Discover Who Built Stonehenge
Who built Stonehenge
Where is Stonehenge?
Stonehenge is located in the Southern English county of Wiltshire. The nearest towns are Amesbury (2 miles to the East) and Salisbury (about 8 miles to the South). It's easy to access the site by car as the A303 main road runs adjacent to the site. Some say that this road was built too close to Stonehenge and that it was disrespectful to the the site and to its history. However, another even closer road, the A344 was finally closed in 2013 in an attempt to restore the dignity of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and improve the visitor experience. Throughout the years it has often been the case that visitors to the site came away feeling disappointed that there was a road so close to what is such a historic monument. This old stretch of road was grassed over in 2014.
Have you ever visited Stonehenge?
Did Druids Build Stonehenge?
Who built Stonehenge is a question that has baffled historians for ever. Built out of huge stone blocks, some of which are estimated to have weighed around 4 tonnes, which are thought to have been transported in from more than 160 miles away, Stonehenge is a true marvel of ancient engineering. But who built Stonehenge?
Well, given the age of the Stonehenge structure there has been plenty of opportunity for numerous myths and folklore. Some of these myths would have us believe that the person who built Stonehenge was the devil, whilst other myths point to it being Merlin who built Stonehenge and used it for magical purposes. Another popular and long-held belief is that it was the Druids who built Stonehenge, however that theory is much less popular now that more is known about the age of Stonehenge.
Radiocarbon dating of the Stonehenge site indicates that no further building work would have taken place after 1600BC which tends to rule out the Druids given that Celtic society that spawned the Druid priesthood only came into being after the year 300BC. So they were out by over one thousand years. The Druid theory is an attractive one because they are well-known to have performed rituals and sacrifices, for which Stonehenge has become synonymous with - but only because of the attachment to the Druid theory in peoples' minds. The Druids actually carried out earth rituals which were much better suited to woodlands or mountains rather than the open field setting of Stonehenge.
Was Stonehenge Built by Three Different Tribes?
Given that it took so long to construct Stonehenge leading theorists believe that it couldn't have been built by the same family, tribe or local population. It must have been built by more than one people. The leading theory is now that Stonehenge was built by three tribes.
The Windmill Hill People - Furrows and Mounds
The first group who began construction of Stonehenge were a tribe called the Windmill Hill people who were so-named due to their earthworks on a nearby hill (Windmill Hill). it is believed that the Windmill Hill people began construction of the site by building the large circular furrows and mounds that create a border around the site. The Windmill Hill people had collective burials in large stone-encased tombs with most of their burial mounds being oriented from east to west. Originating in eastern England, the Windmill Hill people were one of the first semi-nomadic hunting and gathering groups with an agricultural economy, with a strong predilection for circles and symmetry.
The Beaker People - Originating in Spain
The Beaker people, thought to have originated in Spain, are now credited with being the second group to continue on the Stonehenge site. The Beaker people got their name from their ancient traditions in which they would bury beakers, pottery and drinking cups in individual graves (rather than mass graves) with the deceased. These were small round graves marked by mounds called tumuli. Archaeologists have assumed that the Beaker People were more warlike in nature than most tribes of their time because they buried their dead with more weapons, such as daggers and battle-axes.
The Wessex People - The Builders
The Wessex People had wide ranging trade links with Europe and appear to have amassed considerable wealth through the trade of amber, jewellery and daggers. The wealth from such trade is likely to have given the Wessex people the provisions to construct the third (megalithic) phase of Stonehenge and also indicates a powerful form of social organisation. It is this third stage in the development of Stonehenge that is responsible for the image people think of when they hear the name Stonehenge. Although this stage of construction has little to do with the astronomical calculations that can be answered using Stonehenge.
When was Stonehenge Built
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed at some point between 3000 and 2000 BC. However, many people argue that it was built over a longer period of between 3100 BC and 1400 BC. It is believed that the early phase of construction consisted of the digging of the earth mound and burial sites which are situated around the outside of the stone site. Radiocarbon dating of the stones shows that these were put in place between 2400 and 2200 BC. Many people, however, insist that the bluestones were raised at the site in 3000 BC. What is clear in all theories is that Stonehenge was not constructed in one go. It is the culmination of many centuries' work, continued by a number of different tribes and peoples.
Why was Stonehenge Built?
Whoever built Stonehenge left no records as to why the monument was built. So, really we can only speculate and come up with our own theories - and there are a great number of theories. One of the more romanticised theories is that Stonehenge was built to unite the sprawling peoples of England. Tribes were scattered across the country at this time and there was little interaction and certainly little cooperation between them. Whilst it's possible that this project was envisaged to unite the country it's difficult to believe that there was one person or one tribe who could have been able to coordinate this.
Due to the positioning of the stones, one of the most popular theories is that Stonehenge was constructed either as some kind of astronomical calendar or as some kind of relic to gods of the sky. Later findings of human remains (in there thousands) lead many to believe that the site was an ancient burial ground with the stones and their positioning used by ceremonial purposes, possibly linked to the movements of the sun and the moon.
Stonehenge is operated and maintained by English Heritage. Over the last few years the group have been transforming the Stonehenge visitor experience. A new world-class visitor centre, housing museum-quality permanent and temporary exhibitions and a quality shop and café, is now open. Stonehenge can be accessed from the A360 road which runs adjacent to the site. Visitors need to leave this road at Airmans Corner and drive round to the English Heritage car park. There is no charge for parking as long as you have either an English Heritage membership or if you are purchasing a ticket to enter the Stonehenge site.
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If you're ever in England I would recommend a visit to Stonehenge. It's only a couple of hours' drive away from London and it's well worth the journey. It's located in a lovely part of Southern England surrounded by gorgeous countryside and within touching distance of other historic points of interest such as Bath and the South-West.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Matt Doran