One of the (many) places that I wanted to see in my lifetime was Stonehenge. Since it was only about an hour from Windsor, we decided to spend the night in a nearby hotel after Legoland and go see it. It was incredible! Seeing this formation in person was mind-blowing to me. There was a wonderful museum that explained the history of Stonehenge. We learned so much and it made me want to research even more after we left.
The findings in this area show that it was in use from the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) around 8,000BC. The monument itself was constructed over a period of about 800 years from around 3,000BC to 2,200BC. They explained that the larger Sarsen stones (the outer circle) where most likely brought from about 19 miles away. It would take a team of about 200 people 12 days to bring each stone!
If the monument was fully completed (if it was is still not clear), there would be 30 uprights. Only 17 still stand and only 6 of the lintels (top horizontal stones) are still in place. The smaller bluestones (the inner circle) were found to be sourced from Preseli Hills of Wales, which is over 150 miles away. There were originally at least 80 bluestones with some weighing up to 3 tons.
With all this effort, it is clear that this was a sacred place for the people of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. There is a commonly held belief that Stonehenge was built by the ancient Druids. This is due to the writing in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, Stonehenge was abandoned more than 1,000 years prior to the emergence of the Iron Age Druids. There are 56 large circular pits, now called Aubrey holes, spaced between 4 and 5 meters apart just inside the inner edge of the earthwork bank. While it is unknown if there was a structure purpose for these, it is clear that these were a place of burial at some point in its history. Cremated remains for 100s of people have been found in them, one containing at least 60 individuals. There is speculation that the sarsen stones represented the long dead ancestors while the bluestones, known through folk tales to have healing powers, offered healing and hope. There is also speculation that it was used as a way for farmers to track the seasons and the sun’s annual journey through the sky. The stones are carefully aligned to mark the winter solstice, which marks the return of light and life to the world.
There is much unknown about ceremony that may have occurred here in the Neolithic and Bronze age. However, this place is still seen as sacred by many. Modern Druids have had over a century of association with Stonehenge as a ceremonial site. We happened to go on the weekend prior to the summer solstice. While the general public is no longer allowed into the center of the stones except on the solstices, there are groups from earth religions and pagan beliefs that are able to go during sacred times of the year and perform ceremonies of their own. As we were leaving the Stonehenge monument, it was getting closer to sunset. There was a group going out with drums and various other ceremonial items. We could see from the road when we were leaving that they were all seated in a circle in the middle.
I did not realize that there was another monument close by called Woodhenge until we were at Stonehenge. This
offers another fascinating element to the time. It seems that Woodhenge was quite possibly the area dedicated to the living, with evidence of feasts and celebrations in the Neolithic time. These were most likely related. I wish we would have known of Woodhenge prior to our travel plans, as we would have included time to see it. However, we did not. I would highly recommend, if you are planning to go, make time for both and possibly Durrington Walls henge just north of Woodhenge.
There is a lot more to the history of Stonehenge that I breezed over in this short post. A lot. I highly recommend looking into this fascinating piece of history. You’ll learn a lot about our human ancestry and things that evolve, but seem to remain unchanged about the human spirit.