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Five Surprising Facts Surrounding Stonehenge

Archaeological FInds | May 31, 2018

1920: A visitor stands on a toppled standing stone at the megalithic structure of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

England is a country embroiled in mysteries of the past that have baffled people for centuries. One of the most famous mysteries is Stonehenge. Tourists and archaeologists alike travel from far and wide to explore the area which is situated outside of London about 80 miles outside of London on England’s Salisbury Plain. Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument featuring the remains of a circle of huge standing stones. 

Britain’s largest cemetery

Archaeologists estimate that at least 150 cremation burials were performed there around 2300 B.C and earlier. Archaeologists claim two man-made circular ditches around the area were created using tools made from antlers. There is an inner and outer bank to the circle. Inside the bank are 56 pits, which became known as the Aubrey Holes, after antiquarian John Aubrey, who named them in 1666. 

c1875, Richard Phillimore: Stonehenge, inside the stones from the north-west

Darwin, Worms and Stonehenge

In Darwin’s last book, “The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms,” published in 1881, he speaks of his travels to Stonehenge where he studied earthworms and the impact they had on objects in the soil over time. One notable observation of Darwin’s was how a fallen stone at the ancient monument had sunk deeper into the ground as a result of the earthworms burrowing in the soil. 

The Attempt to Recreate

It’s probably the most-asked question over the years about Stonehenge. How could mere man have moved the huge rocks without the modern machinery we see today? In 2000, an unsuccessful attempt was made by a Welsh group called Menter Preseli. They tried making and using the tools that could only have been used during that time; however, when one of the stones was being carried in a sling between two long rowboats, it fell and sank in the river. Divers and a crane were brought in to hoist the stone out of the water. This along with the other troubles they met throughout the project proved to be too much and ultimately, the whole project was canceled.

The two types of huge stones claimed to be at Stonehenge are Sarsen stones, which each weigh an average of 25 tons and the Bluestones which can weigh roughly between 2 and 5 tons. The Sarsen rocks would have been brought from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles to the north. The Bluestones would have been transported to Stonehenge from the Preseli Hills near West Wales. This distance is over 150 miles. According to archaeologists, it was either humans who moved the Bluestones over water and land to Stonehenge, or the result of glaciers pushing the stones to the site.

Avebury Stone Circles

Stonehenge is not the only prehistoric stone circles home to Great Britain.

The biggest of these prehistoric stone circles is not Stonehenge. It is actually one in Avebury, located 25 miles north of Stonehenge. It is said to have been built between 2850 B.C. and 2200 B.C. It is very similar to Stonehenge with the huge circular bank and ditch surrounding almost 29 acres. Christians thought they were actually pagan symbols and therefore during the Medieval era knocked the stones down. As with Stonehenge, it is still unclear to this day as to what the actual purpose or meaning of the stones and their formation were about. 

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, photograph with two farm carts, two cart horses and men c. 1885

Stonehenge was privately owned

Starting around 500 A.D. and for centuries afterward, Stonehenge was privately owned. In the late 1800s, The British government wanted to buy the land, however, the owner, Sir Edmund Antrobus declined all offers. However, it wasn’t until the son of Antrobus in the early 1900s, put a boundary up around the mysterious stone monument, making it the first time in history that tourists were charged a fee to visit Stonehenge.

Sir Cecil and Mary Chubb, the last private owners of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge was protected from being destroyed by the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act in 1913, but in 1915, during WWI, the only heir of the Antrobus family was killed and Stonehenge became doomed to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The highest bidder was Sir Cecil Herbert Edward Chubb, 1st Baronet (14 April 1876 – 22 September 1934). He was the last private owner of Stonehenge, which he donated to the British government three years later in 1918 with one stipulation, that the public would not be required to pay anything to see it. He was later knighted by Prime Minister Lloyd George.

In Conclusion

This amazing prehistoric site receives over one million visitors annually and the question of its meaning still remains a mystery. There have been many theories over time about Stonehenge ranging from a healing center to recorded accounts to the British authorities about space ships hovering over the infamous site. Another popular theory is that Stonehenge is a memorial to hundreds of Britons who were slain by the Saxons. Stonehenge continues to be as much of a mystery as it has been for thousands of years. 

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Marion Wijnberg

Writer

Marion lives in Ohio and has two grown children and one grandson. As well as loving the time she gets to spend with them, she also enjoys rescuing animals. Marion currently has 2 cats and a dog. She also loves to travel, read, play tennis and go horseback riding."