As one of Britain’s most enduring, powerful, iconic, spiritual and mysterious monuments, there can be few people who haven’t been drawn to wonder about the origin of Stonehenge and felt the pull of man’s ancient past. Was it a great temple of sun worship, a burial site, the centre of a cosmic energy grid or a huge timepiece or calendar? We’re not even sure how it was built. Certainly, it was a supreme achievement and a lasting testimony to the skills of a prehistoric civilization.
The great stone circle on Salisbury Plain is thought to have been built in stages, beginning around 3000BC in the Neolithic period and continuing up to 1600BC in the Bronze Age. Some 500 years before the huge stones were brought to the site, there was a monument here consisting of a circular ditch and bank measuring about 120 metres in diameter, possibly with a ring of wooden or stone posts. The first of the stones we now see at Stonehenge are bluestones from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, over 150 miles away. The larger sarsen stones came from the Marlborough Downs, 16 miles away. The tallest of these upright stones is 6.7m high, with another 2.4m below ground. The heaviest weighs 45 tons.
Purchase a copy of the English Heritage Stonehenge guidebook, priced £4.99 and Avebury Ordnance Survey map, priced £9.99 from www.english-heritageshop.org.uk For more details about other attractions in the area, go to www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
Stonehenge, Armesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE. Tel: 0870 333 1181. www.english-heritage.org.uk