Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. However one recent theory has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400-2200 BC, while another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC.
The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury henge monument, and it is also a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge itself is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
New archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found that burials took place as early as 3000 B.C, when the first ditches were being built around the monument. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years when the giant stones which mark the landmark were put up.
Stonehenge: DNA reveals origin of builders BBC - April 16, 2019
The ancestors of the people who built Stonehenge travelled west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain, a study has shown. Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe. The Neolithic inhabitants appear to have travelled from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Iberia before winding their way north. They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.
Stonehenge itself evolved in several construction phases spanning at least some 1500 years. However there is evidence of large scale construction both before and afterwards on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape's time frame to 6500 years.
Dating and understanding the various phases of activity at Stonehenge is not a simple task; it is complicated by poorly kept early excavation records, surprisingly few accurate scientific dates and the disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing. The modern phasing most generally agreed by archaeologists is detailed below. Features mentioned in the text are numbered and shown on the plan, right, which illustrates the site as of 2004. The plan omits the trilithon lintels for clarity. Holes that no longer, or never, contained stones are shown as open circles and stones visible today are shown colored. It is widely assumed that Stonehenge once stood as a magnificent "complete" monument; we should be aware that this cannot be proved, since around half of the stones that should be present are in fact missing, and since many of the assumed stone sockets have never actually been recorded through excavation.
Before the monument (8000 BC forward)
Some archaeologists have found four (or possibly five, although one may have been a natural tree throw) large Mesolithic postholes which date to around 8000 BC nearby, beneath the modern tourist car-park. These held pine posts around 0.75 metres (2.5 ft) in diameter which were erected and left to rot in situ. Three of the posts (and possibly four) were in an east-west alignment and may have had ritual significance; no parallels are known from Britain at the time but similar sites have been found in Scandinavia. At this time, Salisbury Plain was still wooded but four thousand years later, during the earlier Neolithic, a causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood's Ball and long barrow tombs were built in the surrounding landscape. In approximately 3500 BC a large cursus monument was built 700 metres (2,300 ft) north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the forest and exploit the area.
Stonehenge 1 (ca. 3100 BC)
The first monument consisted of a circular bank and ditch enclosure made of Late Cretaceous (Santonian Age) Seaford Chalk, (7 and 8) measuring around 110 metres (360 ft) in diameter with a large entrance to the north east and a smaller one to the south (14). It stood in open grassland on a slightly sloping but not especially remarkable spot. The builders placed the bones of deer and oxen in the bottom of the ditch as well as some worked flint tools. The bones were considerably older than the antler picks used to dig the ditch and the people who buried them had looked after them for some time prior to burial. The ditch itself was continuous but had been dug in sections, like the ditches of the earlier causewayed enclosures in the area.
The chalk dug from the ditch was piled up to form the bank. This first stage is dated to around 3100 BC after which the ditch began to silt up naturally and was not cleared out by the builders. Within the outer edge of the enclosed area was dug a circle of 56 pits, each around 1 metre (3.3 ft) in diameter (13), known as the Aubrey holes after John Aubrey, the seventeenth century antiquarian who was thought to have first identified them. The pits may have contained standing timbers, creating a timber circle although there is no excavated evidence of them. A recent excavation has suggested that the Aubrey Holes may have originally been used to erect a bluestone circle. If this were the case it would advance the earliest known stone structure at the monument by some 500 years. A small outer bank beyond the ditch could also date to this period.
Stonehenge 2 (ca. 3000 BC)
Evidence of the second phase is no longer visible. It appears from the number of postholes dating to this period that some form of timber structure was built within the enclosure during the early 3rd millennium BC. Further standing timbers were placed at the northeast entrance and a parallel alignment of posts ran inwards from the southern entrance. The postholes are smaller than the Aubrey Holes, being only around 0.4 metres (16 in) in diameter and are much less regularly spaced. The bank was purposely reduced in height and the ditch continued to silt up. At least twenty-five of the Aubrey Holes are known to have contained later, intrusive, cremation burials dating to the two centuries after the monument's inception. It seems that whatever the holes' initial function, it changed to become a funerary one during Phase 2. Thirty further cremations were placed in the enclosure's ditch and at other points within the monument, mostly in the eastern half. Stonehenge is therefore interpreted as functioning as an enclosed cremation cemetery at this time, the earliest known cremation cemetery in the British Isles. Fragments of unburnt human bone have also been found in the ditch fill. Late Neolithic grooved ware pottery has been found in connection with the features from this phase providing dating evidence.
Stonehenge 3 I (ca. 2600 BC)
Archaeological excavation has indicated that around 2600 BC, timber was abandoned in favour of stone, and two concentric arrays of holes (the Q and R Holes) were dug in the centre of the site. These stone sockets are only partly known (hence on present evidence are sometimes described as forming ‘crescents'), however they could be the remains of a double ring. Again, there is little firm dating evidence for this phase. The holes held up to 80 standing stones (shown blue on the plan) only 43 of which can be traced today.
About 2,000 BC, the first stone circle (which is now the inner circle), comprised of small bluestones, was set up, but abandoned before completion. The stones used in that first circle are believed to be from the Prescelly Mountains, located roughly 240 miles away, at the southwestern tip of Wales. The bluestones weigh up to 4 tons each and about 80 stones were used, in all. Given the distance they had to travel, this presented quite a transportation problem.
Modern theories speculate that the stones were dragged by roller and sledge from the inland mountains to the headwaters of Milford Haven. There they were loaded onto rafts, barges or boats and sailed along the south coast of Wales, then up the Rivers Avon and Frome to a point near present-day Frome in Somerset. From this point, so the theory goes, the stones were hauled overland, again, to a place near Warminster in Wiltshire, approximately 6 miles away. From there, it's back into the pool for a slow float down the River Wylye to Salisbury, then up the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury, leaving only a short 2 mile drag from West Amesbury to the Stonehenge site.
Source of Stonehenge Bluestone Rocks Identified Live Science - February 24, 2014
Scientists have found the exact source of Stonehenge's smaller bluestones, new research suggests. The stones' rock composition revealed they come from a nearby outcropping, located about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) away from the site originally proposed as the source of such rocks nearly a century ago. The discovery of the rock's origin, in turn, could help archaeologists one day unlock the mystery of how the stones got to Stonehenge. The work "locates the exact sources of the stones, which highlight areas where archaeologists can search for evidence of the human working of the stones," said geologist and study co-author Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales.
The bluestones (some of which are made of dolerite, an igneous rock), were thought for much of the 20th century to have been transported by humans from the Preseli Hills, 250 kilometres (160 mi) away in modern day Pembrokeshire in Wales. A newer theory is that they were brought from glacial deposits much nearer the site, which had been carried down from the northern side of the Preselis to southern England by the Irish Sea Glacier.
Other standing stones may well have been small sarsens, used later as lintels. The stones, which weighed about four tons, consisted mostly of spotted Ordovician dolerite but included examples of rhyolite, tuff and volcanic and calcareous ash; in total around 20 different rock types are represented. Each monolith measures around 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height, between 1 m and 1.5 m (3.3-4.9 ft) wide and around 0.8 metres (2.6 ft) thick. What was to become known as the Altar Stone (1), is is almost certainly derived from either Carmarthenshire or the Brecon Beacons and may have stood as a single large monolith.
The north eastern entrance was also widened at this time with the result that it precisely matched the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. This phase of the monument was abandoned unfinished however, the small standing stones were apparently removed and the Q and R holes purposefully backfilled. Even so, the monument appears to have eclipsed the site at Avebury in importance towards the end of this phase. The Heelstone (5), a Tertiary sandstone, may also have been erected outside the north eastern entrance during this period although it cannot be securely dated and may have been installed at any time in phase 3.
At first, a second stone, now no longer visible, joined it. Two, or possibly three, large portal stones were set up just inside the north eastern entrance of which only one, the fallen Slaughter Stone (4), 4.9 metres (16 ft) long, now remains. Other features loosely dated to phase 3 include the four Station Stones (6), two of which stood atop mounds (2 and 3). The mounds are known as 'barrows' although they do not contain burials. The Avenue, (10), a parallel pair of ditches and banks leading 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the River Avon was also added. Two ditches similar to Heelstone Ditch circling the Heelstone, which was by then reduced to a single monolith, were later dug around the Station Stones.
Stonehenge 3 II (2600 BC to 2400 BC)
The next major phase of activity saw 30 enormous Oligocene-Miocene sarsen stones (shown grey on the plan) brought to the site. They may have come from a quarry around 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Stonehenge, on the Marlborough Downs, or they may have been collected from a "litter" of sarsens on the chalk downs, closer to hand. The stones were dressed and fashioned with mortise and tenon joints before 30 were erected as a 33 metres (110 ft) diameter circle of standing stones, with a ring of 30 lintel stones resting on top.
The lintels were fitted to one another using another woodworking method, the tongue and groove joint. Each standing stone was around 4.1 metres (13 ft) high, 2.1 metres (6.9 ft) wide and weighed around 25 tons. Each had clearly been worked with the final effect in mind; the orthostats widen slightly towards the top in order that their perspective remains constant as they rise up from the ground while the lintel stones curve slightly to continue the circular appearance of the earlier monument.
The sides of the stones that face inwards are smoother and more finely worked than the sides that face outwards. The average thickness of these stones is 1.1 metres (3.6 ft) and the average distance between them is 1 metre (3.3 ft). A total of 74 stones would have been needed to complete the circle and unless some of the sarsens were removed from the site, it would seem that the ring was left incomplete. Of the lintel stones, they are each around 3.2 metres (10 ft), 1 metre (3.3 ft) wide and 0.8 metres (2.6 ft) thick. The tops of the lintels are 4.9 metres (16 ft) above the ground.
Within this circle stood five trilithons of dressed sarsen stone arranged in a horseshoe shape 13.7 metres (45 ft) across with its open end facing north east. These huge stones, ten uprights and five lintels, weigh up to 50 tons each and were again linked using complex jointing. They are arranged symmetrically; the smallest pair of trilithons were around 6 metres (20 ft) tall, the next pair a little higher and the largest, single trilithon in the south west corner would have been 7.3 metres (24 ft) tall. Only one upright from the Great Trilithon still stands; 6.7 metres (22 ft) is visible and a further 2.4 metres (7.9 ft) is below ground.
The images of a 'dagger' and 14 'axe-heads' have been recorded carved on one of the sarsens, known as stone 53. Further axe-head carvings have been seen on the outer faces of stones known as numbers 3, 4, and 5. They are difficult to date but are morphologically similar to later Bronze Age weapons; recent laser scanning work on the carvings supports this interpretation. The pair of trilithons in north east are smallest, measuring around 6 metres (20 ft) in height and the largest is the trilithon in the south west of the horseshoe is almost 7.5 metres (25 ft) tall. This ambitious phase is radiocarbon dated to between 2600 and 2400 BC. This is slightly before two sets of burials discovered 3 miles (4.8 km) to the west in Amesbury (the Amesbury Archer found in 2002, and the Boscombe Bowmen discovered in 2003) as well as the Stonehenge Archer whose body was discovered in the outer ditch of the monument in 1978.
At a similar time a large timber circle and another avenue were constructed overlooking the River Avon 2 miles away at Durrington Walls. Opposing the solar alignments at Stonehenge, the circle was orientated towards the rising sun on the midwinter solstice, whilst the Avenue led from the river to the circle on an alignment to the setting sun on the summer solstice. Evidence of huge fires on the banks of the Avon between the two avenues also suggests that both circles were linked, and perhaps formed a procession route used on the longest and shortest days of the year. Parker Pearson speculates that the wooden circle at Durrington Walls was the centre of a 'land of the living', whilst the stone circle represented a 'land of the dead'. The Avon would have served as a journey between the two.
Stonehenge 3 III
Later in the Bronze Age, the bluestones appear to have been re-erected for the first time, although the exact details of this period are still unclear. They were placed within the outer sarsen circle and at this time may have been trimmed in some way. A few have timber working-style cuts in them like the sarsens themselves, suggesting they may have been linked with lintels and part of a larger structure during this phase.
Stonehenge 3 IV (2280 BC to 1930 BC)
This phase saw further rearrangement of the bluestones as they were placed in a circle between the two settings of sarsens and in an oval in the very centre. Some archaeologists argue that some of the bluestones in this period were part of a second group brought from Wales. All the stones were well-spaced uprights without any of the linking lintels inferred in Stonehenge 3 III. The Altar Stone may have been moved within the oval and stood vertically. Although this would seem the most impressive phase of work, Stonehenge 3 IV was rather shabbily built compared to its immediate predecessors, as the newly re-installed bluestones were not at all well founded and began to fall over. However, only minor changes were made after this phase. Stonehenge 3 IV dates from 2280 to 1930 BC.
Stonehenge 3 V (2280 BC to 1930 BC)
Soon afterwards, the north eastern section of the Phase 3 IV Bluestone circle was removed, creating a horseshoe-shaped setting termed the Bluestone Horseshoe. This mirrored the shape of the central sarsen Trilithons and dates from 2270 to 1930 BC. This phase is contemporary with the famous Seahenge site in Norfolk.
After the monument (1600 BC on)
The last known construction at Stonehenge was about 1600 BC (see 'Y and Z Holes' below), and the last known usage of it was likely during the Iron Age. Roman coins and medieval artefacts have all been found in or around the monument but it is unknown if the monument was in continuous use throughout prehistory and beyond - or exactly how it would have been used. Notable is the late 7th-6th century BC large arcing Scroll Trench which deepens E-NE towards Heelstone, and the construction of the massive Iron Age hillfort Vespasian's Camp built alongside the Avenue near the Avon. The burial of a decapitated 7th century Saxon man was excavated from Stonehenge. The site was known by scholars during the Middle Ages and since then it has been studied and adopted by numerous different groups.
16th to 20th centuries
Stonehenge has changed ownership on several occasions since King Henry VIII acquired Amesbury Abbey and its surrounding lands. In 1540 he gave the estate to the Earl of Hertford, and it subsequently passed to Lord Carleton and then the Marquis of Queensbury. The Antrobus family of Cheshire bought the estate in 1824, but sold it in 1915 after the last heir was killed serving in France during the First World War. The auction was held by Knight Frank & Rutley estate agents in Salisbury on the 21 September, and included "Lot 15. Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland." Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge for 6,600 pds. and then gave it to the nation three years later. Although it has been speculated that he purchased it at the suggestion of - or even as a present for - his wife, he in fact bought it on a whim as he believed a local man should be the new owner.
In the late 1920s a nation-wide appeal was launched to save Stonehenge from the encroachment of modern buildings that had begun to appear around it. During World War I an aerodrome had been built on the down just west of the circle, and in the dry valley at Stonehenge Bottom a main road junction had appeared, with several cottages and a cafe. In 1928 the land around the stones was purchased with the appeal donations, and given to the National Trust in order to preserve it. The buildings were removed (although the roads were not), and the land returned to agriculture. More recently the land has been part of a grassland reversion scheme, returning the surrounding fields to native chalk grassland.
In 2002 a public poll voted Stonehenge as one of the seven wonders of Britain, alongside Big Ben, the Eden Project, Hadrian's Wall, the London Eye, Windsor Castle, and York Minster.
As motorised traffic increased the setting of the monument began to be affected by the proximity of the two roads on either side of it - the A344 to Shrewton on the north side, and the A303 to Winterbourne Stoke to the south. Plans to upgrade the A303 and remove it from the view of the stones have been considered since it became a World Heritage Site, but the controversy surrounding expensive re-routings of a road have led to the scheme being cancelled on multiple occasions. On 06 December 2007 it was announced that the most recent plans had been cancelled.
Stonehenge is a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids, and for certain others following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs. The midsummer sunrise began attracting modern visitors in the 1870s, with the first record of recreated Druidic practices dating to 1905 when the Ancient Order of Druids enacted a ceremony. Despite efforts by archaeologists and historians to stress the differences between the Iron Age Druidic religion and the much older monument, Stonehenge has become increasingly, almost inextricably, associated with British Druidism, Neopaganism and New Age philosophy. Between 1972 and 1984, Stonehenge was the site of a free festival. After the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 this use of the site was stopped for several years, and currently ritual use of Stonehenge is carefully controlled.
When Stonehenge became open to the public it was possible to walk amongst and even climb on the stones. However this ended in 1977 when the stones were roped off as a result of serious erosion. Visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stones, but merely walk around the monument from a short distance. English Heritage does however permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. Additionally, visitors can make special bookings to access the stones throughout the year.
The Y and Z Holes are two rings of concentric (though irregular) circuits of near identical pits cut around the outside of the Sarsen Circle at Stonehenge. The current view is that both circuits are contemporary. Radiocarbon dating of antlers deliberately placed in Y Hole 30 provided a date of around 1600 BC, a slightly earlier date was determined for material retrieved from Z 29. These dates make the Y and Z holes the last known structural activity at Stonehenge.
The holes were discovered in 1923 by William Hawley, who, on removing the topsoil over a wide area noted them as clearly visible patches of ‘humus' against the chalk substrate. Hawley named them the Y and Z because he had earlier, for a short time, labeled the then recently discovered Aubrey Holes the ‘X' holes. 18 of the Y Holes have been excavated and 16 of the Z Holes. Further evidence of the Y and Z Holes being late in the sequence of events at Stonehenge is demonstrated by the fact that hole Z 7 was found to cut into the backfill of the construction ramp for stone 7 of the Sarsen Circle.
The outer Y ring consists of 30 holes averaging 1.7m x 1.14m tapering to a flat base typically close to 1m x 0.5m, the inner Z holes, of which only 29 are known (the missing hole may lie beneath the fallen sarsen stone 8), are slightly larger, on average by some 0.1m. They can be best described morphologically as ‘wedge-shaped'. The diameter of the Y circuit, i.e. the best - fit circle is some 54m, that of the Z Hole series, around 39m.
The fills of the holes was found to be largely stone free, these deposits are thought to be the result of the gradual accumulation of wind-blown material. Examples of almost every material, both natural and artifactual, that have been found elsewhere at Stonehenge have been retrieved from their fills; this includes pottery of later periods (Iron Age, Romano-British and Medieval) also coins, horseshoe nails, and even human remains.
A new landscape investigation of the Stonehenge site was conducted in April 2009 and a shallow bank, little more than 10 cm (4 inches) high, was identified between the two hole circles. A further bank lies inside the "Z" circle. These are interpreted as the spread of spoil from the original holes, or more speculatively as hedge banks from vegetation deliberately planted to screen the activities within.
Neither Hawley, nor Richard Atkinson who investigated two of the holes (Y and Z Holes 16) in 1953 thought that uprights of timber or stone had ever been present. Atkinson however suggested that they had been intended to house bluestones, the question remains unresolved. Although unique in many ways a similarity of form between these holes and the contemporary grave pits under the Bronze Age Barrow mounds has been pointed out.
Attempts at interpreting the methods of construction used in building the stone monument sometimes show the Y and Z Holes used to locate temporary scaffold–like timber structures or ‘A' frames. The fact that the stonework has been shown to be around 700 or 800 years earlier than the Y and Z Holes clearly precludes the possibility that the holes represent features cut for constructional purposes. For the same reason the Y and Z Holes cannot be logically introduced into any scheme that suggests they performed a structural function within the design of the stone monument.
Some interpretations introduce the idea that the holes were deliberately laid out in a ‘spiral' pattern. However their irregular pattern still retains an integrity that can be explained as reciprocal errors created by prehistoric surveyors using a cord (equal to the radius of each circuit) passed around the stone monument (the presence of the stones would have prevented an accurate circle from being scribed from the geometric centre of the site). The distances between the two circuits appears to have been established by the geometry of simple square and circle relationships (i.e. the Z circuit is contained within a square inscribed within the Y circuit).
Throughout recorded history Stonehenge and its surrounding monuments have attracted attention from antiquarians and archaeologists. John Aubrey was one of the first to examine the site with a scientific eye in 1666, and recorded in his plan of the monument the pits that now bear his name. William Stukeley continued Aubrey's work in the early 18th century, but took an interest in the surrounding monuments as well, identifying (somewhat incorrectly) the Cursus and the Avenue. He also began the excavation of many of the barrows in the area, and it was his interpretation of the landscape that associated it with the Druids. Stukeley was in fact so fascinated with Druids that he originally named Disc Barrows as Druids Barrows. The most accurate early plan of Stonehenge was that made by Bath architect John Wood in 1740. His original annotated survey has recently been computer redrawn and published. Importantly Wood's plan was made before the collapse of the southwest Trilithon (which fell in 1797; restored 1958).
William Cunnington was the next to tackle the area in the early 19th century, excavating some 24 barrows before digging in and around the stones, discovering charred wood, animal bones, pottery and urns. He also identified the hole in which the Slaughter Stone once stood. At the same time Richard Colt Hoare began his activities, excavating some 379 barrows on Salisbury Plain before working with Cunnington and William Coxe on some 200 in the area around the Stones. To alert future diggers to their work they were careful to leave initialled metal tokens in each barrow they opened.
In 1877 Charles Darwin dabbled in archaeology at the stones, experimenting with the rate at which remains sink into the earth for his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.
William Gowland oversaw the first major restoration of the monument in 1901 - the straightening and concrete setting of sarsen stone number 56 which was in danger of falling. Unfortunately in straightening it he also moved it about half a metre from its original position. He also took the opportunity to further excavate the monument at the same time in what was the most scientific dig to date, revealing more about the erection of the stones than the previous 100 years of work.
During the 1920 restoration William Hawley, who had excavated nearby Old Sarum, excavated the base of six stones being restored as well as the outer ditch. He also located a bottle of port in the slaughter stone socket left by Cunnington, helped to rediscover Aubrey's pits inside the bank and located the Y and Z Holes (concentric circular holes outside the Sarsen Circle). Richard Atkinson, Stuart Piggott and John F. S. Stone re-excavated much of Hawley's work in the 40s and 50s, and discovered the carved axes and daggers on the Sarsen Stones. Atkinson's work was instrumental in the understanding of the three major phases of the monument's construction.
In 1958 the stones were restored again, using concrete settings to re-erect three of the standing sarsens. The very last restoration was carried out in 1963 when stone 23 of the Sarsen Circle fell over and was once more re-erected, and the opportunity taken to concrete three more stones. Later archaeologists, including Christopher Chippindale of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge and Brian Edwards of the University of the West of England campaigned to give the public more knowledge of the various restorations and in 2004 English Heritage included pictures of the works in progress in its new book Stonehenge: A History in Photographs.
In 1966 and 1967, in advance of a new car park being built at the site, the area of land immediately northwest of the stones was excavated by Faith and Lance Vatcher. They discovered the Mesolithic postholes dating from between 7 and 8,000 BC, as well as a 10m length of a palisade ditch - a V cut ditch into which timber posts had been inserted that remained there until they rotted away. Subsequent aerial archaeology suggests that this ditch runs from the west to the north of Stonehenge, near the avenue.
Excavations were once again carried out in 1978 by Atkinson and John Evans during which they discovered the remains of the Stonehenge Archer from the outer ditch, and in 1979 rescue archaeology was needed alongside the Heel Stone after a cable-laying ditch was mistakenly dug on the roadside, revealing a new stone hole next to the Heel Stone.
In the early 1980's Julian Richards led the Stonehenge Environs Project, a detailed study of the surrounding landscape. The project was able to successfully date such features as the Lesser Cursus, Coneybury henge and several other smaller features.
More recent excavations include Mike Parker Pearson's Stonehenge Riverside Project - an series of digs held between 2003 and 2008. This project mainly investigated other monuments in the landscape and their relationship with the stones - notably Durrington Walls where another Avenue leading to the river Avon was discovered.
In April 2008 Professor Tim Darvill of the University of Bournemouth and Professor Geoff Wainwright of the Society of Antiquaries began another dig inside the Stone circle to retrieve dateable fragments of the original bluestone pillars. They were able to date the erection of some bluestones to 2300BC, although this may not reflect the earliest erection of stones at Stonehenge. They also discovered organic material from 7000 B.C., which, along with the Mesolithic postholes, adds support for the site having been in use at least 4000 years before Stonehenge was started.
In August and September 2008, as part of the Riverside Project Julian Richards and Mike Pitts excavated Aubrey Hole 7, removing the cremated remains from several Aubrey Holes that had been excavated by Hawley in the 1920s, and re-interred in 1935.
A new landscape investigation was conducted in April 2009. A shallow mound, rising to about 40 cm (16 inches) was identified between stones 54 (inner circle) and 10 (outer circle), clearly separated from the natural slope. It has not been dated but speculation that it represents careless backfilling following earlier excavations seems disproved by its representation in 18th- and 19th-century illustrations. Indeed, there is some evidence that, as an uncommon geological feature, it could have been deliberately incorporated into the monument at the outset. A circular, shallow bank, little more than 10 cm (4 inches) high, was found between the Y and Z hole circles, with a further bank lying inside the "Z" circle. These are interpreted as the spread of spoil from the original Y and Z holes, or more speculatively as hedge banks from vegetation deliberately planted to screen the activities within.
In July 2010, the Stonehenge New Landscapes Project discovered what appears to be a new henge less than 1 km (0.62 miles) away from the main site.
On 26 November 2011, archaeologists from University of Birmingham announced the discovery of evidence of two huge pits positioned within the Stonehenge Cursus pathway, aligned in celestial position towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone. The new discovery is part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project which began in the summer of 2010. The project uses non-invasive geophysical imaging technique to reveal and visually recreate the landscape. According to the team leader Professor Vince Gaffney, this discovery may provide a direct link between the rituals and astronomical events to activities within the Cursus at Stonehenge.
On 18 December 2011, geologists from University of Leicester and the National Museum of Wales announced the discovery of the exact source of the rock used to create Stonehenge's first stone circle. The researchers have identified the source as a 70-metre (230 ft) long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire, located 220 kilometres (140 mi) from Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is also mentioned within Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth said that Merlin the wizard directed its removal from Ireland, where it had been constructed on Mount Killaraus by Giants, who brought the stones from Africa. After it had been rebuilt near Amesbury, Geoffrey further narrates how first Ambrosius Aurelianus, then Uther Pendragon, and finally Constantine III, were buried inside the ring of stones. In many places in his Historia Regum Britanniae Geoffrey mixes British legend and his own imagination; it is intriguing that he connects Ambrosius Aurelianus with this prehistoric monument, seeing how there is place-name evidence to connect Ambrosius with nearby Amesbury.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the rocks of Stonehenge were healing rocks which Giants brought from Africa to Ireland for their healing properties. These rocks were called The Giant's Dance. Aurelius Ambrosias (5th century), wishing to erect a memorial to the nobles (3000) who had died in battle with the Saxons and were buried at Salisbury, chose (at Merlin's advice) Stonehenge to be their monument. So the King sent Merlin, Uther Pendragon (Arthur's father), and 15,000 knights to Ireland to retrieve the rocks. They slew 7,000 Irish. As the knights tried to move the rocks with ropes and force, they failed. Then Merlin, using "gear" and skill, easily dismantled the stones and sent them over to Britain, where Stonehenge was dedicated. Shortly after, Aurelius died and was buried within the Stonehenge monument, or "The Giants' Ring of Stonehenge".
In July 1996, a 915 feet spiral of 151 circles appeared in full view of the busy A303 road, opposite England's ancient monument Stonehenge, Wiltshire, within a 45 minute period one Sunday afternoon. A pilot, gamekeeper and security guard confirmed it had not been there before 5:30 pm - yet shortly after 6:00 pm, the massive formation was being spotted by passing tourists. Much smaller man-made designs have taken several hours to complete. This also disproves the myth that all crop circles appear by night.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge 2009 National Geographic - June 2009
Is there a connection with extraterrestrials
Or ancient astronauts who visited the planet?
Stonehenge is located on a major Planetary Grid Point.
Long-lost fragment of Stonehenge reveals rock grains dating to nearly 2 billion years ago Live Science - August 4, 2021
A long-lost piece of Stonehenge that was taken by a man performing restoration work on the monument has been returned after 60 years, giving scientists a chance to peer inside a pillar of the iconic monument for the first time. In 1958, Robert Phillips, a representative of the drilling company helping to restore Stonehenge, took the cylindrical core after it was drilled from one of Stonehenge's pillars - Stone 58. Later, when he emigrated to the United States, Phillips took the core with him. Because of Stonehenge's protected status, it's no longer possible to extract samples from the stones. But with the core's return in 2018, researchers had the opportunity to perform unprecedented geochemical analyses of a Stonehenge pillar, which they described in a new study.
Ancient graves and mysterious enclosure discovered at Stonehenge ahead of tunnel construction Live Science - February 11, 2021
Archaeological work ahead of the construction of a controversial road tunnel beside Stonehenge has led to the discovery of ancient graves, including one with the remains of a baby dating back more than 4,500 years; a strange earth enclosure; and prehistoric pottery, among other buried treasures.
Stonehenge enhanced sounds like voices or music for people inside the monument. Scientists created a scale model one-twelfth the size of the ancient site to study its acoustics Science News - September 1, 2020
To explore Stonehenge's sound dynamics, acoustical engineer Trevor Cox and colleagues used laser scans of the site and archaeological evidence to construct a physical model one-twelfth the size of the actual monument. That was the largest possible scale replica that could fit inside an acoustic chamber at the University of Salford in England, where Cox works. This room simulated the acoustic effects of the open landscape surrounding Stonehenge and compacted ground inside the monument.
Archaeologists have discovered what may be the largest prehistoric monument in the entire United Kingdom, and it's just a stone's throw away from Stonehenge Live Science - June 24, 2020
By using a combination of remote sensing and hands-on excavation work, the team found evidence for at least 20 giant holes dating to the Neolithic, about 4,500 years ago. Each hole is massive, measuring at least 32 feet (10 meters) in diameter and at least 16 feet (5 m) deep.
Scientists find huge ring of ancient shafts near Stonehenge PhysOrg - June 22, 2020
Scientists find huge ring of ancient shafts near Stonehenge. Archaeologists said Monday that they have discovered a major prehistoric monument under the earth near Stonehenge that could shed new light on the origins of the mystical stone circle in southwestern England. The shafts appear to have been dug around 4,500 years ago, and could mark the boundary of a sacred area or precinct around a circular monument known as the Durrington Walls henge.
Stonehenge: DNA reveals origin of builders BBC - April 16, 2019
The ancestors of the people who built Stonehenge travelled west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain, a study has shown. Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe. The Neolithic inhabitants appear to have travelled from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Iberia before winding their way north. They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.
Neolithic farmers who built Stonehenge 5,000 years ago were almost completely wiped out by Beaker people from the continent Daily Mail - February 21, 2018
Stonehenge has a proud place in Britain's history as one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. But, according to a major new study, modern-day Britons are barely related to the ingenious Neolithic farmers who built the monument 5,000 years ago. Instead the British are related to the 'Beaker people' who travelled from modern-day Holland and all but wiped out Stonehenge's creators.
Evidence Suggests Stonehenge Was an Elite Cemetery Smithsonian - January 9, 2018
Scientists have little doubt that Stonehenge functioned as a Neolithic cemetery. What stands out is that in a violent age, the bodies buried there showed no signs of any kind of conflict.
Huge, Mysterious Settlement Discovered Near Stonehenge Seeker - November 22, 2016
A vast, mysterious complex dating back more than 5,600 years has been unearthed just 1.5 miles from Stonehenge, British archaeologists have announced. The finding in Wiltshire reinforces the theory that Stonehenge was a sacred monument and suggests the entire region was ritually active hundreds of years before the enigmatic stone circle was erected. Found during excavations ahead of the construction of a new Army Service family accommodation, the 650-foot-diameter complex is known as a "causewayed enclosure." It consists of more than 3,100 feet of segmented ditches arranged in two concentric circles. According to archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology, the remains date back to 3,650 B.C. - around 700 years before Stonehenge was known to be erected.
Stonehenge tunnel survey reveals new sites, and mysteries The Guardian - December 22, 2015
Some 3,400 years before the roaring torrent of the A303 road sliced the Stonehenge landscape in half, some people cut a beautiful pit a metre deep into the chalk with no tools except picks made of red deer antlers. They may have had primitive tools, but there was nothing primitive about their skills: the bottom of the pit was so neatly leveled that you could balance a beaker of mead on it without spilling a drop.The newly discovered pit was immaculately cut to hold a huge wooden post. A neat trench links to a second equally impressive pit for another massive post: in the rolling chalk downland, they would have been visible for miles. The line of the trench seems to lead on towards the neighboring field full of curious Waitrose pigs, under a later bank but carefully jinking to avoid an earlier long barrow.
Stonehenge 'bluestone' quarries confirmed 140 miles away in Wales PhysOrg - December 7, 2015
Excavation of two quarries in Wales by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed they are sources of Stonehenge's 'bluestones' - and shed light on how they were quarried and transported. New research presents detailed evidence of prehistoric quarrying in the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, helping to answer long-standing questions about why, when and how Stonehenge was built.
Startling New Evidence Suggests Stonehenge was First Built in Wales then Transported and Reconstructed 500 Years Later in England Ancient Origins - December 7, 2015
Archaeologists have found the exact holes in a rocky outcrop in Wales from where the bluestones found at Stonehenge originated, revealing that they were quarried 500 years before they were assembled into the famous stone circle that still stands today in Wiltshire, England. The dramatic discovery suggests that the ancient monument was first erected in Wales and later dismantled, transported, and reassembled over 140 miles away in Salisbury Plain.
Feeding Stonehenge: Hearty Menu for Monument Builders Revealed - Barbeque Pork, Roast Beef, Yogurt and Cheeses Ancient Origins - October 14, 2015
Remnants of delicious feasts at a major Neolithic settlement in the UK have revealed that pork roasts, milk, yogurt and cheeses were on the menu for the prehistoric builders of Stonehenge. The wealth of foods brought in from afar show that the feasts had both ritual and social significance, and indicate that the builders weren't slaves forced into work. The food choices and eating habits of the people at a prehistoric site near Stonehenge have been revealed by the discovery of animal bones and pottery fragments. The prehistoric site, Durrington Walls, is a Late Neolithic settlement believed to be the nearby residence for the builders of the Stonehenge stone monument during the 2500 BC.
Feasts and food choices: Culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders Science Daily - October 13, 2015
Archaeologists have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls -- a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.
Video: Stonehege researchers may have found largest neolithic site BBC - September 7, 2015
Stone monoliths found buried near Stonehenge could have been part of the largest neolithic monument built in Britain, archaeologists believe. The 4,500-year-old stones, some measuring 15ft (4.5m) in length, were discovered under 3ft of earth at Durrington Walls "superhenge". The monument was on "an extraordinary scale" and unique, researchers said. Remote sensing and geophysical imaging technology has been used to reveal evidence of nearly 100 stones without the need for excavation. The monument is just under two miles (3km) from Stonehenge, Wiltshire, and is thought to have been a ritual site. Experts think it may have surrounded traces of springs and a dry valley leading into the River Avon.
Major Discovery: 4,500-year-old megalithic super-henge found buried one mile from Stonehenge Ancient Origins - September 7, 2015
An enormous row of 90 megalithic stones has been found buried beneath the prehistoric super-henge of Durrington Walls earthworks, only one mile from the world-famous site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. The huge line of megalithic stones lies 3 feet underground and has just been discovered through the use of sophisticated radar equipment. The finding is believed to have been a huge ritual monument.
Stonehenge Sound Study Suggests Iconic Rocks Were Picked For Their Acoustic Properties Huffington Post - December 10, 2013
Of all the stones the ancients could have chosen to use in building Stonehenge, why did they pick those famous bluestones? A provocative new study suggests it's because of their special acoustic qualities. The study adds a surprising twist to previous research that revealed Stonehenge may have been used as a concert venue. For the study, researchers at the Royal College of Art in London tapped on more than 1,000 rocks in the Carn Menyn area of the Preseli Hills in southwestern Wales, the region where the iconic monument's bluestones are believed to have come from. Markings found on the Stonehenge rocks suggest that ancient people struck them - but it's unclear whether the people were trying to make pretty sounds or simply breaking off bits of the rocks to keep as souvenirs, the researchers said.
New dig suggests Stonehenge was built to align with summer and winter solstice PhysOrg - September 10, 2013
New excavations conducted by English Heritage appear to confirm a theory that suggests that Stonehenge was built where it was because of natural land formations. Researchers for the team report that new excavations near the huge stones have revealed that natural ridges beneath parts of the embankment that leads to Stonehenge, known as the Avenue, point to the summer solstice in one direction and the winter solstice in the other. This suggests, the team reports that Stonehenge was built where it was because it aligned with important solar events.
Stonehenge-Era Grave of Gold-Wearing Woman Found Live Science - April 23, 2013
More than 4,000 years ago, a woman, perhaps an ancient queen, was carefully laid to rest outside of modern-day London, ornamented with beads of gold strung around her neck and a large drinking cup placed at her hip. Archaeologists have just uncovered her grave at a quarry that lies between Windsor Castle and Heathrow airport. The woman's bones have been degraded by acid in the soil, making radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis impossible. Nonetheless, excavators believe she was at least 35 years old when she died sometime between 2500-2200 B.C., around the era Stonehenge was constructed. The woman was adorned with a necklace that had tube-shaped beads fashioned out of sheet gold and black discs of lignite, a dark, coal-like material similar to jet. Though her clothing long ago disintegrated, amber buttons and fasteners were scattered across the woman's body in a row, hinting at how she may have been dressed.
New Theory on Why Stonehenge Was Built Live Science - April 24, 2013
A site near Stonehenge has revealed archaeological evidence that hunters lived just a mile from Stonehenge roughly 5,000 years prior to the construction of the first stones, new research suggests. What's more, the site, which was occupied continuously for 3,000 years, had evidence of burning, thousands of flint tool fragments and bones of wild aurochs , a type of extinct giant cow. That suggests the area near Stonehenge may have been an auroch migration route that became an ancient feasting site, drawing people together from across different cultures in the region.
Wanted: Stonehenge Druid-in-Chief Live Science - April 23, 2013
Attention Stonehenge enthusiasts: there's a job opening at the mysterious stone monument, and a better opportunity may not arise for the next 5,000 years. English Heritage, the organization that oversees Stonehenge as well as 420 other historic properties around Britain, is seeking a "dynamic and inspirational leader" who can "take the Stonehenge visitor experience forward," according to a job posting on English Heritage's website. The new manager will oversee efforts on a new visitor center and coordinate summer solstice activities. The Wiltshire, England megaliths were raised nearly 5,000 years ago, but exactly why has remained an enduring mystery.
Stonehenge up close: digital laser scan reveals secrets of the past The Guardian - October 9, 2012
Like any corner-cutting modern builder, the ancient stonemasons who built Stonehenge lavished the most work and best materials where they would be first seen - shining in the last light of the setting winter solstice sun, or at dawn on the longest day. The first complete 3D laser scan of the stone circle has also revealed tool marks made 4,500 years ago, scores of little axehead graffiti added when the enormous slabs were already 1,000 years old, and damage and graffiti contributed by Georgian and Victorian visitors. It also confirms the importance of the prehistoric monument's alignment on the winter and summer solstice. The largest, most uniform and most imposing stones, carefully shaped and dressed through hundreds of hours of work with stone hammers, were set where they would be seen first by people approaching the monument from north-east along the Avenue, a processional way that would have been particularly spectacular at the midwinter sunset.
Stonehenge rocks Pembrokeshire link confirmed BBC - December 19, 2011
Experts say they have confirmed for the first time the precise origin of some of the rocks at Stonehenge. It has long been suspected that rhyolites from the northern Preseli Hills helped build the monument. But research by National Museum Wales and Leicester University has identified their source to within 70m (230ft) of Craig Rhos-y-felin, near Pont Saeson. The museum's Dr Richard Bevin said the find would help experts work out how the stones were moved to Wiltshire.
Archaeologists make new Stonehenge 'sun worship' find BBC - November 28, 2011
Two previously undiscovered pits have been found at Stonehenge which point to it once being used as a place of sun worship before the stones were erected. The pits are positioned on celestial alignment at the site and may have contained stones, posts or fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun. An international archaeological survey team found the pits as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.
Stonehenge was built on a sacred site used for millennia Independent - October 5, 2011
Stonehenge holds many mysteries, but although there are plenty of competing theories about its purpose, experts agree that the site chosen for such a monumental construction project must have held a very special significance for our ancestors. Now evidence is emerging that the Stonehenge area could have been an important centre for prehistoric people several thousand years before the giant stone circle was actually built.
How two little ducks (birds) could transform our understanding of Stonehenge Mail Online - October 5, 2011
Duck - or bird - figurines are oldest ever found in Britain and part of significant archeological haul. Evidence human gathered at the monument for up to 3,000 years before it was built. Amazing find: A trove of artifacts unearthed near Stonehenge suggests there were humans at the site for 3,000 years before the monument was built.
Tomb found at Stonehenge quarry site BBC - August 31, 2011
The tomb for the original builders of Stonehenge could have been unearthed by an excavation at a site in Wales. The Carn Menyn site in the Preseli Hills is where the bluestones used to construct the first stone phase of the henge were quarried in 2300BC. Organic material from the site will be radiocarbon dated, but it is thought any remains have already been removed. Archaeologists believe this could prove a conclusive link between the site and Stonehenge.
Stonehenge boy was from the Mediterranean Sea BBC - September 29, 2010
Chemical tests on teeth from an ancient burial near Stonehenge indicate that the person in the grave grew up around the Mediterranean Sea. The bones belong to a teenager who died 3,550 years ago and was buried with a distinctive amber necklace.
Video: Archaeologists unearth Neolithic henge at Stonehenge BBC - July 22, 2010
Archaeologists have discovered a second henge at Stonehenge, described as the most exciting find there in 50 years.
Video: Dig pinpoints Stonehenge origins BBC - September 22, 2008
Archaeologists have pinpointed the construction of Stonehenge to 2300 BC - a key step to discovering how and why the mysterious edifice was built. The radiocarbon date is said to be the most accurate yet and means the ring's original bluestones were put up 300 years later than previously thought.
Video: 'Breakthrough' at Stonehenge dig BBC - April 9, 2008
Was it an ancient healing center?
Stonehenge builders' houses found BBC - January 30, 2007
A huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge has been found, archaeologists have said.
Not a fortress, or a temple, or a calendar. Stonehenge was a hospital Guardian - December 3, 2006
The Stonehenge mystery is solved. I always knew there was something odd about the "Amesbury archer". He died circa 2300BC and was rediscovered near the henge in Wiltshire in 2002, one of the most sensational prehistoric corpses ever found. His hair was laced with gold, the earliest found in England. His grave contained traces of fine clothes and implements of archery and copper-working. Analysis of his bones and teeth revealed that he came from central Europe, probably Switzerland, with possessions from Spain and France. Was this evidence of invasion? Was the Amesbury archer a Beaker lord of Stonehenge and were foreigners perhaps responsible for moving its giant bluestones from Wales?
Early sketch of Stonehenge found Guardian - November 27, 2006
The oldest detailed drawing of Stonehenge, found in a 1440 manuscript, the Scala Mundi
New glacier theory on Stonehenge BBC - June 15, 2006
A geology team has contradicted claims that bluestones were dug by Bronze Age man from a west Wales quarry and carried 240 miles to build Stonehenge. In a new twist, Open University geologists say the stones were in fact moved to Salisbury Plain by glaciers. Last year archaeologists said the stones came from the Preseli Hills. Recent research in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology suggests the stones were ripped from the ground and moved by glaciers during the Ice Age.
German site predates Stonehenge BBC - August 28, 2003
An ancient stone circle, buried for thousands of years, has been uncovered by archaeologists at a site in the Outer Hebrides. Experts say the discovery is second in importance only to Stonehenge. The find was made close to the four other existing stone circles at the famous standing stones of Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis. The discovery of the 30m circle - which is at least 3,000 years old and predates Stonehenge - was made by a team of archaeologists from Manchester University. Their construction is unusual because instead of being bedded in earth, they are situated on a rocky outcrop and were originally propped up by stones encircling their bases. Because they were propped up when built, the stones have fallen over and some are broken.
Six more bodies found near 'King of Stonehenge' site CNN - May 2003
Archaeologists who last year unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age archer at Stonehenge said this week that they have found six more bodies near the mysterious ring of ancient monoliths. The remains of four adults and two children were found about half a mile from that of the archer, dubbed "The King of Stonehenge" by Britain's tabloid press. Archaeologists said he came from Switzerland and may have been involved in building the monument. Radiocarbon tests will be done to find out more precise dates for the burials but the group is believed to have lived around 2300 B.C., during the building of Stonehenge at Amesbury, 75 miles southwest of London, said Wessex Archaeology, which excavated the site.
The latest bones discovered are about the same age of those of the archer, said Wessex Archaeology. The grave is fascinating because we are seeing the moment when Britain was moving from the Stone Age into the Bronze Age, around 2300 B.C. Wessex Archaeology said it is possible the bones are those of people from different generations, as the grave seems to have been reopened to allow further burials.
The grave contained four pots belonging to the Beaker Culture that flourished in the Swiss Alps during the Bronze Age, some flint tools, one flint arrowhead and a bone toggle for fastening clothing, Wessex Archaeology said. The large number of bodies placed in this grave is something more commonly found in the Stone Age, but the Beaker style pottery is characteristic of Bronze Age burials.
The archer was identified by the flint arrowheads found by his body. Archaeologists said some 100 artifacts found in his exceptionally rich grave, discovered about three miles from Stonehenge, indicate he was a man of stature and likely involved in constructing the monument. Although the indigenous British originally came from mainland Europe, they settled thousands of years before the arrival of the archer, who clearly belonged to a different culture, marked by a new style of pottery, the use of barbed flat arrow heads, copper knives and small gold ornaments. His grave contained teeth and bones as well as two gold hair tresses, three copper knives, flint arrowheads, wrist guards and pottery. The copper knives came from Spain and France. The gold dated to as early as 2470 B.C., the earliest dated gold objects found in Britain.
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