Take a virtual trip and stand in the center of Stonehenge, arguably the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. While viewing Stonehenge virtually, you also get a quick, first-hand history lesson on one of the wonders of the world.
What is Stonehenge?
Located in in Wiltshire, England, Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing around 25 tons. One of the most famous and recognizable sites in the world, it’s estimated it took over 1,500 years to erect. People come to see Stonehenge because it is so impossibly big and so impossibly old; some are searching for a connection with a prehistoric past; some come to witness the workings of a massive astronomical observatory.
Who Built StoneHenge?
Some scholars attribute the building of Stonehenge to the Saxons, Danes, Romans, Greeks or Egyptians. According to the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose tale of King Arthur and mythical account of English history were considered factual for many years, Stonehenge was created by the wizard Merlin.
While disproved through carbon-dating, 17th century archaeologists said Celtic high priests called Druids created it. Today, the consensus of many modern historians and archaeologists now agree that several distinct tribes of people contributed to Stonehenge.
The Many Theories of Stonehenge
Ancient Burial Ground
Many modern scholars now agree that Stonehenge was once a burial ground. They have yet to determine what other purposes it served and how a civilization without modern technology (or even the wheel) could have produced the mighty monument. Stonehenge poses many fascinating questions.
Scientists have traced the stones that make up its inner ring to the Preseli Hills in Wales, some 200 miles from where Stonehenge sits on Salisbury Plain. The first phase of work required precise planning and a massive amount of labor. Who planned it? Who organized whom to work together in its construction?
Knowledge of the Future
Who are the people who were buried at Stonehenge in its early days? And why were they buried there? How was the new level of technical sophistication, such as tongue and groove joints and other modern woodworking techniques introduced?
Lastly, perhaps the biggest questions surround the most famous aspect of Stonehenge, its relationship with the solar and lunar calendar. Perhaps the most unbelievable feature of Stonehenge is it’s astrological connection. First proposed in the 18th century, it was noted that the midsummer solstice sunrise is framed exactly by a horseshoe inside the monument. Also, at the exact opposite point, the midwinter solstices’ sunset, also aligns with the sun on the horseshoe. How could this have been accomplished? All we can assume it that the solstices were of obvious importance to the people who built and used Stonehenge.
There’s no shortage of information on the topic of Stonehenge out there. There’s also no shortage of articles about ancient civilizations who somehow had knowledge of organized calendars with strong astrological significance and relationships with the physical world (the Mayans and the Egyptians are just a few examples). So if this topic interests you, it could be a worthwhile venture in historical research.
Video by English Heritage