Between a Fork in the Road

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not far from London (because nothing in England is far from anything), out on the grassy rolling hills lies the famous Stonehenge, a seemingly unimportant arrangement of stones. We all know that Stonehenge is more than that though. 

What I noticed first though is that Stonehenge is honestly between the fork in the motorway (some kind of British highway), not at all completely in the middle of nowhere.

The land surrounding the stones for miles is littered with artifacts from prehistoric people.  During the drive there, you could see burial mounds in people's farmland.  Also, Stonehenge is not the only Stonehenge in England.  In fact, there are quite a few others of significantly less fame, but that is because there are so many mysteries surrounding this particular set of stones.  They seemed to have been built in the range of 2500-2200 BC, with some other parts of the monument having been dated to around 3000 BC.  The entire monument was not built all at once.  Rather, it is believed to have been built in stages and various upgrades.  Beginning as a circular ditch, the first Stonehenge likely used timbers instead of stone.  However, stone eventually replaced the wood as a more permanent structure.  The builders dug a series of holes to hold up the stones to be placed there.  The first stones erected at the location are known as "bluestones" and possibly came from the Preseli Hills, about 160 miles away.  This is where the mystery comes into play, because how did these prehistoric people manage to transport each of the 80, 4-ton bluestones 120 miles to their present location?  Once the stones were erected the entrance exactly matched the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

Somewhere around the same time as when the first stones were erected, the heelstone was put into place.  After this was completed however, the site was abandoned for unknown reasons.  Maybe a hundred years later, 30 stones were erected around the bluestones.  These probably came from a much closer area, perhaps 25 miles away (though still far in prehistoric days).  There stones are much larger than the bluestones however, being around 13 feet and 25 tons each.  These were arrange around the bluestones to give the impression of Stonehenge we have today, with two erect stones with a stone across the top of them.

As time passed, the bluestones were rearranged numerous times for unknown reasons.  Some of the stones were removed.  Archeologists have recovered Roman coins and other artifacts from the site indicated the presence of continued human presence, but it isn’t known whether the monument was still used during this time.  The function of Stonehenge is also part of the mystery that makes it so famous.  It could have been a sort of complicated calendar or perhaps for some religious function.

In the modern times, Stonehenge has been subjected to much human tampering.  Besides the fact that two major roads are on either side of it.  Stonehenge garnered a lot of attention for all of its existence and visitors used to take a chisel to the monument to chip off their own piece as a souvenir.  The stones were restored numerous times in the 1900s by uprighting fallen stones and basing them in concrete to ensure they would never fall again.  Today, there is a security team and a rope that prevents visitors from getting relatively close to the stones at all.  However, there is one group who is able to gain personal access to the stones, the pagans.  Stonehenge was first believed to be a construction of the druids; however, they are now known to predate druids and pagans completely, but that hasn’t stopped neo-druids and neo-pagans from latching onto the structure as part of their “religious heritage.” Though this group of people holdfast that Stonehenge is essentially “theirs” and they know how exactly why it was built and so on, there is absolutely no real connection between them and Stonehenge’s actual history, which basically makes them look pretty stupid.
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