ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Stonehenge and Civilisation

Updated on February 28, 2017

Does history go in circles or is it more like a piece of string? CJStone sets out to discover the secrets of Stonehenge.

The Megalithic Yard

I took my son to Stonehenge to watch the midsummer sunrise. It was the first time that he had seen the monument close up. He was not all that impressed. “It’s not as big as I thought it would be,” he said.

I can’t blame him for that. Compared to a modern skyscraper Stonehenge does, indeed, appear small. It has to be put into context for the sheer scale of the achievement to be understood.

The people who built Stonehenge probably hadn’t invented the wheel yet. They knew nothing of modern engineering methods and had nothing but stone axes and bone shovels to create this extraordinary monument.

It probably took over a thousand years to build, from its first to its last, and was in constant use for several thousand years after that. Indeed, you could say that it has never really gone out of use, if my visit to see the sunrise with Joe can be counted too. Who are we but the latest in a long line of visitors come to admire and wonder at this mysterious structure?

The question then has to be: why? Why did these ancient people go to all this trouble, dragging these huge stones over all those distances to make a circle in the middle of nowhere? What, exactly, is its purpose?

This, of course, is the subject of much debate.

Was it a temple or an observatory? Is its purpose religious or scientific?

The problem with questions like these is that they seek to divide the world according to modern concepts. Why not both? Maybe the people who built it were neither one nor the other, but both. Astronomer-priests, perhaps. Engineering-magicians.

What is clear is that whoever was responsible for it may have understood some very remarkable things. For example, if the work of the Scottish engineer Alexander Thom is right, then it was built using a unit of measurement (the so-called “Megalithic Yard”) which turns out to be an exact proportion of the circumference of the earth. In other words, the people who built Stonehenge not only knew that the earth was round, they even knew it’s exact size.

How long is a piece of string?

The usual response when confronted with information like this is disbelief. People either deny it completely, or they ascribe the knowledge to some outside source, such as alien beings from another planet, or to supernatural intervention. What we cannot believe is that our ancestors may have had access to sources of information that we have since lost.

This is because we think that history is like a piece of string. We imagine a straight line from some technologically inferior past to a well-informed present. From dumb to clever, from stone axes to mobile phones. But any clear understanding of the process makes it obvious that it is more like a wheel. History goes in cycles, from dumb to clever and back again, on a regular basis.

So, for instance, in medieval times we thought the world was flat, that the sun went round the earth and that the king had a right to rule his subjects absolutely. We were dumb. The ancient Greeks, however, two thousand years before that, knew that the earth was round and went round the sun and that people fared better as a society when they were allowed to make their own decisions democratically. They were clever.

The people who built Stonehenge, over five thousand years ago, only had stone axes. But they knew the size of the earth. They lived in wooden huts and cooked food on an open fire. But they understood how to measure the stars.

Meanwhile we’ve invented TV, we have mobile phones and SatNav and we fly all over the world in jet aircraft. But all we watch on TV are variations of Big Brother, we’ve lost our sense of purpose in life and we’re busy messing up the world for future generations.

So – now - who is really dumb?


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)