12 curious truths about Stonehenge


Category:  Anthropology & Archeology

Via:  buzz-of-the-orient  •  5 years ago  •  15 comments

12 curious truths about Stonehenge

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

12 curious truths about Stonehenge

The world's most famous ring of standing stones has been studied for centuries, yet we learn something new about it all the time.

MELISSA BREYER, Mother Nature Network, July 17, 2019


Behold the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. (Photo: Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock)

Humans have spent centuries studying Stonehenge, yet it still has a few tricks up its sleeve. In recent years, for instance, research has shown the size of the world's most mysterious megalithic monument is much larger than previously assumed, giving enthusiasts a whole new set of questions to ponder.

While many secrets of the sacred site will remain hidden, here are some impressive facts about Stonehenge that have come to light:

1. It's not alone.   It has long been thought Stonehenge stood in isolation, but recent research — described in the BBC Two documentary " Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath " — employed techniques to scan below the surface and has uncovered something different. Underground maps show 17 previously unknown shrines and hundreds of other archaeological features around the site, including types of monuments never seen before.

2. It started with deer antlers and bovine bones.   Stonehenge dates back to around 5,000 years ago. It began as an earthwork — a bank and ditch called a henge. Archeologists think the ditch was dug from tools made of red deer antlers; the chalk underneath was likely removed with shovels made of cattle shoulder blades.

3. It dates back to the late Neolithic.   Merlin the magician, the Romans and the Druids have all been given credit for building Stonehenge, but now archaeologists think the first stones were raised around 2,500 B.C. by native inhabitants of late Neolithic Britain, according to English Heritage, the government body that looks after England's historic sites. In a   2019 study , researchers used DNA from Neolithic human remains to determine the ancestors of Stonehenge's creators likely arrived in Britain from Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey, around 4,000 B.C. Researchers generally believe Stonehenge was built to track the sun's movements, namely the   summer solstice .


The stones of the inner and outer circles. (Photo: Brian C. Weed/Shutterstock)

4. It includes imported bluestones.   The first section, the inner circle, is comprised of about 80 bluestones that weigh a whopping 4 tons each. The stones were quarried in the Prescelly Mountains at a site known as Carn Menyn in Wales. Remarkably, the quarry is located more than 150 miles from the site. Modern theories suggest the stones made the trip courtesy of rollers, sledges, rafts and barges.

5. It might have been a healing shrine.   Why they would select stone from so far away remains one of many unanswered questions. One theory suggests the builders believed the rocks of Carn Menyn were endowed with mystical properties for recuperation, and since visiting the mountains was difficult, bringing the stones to Stonehenge was a way to create a more accessible shrine for healing.

6. Some of the stones weighed more than three adult elephants.   The giant stones that form the famous outer circle are made of sarsen, a type of sandstone. Most experts believe these stones, weighing an average of 25 tons, were transported about 20 miles from the Marlborough Downs. The largest stone, the Heel Stone, weighs about 30 tons. While much of the route was (relatively) easy, modern work studies estimate no fewer than 600 people would have been required to get each stone past Redhorn Hill, the steepest part of the journey.

7. Lard played a role in moving those monstrous stones.   While it was known that the early builders use sleds and tracks of logs to move the stones from various places, new evidence uncovered in 2019 reveals another key to how they pulled off the feat. Those logs were likely heavily greased with pig fat, according to a   Newcastle University press release . Archaeologists studying pottery fragments at the site believe the original containers were more likely large buckets used to catch the animal fat as the pigs were "spit-roasted." While it's still a theory, they say that would help explain the large amounts of fat found in the pottery that would have been needed to move the massive stones more easily.

8. A piece of Stonehenge went missing for 60 years.   After cracks were found in one of the sarsen stones during excavations in 1958, workers drilled cylindrical cores from the stone before inserting metal rods to secure it. The three core samples seemed to vanish afterward, but as   CNN reports , one of them reappeared six decades later. It turns out one of the workers had saved the 108-centimeter-long core, displaying it on a wall in his office. He returned it to English Heritage in May 2019, on the eve of his 90th birthday, and researchers say studying this core could reveal new insights about the origins of the sarsen stones.

9. Raising the stones required ingenuity.   To raise the stones, a large hole was dug, with half of the hole lined with wooden stakes. The stone would be moved into position and forced upright using ropes and possibly a wooden structure; the hole was then packed tightly with rubble.

10. The lintels were tricky, too.   To secure the upright stones with the horizontal lintels, Stonehenge's builders made mortise holes and protruding tenons to ensure stability. The lintels were then fit together using tongue-and-groove joints.


Thousands gather at Stonehenge in 2017 to witness the sun rising on the longest day of the year. (Photo: Chris Allan/Shutterstock.com)

11. It can be kind of a circus.   Those who have never visited Stonehenge may imagine it's a sacred site secluded in idyllic natural surroundings, but in fact, there's a major highway less than 100 yards from the stones. In addition, the site is surrounded by what Brittania.com calls   "a commercial circus,"   complete with parking lots, gift shops and a cafe.

12. It makes a lot of cameos.   Stonehenge has become such a recognizable symbol that it has made cameo appearances in many cultural features. It was in the Beatles' film "Help!," for example, as well as Roman Polanski's "Tess" and the classic mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap." It has shown up in books, computer games and television shows. And let's not forget "National Lampoon's European Vacation," in which Clark Griswold bumps into one of the stones and knocks them all down, one by one, like a giant stack of dominoes. The Neolithic builders would not be pleased.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information since it was originally published in September 2014.


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    5 years ago

Another mystery.

Professor Quiet
1.1  Jasper2529  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    5 years ago

Thanks for another fascinating seed, Buzz!

Professor Silent
2  SteevieGee    5 years ago

You can't really go there now.  You go to a parking lot and visitor centre and take a shuttle to the fence and then you can walk around the fence line about 50 yards from the stones.  As I recall it was expensive too.  About 20 pounds a person.  I wasn't impressed.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Participates
2.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  SteevieGee @2    5 years ago

I visited there (1970) when you could roam freely.  It was because of a nut driving his car purposely into one of the pillars that a fence is now there.

Professor Participates
2.1.1  Snuffy  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.1    5 years ago

I'm willing to bet that even if the idiot and his car hadn't happened, eventually the volume of visitors would have forced them to restrict direct access to the site eventually.  My ex-wife talks about how as a child she and her family visited Monezuma's Castle where they were able to crawl around in the cliff dwellings.  Now they have it all blocked off and the closest you get is a walkway about 50 yards away from the cliff so all you can do is look up at it.

The volume of visitors is so great that they have to protect the site. And unfortunately today's visitors are much more likely to chip away a souvenir than tourists back then.

Professor Silent
2.1.2  SteevieGee  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.1    5 years ago

That stupid Clark Griswald.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
2.1.3  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  SteevieGee @2.1.2    5 years ago

LOL.  It was only a movie.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  Snuffy @2.1.1    5 years ago

My husband visited Chichneya (spelling?) in Mexico. At one time tourists could actually climb the pyramid. Not anymore

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Participates
2.1.5  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Snuffy @2.1.1    5 years ago

Sadly, you are right.  I was also able to see the Pieta (sp) before it was placed behind glass after a nut with a hammer damaged it.

Professor Expert
3  Krishna    5 years ago

I have been to England, but never made it to Stonehenge. 

I have visited, and climbed the main pyramids at both Chichen Itza (Mayan civilization, southern Mexico, in the Yucatan) as well as the Aztec Teotehuacan in central Mexico (near Mexico City).

That was quite a while back (I lived in Mexico for 2 months one summer when I was in my 20s).

Professor Quiet
3.1  Jasper2529  replied to  Krishna @3    5 years ago

I climbed the Moon Pyramid there. Absolutely beautiful. Apparently, tourists can still climb those pyramids.

Professor Expert
4  Krishna    5 years ago

Interesting "coincidence" that you seeded something about the original Stonehenge at this time--because just a few days ago I read that "Manhattanhenge" was being celebrated in NY City:


What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England.

For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season.

For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid. A rare and beautiful sight.

These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball's All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball. (Photos)

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @4    5 years ago
"Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball."

LOL.  That's not so "pie in the sky" .

In fact, the future anthropologists might possibly be Simians.


Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @4    5 years ago

Did you check out this article?

...and this link about the summer solstice?

Summer Solstice of the Dome

Some people suspected the dome may open up to some major celestial event, so they conducted some research. Sure enough, on the Summer Solstice, the sun shone directly down into the dome. When they used reflectors to aim the light down the passageway, the altar lit up.


The Dome in the Shell Grotto aligns with the Summer Equinox. Source: rebelelegance.com

Sophomore Silent
5  luther28    5 years ago

I myself found the passage tomb at Newgrange in Ireland infinitely more spiritual than Stonehenge. I believe it is older as well.

Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb - Boyne Valley, Ireland

Newgrange   in the Boyne Valley is a 5000 year old   Passage Tomb   famous for the Winter Solstice illumination which lights up the passage and chamber at ...

Who is online


40 visitors