To look at this ancient ring of stones, the large ones being over 30 foot and weighing in at 40 plus tons, its hard to believe that our ancestors achieved such an impossible task. And they didn't have Tony Robbins to help them. Seriously though, how did they accomplish it and more importantly why. Its only now that the latest digging around the area and looking at things from outside the box that the truth appears to be emerging.
Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury plain, about 10 miles from the city of Salisbury in the south of England. To look at it now as a modern day person living in the 21st century its just awesome, an incredible feat. To really appreciate it you must imagine how it looked some 3,500 years ago, or go to youtube, they have some great videos on how magnificent this structure looked in its prime. The huge inner stones, the sarsens with their capping stones. And the outer rings of Bluestones. Now go back in time. Imagine yourself as a young Neolithic person (Ancient British people) arriving at Stonehenge for the first time. You would have been mesmerised, overawed at the size and magnitude.
The people who lived in England at that time are known as the Neolithic People. They lived in timber dwellings and farmed and hunted for food. Life went on year after year according to the seasons, there were no changes in their way of life for hundreds of years and iron and copper was still unknown. But these people were masters of working stone. They were artists, using flint they would make knifes, arrow heads, axe's and many other types of tools.
Now that you have a picture in your mind as to how these ancient people lived, and also remembering that the wheel would not be 'invented' until well after Stonehenge was completed. How did they:-
Find and locate the huge stones that they wanted.
How did they hew out the 'Bluestones' from the Preseli mountains in Wales and . . .
How did they then transport these stones weighing up to 4 tons each, over 230 miles to Stonehenge.
How did they repeat the process with the huge sarsen stones weighing up to 45 tons.
And, there were no roads or nice flat fields, at that time the countryside would have been wild forest. Questions questions and more questions.
Now to try and understand how Stonehenge came about we must go back in time. Originally thought to have been built between 2,800 and 3,000 years ago, modern technology has since dated the 'Henge' to have been started about 5,000 years ago, and being completed about 3,500 years ago. Now to put that into perspective . . .
3114 BC The Mayan calender was started
3100 BC First workings at Stonehenge
2575 BC: Work begins on the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt.
1185 BC Trojan Wars
Jesus Christ was born 3,000 years after the start of Stonehenge.
5,000 years ago the area around Stonehenge and the Southern part of England would have been a mixture of woodland and chalk downland. But during the last ice age the retreating glaciers left a bare 'track' of rock about 12 feet wide and 500 feet long. This 'track', the correct terminology being 'periglacial stripes', has only recently come to light by using geophysical surveys and excavations.
To the people who lived here at that time this could have possible meant something of extreme importance to them, because Stonehenge itself was built where these 'periglacial stripes' end. Also, they align in places on the solstice axis. During the construction of Stonehenge these 'periglacial stripes' were widened, worked on, and made into a walkway so that it became part of the Stonehenge structure, a grand avenue leading up to it.
In the beginning the 'henge' was initially built using timber logs, a sort of ring of timber pole's type structure surrounded by an earthen bank and ditch. But over the centuries it was built and re-built. The final 'henge' is the one we see today made from stone. Even the smaller Bluestones have been moved around the 'henge' over time. Excavations over the years have discovered about 64 cremations and perhaps as many as 150 individuals were originally buried at Stonehenge, making Stonehenge the largest late Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles. It seems to have been used for burial over a long period of time, from the earliest stages of the monument. Also objects that probably accompanied the burials, including a small ceramic objects, beautiful stone axeheads, flint tools and bone skewer pins have been found.
The second stage of building Stonehenge as its known involves the huge stones. The very large stones the sarsens and the bluestones (bluestones would be all other stones apart from the huge sarsens. Known as bluestones because when freshly chipped or wet, give a faint blue sheen) These stones are what captures our imagination.
The Bluestones would have come from the Preseli mountains in North Wales, some 230 miles from the Stonehenge site. Now bearing in mind that the easiest way to travel around the country 5,000 years ago would have been by boat. The obvious thing that comes to mind is that these Bluestones were transported along the river networks, on types of raft, minimising the amount of overland haulage.
We can understand and grasp how these people floated large stones of up to 4 tons, along a river on some type of raft or barge. Its the overland haulage that seems impossible. Especially when you think of the huge sarsen stones. These came from the Marlborough downs some 20 miles away and are a type of silicified sandstone, some weighing over 40 tons.
There have been all manner of ideas and theories regarding the overland movement of these slabs of stones. Some have been credible, some not. However a new theory has only just come to light. Over parts of Britain and especially around sites of stone circles, excavations have unearthed hundreds small stone balls about four inches in diameter. Some are just plain and others are decorated. These balls are perfectly round, every one of them 3inches in diameter, remember that these people were masters of carving stone. But no one had any idea of what they were for. Until now.
Andrew Young of Exeter University has put the unknown balls and linked them with transporting the stones at Stonehenge. What he is suggesting is that timber logs were linked together and in parallel, just like a railway track. But that each track would have a shallow groove carved out big enough to hold 3 inch balls. A wooden 'platform' with matching grooves would run along the track. The huge stones would be transported strapped onto the platform.
To test his theory, Young first made a small-scale model of the ball-and-rail set up.
"I discovered I could push over a hundred kilograms(220 pounds) of concrete using just one finger," he said. Young recently scaled up his experiment to see if the ball-and-track system could be used to move a Stonehenge-weight stone. Sure enough, they found that, with just seven people pushing, they could easily move a four-ton load, about as heavy as Stonehenge's smaller stones. (see picture)
Using the ball system, Young said, "I estimate it would be possible to cover 20 miles (32 kilometers]) in a day" by leapfrogging track segments. But the inner circle's "sarsen" stones weigh not 4 tons but up to about 45 tons. Young suspects a Stone Age system could have handled much heavier loads than his experimental one. For one thing, he thinks oxen, not people, provided the pulling power, an idea supported by the remains of burned ox bones found in ditches around many stone circles. Despite none of these round balls being found near Stonehenge, Andrew Youngs theory remains very strong as he thinks most of the round ball used would have been from wood, probably oak. Over the centuries oak would have rotted and perished.
In makes perfect sense that these ball were in fact carved from oak. Carving from timber would have been much easier and quicker. Oak matures in such a way that over many years its harder than iron. The tracks and balls could have been made years in advance, these people were masters of using different timbers for various applications. Not only that, but using Youngs method it would have taken less than 100 men to move the stones. Its like 'how did they build the pyramids' We all have this image of thousands, even tens of thousand of of men all working, pulling the huge stone to the top of the pyramid. But in actual fact it probably took a few hundred. Once again we have lost the technology.
To put thing into perspective, in 1982 when The Mary Rose, flagship of King Henry VIII, was raised to the surface after 437 years at the bottom of the English Channel. And was taken to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard museum. The 'experts' looked her over but could not understand how the 16 inch square oak beams had been bent to form the curved bow. The technology has been lost. If we have lost the technology of using certain timber application from just 437 years ago what chance have we solving Stonehenge. Although many people are agreeing with Youngs answer to transporting the smaller Bluestones they are not so sure about the huge 45 ton sarsens. However one theory that may have been overlooked is the fact that if a much larger stone was gong to be moved. Then a much larger, or in this case much longer track and platform could have been used.
Durrington Walls. Otherwise known as Woodhenge. Right. This is where it starts to get really interesting. Durrington walls is located about 2 miles North-east of Stonehenge. Its another 'Henge' but this one would have been made solely from timber, probably oak. But the timber have all but perished, only the holes remain. Durrington Walls Henge is a massive circular earthwork some 480 metres in diameter. It has a ditch six metres deep and 16 metres wide, with a three-metre bank, and is over 1.5km in circumference. It would have been built about the same time as Stonehenge.
Concerning the timber circles, the Southern Circle at the south eastern entrance to the henge, was found to consist of two huge entrance posts and 166 posts of various sizes arranged in five concentric circles. The circle was 40 metres across and aligned so that the midwinter sun would rise between the entrance posts. Regarding the rising and setting of the summer solstice and winter solstice sun, it is in effect Stone henge in reverse!
Professor Mike Parker Pearson has put together a remarkable picture of how Stonehenge and Woodhenge were connected by the river Avon which runs close to both sites. He suggests that the two sites were interlinked and in use at the same time.
Durrington Walls, being made of wood, was a temporary structure and subject to decay and thus represented the land of the living, while Stonehenge, being made of stone, was permanent and represented the land of our ancestors - the afterlife.
The remains of the dead would be collected at Durrington Walls and periodically, at the midwinter festival would be transported along the track-way to the river Avon. Then down the river Avon to Stonehenge. The journey would begin at Durrington Walls (Woodhenge) in the east at sunrise and end at Stonehenge in the west at sunset. The Avenue at Stonehenge provides an approach from the north-east where the mid-summer sun rises; and facilitates the observation of the midwinter sunset as it passes between the highest stones of the inner sarsen horseshoe of Stonehenge.
In the summer of 2009, archaeologists from the 'Stonehenge Riverside Project', led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, excavated the remains of a prehistoric circle situated one mile (1.6km) south-east of Stonehenge on the banks of the River Avon at West Amesbury. This places it at the end of the 'Avenue', considered by Professor Parker Pearson to be a ritual pathway that connected Stonehenge with the River Avon.
This prehistoric circle, Some 33 feet (10m) in diameter and surrounded by a ditch and bank, would have been erected 5,000 years ago and is thus contemporary with the first phase (bank and ditch) of Stonehenge, of which it appears to be a miniature version. All that now remains of the circle are holes containing chips of Preseli Spotted Dolerite, identical to the bluestones used in Stonehenge. This was named Bluehenge.
The discovery of 'Bluehenge' adds credence to Professor Parker Pearson's current ideas that Stonehenge, Woodhenge and Durrington Walls form a funerary complex in which human remains made a literal and metaphorical journey from the land of the living to the land of the dead, along a funerary processional route - the 'river of life'.
The funeral ceremony would start at Woodhenge (Land of the Living), then proceed along an avenue to Durrington Walls where the body would be taken down the river Avon (The river of Life) to Bluehenge. Here the body would be cremated. Then the final journey along the avenue to Stonehenge ( The Afterlife)
Despite all the speculation and theories over the past 100 years scientific investigation has been slowly narrowing down all the possibilities, as each year passes the ground gives up more detailed information. This must be as close to the truth as we are going to get. The pieces of the puzzle are almost complete.