salisbury Plain, they were apparently set up in about 2800-2700 BCE in either the unfinished circle or the incomplete horseshoe open to the south-west. A century or so later, (ca. 2500 BCE) the great sarsen circle was constructed, and the bluestones were dragged from their holes only to be returned some centuries later to form the irregular circle and the elegant horseshoe inside the towering sarsens. (Burl 22)
The purpose of erecting Stonehenge as well as the identity of the person(s) responsible for its creation is a mystery. The “who’s,” “how’s,” and “why’s” behind this majestic monument are based on many (usually conflicting) myths, guesstimates, and theories. As a result, we have no definite answers for the probing questions about Stonehenge’s existence. However, each theory grants the Neolithic monument its character and mystique, as well as society’s best guesses as to its true origin and purpose. Therefore, I...