Stonehenge. Why was it built? Does anyone really know?
Various theories have been put forth through the years. Some people have thought that the stones were part of religious rites practiced by sun worshippers. One scientist has even proved that the northeast axis of the stones aligns with the sunrise at the summer solstice. Other theories have the stones being part of an elaborate system of astronomical observation. What is for sure is that no one knows for sure why Stonehenge was built.
It is not the only set of megaliths in Britain, by any means. But it is the most famous.
The stones that remain are Stonehenge III, built in the third and second centuries B.C. The first Stonehenge was a product of the British Neolithic culture, about 3100 B.C. These people created a 320-foot-diameter ditch and then used the dirt they dug up to create a high mound within the circular ditch. Just inside the ditch were dug 56 shallow holes. These were soon refilled. The purpose of both actions is unknown. Stonehenge I did include entry stones, though, and this links it to successive stone patterns.
For 500 years, the Neolithic people used Stonehenge for an unknown purpose; then, it was abandoned. It took another 500 years for Stonehenge to return.
Beginning about 2100 B.C. the people of ancient Britain built on the past by adding 80 bluestone pillars, each of which weighed up to 4 tons. The intent was to form two concentric circles; neither was completed. Two facts about Stonehenge II stand out: The stones were very heavy to begin with, and they came from the Preseli Mountains in southwestern Wales, 240 miles away.
What we today can see of Stonehenge was built beginning about 2000 B.C. To the circles of bluestones the builders added sarsen stones from Marlborough Downs, 20 miles away. These stones are up to 30 feet in length and 50 tons in weight. It is significant that these stones–some of which were undoubtedly rough and craggy–were made shiny smooth and, in some cases, curved. Also in the construction of Stonehenge III was the digging of holes for yet another circle of stones; this work was not completed.
These are known facts. What is not known for sure is how the stones were carried to the Salisbury plain. Some have speculated, even claimed to prove, that the transport was done via waterways. The technology to do this must have been advanced indeed. And if land-based transportation was the answer, then the efforts required must have been on par with those required to build a small Egyptian pyramid.
One thing that is probably true is that Merlin did not cause the stones to be brought from Ireland, as writers since Geoffrey of Monmouth would have us believe. As has been proven, the building at Stonehenge began in 3100 B.C. Arthur is believed to have lived in the 5th century. What has yet to be proved is why Stonehenge was built and how it was used. The passage of time has obscured all but the most obvious of clues, and these do not seem to be enough.