Stonehenge is one of the world’s best-known ancient monuments, but there is far more to it than meets the eye!
This past Wednesday marked the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, our longest day of the year. And this got me thinking about all the ancient monuments across the world that were erected to align with the rising or setting of the solstice sun. Over the course of history countless temples, monuments, earthworks, and burials have been built to seemingly demarcate the winter and summer solstice.
One of the most famous of these solstice celebrating monuments is Stonehenge, in Amesbury, England. This incredible structure is a wonder of ancient engineering and astronomy. Construction on Stonehenge is believed to have begun around 3100BC, during the Neolithic period, the end of the stone age in Europe.
On this Saturday Around the World, we are going to head there to get a better understanding of this remarkable wonder. Along the way, we will try to catch a glimpse at Stonehenge’s broader ceremonial landscape and the people who lived and gathered there.
Let’s begin with a quick explanation and history of Stonehenge itself from Vox.
Explore the Stonehenge Landscape
Now that we have a better idea of what Stonehenge may have originally looked like and a fuller appreciation of what it took to build this wonder, let’s take a moment to understand Stonehenge in a broader context.
Stonehenge itself is a small part of a much more extensive landscape of burial mounds or barrows, massive earthworks, other henges, and smaller temples.
When I started doing research on Stonehenge (and even when I went to visit it a few years ago) I had no idea what any of these terms meant, or even that “henge” was not a term exclusive to Stonehenge. Luckily I found this brief but super helpful video from English Heritage that explains all of these terms for us!
While visiting Stonehenge, it can be hard to turn your attention away from the stones. Very often the only things we see or hear about is the central monument. Yet, to really get an understanding of what Stonehenge would have meant to the people who worshiped there, we have to turn our backs to the stones and look outward and the numerous sites that surround it.
To learn more about the incredible survey that helped us learn about the landscape surrounding I suggest checking out this great video from The Royal Society.
Still can’t get enough? If you want to explore the full Stonehenge Landscape, take a 3D tour of Stonehenge, and get a super detailed history of the site jump over to the British Heritage website!
Understanding the People of Stonehenge
Before you go check out all of the cool stuff British Heritage has to offer, I will introduce you to what I believe is one of the most interesting places near Stonehenge, and an area called Durrington Walls.
It’s here that archaeologists believe the people who would have built Stonehenge lived, and from the discoveries made there, experimental archaeologists and volunteers are working to reconstruct what life would have looked like for the people of stone henge all those thousands of years ago.
To me, a monument as amazing as Stonehenge is made truly remarkable when we get an appreciation for how the people who built and used it lived.
When we have lost the religions and cultures and building techniques that brought an ancient site to life, the best way we can understand the significance of these sites is to understand our connection to the people who used it. Just as we stand in awe and marvel at its beauty today, so too must those who made the journey to visit it so many thousands of years ago.
Standing in the places those ancient peoples stood, we are connected to people far in the past. Sometimes it helps to admire the wonders of the past in order to remind us why it’s still an amazing world.
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
Explore More of the World’s Wonders!
There are so many incredible places across the globe to discover. Check out our other installments of Saturdays Around the World to see all of the wonders we have featured here on EWC!
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- “Decoding the Ancient Astronomy of Stonehenge.” YouTube. Vox, 21 June 2017. Web. 22 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx-KrvuiafE>. ↩
- “A Mini Guide to Prehistoric Monuments.” YouTube. English Heritage, 20 June 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBnWxKaxLIU>. ↩
- “Studying the Mysteries of Stonehenge.” YouTube. CBS Sunday Morning, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6-BkHV0Xag>. ↩
- “Stonehenge: Durrington Walls Settlement.” YouTube. English Heritage, 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxlJCHD_NR0>. ↩
- “Who Built Stonehenge?” YouTube. English Heritage, 19 May 2013. Web. 23 June 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkEOsCZfkKo>. ↩