The History and Spiritualism of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is one of the most iconic structures in the world—even its ruins command awe. It is, quite possibly, one of the most famous ancient monuments ever created. The last of the great stone circles erected in prehistoric Britain, it has also become one of the most mysterious.
The stones are older than Rome and taller than pyramids-yet they’ve resisted every attempt at explaining them. We know Stonehenge was built between 3100-1900 BC, but who built it? What is it for? And what does it mean to us today?
The construction of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is made up of a circular setting of large standing stones facing inwards and nearly 300 smaller stones surrounding them. Within the circle, there are three rectangular standing stones known as trilithons. The whole monument was completed by the addition of an earthen bank and a ditch to the outside edge. Outside this is another circular earthwork called ‘the cursus’ that runs to about two thirds of a mile. It is estimated that around eighty bluestones were brought from Wales to build the stone circle. The stones were transported from Wales to the Wiltshire region, which is in southwest southern England. The bluestones had been quarried on the Welsh island of Anglesey while nearby Stonehenge 2 was, at the time, being constructed. They show no signs of having been worked.
It has been suggested that the stones were placed in a circle because they are aligned with certain seasonal phenomena such as sunrise and sunset. However no definitive answer has ever been found for why it was built and who built it. Who built Stonehenge?
Guesswork: on the origins of Stonehenge
Stonehenge has been a site of debate for almost as long as it has been standing. It is estimated that Stonehenge was completed about 3,000 years ago but for the first thousand years or so it was thought highly unlikely to have been actually built by any ancient society. However recent archeological discoveries have shown that Britain was not as isolated from the rest of Europe during this period as was once thought. There is an increasing amount of evidence that suggests Stonehenge may have been a large stone calendar used to mark seasonal changes. Recent finds in other parts of Britain show a link between ancient cultures and Stonehenge.
Some researchers such as John Legon believe that Stonehenge megaliths were used to determine the moon’s movements. Using computer modelling, they found that the moon’s rising position changed through time and could be used to explain certain mysterious holes (known as moon-cloths) found in some British long barrow tombs. No other explanation of the holes has been found. Some believe that Stonehenge was a site of religious worship which was likely held by followers of a cult that worshiped the sun. These people believed that the moon god would cause drought when the sun god was out of line with them and rain when he followed his worshippers. It is possible that Stonehenge was connected to mystical events such as those believed to be taking place in Stonehenge, Wiltshire.
Some researchers claim that Stonehenge was used as part of ancient Druid ceremonies involving human sacrifice and blood drinking rituals known as mysteries. The Druids were an ancient Celtic priesthood who practiced magic and other mysterious types of rituals. However, other researchers have said that Druids are not associated with Stonehenge and the Druid culture did not exist until about 100 years after Stonehenge was built.
Cultural significance of Stonehenge today
Today it is believed that Stonehenge was used as a burial site for ancient tribal leaders. The skulls found at Stonehenge show signs of battle wounds suggesting they were warriors. Also, some of them were buried with a horse which was an important part of life at the time. This has led some to believe that Stonehenge served as a place for burial for rulers and their armies and a place of worship for followers of the sun god. There are a number of archaeological excavations currently being carried out in the area surrounding Stonehenge. It is believed that one of these, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, may provide evidence for some of these theories. The most recent findings are from the summer of 2001. Around ten people worked on the site for five weeks (during which time they found new information). They excavated areas within a large horseshoe shaped area to the west of the stone circle. It has been discovered that this site had been used for ceremonial burials from about 4,500 years ago to 1,800 years ago. On this site, there are a number of other stone monuments including thirty two burial mounds. Inside one of these twenty six skeletons were found. They were preserved and an incredible amount of grave goods (personal belongings) were found with them. The items included gold jewellery, weaponry and pottery fragments with distinctive design motifs. It was the largest collection of Early Bronze Age metalwork ever found in Britain and shows that this was a high status burial site for over 1,000 years.
A large wooden platform known as a palisade had been built around the barrow (burial mound). This had been put there to protect the area and to keep out intruders. This is the first time a structure of this kind has ever been found in a British burial site from this period. The burials were characterized by warriors who had died in violent conflict with weapons such as swords, spears and arrows buried with them. No women or children were found in the graves which suggests that only men were allowed into this sacred area.
Stonehenge as an ancient calendar
Some researchers have suggested that Stonehenge was used as an ancient calendar for determining seasonal changes, for planting crops and for celebrating religious festivals. In fact, the site was used for all of these purposes. The positioning of each stone in relation to the sun can be used to determine certain periods of time such as summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes.
What is known for certain about Stonehenge is that it was probably used as a place of worship by people who believed that the sun god was extremely important. It is not known where these people came from or why they built Stonehenge but it is believed that one reason why they chose Wiltshire as their location for building Stonehenge may be because of its long history with religious significance.