Prehistoric hunting pits discovered at Stonehenge
Stonehenge is one of the most outstanding prehistoric monuments in Great Britain. The Stonehenge that can be seen today is the final stage that was completed around 3,500 years ago.
According to the monument’s website, Stonehenge was built in four stages:
First stage: The earliest version of Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, a bench and Aubrey’s Holes, all probably built around 3100 BC.
Aubrey’s holes are round pits in the chalk, about one meter (3.3 ft) wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms.
Stonehenge (pictured) is one of Britain’s most outstanding prehistoric monuments.
They form a circle about 86.6 meters (284 feet) in diameter.
Excavations revealed cremated human bones in part of the chalk fill, but it is likely that the holes themselves were not made to be used as graves, but rather as part of a religious ceremony.
After this first stage, Stonehenge was abandoned and remained intact for more than 1,000 years.
Second stage: The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge began around 2,150 BC, when around 82 bluestones from the Preseli Mountains in south-west Wales were transported to the site. The stones, some weighing four tons each, are believed to have been hauled on rollers and sledges to the waters of Milford Haven, where they were loaded onto rafts.
They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being swept overland again near Warminster and Wiltshire.
The final leg of the journey was mainly by water, up the River Wylye to Salisbury, then up the Salisbury Avon to west of Amesbury.
The journey spanned nearly 240 miles, and once at the site, the stones were placed in the center to form an incomplete double circle.
During the same period the original entrance was enlarged and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. The closest part of the avenue, which connects Stonehenge to the River Avon, was built in alignment with the sunrise of the summer solstice.
third stage: The third stage of Stonehenge, which took place around 2,000 years BC, saw the arrival of sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), which were larger than bluestones.
They were probably brought from the Marlborough Downs (40 kilometers, or 25 miles, north of Stonehenge).
The largest of the sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weighs 50 tons, and transport by water would not have been possible, so it is suspected that they were transported using sledges and ropes.
Calculations have shown that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull a stone, with an additional 100 men needed to position the rollers in front of the sledge.
These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous course of lintels – horizontal supports.
Inside the circle, five trilithons, structures consisting of two upright stones and a third on top as a lintel, were placed in a horseshoe shape, which can still be seen today.
Final stage: The fourth and final stage took place just after 1500 years BC, when the smaller blue stones were rearranged into the horseshoe and circle that can be seen today.
The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, but they have since been removed or broken. Some remain as stumps below ground level.