Sunday, April 22, 2007
Archeologists cannot precisely date all of the stones, ditches, holes, and other features of Stonehenge, but the monument was recently the subject of a large radiocarbon dating program which has led to a new chronology of its construction. The development of the monument is broken into three phases:
Phase 1 (4950 to 4900 years ago)
Animation of Stonehenge then and nowThe best dated phase. No stone structures were actually assembled at the site at this time, but a roughly circular ditch about 320 feet in diameter, 20 feet wide, and 4.5 to 7 feet deep was dug. Animal bones, chiefly of cattle, were placed at the bottom of the ditch; dating of the bones indicates that they are 200 years older than the ditch itself, which suggests that they may have been removed from an older ritual location and brought to Stonehenge. Ringing the inside of the ditch was a high bank, built up out of the chalky soil and rubble that had been removed in the excavation of the ditch. Probably also during phase 1, a circle of 56 holes -- named the Aubrey Holes after their discoverer, 17th-century British antiquarian John Aubrey -- were dug inside the inner bank. The holes probably held timber posts.
Phase 2 (beginning approximately 4900 years ago)
The earthwork monument is remodeled, and a timber structure built. Holes indicate that timber posts were erected at the southern entrance and at the northeast entrance, where they might have formed a corridor through which the rising sun would shine at mid-summer. By this time the timber posts that the Aubrey Holes once held had rotted away, and the Holes were used as a cremation cemetery; the cremated bones from at least 200 bodies, perhaps many more, were in the top of the holes.
Phase 3 (4550 to 3600 years ago)
Animation of Stonehenge Development This last phase of construction is divided into at least three sub-phases. First, two concentric circles of about 80 bluestone pillars, carved and transported from the Preseli Mountains in southwestern Wales (how they were moved is still a mystery) were erected at the center of the monument. Archeologists believe that the entranceway of the bluestones was aligned with sunrise at the summer solstice.
Next, the bluestone structures were dismantled, and a stone circle of standing sarsens -- enormous sandstone blocks, the tallest over 22 feet tall and weighing 45 tons -- was erected, and capped with horizontal sarsens. A horseshoe-shaped arrangement of five pairs of standing stones with horizontal caps (the trilithons) was placed inside the circle.
Later, the previously removed bluestones were placed first into an oval pattern within the sarsen horseshoe and then later rearranged into a horseshoe, and a circle of bluestones was fixed outside the sarsen horseshoe, but within the outer sarsen circle.
Download Wallpaper Also during phase 3, the station stones and the large heel stone near where the midsummer sun rises, were probably added to the monument. The avenue, the ancient formal approach to Stonehenge, was constructed at the northeastern entranceway.