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Stonehenge is a prehistoric stone circle standing on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. It is found about 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury. It is the most famous stone circle in the world and the heart of a World Heritage Site.

Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in Britain, including several hundred burial mounds.[1] The reason for its construction in the distant past is unknown and will presumably never be known.

Much of the appearance of Stonehenge today is the result of an early twentieth century restoration, but it reflects in its solitary grandeur on the Plain a wonder of ancient endeavour.

Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was built in stages anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating in 2008 suggested that the first stones were erected in 2400–2200 BC,[2] whilst another theory suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC.

The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

Archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008 indicates that Stonehenge could possibly have served as a burial ground from its beginnings.[3] The dating of cremated remains found on the site indicate that deposits contain human bone material from as early as 3000 BC, when the initial ditch and bank were first dug. Such deposits continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years.

Ownership and conservation

Sunrise over Stonehenge

Stonehenge belongs to the Crown, and is managed by English Heritage. The surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.[4]

Stonehenge was once on land belonging to Amesbury Abbey, forfeit to the Crown at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and then granted by King Henry VIII in 1540 to the Earl of Hertford. It subsequently passed to Lord Carleton and then the Marquis of Queensbury. The Antrobus family of Cheshire bought the estate in 1824. The Antrobus family sold the site after their last heir was killed serving in France during the First World War; the auction by Knight Frank & Rutley estate agents in Salisbury was held on 21 September 1915 and included "Lot 15. Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland."[5]

Cecil Chubb bought the site for £6,600 in the auction and gave it to the nation three years later. Although it has been speculated that he purchased it as a present for his wife, in fact he bought it on a whim as he believed a local man should be the new owner.[5]

The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury stone circle. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Prehistoric Wiltshire

Across Salisbury Plain and Wiltshire as a whole are a number of fine prehistoric sites. These include:


The name "Stonehenge" is Old English, and it appears to mean "Hanging Stones".

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Ælfric's 10th-century glossary, in which henge-cliff is given the meaning "precipice", or stone, thus the stanenges or Stanheng "not far from Salisbury" recorded by 11th-century writers are "supported stones". William Stukeley in 1740 notes, "Pendulous rocks are now called henges in Yorkshire...I doubt not, Stonehenge in Saxon signifies the hanging stones."[6]

Christopher Chippindale's Stonehenge Complete gives the derivation of the name Stonehenge as coming from the Old English words stan meaning "stone", and either hencg meaning "hinge" (because the stone lintels hinge on the upright stones) or hen(c)en meaning "hang" or "gallows" or "instrument of torture". Like Stonehenge's trilithons, mediæval gallows consisted of two uprights with a lintel joining them, rather than the inverted L-shape more familiar today. The word "hinge" is however already cognate with "hang".

Archaeologists have purloined the "henge" portion of the name and used it to name a class of monuments known as henges.[6] Archaeologists define henges as earthworks consisting of a circular banked enclosure with an internal ditch.[7] As often happens in archaeological terminology, this is a holdover from antiquarian usage, and in consequence of this artificially meaning, Stonehenge, from which that term was borrowed, is not itself a "henge" site as its bank is inside its ditch!

Despite being contemporary with true Neolithic henges and stone circles, Stonehenge is in many ways atypical – for example, at over 24 feet tall, its extant trilithons supporting lintels held in place with mortise and tenon joints, make it unique.[8][9]

Early history

Plan of Stonehenge in 2004

Mike Parker Pearson, leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project based at Durrington Walls, noted that Stonehenge appears to have been associated with burial from the earliest period of its existence: {{quote|Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead.[10]

Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1,500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape's time frame to 6,500 years. Dating and understanding the various phases of activity is complicated by disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing, poor quality early excavation records, and a lack of accurate, scientifically verified dates. The modern phasing most generally agreed to by archaeologists is detailed below. Features mentioned in the text are numbered and shown on the plan, right.

Before the monument (8000 BC forward)

Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around 8000 BC, beneath the nearby modern tourist car-park. These held pine posts over two feet in diameter which were erected and eventually rotted in situ. Three of the posts (and possibly four) were in an east-west alignment. No parallels are known from Britain at the time but similar sites have been found in Scandinavia. Salisbury Plain was then still wooded but 4,000 years later, during the earlier Neolithic, people built a causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood's Ball and long barrow tombs in the surrounding landscape. In approximately 3500 BC, a Stonehenge Cursus was built 750 yards north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the trees and develop the area.

Stonehenge 1 (ca. 3100 BC)

Stonehenge 1

The first monument consisted of a circular bank and ditch enclosure made of Late Cretaceous (Santonian Age) Seaford Chalk, (7 and 8), measuring about 360 feet in diameter, with a large entrance to the north east and a smaller one to the south (14). It stood in open grassland on a slightly sloping spot.[11] The builders placed the bones of deer and oxen in the bottom of the ditch, as well as some worked flint tools. The bones were considerably older than the antler picks used to dig the ditch, and the people who buried them had looked after them for some time prior to burial. The ditch was continuous but had been dug in sections, like the ditches of the earlier causewayed enclosures in the area. The chalk dug from the ditch was piled up to form the bank. This first stage is dated to around 3100 BC, after which the ditch began to silt up naturally. Within the outer edge of the enclosed area is a circle of 56 pits, each about a 3'3" in diameter(13), known as the Aubrey holes after John Aubrey, the 17th-century antiquarian who was thought to have first identified them. The pits may have contained standing timbers creating a timber circle, although there is no excavated evidence of them. A recent excavation has suggested that the Aubrey Holes may have originally been used to erect a bluestone circle.[12] If this were the case, it would advance the earliest known stone structure at the monument by some 500 years. A small outer bank beyond the ditch could also date to this period.

Stonehenge 2 (ca. 3000 BC)

Evidence of the second phase is no longer visible. The number of postholes dating to the early 3rd millennium BC suggest that some form of timber structure was built within the enclosure during this period. Further standing timbers were placed at the northeast entrance, and a parallel alignment of posts ran inwards from the southern entrance. The postholes are smaller than the Aubrey Holes, being only around 16 inches in diameter, and are much less regularly spaced. The bank was purposely reduced in height and the ditch continued to silt up. At least twenty-five of the Aubrey Holes are known to have contained later, intrusive, cremation burials dating to the two centuries after the monument's inception. It seems that whatever the holes' initial function, it changed to become a funerary one during Phase 2. Thirty further cremations were placed in the enclosure's ditch and at other points within the monument, mostly in the eastern half. Stonehenge is therefore interpreted as functioning as an enclosed cremation cemetery at this time, the earliest known cremation cemetery in the British Isles. Fragments of unburnt human bone have also been found in the ditch-fill. Dating evidence is provided by the late Neolithic grooved ware pottery that has been found in connection with the features from this phase.

Stonehenge 3 I (ca. 2600 BC)

Stonehenge at sunset
Stonehenge in the late afternoon
Plan of the central stone structure today

Archaeological excavation has indicated that around 2600 BC, the builders abandoned timber in favour of stone and dug two concentric arrays of holes (the Q and R Holes) in the centre of the site. These stone sockets are only partly known (hence on present evidence are sometimes described as forming 'crescents'); however, they could be the remains of a double ring. Again, there is little firm dating evidence for this phase. The holes held up to 80 standing stones (shown blue on the plan), only 43 of which can be traced today. The bluestones (some of which are made of dolerite, an igneous rock) can only have ben brough from the Preseli Hills, 150 miles away in modern-day Pembrokeshire. Other standing stones may well have been small sarsens, used later as lintels. The stones, which weighed about four tons, consisted mostly of spotted Ordovician dolerite but included examples of rhyolite, tuff and volcanic and calcareous ash; in total around 20 different rock types are represented. Each monolith measures around 6 feet in height, between 3 feet and 5 feet wide and around 2 feet thick. What was to become known as the Altar Stone (1), is almost certainly of stone from either Carmarthenshire or the Brecon Beacons and may have stood as a single large monolith.

The north-eastern entrance was widened at this time, with the result that it precisely matched the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. This phase of the monument was abandoned unfinished, however; the small standing stones were apparently removed and the Q and R holes purposefully backfilled. Even so, the monument appears to have eclipsed the site at Avebury in importance towards the end of this phase.

The Heelstone (5), a tertiary sandstone, may also have been erected outside the north-eastern entrance during this period. It cannot be accurately dated and may have been installed at any time during phase 3. At first it was accompanied by a second stone, which is no longer visible. Two, or possibly three, large portal stones were set up just inside the north-eastern entrance, of which only one, the fallen Slaughter Stone (4), 16 feet long, now remains. Other features, loosely dated to phase 3, include the four Station Stones (6), two of which stood atop mounds (2 and 3). The mounds are known as "barrows" although they do not contain burials. Stonehenge Avenue, (10), a parallel pair of ditches and banks leading 2 miles to the River Avon, was also added. Two ditches similar to Heelstone Ditch circling the Heelstone (which was by then reduced to a single monolith) were later dug around the Station Stones.

Stonehenge 3 II (2600 BC to 2400 BC)

During the next major phase of activity, 30 enormous Oligocene-Miocene sarsen stones (shown grey on the plan) were brought to the site. If quarried they may have come from a quarry, around 25 miles north on the Marlborough Downs, though sarsens are common enough in the ground close to hand. The stones were dressed and fashioned with mortise and tenon joints before 30 were erected as a 108-foot diameter circle of standing stones, with a ring of 30 lintel stones resting on top. The lintels were fitted to one another using another woodworking method, the tongue and groove joint. Each standing stone was around 13½ feet high, 7 feet wide and weighed around 25 tons. Each had clearly been worked with the final visual effect in mind; the orthostats widen slightly towards the top in order that their perspective remains constant when viewed from the ground, while the lintel stones curve slightly to continue the circular appearance of the earlier monument. The inward-facing surfaces of the stones are smoother and more finely worked than the outer surfaces. The average thickness of the stones is 3 ½ feet and the average distance between them is 3 feet. A total of 75 stones would have been needed to complete the circle (60 stones) and the trilithon horseshoe (15 stones). Unless some of the sarsens have since been removed from the site, the ring appears to have been left incomplete. The lintel stones are each around 10½ feet long, 3 feet wide and 2½ feet thick. The tops of the lintels are 16 feet above the ground.

Within this circle stood five trilithons of dressed sarsen stone arranged in a horseshoe shape 45 feet across with its open end facing north east. These huge stones, ten uprights and five lintels, weigh up to 50 tons each. They were linked using complex jointing. They are arranged symmetrically. The smallest pair of trilithons were around 20 feet tall, the next pair a little higher and the largest, single trilithon in the south west corner would have been 24 feet tall. Only one upright from the Great Trilithon still stands, of which 22 feet are visible and a further 22½ feet are below ground.

The images of a 'dagger' and 14 'axeheads' have been carved on one of the sarsens, known as stone 53; further carvings of axeheads have been seen on the outer faces of stones 3, 4, and 5. The carvings are difficult to date, but are morphologically similar to late Bronze Age weapons; recent laser scanning work on the carvings supports this interpretation. The pair of trilithons in the northeast are smallest, measuring around 20 feet in height; the largest, which is in the south west of the horseshoe, is almost 25 feet.

This ambitious phase has been radiocarbon dated to between 2600 and 2400 BC,[13] slightly earlier than the Stonehenge Archer, discovered in the outer ditch of the monument in 1978, and the two sets of burials, known as the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen, discovered 3 miles to the west.

At about the same time, a large timber circle and a second avenue were constructed 2 miles away at Durrington Walls overlooking the River Avon. The timber circle was orientated towards the rising sun on the midwinter solstice, opposing the solar alignments at Stonehenge, whilst the avenue was aligned with the setting sun on the summer solstice and led from the river to the timber circle. Evidence of huge fires on the banks of the Avon between the two avenues also suggests that both circles were linked, and they were perhaps used as a procession route on the longest and shortest days of the year.

Stonehenge 3 IV (2280 BC to 1930 BC)

This phase saw further rearrangement of the bluestones. They were arranged in a circle between the two rings of sarsens and in an oval at the centre of the inner ring. Some archaeologists argue that some of these bluestones were from a second group brought from Pembrokeshire. All the stones formed well-spaced uprights without any of the linking lintels inferred in Stonehenge 3 III. The Altar Stone may have been moved within the oval at this time and re-erected vertically. Although this would seem the most impressive phase of work, Stonehenge 3 IV was rather shabbily built compared to its immediate predecessors, as the newly re-installed bluestones were not well-founded and began to fall over. However, only minor changes were made after this phase.

Stonehenge 3 V (1930 BC to 1600 BC)

Soon afterwards, the north eastern section of the Phase 3 IV bluestone circle was removed, creating a horseshoe-shaped setting (the Bluestone Horseshoe) which mirrored the shape of the central sarsen Trilithons. This phase is contemporary with the "Seahenge" site in Norfolk.

After the monument (1600 BC on)

The last known construction at Stonehenge was about 1600 BC (see 'Y and Z Holes'), and the last usage of it was probably during the Iron Age.

Roman coins and mediæval artefacts have all been found in or around the monument but it is unknown if the monument was in continuous use throughout British prehistory and beyond, or exactly how it would have been used. Notable is the massive Iron Age hillfort Vespasian's Camp built alongside the Avenue near the Avon. A decapitated 7th century Anglo-Saxon man was excavated from Stonehenge in 1923.[14] The site was well known to scholars during the Middle Ages and since then it has been studied and adopted by numerous groups.

Function and construction

Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records and we do not know nor ever can know what was in the minds of our ancestors as they wrought the great work, nor how purpose and use changed over the many centuries of construction. These aspects of Stonehenge are endlessly debated; the multiplicity of theories, some of them very colourful, are 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 anachronistic or even supernatural methods to erect the stones, 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 of a similar size.

Proposed functions for the site include usage as an astronomical observatory, or as a religious site. Archaeologists will admit that "ritual site" is often shorthand had for "site whose purpose we cannot fathom", but Stonehenge is on a scale beyond anything else of its time and would have required such work in transporting vast stones from so far away that it both defies explanation and begs for explanation.

Recently two major new theories have been proposed. Professor Geoffrey Wainwright OBE, FSA, president of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and Professor Timothy Darvill, OBE of Bournemouth University have suggested that Stonehenge was a place of healing, or a shrine for healing. They argue that this accounts for the high number of burials in the area and for the evidence of trauma deformity in some of the graves. However they do concede that the site was probably multifunctional and used for ancestor worship as well.[15] Isotope analysis indicates that some of the buried individuals were from other regions. A teenage boy buried approximately 1550 BC was raised near the Mediterranean Sea; a metal worker from 2300 BC dubbed the "Amesbury Archer" grew up near the alpine foothills of Germany; and the "Boscombe Bowmen" probably arrived from western Britain or from Brittany.[16] On the other hand, Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University has suggested that Stonehenge was part of a ritual landscape and was joined to Durrington Walls by their corresponding avenues and the River Avon. He suggests that the area around Durrington Walls Henge was a place of the living, whilst Stonehenge was a domain of the dead. A journey along the Avon to reach Stonehenge was part of a ritual passage from life to death, to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased.

It should be said though that both of these "modern" explanations were given in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who extolled the curative properties of the stones and was also the first to advance the idea that Stonehenge was constructed as a funerary monument. Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design is such that by using the alignments of the stones with the sun one might, wit the right knowledge, predict eclipses, and determine the date of the solstice and the equinox, the latter of which are important to agriculture and perhaps to religion of the time.[17]

Twentieth century and beyond

Farm carts, c.1885
Soldiers march past during the Great War during preservation work

In 1901 William Gowland oversaw the first major restoration of the monument, which involved the straightening and concrete setting of sarsen stone number 56 which was in danger of falling. In straightening the stone he moved it almost two feet from its original position.[18] At the same time he carried extensive excavations out and revealed a great deal more about Stonehenge than any previous excavation had done.

During the First World War, an aerodrome had been built on the downs just to the west of the circle and, in the dry valley at Stonehenge Bottom, a main road junction had been built, along with several cottages and a café.

In 1917 Stonehenge was sold by auction, bought by Cecil Chubb, a local man. He gave it to the nation three yars later.

In the late 1920s a nation-wide appeal was launched to save Stonehenge from the encroachment of the modern buildings that had begun to appear around it.[19] By 1928 the land around the monument had been 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.[20]


150pxThe Heelstone

"Heel Stone," "Friar's Heel" or "Sun-Stone"

The Heel Stone]] lies just outside the main entrance to the henge, next to the present A344 road. It is a rough stone, 16 feet above ground, leaning inwards towards the stone circle. It has been known by many names in the past, including "Friar's Heel" and "Sun-stone". Today it is uniformly referred to as the Heel Stone or Heelstone. When one stands within Stonehenge, facing north-east through the entrance towards the heel stone, one sees the sun rise above the stone at summer solstice.

A folk tale, which cannot be dated earlier than the seventeenth century, relates the origin of the Friar's Heel reference: 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.

A simpler explanation for the name might be 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.[21]

Arthurian legend

A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge (Roman de Brut)

The oldest know depiction of Stonehenge is in a a manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace held in the British Library. It shows Merlin building Stonehenge with the help of a giant.

In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth included a fanciful story in his ever-fanciful work Historia Regum Britanniae which attributed the monument's construction to Merlin.[22] Geoffrey's story spread widely, appearing in more and less elaborate form in adaptations of his work such as Wace's Norman French Roman de Brut, Layamon's Middle English Brut, and the Welsh Brut y Brenhinedd. According to Geoffrey, Giants brought stones from Africa to Ireland and built Stonehenge there on Mount Killaraus. Merlin directed the removal of Stonehenge from Ireland to Salisbury Plain near Amesbury, and 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, satire and his own imagination; it is intriguing that he connects Ambrosius Aurelianus with this prehistoric monument the name Amesbury appears to come from "Ambrosius", though whether this was the famous fifth century warrior Ambrosius Aurelianus or another cannot be known.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the rocks of Stonehenge were healing rocks, called the Giant's dance, which giants brought from Africa to Ireland for their healing properties. Ambrosius, wishing to erect a memorial to the 3,000 nobles who had died in battle with the Saxons and were buried at Salisbury, chose Stonehenge (at Merlin's advice) 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 but, 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".

In another legend of Saxons and Britons, in 472 the invading king Hengist invited Brythonic warriors to a feast, but treacherously ordered his men to draw their weapons from concealment and fall upon the guests, killing 420 of them. Hengist erected the stone monument, Stonehenge, on the site to show his remorse for the deed.[23]


In the twentieth century adherents of Neopagan and New Age beliefs latched onto Stonehenge as a religious site, most famously the Neo-druids: the historian Ronald Hutton would later remark that "it was a great, and potentially uncomfortable, irony that modern Druids had arrived at Stonehenge just as archaeologists were evicting the ancient Druids from it."[24] The first such Neo-druidic group to make use of the megalithic monument was the Ancient Order of Druids, who performed a mass initiation ceremony there in August 1905, in which they admitted 259 new members into their organisation. This assembly was largely ridiculed in the press, who mocked the fact that the Neo-druids were dressed up in costumes consisting of white robes and fake beards.[25]

Between 1972 and 1984, Stonehenge was the site of a Stonehenge Free Festival. 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.[26]

Setting and access

As motorised traffic increased, the setting of the monument began to be affected by the proximity of the two roads on either side – the A344 to Shrewton on the north side, and the A303 to Winterbourne Stoke to the south. Plans to upgrade the A303 and close the A344 to restore the vista from the stones have been considered since the monument became a World Heritage Site. However, the controversy surrounding expensive re-routing of the roads have led to the scheme being cancelled on multiple occasions.

One plan was to dig a Stonehenge road tunnel beneath the route of the current A303 to eliminate the seismic effect on the stones of constantly passing traffic: it was never explained how a rumbling tunnel within the ground would be better than a rumbling road on top of it. On 6 December 2007, it was announced that these extensive plans had been cancelled.[27]

On 13 May 2009, the government gave approval for a £25 million scheme to create a smaller visitors' centre and close the A344, although this was dependent on funding and local authority planning consent.[28] On 20 January 2010 Wiltshire Council granted planning permission for a centre 1½ miles to the west and English Heritage confirmed that funds to build it would be available, supported by a £10m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.[29] Approval is still needed for the closure of the A344 and two nearby byways, which are popular with off-road enthusiasts and whose objections may further jeopardise the scheme.[30][31]

When Stonehenge was first opened to the public it was possible to walk amongst and even climb on the stones, but the stones were roped off in 1977 as a result of serious erosion.[32] Visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stones, but are able to walk around the monument from a short distance away. 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.[33]

The current access situation and the proximity of the two roads has drawn widespread criticism, highlighted by a 2006 National Geographic survey. In the survey of conditions at 94 leading World Heritage Sites, 400 conservation and tourism experts ranked Stonehenge 75th in the list of destinations, declaring it to be "in moderate trouble".[34]

Archaeological research

17th century depiction of Stonehenge
Print of Stonehenge, 1895

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: Aubrey Holes. 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[35] Stukeley was so fascinated with Druids that he originally named Disc Barrows as Druids' Barrows. The most accurate early plan of Stonehenge was that made by Bath architect John Wood, the Elder in 1740.[36] His original annotated survey has recently been computer redrawn and published.[18] Importantly Wood's plan was made before the collapse of the southwest trilithon, which fell in 1797 and was restored in 1958.

William Cunnington was the next to tackle the area in the early 19th century. He excavated some 24 barrows before digging in and around the stones and discovered 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.

William Gowland oversaw the first major restoration of the monument in 1901 which involved the straightening and concrete setting of sarsen stone number 56 which was in danger of falling. In straightening the stone he moved it almost two feet from its original position.[18] Gowland also took the opportunity to further excavate the monument in what was the most scientific dig to date, revealing more about the erection of the stones than the previous 100 years of work had done. During the 1920 restoration William Hawley, who had excavated nearby Old Sarum, excavated the base of six stones and 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 concentric circular holes outside the Sarsen Circle called the Y and Z Holes.

Richard Atkinson, Stuart Piggott and John F S Stone re-excavated much of Hawley's work in the 1940s and 1950s, and discovered the carved axes and daggers on the Sarsen Stones. Atkinson's work was instrumental in furthering the understanding of the three major phases of the monument's construction.

In 1958 the stones were restored again, when three of the standing sarsens were re-erected and set in concrete bases. The last restoration was carried out in 1963 after stone 23 of the Sarsen Circle fell over. It was again re-erected, and the opportunity was 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 work in progress in its book Stonehenge: A History in Photographs.[37][38][39]

In 1966 and 1967, in advance of a new car park being built at the site, the area of land immediately northwest of the stones was excavated by Faith and Lance Vatcher. They discovered the Mesolithic postholes dating from between 7000 and 8000 BC, as well as part of a palisade ditch – a V-cut ditch into which timber posts had been inserted that remained there until they rotted away. Subsequent aerial archaeology suggests that this ditch runs from the west to the north of Stonehenge, near the avenue.

Excavations were once again carried out in 1978 by Atkinson and John Evans during which they discovered the remains of the Stonehenge Archer in the outer ditch,[40] 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.

In the early 1980s Julian Richards led the Stonehenge Environs Project, a detailed study of the surrounding landscape. The project was able to successfully date such features as the Lesser Cursus, Coneybury henge and several other smaller features.

More recent excavations include a series of digs held between 2003 and 2008 known as the Stonehenge Riverside Project, led by Mike Parker Pearson. This project mainly investigated other monuments in the landscape and their relationship to the stones — notably Durrington Walls, where another 'Avenue' leading to the River Avon was discovered. The point where the Stonehenge Avenue meets the river was also excavated, and revealed a previously unknown circular area which probably housed four further stones, most likely as a marker for the starting point of the avenue. 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. They were able to date the erection of some bluestones to 2300 BC,[2] although this may not reflect the earliest erection of stones at Stonehenge. They also discovered organic material from 7000 BC, which, along with the Mesolithic postholes, adds support for the site having been in use at least 4,000 years before Stonehenge was started.

In August and September 2008, as part of the Riverside Project, Julian Richards and the well name Mike Pitts excavated Aubrey Hole 7, removing the cremated remains from several Aubrey Holes that had been excavated by Hawley in the 1920s, and re-interred in 1935.[10]

A new landscape investigation was conducted in April 2009. A shallow mound, rising to about 16 inches was identified between stones 54 (inner circle) and 10 (outer circle), clearly separated from the natural slope. It has not been dated but speculation that it represents careless backfilling following earlier excavations seems disproved by its representation in 18th- and 19th-century illustrations. Indeed, there is some evidence that, as an uncommon geological feature, it could have been deliberately incorporated into the monument at the outset.[11] A circular, shallow bank, little more than 4 inches high, was found between the Y and Z hole circles, with a further bank lying inside the "Z" circle. These are interpreted as the spread of spoil from the original Y and Z holes, or more speculatively as hedge banks from vegetation deliberately planted to screen the activities within.[11]

In July 2010, the Stonehenge New Landscapes Project discovered what appears to be a new henge half a mile away from the main site.[41]

On 26 November 2011, archaeologists from University of Birmingham announced the discovery of evidence of two huge pits positioned within the Stonehenge Cursus pathway, aligned in celestial position towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone.[42][43] The new discovery is part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project which began in the summer of 2010.[44] The project uses non-invasive geophysical imaging technique to reveal and visually recreate the landscape. According to the team leader Professor Vince Gaffney, this discovery may provide a direct link between the rituals and astronomical events to activities within the Cursus at Stonehenge.[43]

On 18 December 2011, geologists from University of Leicester and the National Museum of Wales announced the discovery of the exact source of the rock used to create Stonehenge's first stone circle. The researchers have identified the source as a long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire, located 135 miles from Stonehenge.[45][46]

See also

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Stonehenge)


  1. "Stonehenge World Heritage Site Management Plan". UNESCO: 18. July 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Morgan, James; Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright (21 September 2008). "Dig pinpoints Stonehenge origins". BBC. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  3. Pitts, Mike (8 August 2008). "Stonehenge: one of our largest excavations draws to a close". British Archaeology (York, England: Council for British Archaeology) (102): p13. SSN 1357-4442. 
  4. "Ancient ceremonial landscape of great archaeological and wildlife interest". Stonehenge Landscape. National Trust. Retrieved 17 December 2007. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 The man who bought Stonehenge Heffernan, T. H. J. This is Amesbury
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Stonehenge; henge2". Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1989. 
  7. See the English Heritage definition.
  8. Anon. "Stonehenge : Wiltshire England What is it?". Megalithic Europe. The Bradshaw Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2009. 
  9. Alexander, Caroline. "If the Stones Could Speak: Searching for the Meaning of Stonehenge". National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 6 November 2009. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "The Stonehenge Riverside Project". Sheffield University. 20 August 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Field, David; et al (March 2010). "Introducing Stonehedge". British Archaeology (York, England: Council for British Archaeology) (111): 32–35. SSN 1357-4442. 
  12. Parker Pearson, Mike; Julian Richards and Mike Pitts (9 October 2008). "Stonehenge 'older than believed'". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2008. 
  13. Pearson, Mike; Ros Cleal, Peter Marshall, Stuart Needham, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Clive Ruggles, Alison Sheridan, Julian Thomas, Chris Tilley, Kate Welham, Andrew Chamberlain, Carolyn Chenery, Jane Evans, Chris Knüsel, (September 2007). "The Age of Stonehenge". Antiquity 811 (313): 617–639. 
  14. "Skeleton unearthed at Stonehenge was decapitated", BBC News (9 June 2000), ABCE News (13 June 2000), Fox News (14 June 2000), New Scientist (17 June 2000), Archeo News (2 July 2000)
  15. Maev Kennedy (23 September 2008). "The magic of Stonehenge: new dig finds clues to power of bluestones". Guardian (UK). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  16. "Stonehenge boy 'was from the Med'". BBC News. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2010. 
  17. Hawkins, GS (1966). Stonehenge Decoded. ISBN 978-0-88029-147-7. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Johnson, Anthony, Solving Stonehenge: The New Key to an Ancient Enigma. (Thames & Hudson, 2008) ISBN 978-0-500-05155-9
  19. The London Mercury Vol.XVII No.98 1927
  20. "The Future of Stonehenge: Public consultation". English Heritage. 2008. p. 2. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  21. Warne, Charles, 1872, Ancient Dorset
  22. s:History of the Kings of Britain/Book 8|Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 8, ch. 10.
  23. Drawing on the writings of Nennius, the tale is noted in Spenser's Faerie Queene, and given further circulation in William Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum of 1655. Source: The illustrated guide to Old Sarum and Stonehenge. Salisbury, England: Brown and Company. 1868. pp. 35–39. OCLC 181860648. 
  24. Hutton 2009. p. 323.
  25. Hutton 2009. p. 321-322.
  26. MacLeod, Nicola E.; Aitchison, Cara; Shaw, Stephen Joseph (2000). Leisure and tourism landscapes: social and cultural geographies. New York: Routledge. pp. 103–104. ISBN 0-415-27166-5. 
  27. A303 Stonehenge Road Scheme Hansard report of proceedings in the House of Commons 6 December 2007
  28. "Stonehenge Centre gets Go-Ahead". BBC News. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  29. Morris, Steven (19 November 2010). "Stonehenge development saved by lottery's £10m". The Guardian (UK): p. 14. 
  30. Pitts, Mike (March 2010). "New centre for Stonehenge—if drivers agree". British Archaeology (York, England: Council for British Archaeology) (111): 6. SSN 1357-4442. 
  31. Department of Culture, Media and Sport (4 April 2011). "End in sight after 'decades of dithering' as Government steps in to help secure future for Stonehenge". Press release. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  32. Proposals for a tunnel at Stonehenge: an assessment of the alternatives. The World Archaeological Congress
  33. Planning Your Visit to Stonehenge. English Heritage
  34. Milmo, Cahal (3 November 2006). "Troubled Stonehenge 'lacks magic'". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  35. Stukeley, William, 1740, Stonehenge A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids. London
  36. Wood, John, 1747, Choir Guare, Vulgarly called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain. Oxford
  37. Young, Emma. "Concrete Evidence". New Scientist (9 January 2001). Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  38. Taverner, Roger (8 January 2001). "How they rebuilt Stonehenge". Western Daily Press, quoted in Cosmic Conspiracies: How they rebuilt Stonehenge. Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  39. Julian Richards (2004). Stonehenge: A History in Photographs. London: English Heritage. ISBN 1-85074-895-0. 
  40. "Stonehenge execution revealed". BBC News. 9 June 2000. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  41. "A new 'henge' discovered at Stonehenge". University of Birmingham. 22 July 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  42. Boyle, Alan, Pits Add to Stonehgenge Mystery, Cosmic Log, November 28, 2011
  43. 43.0 43.1 Discoveries Provide Evidence of a Celestial Procession at Stonehenge, University of Birmingham Press Release, November 26, 2011
  44. Birmingham Archaeologists Turn Back Clock at Stonehenge, University of Birmingham Press Release, July 5, 2010
  45. Keys, David (18 December 2011). "Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  46. "Craig Rhosyfelin - Rock Outcrop in Wales in Pembrokeshire". Retrieved 20 December 2011. 


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    • Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during the season of 1924. (The Antiquaries Journal 6, Oxford University Press, 1926)
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    • Stonehenge: A History in Photographs (English Heritage, London, 2004)
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World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom

BathBlaenavon Industrial LandscapeBlenheim PalaceCanterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey & St. Martin's ChurchCastles and Town Walls of King Edward ICornwall and West Devon Mining LandscapeDerwent Valley MillsDurham Castle & CathedralEdinburgh Old Town & New TownForth Bridge • Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Antonine Wall & Hadrian's WallGiant's CausewayIronbridge GorgeJurassic CoastKew GardensLiverpool Maritime Mercantile CityMaritime GreenwichNew LanarkHeart of Neolithic OrkneyPontcysyllte AqueductSt KildaSaltaireStonehenge, Avebury & Associated Sites • Studley Royal Park & Fountains AbbeyTower of LondonPalace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey & St Margaret's Church