England · Stonehenge
One of the world’s greatest mysteries, Stonehenge is a massive circle of 3500-year-old standing stones and earthworks located in the middle of a green field in Wiltshire. This set of stones laid out in concentric rings and horseshoe shapes on the empty Salisbury Plain, is, at the age of 4000 years, one of the oldest, and certainly best preserved, megalithic (ancient stone) structures on Earth. While it is unclear who built the landmark or how, Stonehenge is surely one of Britain’s most important ancient monuments, having been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
As a prehistoric stone circle, it is unique because of its artificially shaped sarsen stones (blocks of Cenozoic silcrete), arranged in post-and-lintel formation, and because of the remote origin of its smaller bluestones (igneous and other rocks) from 160 – 240 km away, in South Wales. Stonehenge’s orientation on the rising and setting sun has always been one of its remarkable features.
But what is Stonehenge? Is it an astronomical observatory? May be not, although there are certainly solar and lunar alignments to be found in the final arrangement of stones. Was it a Druid temple, complete with sacrifices and blood curdling ceremonies? No. The Druids were Celtic priests, not due for another 1500 years at least. What on earth was it then?
It was probably a multipurpose ceremonial center, like other early circles, relating to fertility, death, and rebirth. There are remains of quite a few cremations and other burials nearby and inside the circle. It was obviously an important site in the religious observances of the Bronze Age culture, but precisely what those observances were it is not possible for us to say. Whatever the original purpose of Stonehenge, it certainly would have been a magnificent ancient temple, a place of spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance.