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Stonehenge is one of the worlds best known monuments of the ancient times. Stonehenge stood for over five thousand years, and still we do not know the full use of this mysterious arrangement of stones. Stonehenge remains as an ancient monument that still propose mysteries to it origin and purpose.
At first, scientists had no clue as to who built Stonehenge. The Romans, Egyptians, and the Phoenicians were all suggested to have been a possible creator of Stonehenge. Later study proved that none of these cultured built Stonehenge. The truth of Stonehenge is that three different cultures contributed to this megalithic monument. The first group began construction around 3100 B.C.. Neolithic herdsmen began the first step in the construction of Stonehenge.
The first part of this monument began as a modest circular ditch. Within this circle 56 holes were dug. These hole, later named Aubrey Holes after their discoverer, presented mysteries to scientists for years.
These strange holes served two purposes. The first, and more important reason, is that these holes acted as a lunar calender. The moon has a cycle for itís eclipses. Once a lunar eclipse occurs, another will not happen for nineteen years. After those nineteen years, the moon will, once again, eclipse. The next, and final, eclipse of this cycle occurs eighteen years after the previous eclipse. These years add up to be fifty-six. Scientists believe that a stone was placed in one hole in the circle. Each year, the stone would be moved to the next hole. This way the ancient people could keep track of the moon.
The other reason has a morbid side to it. In some of the Aubrey holes, remains of humans were discovered. These remains were first cremated, then put into the holes. This suggests that Stonehenge could have acted as a burial site, and possibly a temple in which human sacrifices were made. None of these theories have been proven, but these reasons are the only feasible explanation to these holes.
The second period is that which the most data can be found on. The second period began at about 2100B.C.. The Beaker people, a group which worshiped the sun, added to the monument itís first large stones. The first thing done is that any of the stones that were already there were removed. Next, thirty large stones were brought to the site. The stones, each weighing well over five tons, were to act as the pillars of the new monument. These stones were
called the Sarsen Stones, stemming from what they are made of. These stones, however, are only two-thirds above ground. The other third is buried to keep the huge pillar from toppling over.
The Beaker people created two concentric circles, the inner circle measuring seventy four meters in diameter, and the outer circle eighty six meters. The outer circle was later named the Sarsen
Circle. The inner circle was never completed, and no one has any evidence as to why. It appears that they just stopped, without cleaning up or removing any of the old stones. Some speculate that the project was to large that it seemed insurmountable the Beaker people.
The third period began at about 1550 B.C.. The Wesset culture was going to add their touch to the growing monument. The Wesset culture decided to dismantle the work of the Beaker people, but decided on a similar design. They decided to construct a circle around the same point the Beaker people used for their circle. On top of each pillar, however, a large rectangular stone was placed, with each side resting on neighboring pillars. This created a
continuous circle all around the monument. Instead of a smaller circle within the larger circle, the
Wesset culture placed a simple horse-shoe. The horse-shoe, just as the large circle, was capped
with large rectangular stones.
ďGiven the distance they had to travel, this presented quite a transportation problem.Ē(Lacy, www.britannia.com/travel/magical/magic12.htm). The problem of getting the stones to the building site was large enough to stop most people from even attempting such a project. There were to ways used to deliver the massive stones to the building site. The first was by land. Giant carts were constructed to carry the smaller stones. The stones were loaded on the
cart and pulled eighty-five miles to Stonehenge. This method would not work for the larger stones as a large enough cart could not be made. For these stones, a wooden raft was made, and they were sent down a nearby river. From the banks of the river it was a short distance to Stonehenge.
Placing the stones took some thinking. First, a five foot deep pit was dug. One side of the pit was slanted to act as a sliding board for the stone when it was ready. A ramp was then built leading up to the pit. Large ropes were fastened to the stone and then heaved up the ramp and into the pit. Ropes, in conjunction with manpower, were used to upright the stones into their current position.
The most perplexing mystery lies in the caps of the Sarsen Stones. How could one lift a twenty ton stone ten feet into the air? Two methods have been suggested as the answer to this question. The first approach uses a similar method as to the rasing of the Sarsen Stones. A ramp would have been built. Then the huge stone would have been pulled up the ramp and onto the pillar. This is not the most efficient way because much more manpower would be needed as the
ramp would have a much greater angle than that of the ramp used for the Sarsen Stones. The
more practical reason is that a scaffold was built. The stone was placed on this scaffold. One end
of the rock was lifted, and a timber placed underneath. The timber would prevent the stone from
falling. The other end was lifted, and a timber inserted under it. This process was repeated until
the stone has reached to proper height. The stone was then move two feet to itís final resting
The Wesset culture had gone as far as to eliminate the optical illusions created by the large
stones. As an object gets taller, the top seems to get narrower. To eliminate this problem the shape of the pillar were distorted. The tops of the pillars were wider and thicker than at the bottom. So now when viewed from below, the stone appeared to be the symmetrical. Another problem the Wesset culture found was the look of the surface of the stone. The surface looked like it caved in a little. To fix this illusion, the sculptors made the surfaces convex. To make it easier to chisel, fire and water were applied to the stone to make the stones expand and contract.
This made the stone brittle, and much easier to shape. As a final touch, axe heads and daggers
were chiseled into the side of the Sarsen Stones.
A lunar calender, a temple, a burial ground; all of these .were proposed as uses for Stonehenge. Stonehenge has one more use beyond what was previously mentioned. Stonehenge could accurately predict the seasons. This was a useful bit of knowledge during the New Stone Age as no calenders were in use. The ancient people needed a way to know when to plant and
harvest their crops, and Stonehenge was what they used. If one were to stand in the center of
Stonehenge on June twenty-fourth and look out the opening of the horse-shoe, one would see the
sun rising over a stone in the distance. This stone was named the heelstone. On December 21, the winter solstice, one could stand at the same point, turn one hundred eighty degrees, and watch the sun rise between the opening of the stones making the bottom of the horse-shoe. Other such relationships within Stonehenge indicate important days in the year.
Gerald Hawkins was a scientist that was intrigued with Stonehenge. He knew about the
relation between Stonehenge and the seasonal solstices, but he wondered if any other relationships
existed within Stonehenge. Hawkins took over two hundred measurements between rocks, openings, and any other distinguishing markings within Stonehenge. Of his measurements, twenty-four had some relevance to the position of the sun, moon, or stars. Hawkins also was the man to explain the bizarre Aubrey Holes as a lunar calender.
Through all of this research, mysterious still remain about Stonehenge. The large stone in the middle of the structure is one of these mysteries. This stone is called the Altar Stone. Scientists have no idea as to the original location of the stone. Scientists donít even know what the stoneís uses were. All scientists have figured ut about this stone is that somewhere in history it was moved. This just proves that no matter how much you research something, there will always be an element of mystery that will never go away.
Evan Hadingham once remarked,
ďAn air of mystery broods over Stonehenge. Learned men from all fields of science, as well as spiritualists, clairvoyants and cranks, Have studied the remains to try uncover the secrets of the past. Wasit a temple of the sun? A royal palace? A magic shrine?? An observatory for studying the heavens? Was it even a gigantic computer built centuries before the Greeks mastered mathematics?One day, perhaps, the answers to all the questions will be known. Or will these colossal stones guard their secret for eternity?Ē (83).
For the past one hundred years we have been studying Stonehenge. There have been countless digs for relics of the past. Over these past one hundred years much had been learned about Stonehenge. For all the research, we must realize that all of these reasons are not solutions, but merely speculations. We may dig, study, and scrutinize every part of Stonehenge, but we will never know all of the secrets of the ancient megalith known as Stonehenge.
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