How close can you get to Stonehenge
Stonehenge, pronounced: Sstohn-Händsch, is the name of an old monument made of stones. It is located in the south of England and dates back to the Stone Age. The English word "Henge" actually means a wall made of earth, so the name does not fit exactly.
The system looked different in the course of history. First a circle was formed with logs about five thousand years ago. This can be seen today in darkly discolored areas in the ground.
Around 400 years later, stones were used instead of wood. Of these so-called bluestones, a certain type of rock, there were at least 43. Perhaps there were up to eighty. The stones may come from Wales, which is 260 kilometers away.
Another 200 years later, thirty gray stones were dragged to Stonehenge. They formed a circle with large blocks on top that connected the stones. The bluestones were rearranged.
It is unknown how the facility was built. The stones had to be brought over a long distance. They were probably brought in on ships. Otherwise, either a lot of people went with them, or they had oxen for it. Some stones have been very carefully smoothed, which must have been long, hard work.
What was Stonehenge used for?
Nobody knows why Stonehenge was built. Some graves have been found there, as well as human remains, such as bones. For a long time, researchers have suspected that the builders in Stonehenge celebrated and prayed their religion.
Other researchers think it was a facility for astronomy. The stones are positioned so that on certain days of the year the sun rises and sets in certain places. But that doesn't have to mean too much: in history, buildings have often been aligned with the sun, for example Christian churches. This does not mean that the builders of the churches studied the course of the sun. A few wooden sticks would have been enough for a calendar to show the path of the sun or moon.
What do you see of Stonehenge today?
Stonehenge is not entirely unique, because in many countries there are systems made of stone or stone circles. But the facility is still very impressive today: the tallest stone is six meters and seventy centimeters high. What you can see are the old stones from the past, but some have fallen over.
Many tourists want to visit Stonehenge, a million people a year. Since 1978, fences have been used to prevent them from getting too close to the stones. Some visitors have smeared stones with paint or broken pieces out as a souvenir. You can find out more about Stonehenge in the museum nearby.
Today some people believe in the gods of the ancient Celts. They see themselves as the descendants of the Celtic druids who allegedly prayed there 2000 years ago. These people meet at Stonehenge from time to time for church services. Sometimes tens of thousands of people come there.
The facility has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. This includes not only the well-known stone circle: A little further away is, for example, Woodhenge, an old facility with wooden pegs, and Bluehenge made of blue stones. Further afield is the Avebury area, with another facility and a man-made mound, among other things.
Stonehenge in watercolors, painted around 1570
Stones seen up close
Silbury Hil, the mound of earth at Avebury
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