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Stonehenge 2 Essay, Research Paper
Essay submitted by: Terry Bazemore
There is no other place on Earth that has generated as much speculation and mystery as Stonehenge. For thousands of years it has stood with its mystery as though taunting us to find its understanding and meaning. It has been excavated, x-rayed, measured, and surveyed and still is not understood. Still all that has been found out about Stonehenge is its construction, its purpose still unknown. Perhaps the only ones who knew the meaning died with it thousands of years ago.
These people would have needed to be supported to make this whole venture worthwhile, says R.J Atkinson. No one can say who exactly started the building of Stonehenge. A seventeenth century antiquarian John Aubrey, believed the druids had parts in the construction of the monument. This has been deemed impossible because the Druids came along about 2000 years after Stonehenge was constructed. One suggestion, given by astronomer Gerald Hawkins, is that three groups had parts in the construction of Stonehenge. The first would have been the secondary Neolithic people that populated the Salisbury Plains roughly around 3500 BC. At first their construction was a circular ditch and mound with 56 holes forming rings around the perimeter. The first stone to be placed was the Heel stone, which was placed outside a single entrance to the site. After them would have been the Beaker (named for their beaker shaped cups) people about 200 years later who transported bluestone from a stone quarry about 200 miles away from the Prescelly Mountains. It is thought that these rocks were transported by way of a raft along the Welsh coast and up the local rivers. These stones were erected to form two concentric circles. At some point and time the work was discontinued and later started again by the Wessex peoples. These people have ties with Brittany and France, and are thought to have completed the third and final phase of the monument somewhere around 2100 BC. The bluestones were moved into place at this time and all of the gigantic stones that give Stonehenge its massive look were installed. Some of these stones weighed as much as 26 tons, that is why it is a mystery of how such a primitive people could have built such a monument. (Quote 1by Fred Hoyle, pg.16; Quote 2 E.C Krupp, pg. 34)
Legends of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is so mysterious that no one knows who made it, what it is for, or what the reasons for its being built. Behind it s mysteriousness; many legends have come up over the centuries explaining the construction and purposes of Stonehenge. Two of the most widely known is as follows:
This legend informs that the devil was indeed involved in the creation of Stonehenge. The devil supposedly bought stones from an elderly woman from Ireland, and used his magic to transport them back to the Salisbury plain in England. After setting the stones up, he became a bit egotistical and bet that no one in a nearby village would be smart enough to count all the stones he had set up. A local friar came to see if he could answer the riddle of the devil. Once asked the friar said that is more than thee canst tell (means that is more than can be told). This was the correct answer shocking the devil and making him extremely angry. He picked up a stone and threw it at the friar, but the quick thinking friar bounced it off his heel. His heel was so hard that it caused a dent in the stone. Thus giving it the name (named by John Aubrey) Heel stone . This myth was most likely to be created by the Druid,
This legend has it that there were giants dancing in a circle on the Salisbury plains. Suddenly and without warning they were turned into stones. This legend was so popular because the stones really did look like giants holding hands.
The Stones of Stonehenge
Though the whole monument maybe known as Stonehenge, each of the stones and group of stones have their own names. The name Stonehenge means hanging stones which could be from the belief that it was first used to hang criminals or the fact that it looks as though the stones are hanging in air. First is the Heel stone which gets its name from John Aubrey and the legend of the devil and the friar. John Aubrey named it this for the heel shaped dent imprinted somewhere on the stone. This stone is not located near the inner circle of the monument. The Altar Stone is one of the more unique stones, because the others are either sarsen or bluestone, while this is the only sandstone one. It is located closely near the center, but embedded 15 feet within the great circle. The Slaughter Stone is another unique stone of Stonehenge. It is apparently 21 feet long (one of the largest), but is sunken so deep into the ground that only the upper surface shows. It was originally standing straight up.
Preservation of Stonehenge
One of the most devastating intrusions of Stonehenge are the two roads that dissect the monument, one of, which is so close it seems to touch the stones. The only thing that seems to separate the stones from the road is a chain-linked fence. Human invasion has also been a devastating factor. People have climbed the stones and painted the stones in graffiti. The length of time has cleansed the rocks clean. The area was not roped until 1989 because people were pounding the grass into dust from the pressure of all the walking. The new talk is of a visitor s center opening up a few miles away from Stonehenge, but most likely not until 2003. 2008 is the latest it will open by. By changing the roadways and opening the new visitor s center England hopes to restore the peace and calmness of Stonehenge once again.
Stonehenge is so magnificent because it intrigues you with its beauty while at the same time entraps you in its eerie mystery. What was its purpose? Who built it? Who wanted it built? These questions and many more surround Stonehenge making it still unclear and somewhat frustrating to study, but it is still kind of fun to imagine in place of what you don t know.
The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford (1991)
The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia, R. J. C. Atkinson
Atkinson, R. J. C., Stonehenge (1978)
Harrison, Harry, and Stover, L. E., Stonehenge (1972)
Hawkins, G. S., Stonehenge Decoded (1965)
Hoyle, Fred, On Stonehenge (1977)
Stover, Leon E., and Kraig, Bruce, Stonehenge: The Indo-European Heritage (1978).
The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia
Aveni, A. F., Archaeoastronomy in Pre-Colombian America (1975) and Native American Astronomy (1977)
Bobrovnikoff, N. T., Astronomy before the Telescope (1984)
Hawkins, G. S., Stonehenge Decoded (1965)
Krupp, E. C., In Search of Ancient Astronomies (1978) and Echoes of the Ancient Skies (1984)
Lockyer, N. J., The Dawn of Astronomy (1894; repr. 1973)
Wood, J. E., Sun, Moon and Standing Stones (1978)
Compton’s Living Encyclopedia. Compton’s Learning Company, 1996. Online.
Dellnet. (15 January 2000)
Microsoft Encarta, 1999.
Some pictures taken from www.discovery.com others from Microsoft Encarta 1999.
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