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Stonehenge Today


Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. It is located on a high point on the Salisbury plains in England and is about 2 miles west of a town called Amesbury. According to archeological evidence, it was built in 3 major stages starting around 3000 B.C.

The stages are as follows:

Stonehenge 1
At this stage, it was a large circular ditch or "henge" with an entrance at the northeast part, and a smaller entrance at the south part. It was about 110 meters in diameter and enclosed a circle comprised of about 56 holes that were about 1m wide by 1m deep. Many people believed that these holes held large wooden posts and created a circle of timbers. It seems that this stage was left untouched for about a millennium.

Stonehenge 2
This stage included the use of bluestones which were arranged in concentric arcs. These bluestones weighed about 4 tons each, and evidence suggests that they were transported from as far as 240 miles away. Also, there was an "avenue" that led to the entrance of the stone arch. The entrance and the avenue were aligned with the sunrise at Summer Solstice.

Stonehenge 3
This is the stage that is primarily visible today. The perimeter was formed by 30 evenly spaced sarsen stones that are placed upright in a circle. These stones are topped by horizonatlly placed and interconnected stones called lintels. The lintels were connected to each other via tongue and groove joints and were connected to the upright sarsen stones via tenon joints. Without mortar, these joints provided stability to the outer structure. There are also 5 trilithons inside the circle of sarsen stones. Each trilithon is made of 2 massive stones (over 40 tons) that are topped by a third stone. There is also a Heelstone located in the avenue about 70 to 80 meters from the center of the stone circle.

Diagram of Stonehenge

There are speculations about the functions of Stonehenge. However, the Heelstone indicates the direction of the sunrise at the Summer Solstice when viewed from the center of the stone circle. In addition, Stonehenge can be used to predict Winter Solstice. This means that Stonehenge can function as a calendar whether or not it was used as such.

There are some good reasons why Stonehenge is a work of genius. For starters, the methods of reinforcing the structure are extremely effective and are major reasons why so much of the monument is still standing. We could even argue that it will probably outlast many of today's buildings. Another factor to consider is the difficulty in transporting and erecting these stones, especially when you consider that many of them weigh over 20 tons and some weigh close to 50 tons. In fact, this task would present challenges even for today's technology. A third reason why Stonehenge is a work of genius is the logistics and planning involved. The people who were quarrying, transporting, and erecting the stones would not have time to grow or procure their own food. Neither would the planners and overseers of this project. This means that there must have been some division of labor which allowed some to grow or procure food for others, along with the socio-economic incentive to do so. Also, a governing body would be needed in order to divert resources toward building the monument. These are the hallmarks of a civilization. When we consider these factors, it becomes clear that Stonehenge was a brilliant creation of a sophisticated society.

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