El TanARTHI 2191-001Semester 112/12/17 Why is everyone so obsessed with some rocks? I cocked my head. “It’s a bunch of rocks.” I scoffed. I squinted and held the photo closer to see if I missed anything actually important. “Nope. It’s still rocks.
” I proclaimed. “Are you kidding? They’re gigantic and like super old!” My friend exclaimed. Her fascination with this pile of rocks is baffling. She went on a trip to London for her middle school graduation and ventured out to see all the tourist destinations. She spent a whole day out of her week long trip to see a pile of rocks. A whole day. For rocks. People from all around the world come to gawk at these rocks.
Can you jump off them? Nope. Can you sit on them for cool selfies? Nope. Why would people travel thousands of miles to look at this thing? If you like rocks why not go hiking on a mountain? It’s definitely bigger and probably older than Stonehenge and at least you could do stuff. I sought to find out why Stonehenge continues to amaze millions. After some research, I discovered many factors that contribute to the greatness of this piece of architecture. It is associated with the time period it was built, what the site is used for, how it was built, what it was made of, why it was constructed, and the mystery of if these theories are correct or not. Stonehenge enthralls the world not because of what it can do right now but because of the history and the mystery that surrounds it. Where and when was stonehenge built? The site of stonehenge is located in Wiltshire, England.
It is believed by archaeologists that Stonehenge was built around 3000 BC to 2000 BC. It is also believed that it took around 1500 years to construct it. The ditch that encircles the stones, what we commonly associate with Stonehenge, is believed to be built even earlier, in 3100 BC and likely the first stage of building Stonehenge. That’s about 5,000 years ago! That’s like 63 80-year old grannies living back to back! That’s pretty much when civilization began to emerge! 5,000 years civilization pales in comparison to 200,000 years of human existence. It took humans this long to build something like stonehenge. Fast forward 5,000 years and we’ve already built skyscrapers, cars, went to the moon, etc. It’s pretty amazing how long it took to erect a monument in comparison with how little time it took for us to manipulate the world to how we see fit.
What is it made of? How did they get the materials? Stonehenge is made of basically two kinds of stone: bluestone and a sandstone. Bluestone is an igneous rock and it’s even hard than granite. The smaller stones are made of bluestones and the larger rocks are made of sandstones. However, there is absolutely zero evidence of bluestone in the surrounding area for construction material making it seem impossible that this was built. How did they get the materials? The bluestone used in stonehenge is believed to come from Wales which is 140 miles away from the site.
It takes me probably 3 hours to drive a distance of 140 miles. According to google maps, 140 miles is also equivalent to 4 hours on amtrak, 43 hours of walking, and 13 hours of biking. The builders obviously didn’t have a car or truck to haul it. An average person can barely lift 40 pounds. How did they get 25 ton rocks across 140 miles? The sarsens are believed to be from Marlborough Downs which is 20 miles away from the site. 20 miles pales in comparison to 140 but 20 miles is still a long way. I don’t think I’ve ever even biked or walked 20 miles at a time.
It seems pretty impossible and unlikely that a team of humans got together to lift a single 25 ton rock for 160 miles. There is speculation that the rock was hauled onto a sled which rested on a series of wood rollers and used rope to pull the rock forward. It wasn’t necessary to build a 140 mile path of wood rollers either because the rollers could be picked up and placed in front of the stone to extend the path. Wood rollers and a sled is definitely easier than carrying it by hand but it is definitely no modern day truck or ship. It’s still baffling how people managed to just get the materials for construction. They likely had to walk 140 miles to the bluestone quarry site.
That’s 140 miles to just arrive there and then another 140 miles while carrying a 25 ton stone back. A simulation run by University College London shows that moving the stone may not have been as difficult as thought to be. 10 students were able to move a 1 ton stone at a rate of 10 feet per 5 seconds. So if we do the math, to move a 25 ton stone it would either require 250 people for one stone at the same 10feet/5 second rate or perhaps less people but moving at a slower rate and for a shorter distance. That’s also not including time for rest and eating. A monumental feat by the builders.
There is also speculation that the stones were carried by glaciers or rafts on water. This is flawed because there is no historical evidence of glaciers in the area at the time and raft technology was believed to not be advanced to carry a 25 ton stone. How did they build it? Metal tools didn’t exist back then so builders relied on broken pieces of the sandstone, known as hammer stones, to shape the stone.
That’s like trying to carve birch wood using a birch wood tool. It’s tedious. The monument used groove and tongue joint techniques to join lintels and trilithons. We still used the groove and tongue technique today! It is simple and common yet effective in our complex world of technology and machinery. How did humans who were barely emerging in civilization come up with such effective and advanced techniques? It is amazing to realize that much of our construction today is possible because of learning about how Stonehenge was constructed.
After the stone is shaped, a hole with a sloped side is dug to fit the stone into place. Wooden sticks leaned on the hole’s back and the stone was moved into the hole. They likely used rope attached to a wooden frame to straighten the stone. They then filled the hole with broken rocks to keep the stone in place. What was it used for? Mike Parker Pearson, a British archaeologist, claims the site was used as a burial ground because of evidence of human bone. He also believes Stonehenge was a land of the dead and moving from the space outside of Stonehenge and into it was sort of like passing from life to death. In addition the site was also possibly used to unify the population. I’m unclear on if the unification was the building of Stonehenge or gathering at Stonehenge or both but it is quite assuring to see that ancient people also had such advanced social interaction and emotion and such advanced and artistic ways to express that.
This was clearly head over heels important to them because of all the impressive work they put into it. Geoffrey Wainwright, a professor, claims it was a healing place and explains the massive amount of burials at the place. It is also possible it was used to worship ancestors. It’s not like Stonehenge gave them shelter, food, water, and other fundamental factors of survival.
It was a place to bury their dead and gather as a community. They put such incredible effort into a part of life that most animals never experience. It demonstrates how strong their beliefs were to them and how advanced their belief system is. It is also believed Stonehenge is related to ancient astronomy.
The monument’s opening that faces north east aligns with the winter solstice sunset and the summer solstice sunrise. Some speculate that the alignment is just a coincidence but alignment with 2 solstice events seem more than just a coincidence. Gerald Hawkins’ research also shows that the monument aligns fairly precisely with every point setting and rising point of the sun and moon, and stars.Archaeologists are constantly looking for patterns to make sense of this architectural phenomenon.
Humans crave to understand why things are the way they are. Christian’s religion and its God and its story of the creation of the world explains who created us and how. It provides a sense of comfort because having reason helps us believe we have importance and not just a meaningless speck of dust insignificant in the universe. Stonehenge is no different. It has so much mystery and unanswered questions and we just want to know why this is that. Some also believe it was built using the help of aliens, similar to the theory the pyramids were built by aliens hinting at wanting to believe there is a higher power.
We humans built it so why can’t we humans figure out the real reason why? Stonehenge is almost mythical-like in its existence similar to legends like King Arthur who seem so real but are so far away in history that it cannot be confirmed. Stonehenge continues to capture the attention of the world because it is still so unknown in today’s world of advanced discovery. We have information on what is the material found on the moon, why the moon exists, how the moon works, when the moon was formed, etc. but Stonehenge, something we humans created not too long ago in comparison to the existence of the moon, still remains in the realm of the unknown.
It’s also pretty cool to be able to be feet away from this mythological monument compared to being hundreds of thousands of miles away from the moon. Stonehenge is so close to home but why can’t we figure out why it is the way it is? I also think people appreciate the enormous amount of effort and dedication into one entity. Think about the last time you put that much effort into anything.
Stonehenge is inspiration for millions to keep working at it. Ultimately, Stonehenge is a monument that captivates us because it opens up the world of what it means to be human. Is it about the afterlife, the stars, the sun, the moon, the living, etc.? We don’t know but it is a reason to why things are and therefore meaning to existence.