Stonehenge and enigma go hand in hand. And perhaps a host of hypotheses over the years have rather accentuated the level of mysticism that has shrouded the ‘rough-hewn giants’. However, beyond absurdity, sensationalism and ‘alien interventions’, the Stonehenge is still a remarkable monument in its own right. So, let us check out how these impeccably placed humongous stones have baffled many experts by virtue of not only their assembly but also their origins.
Vital Statistics –
The primary remains of the Stonehenge in our present day mostly consist of a horseshoe pattern and an outer circular ring of saren stones, with the largest one boasting of 9 m (30 ft) height and an impressive weight of 50 tons. The outer ring of lintels has an average diameter of around 30.4 m (or 100 ft).
When was the Stonehenge built?
There is no doubt about Stonehenge’s prehistoric origins – but it is not that easy to answer the question as to when it was built. The reason is – Stonehenge wasn’t constructed as a single project; rather the stones were laid out in various phases in chronologically advancing time periods. Carbon dating has suggested that the first phase was undertaken during 3100 BC (or more than 5,000 years ago).
This primary project entailed the laying out of a circular ditch of 98 m (or 320 ft) diameter with two big stones (one inside and the other outside) and a perimeter defined by 56 ground recesses. These shallow yet neatly arranged holes are believed to house cremated matter of at least 240 people – thus making the site of the Stonehenge a pretty large burial ground of Neolithic period Britain.
Who built the Stonehenge?
This is the one of the most tantalizing questions that has given many a historian sleepless nights. Unfortunately, the answer in a specific manner is still not known. How so? Well, broadly speaking, the stones were placed and arranged by ancient proto-Britons, whose successors were almost certainly the Celtic inhabitants of the island during the Iron Age and the Pre-Roman Age. But the particular class of these resourceful builders or their respective factions or tribes continue to elude us.
However, one thing is for certain – the popular theory of the Stonehenge being constructed by the Druids has been debunked by not only carbon dating but also by thorough analysis of the geological formations. In fact, the Druids belonged to a special class that emerged later as a part of the Celtic society, and they might have used the existing structure for their religious as well as astronomical pursuits.
What was the purpose of the Stonehenge?
Another baffling question that has confounded researchers pertains to the true purpose of this mystical stone monument. The architecture of the Stonehenge does shed some light into this, but also raises many questions along with it. In terms of structure, the arrangement of the stones is not haphazard by any means – the blocks are in fact laid out in a methodical manner with precision and thought. Furthermore, the height and human-scale offered by each stone alludes to remarkable knowledge of the unknown builders regarding varied fields including volumetric space, mathematics and perspective.
So, this brings us to the inevitable query: was the Stonehenge some sort of an astronomical observatory? That is a possibility with relevance to the prediction of moon eclipses. However, the Wiltshire site of this monument held special symbolic importance even 5,000 years before the initial construction of the Stonehenge! Archaeologists have found three large pine posts that were embedded on this location – a place known as a pre-historic ‘pilgrimage’ center that was visited by shepherds and farmers alike. Evidences from the nearby site of Durrington Walls point to sacrifices of slaughtered pigs being offered on solstices, thus hinting at large scale religious activities on the site during specified times within an year.
We also fleetingly mentioned something about the site being a burial ground. To that end, archaeologists have not only found cremated remains but also goods and weapons. One particular example relates to the finding of a mace head – which might have belonged to the elite warrior group of the builders’ society. To that end, the monument possibly memorialized the nobility of the area.