Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists have believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC, as described in the chronology below. One recent theory however, has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400–2200 BC, whilst another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC (see phase 1 below). The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge monument. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.

Archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008 indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found on the site indicate burials from as early as 3000 BC, when the initial ditch and bank were first dug. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Ælfric's 10th-century glossary, in which henge-cliff is given the meaning "precipice", a hanging or supported stone, thus the stanenges or Stanheng "not far from Salisbury" recorded by 11th-century writers are "supported stones". William Stukeley in 1740 notes, "Pendulous rocks are now called henges in Yorkshire...I doubt not, Stonehenge in Saxon signifies the hanging stones." Christopher Chippindale's Stonehenge Complete gives the derivation of the name Stonehenge as coming from the Old English words stān meaning "stone", and either hencg meaning "hinge" (because the stone lintels hinge on the upright stones) or hen(c)en meaning "hang" or "gallows" or "instrument of torture". Like Stonehenge's trilithons, medieval gallows consisted of two uprights with a lintel joining them, rather than the inverted L-shape more familiar today.

The "henge" portion has given its name to a class of monuments known as henges.Archaeologists define henges as earthworks consisting of a circular banked enclosure with an internal ditch. As often happens in archaeological terminology, this is a holdover from antiquarian usage, and Stonehenge is not truly a henge site as its bank is inside its ditch. Despite being contemporary with true Neolithic henges and stone circles, Stonehenge is in many ways atypical – for example, at over 24 feet (7.3 m) tall, its extant trilithons supporting lintels held in place with mortise and tenon joints, make it unique.

Function and construction

Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records. Many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. This multiplicity of theories, some of them very colourful, are often called the "mystery of Stonehenge".

There is little or no direct evidence for the construction techniques used by the Stonehenge builders. Over the years, various authors have suggested that supernatural or anachronistic methods were used, usually asserting that the stones were impossible to move otherwise. However, conventional techniques using Neolithic technology have been demonstrably effective at moving and placing stones of a similar size. Proposed functions for the site include usage as an astronomical observatory, or as a religious site.

More recently two major new theories have been proposed. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, has suggested that Stonehenge was part of a ritual landscape and was joined to Durrington Walls by their corresponding avenues and the River Avon. He suggests that the area around Durrington Walls Henge was a place of the living, whilst Stonehenge was a domain of the dead. A journey along the Avon to reach Stonehenge was part of a ritual passage from life to death, to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased. On the other hand, Geoffery Wainwright, president of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University have suggested that Stonehenge was a place of healing – the primeval equivalent of Lourdes. They argue that this accounts for the high number of burials in the area and for the evidence of trauma deformity in some of the graves. However they do concede that the site was probably multifunctional and used for ancestor worship as well. Isotope analysis indicates that some of the buried individuals were from other regions. A teenage boy buried approximately 1550 BC was raised near the Mediterranean Sea; a metal worker from 2300 BC dubbed the "Amesbury Archer" grew up near the alpine foothills of Germany; and the "Boscombe Bowmen" likely arrived from Wales or Brittany, France.

Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion

 Modern history


"Heel Stone," "Friar’s Heel" or "Sun-Stone"

The Heel Stone lies just outside the main entrance to the henge, next to the present A344 road. It is a rough stone, 16 feet (4.9 m) above ground, leaning inwards towards the stone circle. It has been known by many names in the past, including "Friar's Heel" and "Sun-stone". Today it is uniformly referred to as the Heel Stone or Heelstone. When one stands within Stonehenge, facing north-east through the entrance towards the heel stone, one sees the sun rise above the stone at summer solstice.

A folk tale, which cannot be dated earlier than the seventeenth century, relates the origin of the Friar's Heel reference.

The Devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up, and brought them to Salisbury plain. One of the stones fell into the Avon, the rest were carried to the plain. The Devil then cried out, "No-one will ever find out how these stones came here!" A friar replied, "That’s what you think!," whereupon the Devil threw one of the stones at him and struck him on the heel. The stone stuck in the ground and is still there.

Some claim "Friar's Heel" is a corruption of "Freyja's He-ol" from the Nordic goddess Freyja and the Welsh word for track. The Heel Stone lies beside the end portion of Stonehenge Avenue.

A more simple explanation for the name might be that the stone heels, or leans.

The name is not unique; there was a monolith with the same name recorded in the 19th century by antiquarian Charles Warne at Long Bredy in Dorset.

Arthurian legend

A giant helps Merlin build Stonehenge. From a manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace in the British Library (Egerton 3028). This is the oldest known depiction of Stonehenge.

In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth included a fanciful story in his work Historia Regum Britanniae that attributed the monument's construction to Merlin. Geoffrey's story spread widely, appearing in more and less elaborate form in adaptations of his work such as Wace's Norman French Roman de Brut, Layamon's Middle English Brut, and the Welsh Brut y Brenhinedd. According to Geoffrey, Merlin directed its removal from Ireland, where it had been constructed on Mount Killaraus by Giants, who brought the stones from Africa. After it had been rebuilt near Amesbury, Geoffrey further narrates how first Ambrosius Aurelianus, then Uther Pendragon, and finally Constantine III, were buried inside the ring of stones. In many places in his Historia Regum Britanniae Geoffrey mixes British legend and his own imagination; it is intriguing that he connects Ambrosius Aurelianus with this prehistoric monument as there is place-name evidence to connect Ambrosius with nearby Amesbury.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the rocks of Stonehenge were healing rocks, called the Giant's dance, which giants brought from Africa to Ireland for their healing properties. Aurelius Ambrosias (5th century), wishing to erect a memorial to the 3,000 nobles, who had died in battle with the Saxons and were buried at Salisbury, chose Stonehenge (at Merlin's advice) to be their monument. So the King sent Merlin, Uther Pendragon (Arthur's father), and 15,000 knights to Ireland to retrieve the rocks. They slew 7,000 Irish but, as the knights tried to move the rocks with ropes and force, they failed. Then Merlin, using "gear" and skill, easily dismantled the stones and sent them over to Britain, where Stonehenge was dedicated. Shortly after, Aurelius died and was buried within the Stonehenge monument, or "The Giants' Ring of Stonehenge".

In another legend of Saxons and Britons, in 472 the invading king Hengist invited Brythonic warriors to a feast, but treacherously ordered his men to draw their weapons from concealment and fall upon the guests, killing 420 of them. Hengist erected the stone monument—Stonehenge—on the site to show his remorse for the deed.


0 коммент.:

Отправить комментарий