Stonehenge Essay, Research Paper
Many have wondered about the mystery of Stonehenge, what was it for, and how was it was erected. There are gigantic stones that weigh thirty to forty short tons (a unit of weight equal to 2,000 pounds). They had to be moved nearly 200 miles. Who built Stonehenge?
There are many legends about Stonehenge. For example, the Devil had bought stones from an elderly woman and used “magic” to turn the stone into their present state. Another states that UFOs were involved in the creation of Stonehenge. A final legend states that dancing giants were dancing on the Salisbury Plain. Then suddenly, without a reason were turned into stone.
What was Stonehenge for? It may have been built for observing the moon and other celestial objects in the sky. It my have even been used for religious ceremonies. It may have been a place of worship, a place of sacrifices to please the Pagan gods. No one really knows.
Just when was Stonehenge built? We do know that it was not all built at the same time. Radio-carbon dating on ancient, buried charcoal near Stonehenge reveals burnt fire wood from around 1800 BC.
There are three main stages of building Stonehenge. Around 300 BC, the first stage was began. It consisted of a 300 feet diameter ring shaped ditch and the fifty-six holes that surround Stonehenge were most likely dug at the same time. The second stage was begun around 200 years later. It contained the bluestone circle and the broad “avenue” that stretches from Stonehenge to the Avon River. Some archeologists believe that this was the entrance to Stonehenge. Around 200 years later the stone pillars were added.
There are actually many things that Stonehenge consists of. One would be the Slaughter Stone. It is twenty-one feet long but has fallen over and sunken so deep that only the upper surface is shown.
The Heel Stone is not located in the main part of Stonehenge. It was named by John Aubrey for its “heel shaped dent”, which relates to the legend that the Devil was angered by the Friar and threw the stone at his heel and dented the stone. Experts have never found such an indention in the stone.
The Altar Stone is located near the center of Stonehenge, embedded within the central sarsen trilithon. It consists of bluish-gray sandstone with glistening specs of mica, unlike the other stones, which consist of either sarsen or bluestone. It weighs seven short tons.
There is also a sixteen feet high stone that stands eighty yards east of Stonehenge’s center. It was erected in the first stage of construction of Stonehenge. On mid-summer day, around June 21, the sun rises directly above this stone. There are thirty blocks of sarsen, each weighing twenty-eight short tons at an average, and standing thirteen and one half feet high to create a circle of ninety-seven feet in diameter. Smaller stones lay on top of the large sarsens in a continuous circle.
Inside the large circle of stone in Stonehenge lay another smaller circle of stones called bluestones. They number in sixty and they weigh four short tons. Twenty-nine of the thirty-three bluestones are ophitic dolerite, a hard, medium grained, basic igneous rock. The other main type of bluestone, accounting for four of the standing ones and one buried stump, is a hard, flinty, bluish-green or gray stone; known as rhyolite- a fine grained to glassy acidic volcanic rock.
There is an inner yet circle of stone in Stonehenge contains two, horseshoe shaped sets of stone, one inside the other, opening towards the northeast. These “horseshoes” contain large sets of stones called trilithons, which stand twenty-two feet high and weigh thirty to forty short tons.
Stonehenge also contains fifty-six Aubrey holes, as they were named by John Aubrey. The holes were thought to have no use, but in fact they do. Every so often, in a somewhat orderly fashion, one marks an eclipse or other major heavenly event. There are more holes dug around the monument known as the “Y” and “Z” holes. The “Y” holes are three feet deep on average and they number in thirty. The “Z” holes have an average depth of three and one half feet and number in twenty-nine. Both “Y” and “Z” holes are irregularly spaced. There is a ditch surrounding Stonehenge and all of the Aubrey, “Y”, and “Z” holes, with a diameter of 320 feet.
Transporting the stones of Stonehenge must have been a long hard job. The minimum journey would have been 240 miles from Wales, England, (where it is figured the stones came from) to the Salisbury Plain, the location of Stonehenge. It is believed they were moved on “rollers” made of logs. It may have taken 200 men just to move the rollers and keep the heavy stones off the rollers. The bluestones themselves had to be moved nearly 250 miles. A Professor Hawkins believed that 500 men, working twelve hours a day, would have taken thirteen and one half years just to move the stones, while Professor Atkinson has an estimation that 1500 men took five and one half years to move the stones.
Shaping the stones of Stonehenge would have also been a tough job for the primitive men. Months of pounding were required to square each of the stones. It is believed the men used sixty-pound stones to bash and smash and chip away at the gigantic stones. Modern experiments have shown that a strong man chipping away at a sarsen stone with his sixty-pound stone can knock off six cubic inches per hour. Professor Atkinson figures that at 3,000,000 cubic inches were bashed off the stones. To increase the chances of splitting a stone, fire was probably used. With a hard sharp rock, a line would be scratched where the men wanted the stone to break. A fire was then kindled along this line. When the stone was hot, the ashes were brushed away and cold water was splashed along the line. The large stone may have split because of the sudden change in temperature. To smooth the stone’s surfaces, they were ground down. The stones were pulled and pushed against one another. Particles of hard stone, some as small as a grain of sand, were mixed with water to make a grinding compound that was spread between the stones.
Putting the stones in place would have also been an extremely hard job. First holes were dug. Then, some 200 men could have hoisted the stone upright. To help with setting the stones upright, lines made of vines and skins of animals were fastened to a collar, made of tree limbs and leather belts, then were wrapped around the upper end of the stone pillar. By pulling on the lines and pushing on the stone with long poles, the men put the stone to an upright position. Once in place, the stone was held steady while dozens of men filled in the hole as quickly as possible with soil, small stones, logs, wood chips, and/or anything else they could get hold of quickly. The stones took weeks to settle in place. The bottoms of the upright stones were cut down to dull points so that after they had settled into place, they could be slightly adjusted by turning. The tops of each upright stone had to be chipped, and ground down to make them all level so the heavy lintel stones could be placed on top of them. These crosspieces could have been pushed up a ramp made of rocks and soil.
Some archeologists believe that no ramp at all was used. They believe the lintel was placed against one of the upright stones. Logs were then laid against the lintel. The men then rocked the stone onto the logs. More logs were then placed between the lintel and the upright stone. Then the stone was flipped onto the new layer of logs. This process was repeated until the lintel reached the top of the upright stone.
No one knows exactly who could have built Stonehenge. Anthropologists know there were large numbers of humans in Stone Age England, but they cannot isolate any single group. Imprints of short daggers in the stones resemble the same type used by the Myceneans, ancient people who lived in Greece. Maybe the Myceneans did build Stonehenge, but it is more likely that Stonehenge was built by men who knew nothing about metals. The Fomorians were a fierce and dangerous people, but they were diligent farmers who built towers. They brought their skills from Africa. The Nemedians came from Greece. They brought political skill. They defeated the mighty Fomorians. They prospered until a “great wave” came from the sea and “drowned and annihilated” the Nemedians. The few that survived returned to Greece. The Tuath de Danann were the people thought to have next come to Stonehenge. They knew magic, wizardry, and druidism. They were thought to be descendants of those few Nemedians that returned to Greece. The Milesius were the most numerous and best organized of the legendary fortune hunters thought to have come to Stonehenge. They had political unification. There are many legends about the Milesius, many just bedtime stories, although some legends have mists of reality behind them.
No one knows exactly why Stonehenge was built. No body knows what it was used for. None of us know how the ancient men brought the gigantic stones to the Salisbury Plain in England. Stonehenge will most likely remain a mystery forever. Maybe someday we will find the single key clue to finding how and why Stonehenge came to be. Possibly someday the human race will figure out the mystery of Stonehenge.