Stonehenge - also part of the King Arthur Legend

Stonehenge as it looks today.
Stonehenge as it looks today. | Source
A Giant helps Merlin reconstruct Stonehenge in Britain. Illustration from Wace's manuscript, "Roman de Brut."
A Giant helps Merlin reconstruct Stonehenge in Britain. Illustration from Wace's manuscript, "Roman de Brut." | Source

Uther Pendragon, Merlin and Stonehenge

Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument, located in the English county of Wiltshire, approximately two miles west of Amesbury and eight miles north of Salisburgy, is one of the most famous sights in the world. It is synonomous with Britain and its history and the above photo is one of the most recognizable in the world.

It also has been a source of mystery over the ages as to what it is exactly, why it was constructed and by whom. This mystery has continued through modern times. Today, we still have no sure answer to the Stonehenge mystery or the answer to the questions.

But, did you know Stonehenge has also been part of the King Arthur story and legend? It figures into the King Arthur story by Geoffrey of Monmouth and his manuscript, Historia Regum Britanniae.

Here Monmouth included in his manuscript, from the 12th century, the story that Merlin had constructed Stonehenge in Britain and this story became very popular and spread quickly and widely in Middle Age Europe during that time period. It became a very popular myth in England's heritage during the Middle Ages.

The story was also picked up and published in other manuscripts from that period. Wace's Norman French Roman de Brut, Layamon's Middle English Brut, and the Welsh, Brut y Brenhinedd, also included this version of the Stonehenge story and the connection to King Arthur.

As the story goes, Merllin directed the removal of Stonehenge from its "original" location in Ireland where it had been built on Mt. Killarous by Giants, who brought the stones from Africa. According to Monmouth, King Aurelius Ambrosias, in the 5th century, wanted to erect a memorial to 3,000 nobles who had died in battle fighting the Saxons (buried in Salisbury) and choose Stonehenge at Merlin's advice to be their monument.

King Aurelius sent Merlin, Uther Pendragon (Arthur's father) and 15,000 knights to Ireland to retrieve the rocks. The knights slew 7,000 in the process of getting to the rocks, but then couldn't move them. So Merlin used his wizardry of "gear and great skill" to dismantle the stones and send them to England where Stonehenge was dedicated to the nobles.

A short time later, King Aurelius died and according to Monmouth, was buried within the Stonehenge monument or "The Giant's Ring of Stonehenge."

What motivated Monmouth to include this story in his manuscript? He wanted to connect the history of Britain to King Arthur to continue to assert that King Arthur was a true king of England and a true story in Britain's history. Today, this connection of Merlin and King Arthur is considered myth and legend as more and more archaeological findings at Stonehenge have attested.

Stonehenge at sunset.
Stonehenge at sunset. | Source
Heelstone at Stonehenge.
Heelstone at Stonehenge. | Source

Stonehenge today

Stonehenge is a circular setting of large standing stones set in the ground. It is the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England. Archaeologists believe the stone monument was constructed from approximately 3000 BC to 2000 BC. In 2008, radiocarbon testing showed that the first stones erected were in 2400 - 2200 BC. And they believe the surrounding circular earth bank and ditch from the earliest phase of the monument was dated at about 3100 BC

John Aubrey was the first to examine the site with a scientific eye in 1666. That is why the pits within the circular bear his name. In 1986, Stonehenge was named a World Heritage Site.

Also in 2008, archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project, stated that Stonehenge could serve as the burial ground or cemetery from its earliest beginnings. Found at the site were cremated human bone material from as early as 3000 BC. Such burial material continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years.

"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid-third millennium BC." - Mike Parker Pearson (Stonehenge Riverside Project)

The northeast entrance of Stonehenge was built to match the direction of the midsummer sunrise (June 21) and the midwinter sunset (December 21). It's construction tells of the intelligence of man from the era it was constructed.

In fact, the Heelstone, the single stone slanting toward Stonehenge, was erected at the northeast entrance and the sun rises exactly above it at the summer solstice, June 21, each year.

It is interesting that Monmouth saw Stonehenge as a burial place and had King Aurelius buried there also. Did he know something we did not? It is quite a coincidence, that after all these years, we believe it was a burial place as Monmouth did. Or, was Stonehenge known all along in ancient times as a burial place?

Stonehenge is an amazing structure from the Neolithic and Bronze Age that illuminates the intelligence of the people living during these time periods. Has the mystery been solved? Not completely, but today we have the most complete answer we have had in thousands of years. Perhaps in years to come, with new and more extensive testing available, we will definitely learn what Stonehenge was all about and whether or not it was the final resting place for so many.

Copyright 2012 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved


More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Hi Suzette, great hub about Stonehenge. I went there several years ago, and to see them in the flesh was truly awesome, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn't actually touch the stones. I think English Heritage got fed up of local kids vandalising them. Voted up and shared.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

JKenny: Thank you so much for reading and for your comments. How cool that you have been there. I haven't been there ... yet. I hope to see it someday. I'm like you, I would want to touch them, too. Too bad. But, I'm always interested in a mystery!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

My son just saw Stone Hedge about 2 months ago and he really thought it was awesome. It is amazing that they could have moved those huge stone so many years ago. This was a very interesting hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

I think it is wonderful that your son saw Stonehenge. I think it is so interesting and I love a good mystery! LOL. Thanks so much for your comments.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

Stonehenge is one of the eternal mysteries. In the future, we shall have the answers when we are on the other side. That will be fun to know. We shall likely hang our mouths open, slap our foreheads and say, "I should have known that!" You did a great job writing about this amazing place.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Hyphen: You are right - we will feel we should have been able to figure it out. Well, prehistoric man really left us an immortal mystery. We have been excavating that site since 1666. With all our great technological advances we still can't figure out a simple circle of rocks.

Thanks so much for reading and I always enjoy your comments!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

I went to stonehenge on a school trip many years ago, I was in awe then and still am! in those days we were allowed to get up really close.

Thank you for this wonderful hub, I really enjoyed reading, great work and voted up!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Lesley: Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. This is one place I haven't seen and I would still like to someday. I'm so glad you enjoyed seeing it up close and personal and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub so much. That makes me so happy.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Stonehenge has always fascinated me. There have been so many myths and guesses. It would be great to have the answers to at least one of the world's mysteries.

An excellent hub


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Rosemay50: I know, it is fascinating isn't it? Someday . . . Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your input.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

I also have a big dream to see the Stonehenge. It looks so beautiful with great formations. I learn many things about Stonehenge from this hub. Voted up and have a nice weekend!

Prasetio


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Prasetio: Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. I have always been fascinated by Stonehenge. You have a great weekend, also.


stonelord 3 years ago

Nice post. I have explored the connection between King Arthur and Stonehenge in my novel, STONE LORD. My belief is that some of the roots of the Arthurian legends actually lie in the bronze age--the heroic age of Wessex--and were transmitted orally, becoming entangled in the main body of legends when Geoffrey of Monmouth transmitted them to paper. How interesting that he knew some stones came from the far west and that the area was an burial ground. The only thing he didn't have were the dates!

My blog which covers King Arthur and Stonehenge is stone-lord.blogspot.com


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you for the heads up on your blog. I will certainly check it out. I have always found the King Arthur legend fascinating since I read Mort D'Arthur in a British literature class. Yes, I find all this and the connections so interesting. It seems the research into Arthur never ends. Thanks so much for your visit and for reading this. Your interest makes me happy.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Another wonderful hub Suzette.

Eddy.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Eiddwen: Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed this!


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

Congratulations on this excellent article. I never thought of an Arthurian connection to stonehenge but i one thinks about it the fact that megaliths, man made mounds and other heritage sites proliferate the region (indeed the planet) then stonehendge certainly had some significance then.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

limpet: Yes, surprisingly there is a link with King Arthur and Stonehenge, although no archaeological findings of King Arthur have ever been found or of Merlin for that matter. So glad you enjoyed reading this and thank you for your comments.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

We studied John Steinbeck in English Lit. Saw the movies from Steinbeck novels and whilst travelling through Monteray Bay/Salinas valley of California 'Steinbeck country' On the last short stay i had in England's west country i learned that Steinbeck and his wife came to stay and live in the Somerset village of Bruton to research King Arthur and the knights of the round table Stonehenge being some one hours drive from Bruton. Steinbeck certainly picked the right place located centrally to most legendary sites. Don't think that he put anything in writing about his sojourn.

Did you know there is also a wood henge and a sea henge?

Bless


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

So you have been to Steinbeck country? I have been there also. I like John Steinbeck and I have read several of his novels. Although, critics have not liked his writing, I have enjoyed his writing. You raise some good questions. I don't know of Steinbeck writing of his time in England, but I would have to check on that to be sure. There are wood henge throughout England, but I can't remember where just now. A sea henge? That I don't know and I would also have to check on that. Thanks for your comments and questions - they are good ones. I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

merry we meet

sea henge is located at King's Lynn in Norfolk and is open to the public as a fully restored museum

yours in the light

the limpet


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi limpet: Glad to know about sea henge and where it is located, as I would want to see it along with stone henge. Hope all is well with you. Yes, merry we meet.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

Arthur is reputed to have led his forces against an enemy invader repeling them at Mount Badon (mons badiconas) decisively. Although this event was documented the location is unknown but three English townes lay claim to the battle. There was also a second battle which sustained the halt of further incusion, circa 6th century probably.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

limpet: How interesting. I know King Arthur is considered legend not fact. But, I can't help believing he was a real man and king. I don't know if it is because I want or wish it to be true. I keep thinking one of these years archaeologists or researchers are going to uncover proof that Arthur really did live and there really was a Camelot, no matter how ephemeral that is. These battles you refer to are interesting to me. I haven't studied British history - only the literature - so this is interesting to me. Thanks so much for hour input.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

merrie we meet

A recent four year long study by archeologists using seismic instruments and laser beams has revealed workings not previously known before and put the age of the monument at older than previously thought. Still we probably don't know the full story.

Years ago one of Britain's most notable astromers with hardly any knowledge of the Neolithic period was taken to Salisbury Plain and instantly deduced the solar aspect of Stonehenge and offered some advice on the so called Aubrey holes


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi limpet: very interesting comments. Stonehenge will probably remain a mystery for many years to come. I recently heard or read somewhere that they are now sure that Stonehenge was a circle and what is left is the inner circle of a larger circle. I hope to see it one day as I have always been intrigued by it. Thanks for your interesting input.


limpet profile image

limpet 23 months ago from London England

merrie we meet

Curiously, there happens to be a post industrial revolution array of standing stones here within the greater London area. Known also as 'Hackneyhenge' it is situated within walking distance of the 2012 London Olympics park. Due to fast flowing fresh water availability from the River Lea which was put to good use for turning water wheels of flour mills, providing drinking water to the thirsty East End inhabitants and used as ballast for the canal narrow boats, quantities of stone mainly granite were introduced as foundation blocks, millstones for grinding wheat to flour as well as revetments to prevent flooding. When the landscape fell into disuse it was allowed to become a nature reserve, the Hackney Marshes. Enterprising locals decided to put the stone to good use by creating a modern day henge of standing stones. There must be no place in England one could go without being near something from a past era.

many blessings to all kindred spirits


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 22 months ago from Taos, NM Author

limpet: ohooooo! Thank you so much for the info about Hackneyhenge. Never heard of it before. Another reason to come to England and see this. There is so much history, culture and architecture in England that it is a learner's paradise. LOL! Thanks so much for leaving bits of your knowledge with us here on my hubs. I never tire of hearing what you have to say. I love the mini-lessons I get from you. BTW, The Magna Carta (or one of its versions) is on display in Washington DC right now. I saw one of the versions in England over 30-35 years ago and it was fascinating. (Yes, I'm that old! LOL!) This is the foundation of our system of democracy both in England and the U.S. Very important document. Thanks so much for stopping by.


limpet profile image

limpet 22 months ago from London England

The four surviving copies of the Magna Carta are now on exhibition in the British Library in Bloomsbury just north of London's west end. Actually when King John conceded to the barons at Runnymede in 1215, he didn't sign but rather sealed with his Royal seal. No court case pending yet!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 22 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi limpet: What a coincidence. My next hub is to be about the Magna Carta. I have done my research and am going to write about this most important document. It is the basis for all democratic nations around the world. When I visited England, nearly 30 years ago, I did see one of the copies of the Magna Carta. I think it was one of the copies at one of the cathedrals. It has been so long I can't remember all the details, but it was a fortunate and wonderful experience to see it. There is so much that connects England and the U.S. and this document is one of them. I know also, that copies of this are coming across the pond for exhibition here in the U.S. If I can get to one of the cities where it is on display I will certainly take a second look at it.


limpet profile image

limpet 21 months ago from London England

merrie we meet

England's west country some tymes referred to as Wessex, Summer lands or Avalon (take you pick!) is not only steeped in folklore traditions, the Arthurian legend and post medieval celebrations ranging from religious activity to new age counter culture. The landscape provides the pilgrim (as in seeker) his or her contentment. One traveller's hostelry in a remote part of Somerset is a 15th century manor modernised inside and the owners have allocated each guest room a name of one of some of the knights of the round table and of course one room with Queen Guinevere's name. The plushest room/rooms is the Arthurian suite. Whilst on the subject of King Arthur there was a T.V. series Sir Lancelot airing in 1956, low budget but well acted, many fallen into obscurity (apart from the chap portraying Merlin) as was as factual as the researchers could get. There was even a satyrical episode titled Sir Crustabread, very 'boy's own ' stuff! The same was done when the musical Camelot was filmed, they strived for authenticity too.

Bless

the Limpet


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 21 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks for more knowledge about the King Arthur legend, limpet, I love this English legend the most. The hostelry or B&B sounds wonderful and I love places like that. I have always loved the musical Camelot. Thanks for your input!


limpet profile image

limpet 20 months ago from London England

merrie we meet

Today officially first day of Spring and a gathering has assembled at Stonehenge to observe the spring equinox. This tyme they have the added benefit of experiencing a total eclipse as the moon casts a shadow over us as it transits the face of the sun. Tintagel the coastal village in Cornwall was the first English towne to get the phenonema whilst the Isle of Lewis (famous for it's standing stones) off the west coast of Scotia, has been forecast by the astronomers to be the best vantage point. Alas olde London towne missed it due to a dense fog.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 20 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi limpet, yes we are merrie! Great post for the first day of spring. Did you see the eclipse of the moon? I did not. So sorry to hear London was under a dense fog. Being at Stonehenge on this day would be a sight to see, I am sure. Thanks for stopping to remind me of this most interesting place, especially at the spring equinox. So good of you to pop in and say hello.


limpet profile image

limpet 11 months ago from London England

Only saw the lunar eclipse on T.V. as i did the more recent 'blood moon'. There are opposing views on the controversial decision for the government proposal to tunnel beneath stonehenge thus relieving traffic congestion on two major arterial roads. Those for it, maintain a world heritage listed site and on going archeological 'dig' is just a pile of old stones. Those against say there a plenty of road improvements that could be made in other parts of the country before this should take place.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 11 months ago from Taos, NM Author

limpet, you are back! Hello! Full moon coming up on Christmas night, so watch for it. First time in 30 some years. So the 'crazies' will be out. lol! Be careful! I know nothing about the roads or highway system in England/Britain but I am saddened to hear they would ever consider plowing under Stonehenge to build a tunnel/road. That is insane. That is such an important heritage and historical site. I can't imagine they would ever risk tumbling those stones over. Maybe this year the 'crazies' are in England. With the full moon out on Christmas night, it would be fun to see what went on at Stonehenge around midnight. Perhaps the Stonehenge ghosts will keep the stones safe from England's roads and transportation system. Keep me posted on this.


limpet profile image

limpet 11 months ago from London England

And today marks the advent of the winter solstice, it is dark by the middle of the afternoon now. Next up - yuletide.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 11 months ago from Taos, NM Author

limpet: Happy Yuletide and Happy Christmas! Enjoy the holiday season! I have been to our state of Maine during the winter and it also gets dark there around 3 pm in the afternoon. Makes for long winter nights! But, there is much to keep one busy! LOL! I can always hope to visit Stonehenge at the winter solstice.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working