The world famous stone circle at Stonehenge was developed in several phases over a period of 1,500 years commencing approximately 5,000 years ago.
There were three major phases namely:-
- The construction of the henge – the circular ditch and bank – inside of which there is evidence of various timber constructions
- The arrival of the first stones, bluestones, from the Preselli Mountains in South West Wales a distance of some 140 miles from Stonehenge. These stones weigh between 5 to 7 tons each and were initially erected within the henge and possibly also at the river end of the Processional Avenue
- The arrival of the much larger sarsen stones, weighing between 7 tons and 45 tons, most probably from the Avebury region some 25 miles north of Stonehenge. Many of these stone have been physically shaped and comprise 5 trilithons in the design of a horseshoe surrounded by 30 upright stones in a circle with lintels thereon. Within the horseshoe and the outer circle the smaller bluestones have been re-erected.
At the time this would have been a marvel of civil engineering, one of the most complex stone buildings in the world.
But why was it built and how was it erected ?
Many fascinating myths and legends have arisen at various times seeking to address these issues as well as the possible implications of the solar and lunar alignments of the site.
Come and visit it with me to learn more, dowse the ley lines and consider the connection between this monument and the many other archaeological features surrounding it such as:-
Approximately 500 burial mounds within a 3 mile radius of the henge.
The Cursus – a narrow straight enclosure bounded by parallel ditches and banks 3 km long. It is inappropriately named from the Latin word ‘Cursus’ meaning racecourse but subsequently discovered to be older than Stonehenge itself and possibly some form of processional way.
Durrington Walls – Possibly the world’s largest henge constructed on an older Neolithic site which has been the subject of in depth archaeological investigations by a partnership of British Universities and Wessex Archaeology known as the Stonehenge Riverside Project.
These excavations revealed the prior existence on this site of the largest stone built settlement in England which once housed hundreds of people. Carbon dating suggests that this might have been occupied by the builders of Stonehenge.
Subsequently the henge was used for celebration purposes particularly
over the period of the mid winter solstice. Whilst it does not appear to
have been permanently occupied it is certainly one of the most important
monuments within the Stonehenge landscape.
Woodhenge – adjacent to Durrington Walls a roughly circular monument in which several burials have been discovered including that of a child who was almost certainly the victim of a ritual sacrifice.
Processional Avenue – connecting Stonehenge to the River Avon. Almost indistinguishable except occasionally in the winter months. Walk along its approach to Stonehenge and experience the disappearance of the monument as you descend into the valley and its magical reappearance as it gradually comes back into view.
Excavations in September 2009 revealed the existence of a 10 metre diameter bluestone circle of up to 25 standing stones dated circa 2900BC at the point where the Avenue meets with the River Avon.
A visit to the stone circle can be accommodated within a 1 ½ hour visit but if you wish to take in the wider landscape then you will need to set aside a full half day.
Should you wish to actually experience the stone circle from within rather than just walk around it then you can do so by booking a Special Access.
There are a limited number of places available on a daily basis, except during October, prior to and after normal opening hours, when up to a maximum of 25 persons are able to book a one hour slot.
Demand exceeds supply so you will need to book early direct with English Heritage. This can be done online at www.english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge and click on Stone Circle Access or by phone 0044 1722 343834 from Overseas or 01722 343834 from within UK.