BABSSCo Visits Stonehenge

Posted: 10 September 2014

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the UK's most famous landmarks. BABSSCo students this summer got to experience the landmark for themselves. Students had an audio tour of the stones, following by a visit to the state of the art visitor centre opened earlier this year. The visit to Stonehenge concluded with a visit to another well-known British location; Bath.

The first monument at Stonehenge was built about 5,000 years ago, where prehistoric people buried their cremated dead. Later, the enormous stones were set up in the centre. Barack Obama made time during his visit to the Nato summit last week to visit the stones himself and was mightily impressed. Stonehenge has been the subject of speculation and fascination since at least the early medieval period. There have been different theories put forward about who built it, when, and for what purpose. Antiquaries (students of things of the past) argued that it was an ancient Roman temple, or that it was built by the Druids (ancient British religious figures). Astronomers suggested that it was a primitive computer for calculating the dates of eclipses. More recently, archaeologists have suggested that it was a place for prehistoric people's ancestors, or perhaps a centre of healing.

The first monument at Stonehenge was a circular earthwork enclosure, built in about 3000 BC. A ditch was dug with simple ]tools, and the chalk piled up to make an inner and an outer bank. Within the ditch was a ring of 56 timber or stone posts. The monument was used as a cremation cemetery for several hundred years. In about 2500 BC the site was transformed by the construction of the central stone settings. Enormous sarsen stones and smaller bluestones were raised to form a unique monument. Building Stonehenge took huge effort from hundreds of well-organised people.

There are two types of stone at Stonehenge - the larger sarsen stones and the smaller 'bluestones'. The sarsen stones are a type of sandstone, which is found scattered naturally across southern England. Most archaeologists believe that these stones were brought from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles (32km) away. There great quantities of sarsens still lie across in the landscape, although their exact origin is not known. On average the sarsens weigh 25 tons, with the largest stone, the Heel Stone, weighing about 30 tons.

Bluestone is the term used to refer to the smaller stones at Stonehenge. These are of varied geology but all came from the Preseli Hills in south-west Wales. Although they may not appear blue, they do have a bluish tinge when freshly broken or when wet. They weigh between 2 and 5 tons each. Some people believe that the bluestones could have been brought to Salisbury Plain by the movement of glaciers, but most archaeologists think that they were transported by human effort. How this was done over a distance of more than 250 kilometres remains unknown, but it is probable the stones were both carried via water networks and hauled over land.

Article credit: English Heritage (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/).

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