Stonehenge - also part of the King Arthur Legend
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 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