How Was It Built?

 

 

  Introduction

 

The building of Stonehenge began 5000 years ago, and was completed in 4 major stages over a period of 2000 years.

 

 

Stage 1a : 3100 BC

 

 

 

The Ditch

A ditch was dug, and the earth raised to form a circular bank 110 metres in diameter.

From remains found at the site, it is believed that red deer antlers were used as hammers to loosen the earth and chalk, and oxen shoulder blades were used as spades.

The Heelstones

Two sarsen stones 5 metres high and over a metre wide were sunk into the ground to a depth of 1 metres.

The Altar Stone

The Altar Stone was placed in the centre of the site as a focal point for all astronomical observations.

 

 

Stage 1b : 2910 BC

The Aubrey Holes

The Aubrey Holes, 56 round pits one metre wide and deep (here represented by round plinths) were dug in a circle 87 metres in diameter.

Now Stonehenge could be used for its primary purpose: the prediction of midsummer's day, and sun and moon eclipses.

 

 

Stage 2 : 2150 BC

 

 

 

The Bluestones

240 miles away in the Preseli Mountains in South West Wales 80 bluestones were being quarried.

These stones, some weighing 4 tons each, were dragged on rollers and sledges through the mountains and down to the coast.

The stones were loaded onto rafts at the headwaters of Milford Haven, then carried by water along the south coast of Wales, then across the Severn Estuary.

The journey continued up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then on the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.

After a journey of nearly 240 miles the bluestones arrived at the Stonehenge site, and were arranged in circles around the Altarstone.

The Station Stones

The final part of this stage was the erection of 4 Station Stones and auxiliary smaller stones, which were used for the sight alignment of the rising and setting of the sun and the moon.

 

 

Stage 3a

 

 

 

 

 

Quite soon after, building began on the major feature of Stonehenge as we know it.

Firstly, the Bluestones were removed from the site.

The Sarsens

24 miles to the north on the Marlborough Downs huge stones were being quarried; a type of stone known as 'sarsen'.

Sarsen stone is a hard-grained sandstone with a silaceous cement.

The stones were dragged on sleds across the countryside to the newly prepared building site.

For a typical upright sarsen a hole was first dug, and the sarsen was slid into position on a sledge.

A wooden frame was used for leverage, and sheer ingenuity and manpower hauled the sarsen into place.

Remember, at this time the people of the Bronze Age had not yet invented the wheel, so wheels and pulleys could not have been used.

The lintel was then brought alongside, and a stepped wooden tower of increasing height was used to raise the lintel, then slide it on top of the uprights.

The Trilothons

5 Trilothons were erected in the form of a horseshoe. They were graded in height from 6 to 8 metres, and may possibly have signified the 5 planets which were visible at that time with the naked eye - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The Outer Sarsen Ring

Then 30 upright sarsens were raised topped by 30 lintels to form a complete circle.

Each upright weighed up to 25 tons, and each lintel weighed 7 tons.

 

 

Stage 3b : 1800 BC

The Bluestones

The Bluestones were returned to the site to form a circle around the Trilothons, and a horseshoe within the Trilothons.

 

 

Stage 4 : 1100 BC

The Avenue

The Avenue was extended down to the River Avon, and Stonehenge was complete.