Seeing Stonehenge for the first time is a bit of a surreal experience. As one of few remaining prehistoric monuments in the world, and for sure the most famous, these stone megaliths represent thousands of years of human history. They survived the Saxons, the Romans, the Victorians – all the way through to today’s hyper-digital age. The thought of all the stories they’ve seen, the millions of visitors they’ve received, is awe inspiring.
We’re sure there are innumerable secrets wrapped in the mystery of Stonehenge. However, some visitors leave without really grasping the true significance of this magnificent heritage site. We don’t want that to happen to you! That’s why we put together this fascinating list of Stonehenge’s most significant secrets.
Who built Stonehenge?
Visitors to the site have wondered at the origin of Stonehenge for many centuries. Suggestions from druids to Merlin the Wizard to space aliens have been forwarded by researchers (amateur and otherwise!) over the years. Fortunately, modern archeological techniques have provided us with a more reasoned estimation.
The first activity at the site was the digging of the surrounding circular ditch in 3100 BC. This means that it pre-dates Celtic origin and was first worked by Neolithic peoples. A few hundred years later, the first bluestones were raised by a hitherto unidentified group of builders. Much later, in around 2000 years BC, another unknown group added the outer sarsen stone ring.
Who exactly built it, and why, still remains shrouded in mystery.
What’s it for?
The peoples that built Stonehenge hadn’t yet invented writing, so we may never be sure what it’s original purpose really was. We do know that the horseshoe shape of the stones mysteriously aligns with the sunrise on both the summer and winter solstices, which suggests a religious significance. Scientists today believe that Stonehenge was used as a place of religious healing – its mysterious power thought to be able to cure the sick and injured. Others have suggested that the site may be a Neolithic ritual landscape used for the worship of ancestors.
Some less likely answers suggest that it may even by a landing site for ancient spacecraft. I think I like this explanation best.
Why is it called Stonehenge?
The very first known mention of Stonehenge on paper appears in the archeological studies of Henry Huntingdon as ‘Stanenges’ in 1130AD. The name has since evolved over time, being written as Stanhenge, Stonhenge, and Stonhenge throughout history. It’s been suggested that the term Stonehenge is an adaptation of an ancient phrase meaning ‘floating stones’ – perhaps after their remarkable shape.
Where did it come from?
Perhaps the most magical fact about Stonehenge is the origin of the stones themselves. Scientists have been able to pinpoint the origin of the bluestone megaliths to Pembrokeshire in Wales – a full hundred and fifty miles away from the site. Exactly how they arrived we can only speculate, but without the technology that we possess today we can only imagine it took a lot of ingenuity, imagination, and hard, hard work.
If it’s finally time for you to see this magnificent site for yourself, head over to the Evan Evans website and check out our fantastic guided tours from London. See Stonehenge as part of a tour including Bath Spa, Windsor Castle, or Salisbury Cathedral.