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Stonehenge FromHeelstone
Stonehenge FromHeelstone
 
  About your Area
 

Stonehenge was produced by a culture with no written language, and at great historical remove from the first cultures that did leave written records. Many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. This multiplicity of theories, some of them very colourful, is often called the "mystery of Stonehenge."

There is little or no direct evidence for the construction techniques used by the Stonehenge builders. Over the years, various authors have suggested that supernatural or anachronistic methods were used, usually asserting that the stones were impossible to move otherwise. However, conventional techniques using Neolithic technology have been demonstrably effective at moving and placing stones this size.[4] Proposed functions for the site include usage as an astronomical observatory, or as a religious site. Other theories have advanced supernatural or symbolic explanations for the construction.

Folklore

The Heelstone
The Heelstone

"Friar’s Heel" or the "Sunday Stone"

The Heel Stone was once known as "Friar's Heel". A folk tale, which cannot be dated earlier than the seventeenth century, relates the origin of the name of this stone:

The Devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up, and brought them to Salisbury plain. One of the stones fell into the Avon, the rest were carried to the plain. The Devil then cried out, "No-one will ever find out how these stones came here!" A friar replied, "That’s what you think!," whereupon the Devil threw one of the stones at him and struck him on the heel. The stone stuck in the ground and is still there.

Some claim "Friar's Heel" is a corruption of "Freyja's He-ol" or "Freyja Sul", from the Nordic goddess Freyja and the Welsh word for way or Sunday, respectively, or the name may simply imply that the stone heels, or leans. The name is not unique; there was a monolith with the same name recorded in the 19th century by antiquarian Charles Warne at Long Bredy in Dorset.

Arthurian legend

A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge. From a manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace in the British Library (Egerton 3028). This is the oldest known depiction of Stonehenge.
A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge. From a manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace in the British Library (Egerton 3028). This is the oldest known depiction of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is also mentioned within Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth said that Merlin the wizard directed its removal from Ireland, where it had been constructed on Mount Killaraus by Giants, who brought the stones from Africa. After it had been rebuilt near Amesbury, Geoffrey further narrates how first Ambrosius Aurelianus, then Uther Pendragon, and finally Constantine III, were buried inside the ring of stones. In many places in his Historia Regum Britanniae Geoffrey mixes British legend and his own imagination; it is intriguing that he connects Ambrosius Aurelianus with this prehistoric monument, seeing how there is place-name evidence to connect Ambrosius with nearby Amesbury.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the rocks of Stonehenge were healing rocks which Giants brought from Africa to Ireland for their healing properties. These rocks were called The Giant's Dance. Aurelius Ambrosias (5th Century), wishing to erect a memorial to the nobles (3000) who had died in battle with the Saxons and were buried at Salisbury, chose (at Merlin's advice) Stonehenge to be their monument. So the King sent Merlin, Uther Pendragon (Arthur's father), and 15,000 knights to Ireland to retrieve the rocks. They slew 7,000 Irish. As the knights tried to move the rocks with ropes and force, they failed. Then Merlin, using "gear" and skill, easily dismantled the stones and sent them over to Britain, where Stonehenge was dedicated. Shortly after, Aurelius died and was buried within the Stonehenge monument, or "The Giants' Ring of Stonehenge".

Recent history

The sun rising over Stonehenge on the summer solstice on 21 June 2005
The sun rising over Stonehenge on the summer solstice on 21 June 2005

Stonehenge has changed hands on several occasions since King Henry VIII acquired Amesbury Abbey and its surrounding lands. In 1540 he gave the estate to the Earl of Hertford, and it subsequently passed to Lord Carlton and then the Marquis of Queensbury. The Antrobus family of Cheshire bought the estate in 1824, but sold it in 1915 after the last heir was killed in France. The auction was held by Knight Frank & Rutley estate agents in Salisbury on the 21 September, and included "Lot 15. Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 ro[o]ds, 37 perches of adjoining downland."[5] Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge for £6,600 and then gave it to the nation three years later. Although it has been speculated that he purchased it at the suggestion of - or even as a present for - his wife, he in fact bought it on a whim as he believed a local man should be the new owner.

In the late 1920's a nation-wide appeal was launched to save Stonehenge from the encroachment of modern buildings that had begun to appear around it. During World War 1 an aerodrome had been built on the down just west of the circle, and in the dry valley at Stonehenge Bottom a main road junction had appeared, with several cottages and a cafe. In 1928 the land around the stones was purchased with the appeal donations, and given to the National Trust in order to preserve it. The buildings were removed (although the roads were not), and the land returned to agriculture. More recently the land has been part of a grassland reversion scheme, returning the surrounding fields to native chalk grassland.

As motorised traffic increased the setting of the monument began to be affected by the proximity of the two roads on either side of it - the A344 to Shrewton on the north side, and the A303 to Winterbourne Stoke to the south. Plans to upgrade the A303 and remove it from the stones view have been considered since it became a World Heritage Site, but the controversy surrounding expensive re-routings of a road have led to the scheme being cancelled on multiple occasions. On 06 December 2007 it was announced that the most recent plans had been cancelled.[6]

Stonehenge is a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids and those following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs. The midsummer sunrise began attracting modern visitors in the 1870s, with the first record of recreated Druidic practices dating to 1905 when the Ancient Order of Druids enacted a ceremony. Despite efforts by archaeologists and historians to stress the differences between the Iron Age Druidic religion and the much older monument, Stonehenge has become increasingly, almost inextricably, associated with British Druidism, Neo Paganism and New Age philosophy. After the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 this use of the site was stopped for several years, and currently ritual use of Stonehenge is carefully controlled.

When Stonehenge became open to the public it was possible to walk amongst and even climb on the stones. However this ended in 1977 when the stones were roped off as a result of serious erosion [7]. Visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stones, but merely walk around the monument from a short distance. English Heritage does however permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. Additionally, visitors can make special bookings to access the stones throughout the year [8].

Archaeological Research and Restoration

An early photograph of Stonehenge taken July 1877
An early photograph of Stonehenge taken July 1877
The monument from a similar angle in 2008 showing the extent of reconstruction
The monument from a similar angle in 2008 showing the extent of reconstruction

Throughout recorded history Stonehenge and its surrounding monuments have attracted attention from antiquarians and archaeologists. John Aubrey was one of the first to examine the site with a scientific eye in 1666, and recorded in his plan of the monument the pits that now bear his name. William Stukeley continued Aubrey’s work in the early 18th Century, but took an interest in the surrounding monuments as well, identifying (somewhat incorrectly) the Cursus and the Avenue. He also began the excavation of many of the barrows in the area, and it was his interpretation of the landscape that associated it with the Druids. Stukeley was in fact so fascinated with Druids that he originally named Disc Barrows as Druids Barrows.

William Cunnington was the next to tackle the area in the early 19th Century, excavating some 24 barrows before digging in and around the stones, discovering charred wood, animal bones, pottery and urns. He also identified the hole in which the Slaughter Stone once stood. At the same time Richard Colt Hoare began his activities, excavating some 379 barrows on Salisbury Plain before working with Cunnington and William Coxe on some 200 in the area around the Stones. To alert future diggers to their work they were careful to leave initialled metal tokens in each barrow they opened.

In 1877 Charles Darwin dabbled in archaeology at the stones, experimenting with the rate at which remains sink into the earth for his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.

William Gowland oversaw the first major restoration of the monument in 1901 – the straightening and concrete setting of a sarsen in danger of falling - and took the opportunity to further excavate the stones at the same time. The most scientific dig to date, it revealed more about the erection of the stones than the previous 100 years of work. During the 1920 restoration William Hawley, who had excavated nearby Old Sarum, excavated the base of six stones being restored as well as the outer ditch. He also located a bottle of port in the slaughter stone socket left by Cunnington, helped to rediscover Aubrey's pits inside the bank and located the Y and Z holes (concentric circular holes outside the Sarsen Circle).[9] Richard Atkinson, Stuart Piggott and John F. S. Stone re-excavated much of Hawley's work in the 40s and 50s, and discovered the carved axes and daggers on the Sarsen Stones. Atkinson's work was instrumental in the understanding of the three major phases of the monument's construction.

In 1958 the stones were restored again, using concrete settings to re-erect three of the standing sarsens. The very last restoration was carried out in 1963 when a sarsen fell over and was once more re-erected, and the opportunity taken to concrete three more stones. Later archaeologists, including Christopher Chippindale of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge and Brian Edwards of the University of the West of England campaigned to give the public more knowledge of the various restorations and in 2004 English Heritage included pictures of the works in progress in its new book Stonehenge: A History in Photographs.[10][11][12]

Excavations were once again carried out in 1978 by Atkinson and John Evans during which they discovered the remains of the Stonehenge Archer from the outer ditch,[13] and in 1979 rescue archaeology was needed alongside the Heel Stone after a cable-laying ditch was mistakenly dug on the roadside, revealing a new stone hole next to the Heel Stone.

More recent excavations include Mike Parker Pearson's Stonehenge Riverside Project - an ongoing series of digs in the landscape around the stones examining the relationship between them and other nearby monuments, notably Durrington Walls where another ‘Avenue’ leading to the river Avon was discovered. In April 2008 Professor Tim Darvill of the University of Bournemouth and Professor Geoff Wainwright of the Society of Antiquaries began another dig inside the Stone circle to retrieve dateable fragments of the original bluestone pillars. It is hoped this will establish a more precise date for the first stone circle and help identify its purpose.[14]

See also

References

  1. , How did Stonehenge come into the care of English Heritage?. FAQs on Stonehenge. English Heritage. Retrieved on 2007-12-17.
  2. , Ancient ceremonial landscape of great archaeological and wildlife interest. Stonehenge Landscape. National Trust. Retrieved on 2007-12-17.
  3. , John, Brian (2007):The Stonehenge Bluestones—glacial transport back in favour
  4. , Wally Wallington demonstrates how to build Stonehenge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRRDzFROMx0
  5. , The man who bought Stonehenge Heffernan, T. H. J. This is Amesbury
  6. , A303 Stonehenge Road Scheme Hansard report of proceedings in the House of Commons 6 December 2007
  7. , Proposals for a tunnel at Stonehenge: an assessment of the alternatives. The World Archaeological Congress
  8. , Planning Your Visit to Stonehenge. English Heritage
  9. , Cleal, Rosamund; et al (1995). Y and Z holes. Archaeometry and Stonehenge. English Heritage. Retrieved on 2008-04-04.
  10. , Young, Emma. "Concrete Evidence". New Scientist (2001-01-09). Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  11. , Taverner, Roger. "How they rebuilt Stonehenge", Western Daily Press, quoted in Cosmic Conspiracies: How they rebuilt Stonehenge, 2001-01-08. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  12. , Richards, Julian C. (2004). Stonehenge: A History in Photographs. London: English Heritage. ISBN 1850748950. 
  13. , "Stonehenge execution revealed", BBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation, 2000-06-09. Retrieved on 2008-04-04. 
  14. , "Excavation starts at Stonehenge", BBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation, 2008-03-31. Retrieved on 2008-04-04. 

Bibliography

  • Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge (Penguin Books, 1956)
  • Bender, B, Stonehenge: Making Space (Berg Publishers, 1998)
  • Burl, A, Prehistoric Stone Circles (Shire, 2001) (In Burl's Stonehenge (Constable, 2006), he notes, cf. the meaning of the name in paragraph two above, that "the Saxons called the ring 'the hanging stones', as though they were gibbets.")
  • Chippendale, C, Stonehenge Complete (Thames and Hudson, London, 2004) ISBN 0500284679
  • Chippindale, C, et al, Who owns Stonehenge? (B T Batsford Ltd, 1990)
  • Cleal, R. M. J., Walker, K. E. & Montague, R., Stonehenge in its landscape (English Heritage, London, 1995)
  • Cunliffe, B, & Renfrew, C, Science and Stonehenge (The British Academy 92, Oxford University Press, 1997)
  • Hall, R, Leather, K, & Dobson, G, Stonehenge Aotearoa (Awa Press, 2005)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, The Excavations at Stonehenge. (The Antiquaries Journal 1, Oxford University Press, 19-41). 1921.
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Second Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge. (The Antiquaries Journal 2, Oxford University Press, 1922)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Third Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge. (The Antiquaries Journal 3, Oxford University Press, 1923)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Fourth Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge. (The Antiquaries Journal 4, Oxford University Press, 1923)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during the season of 1923. (The Antiquaries Journal 5, Oxford University Press, 1925)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during the season of 1924. (The Antiquaries Journal 6, Oxford University Press, 1926)
  • Hawley, Lt-Col W, Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1925 and 1926. (The Antiquaries Journal 8, Oxford University Press, 1928)
  • Hutton, R, From Universal Bond to Public Free For All (British Archaeology 83, 2005)
  • Legg, Rodney, "Stonehenge Antiquaries" (Dorset Publishing Company , 1986)
  • Mooney, J, Encyclopedia of the Bizarre (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2002)
  • Newall, R S, Stonehenge, Wiltshire -Ancient monuments and historic buildings- (Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1959)
  • North, J, Stonehenge: Ritual Origins and Astronomy (HarperCollins, 1997)
  • Pitts, M, Hengeworld (Arrow, London, 2001)
  • Pitts, M W, On the Road to Stonehenge: Report on Investigations beside the A344 in 1968, 1979 and 1980 (Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 48, 1982)
  • Richards, J, English Heritage Book of Stonehenge (B T Batsford Ltd, 1991)
  • Richards, J Stonehenge: A History in Photographs (English Heritage, London, 2004)
  • Stone, J F S, Wessex Before the Celts (Frederick A Praeger Publishers, 1958)
  • Worthington, A, Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion (Alternative Albion, 2004)
  • English Heritage: Stonehenge: Historical Background

External links

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Coordinates: 51°10'44?N, 1°49'34?W


(Source: Wikipedia)
 
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