What is the Stonehenge built of?
Like we explained before, the Stonehenge started out with just two stones being arranged around a circular ditch. This rudimentary assembly was expanded upon by the addition of bluestones (in a double circle) almost 500 years later. But the imposing scope of the monument (as we know today) only took place at around 2100 BC, when the bluestones were exceeded in size by the grander sarsen stones.
Ten huge stones were erected in the pattern of a ‘horseshoe’, with each pair being connected via a horizontal stone lintel – thus forming five trilithons. This giant assembly of enchanting proportions was further circled with 30 upright yet smaller sarsen stones with a continuous ring of lintels. The expansion however didn’t stop there; about hundred years later two additional bluestone rings were laid out, with one inside the horseshoe and another just outside of the horseshoe.
How were the huge stones transported to the site?
With an average weight of 25 tons for the sarsen varieties, it obviously begs the question – how were these massive blocks brought to the special site? Historians can actually estimate the location of the quarries – which in the case of the sarsen stones would have been Marlborough Downs, an area around 20 miles (32 km) to the north of Wiltshire. But it gets trickier for the smaller bluestones, which still have an average weight of 3 tons each. According to the researchers and various studies (done recently), these stones were transported all the way from a location known as Carn Goedog, in the Preseli Hills in Wales. The distance from this area to the famous Wiltshire site is a substantial 140 miles (225 km)!
There are of course hypotheses concerning such herculean transportation operations of pre-historic Britain. Many believe the stones were hauled over a short distance on land, and then moved via rafts through the Bristol Channel. Others provide a second theory that perhaps nature gave the advantage to the elusive builders of the Stonehenge. To that end, there is a possibility that it is a glacier’s handiwork in transporting the varied stones with aid of ice into the local Salisbury Plain.
How was the logistics available for such a huge undertaking?
The ambit of logistics is not only about the relatively underdeveloped tools of the pre-historic age, but also relates to the much lower population of the segregated British islands during that period. This brings us to the fascinating hypothesis brought forth by the members of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. According to the group, the Stonehenge was quite possibly one of the first nationalistic endeavors undertaken by a particular faction of people. In many ways, the monument symbolically represented the momentous ‘unification’ of British people (proto-Britons), which also mirrored the society’s uniformity in other fields too, including pottery and house building.
This could possibly explain the considerable manpower and resources needed for the laborious project of transporting the bluestones all the way across a distance of over 140 miles. Professor Mike Parker Pearson from the University of Sheffield, had this to say about the incredible undertaking –
This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries. Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.