c. 3100-1550 BCE

Visitors see today the remains of the final stage of Stonehenge, a prehistoric temple used as a place of worship and burial. In its first stage it was a large earthwork--"henge"--a bank and ditch (see far right) enclosing the Aubrey holes (named after their 17th century discoverer) arranged in a circle. Later (around 2100 BCE) 80 bluestones were brought from the Preseli mountains in Wales and arranged in a double circle in the center. Somewhat later sarsen stones were arranged in an outer circle with continuous lintels and five trilithons were arranged in a horseshoe, the axis of which pointed to the midsummer sunrise. The Heel Stone (see below) marked this axis and the original approach to the temple. Even later (1550 BCE) the bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle.

Distant views with the circular bank and ditch

The larger stones and their lintels are all of Sarsen, a kind of sandstone, brought from about 20 miles away from the Marlborough Downs. The smaller stones, called Bluestones, were brought by sledges and rafts from southwest Wales. The Sarsen circle is about 100 feet in diameter and originally consisted of 30 uprights and a continuous circle of lintels. Inside the circle was a horseshoe of five trilithons, each consisting of a pair of uprights topped by a lintel.

The construction methods of Prehistoric builders were remarkable. They used deer antlers to dig the holes for the stones and shaped the stones with Sarsen hammer-stones, ranging from the size of small ball to a football. These stones have been found as packing around the bases of the uprights. The lintels are held in place on the vertical stones by mortice and tenon joints. The continous lintels in the outer circle are set end to end by tongue and groove joints. The lintels are also shaped to form the curve of the outer circle.


Views of the trilithons in the Sarsen horseshoe and the heelstone

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Copyright Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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