Europe > Northern Europe > United Kingdom > Stonehenge, History and Mystery

Stonehenge, History and Mystery

By Karen Richards |

Stonehenge is one of the most photographed and enigmatic destinations around the world. Discover all its secrets and visit it like an expert

THE BEST TOUR IN STONEHENGE

We all know that Stonehenge is one of the most photographed and talked-about tourist attractions. But, how many of us know what it really is or what researchers have discovered about it? DINKtravelers thinks that after reading this article you’ll add Stonehenge to the list of places you want to visit. We’re sure you’ll want to see it in flesh and bone so that you can create your own theory.

LOCATION OF STONEHENGE

Stonehenge was established in the late Neolithic period and it was built in Amesbury, Salisbury, a British location found in the County of Wilshire. Actually,it’s approximately 15 km north of Salisbury, so we recommend renting a car or paying for tour bus services. In that sense, there’s a bus that takes you to Stonehenge from London, while local buses depart from Salisbury quite often. Once at Stonehenge, simply go to the Visitor’s Center where they’ll tell you which way to go on foot or trolley.

WHO BUILT STONEHENGE?

The series of constructions that make up Stonehenge can be defined as a cromlech (a megalithic monument formed with stones that are partly dug into the ground and placed in a circular form). It’s probably the most important prehistoric monument in England, so it attracts thousands of visitors each year. Something that’s interesting is that the huge rocks create concentric circles, so they have given way to multiple interpretations.

Although little is known about the people who built Stonehenge –and some people have even attributed this work to aliens–, researchers believe it was sedentary communities in the area who were responsible for creating this site. That’s because archaeologists have found remains of wooden, stone and bone tools as well as the remains of a huge extinct animal that was probably killed as prey by the area’s inhabitants. Also, together with the tools, they found what seems to be the base of a wooden construction, so it’s possible that the people who built it added it later in time or that it existed before but has been destroyed by the passing of time. Truth is, the identity of the people who built Stonehenge remains unknown.

FIRST CONSTRUCTIVE STAGE OF STONEHENGE

The archaeological site was built in four stages and by understanding each of them you’ll find out why this place is so interesting and enigmatic.

During the first stage they made a trench, a sandy area and what is known as Aubrey’s holes. They were all made in 3100 BC, and together they form a 284 meter-wide circle. Cremated human remains have been found in these holes, so it’s said that they’re probably not graves but ceremonial burials. According to studies, after this stage, Stonehenge was abandoned and remained intact for 1000 years, so as you continue your visit, you will be traveling in time.

SUMMER SOLSTICE IN STONEHENGE

During the second constructive stage, around 2150 BC, bluestones –stones that weight up to 4 tons and that are originally found in the Preseli mountains, in southwest Wales– were transported to the site. They say that they were dragged on rollers, sleighs and sailboats. Once at Stonehenge, they were centered in the shape of a double circle. No, don’t think that part of the circle was lost some years ago. The structure is just as you’ll see it, incomplete. It was also during this period when they built the part of the site that’s located closest to the avenue, and that lines up with the sunrise during summer solstice. If you want to prove it, plan your trip between June 20th and 22nd.

THE HEAVIEST STONE IN STONEHENGE

Travel further in time and discover the third constructive stage of Stonehenge, built approximately in the year 2000 BC. During this time they brought stones from Sarsen, the biggest of them weighing 50 tons! Of course, it’s fascinating to wonder how they managed to transport them there.

BLUESTONES IN STONEHENGE

The final constructive stage took place shortly after 1500 BC, when bluestones were reorganized in the shape of a horseshoe forming the incomplete circle you can see today. Also, that’s when they incorporated the Altar Stone, in the center, Heel Stone and the Sacrificial Stone. If you take a guided tour, your guide will surely point them out for you to see.

The original number of stones that made up the bluestones circle was 60, but some have been lost. The only remains you can see of those stones are some sandy pebbles.

WHAT WAS STONEHENGE USED FOR?

Surely you’ll wonder why they put together so many stones and placed them in the form of a circle and in the shape of a Pi symbol. Well, they say that Stonehenge used to be a ceremonial center, particularly because the number of human remains that were found there were not enough to consider the place a cemetery. Another theory says that it was a prehistoric ritual center aligned with the movement of the Sun for seasonal festivities related with the Sun and the Moon. Remember that, for many cultures, these celestial bodies are connected to the concepts of fertility, life, death and the afterlife.

TIPS TO VISIT STONEHENGE

Visiting Stonehenge will change your point of view about the prehistoric era, so at DINKtravelers we want to offer you these tips to help you enjoy your trip:

  • The best time to visit Stonehenge is during the summer solstice, because it’s the only time of the year when they allow visitors to walk among the stones.
  • Weather in Amesbury is mainly rainy and cold, except in summer. We suggest packing warm clothes, a weatherproof jacket and non-skid shoes as the open-air site could be muddy.
  • There are bus tours that take you to Stonehenge but visiting time is limited, so it’s better to rent a car and spend your time there leisurely.
  • Plan your visit in advance and reserve your tickets in London, where you can pay in US dollars, or pay directly at the monument’s entrance (in British pounds). In that case, take into account that entrance is subject to visiting hour’s availability.
  • Tickets cost 13.90 pounds (adults) and 12.50 pounds (seniors +60).
  • Visiting hours are Mon-Sun 9:00 to 20:00hrs from June to August. The last access is granted two hours before closing time. In winter, 9:30 to 17:00hrs and 9:30 to 19:00 the rest of the year.
  • There are websites in which they offer discounts for entrance tickets subject to taking a tour of the whole area and not only Stonehenge.

The megalithic complex was listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1986, so we invite you to respect the area by not displacing any of the elements you find in it.