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I was in Stonehenge as you can see with a big group. They are the people who were in the exchange in torquay with me. 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 prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Archaeologists believe that the standing stones were erected around 2200 BC and 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, and it is also a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge itself is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
New archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found that burials took place as early as 3000 B.C, when the first ditches were being built around the monument. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years when the giant stones which mark the landmark were put up.

The Stonehenge complex was built in several construction phases spanning at least 3000 years, although there is evidence for activity both before and afterwards on the site, perhaps extending its time frame to 6500 years.

Dating and understanding the various phases of activity at Stonehenge is not a simple task; it is complicated by poorly kept early excavation records, surprisingly few accurate scientific dates and the disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing. The modern phasing most generally agreed by archaeologists is detailed below. Features mentioned in the text are numbered and shown on the plan, right, which illustrates the site as of 2004. The plan omits the trilithon lintels for clarity. Holes that no longer, or never, contained stones are shown as open circles and stones visible today are shown coloured.

Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1,500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape's time frame to 6,500 years. Dating and understanding the various phases of activity is complicated by disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing, poor quality early excavation records, and a lack of accurate, scientifically verified dates. The modern phasing most generally agreed to by archaeologists is detailed below. Features mentioned in the text are numbered and shown on the plan, right.
Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around 8000 BC, beneath the nearby modern tourist car-park. These held pine posts around 0.75 metres (2 ft 6 in) in diameter which were erected and eventually rotted in situ. Three of the posts (and possibly four) were in an east-west alignment which may have had ritual significance; no parallels are known from Britain at the time but similar sites have been found in Scandinavia. Salisbury Plain was then still wooded but 4,000 years later, during the earlier Neolithic, people built a causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood's Ball and long barrow tombs in the surrounding landscape. In approximately 3500 BC, a Stonehenge Cursus was built 700 metres (2,300 ft) north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the trees and develop the area.
The first monument consisted of a circu

lar bank and ditch enclosure made of Late Cretaceous (Santonian Age) Seaford Chalk, (7 and 8), measuring about 110 metres (360 ft) in diameter, with a large entrance to the north east and a smaller one to the south (14). It stood in open grassland on a slightly sloping spot. The builders placed the bones of deer and oxen in the bottom of the ditch, as well as some worked flint tools. The bones were considerably older than the antler picks used to dig the ditch, and the people who buried them had looked after them for some time prior to burial. The ditch was continuous but had been dug in sections, like the ditches of the earlier causewayed enclosures in the area. The chalk dug from the ditch was piled up to form the bank. This first stage is dated to around 3100 BC, after which the ditch began to silt up naturally. Within the outer edge of the enclosed area is a circle of 56 pits, each about a metre (3'3") in diameter(13), known as the Aubrey holes after John Aubrey, the 17th-century antiquarian who was thought to have first identified them. The pits may have contained standing timbers creating a timber circle, although there is no excavated evidence of them. A recent excavation has suggested that the Aubrey Holes may have originally been used to erect a bluestone circle. If this were the case, it would advance the earliest known stone structure at the monument by some 500 years. A small outer bank beyond the ditch could also date to this period.

Evidence of the second phase is no longer visible. The number of postholes dating to the early 3rd millennium BC suggest that some form of timber structure was built within the enclosure during this period. Further standing timbers were placed at the northeast entrance, and a parallel alignment of posts ran inwards from the southern entrance. The postholes are smaller than the Aubrey Holes, being only around 0.4 metres (16 in) in diameter, and are much less regularly spaced. The bank was purposely reduced in height and the ditch continued to silt up. At least twenty-five of the Aubrey Holes are known to have contained later, intrusive, cremation burials dating to the two centuries after the monument's inception. It seems that whatever the holes' initial function, it changed to become a funerary one during Phase 2. Thirty further cremations were placed in the enclosure's ditch and at other points within the monument, mostly in the eastern half. Stonehenge is therefore interpreted as functioning as an enclosed cremation cemetery at this time, the earliest known cremation cemetery in the British Isles. Fragments of unburnt human bone have also been found in the ditch-fill. Dating evidence is provided by the late Neolithic grooved ware pottery that has been found in connection with the features from this phase.
Archaeological excavation has indicated that around 2600 BC, the builders abandoned timber in favour of stone and dug two concentric arrays of holes (the Q and R Holes) in the centre of the site. These stone sockets are only partly known (hence on present evidence are sometimes described as forming ‘crescents’); however, they could be the remains of a double ring. Again, there is little firm dating evidence for this phase. The holes held up to 80 standing stones (shown blue on the plan), only 43 of which can be traced today. The bluestones (some of which are made of dolerite, an igneous rock), were thought for much of the 20th century to have been transported by humans from the Preseli Hills, 150 miles (240 km) away in modern-day Pembrokeshire in Wales. Another theory that has recently gained support is that they were brought much nearer to the site as glacial erratics by the Irish Sea Glacier. Other standing stones may well have been small sarsens, used later as lintels. The stones, which weighed about four tons, consisted mostly of spotted Ordovician dolerite but included examples of rhyolite, tuff and volcanic and calcareous ash; in total around 20 different rock types are represented. Each monolith measures around 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height, between 1 m and 1.5 m (3.3–4.9 ft) wide and around 0.8 metres (2.6 ft) thick. What was to become known as the Altar Stone (1), is almost certainly derived from either Carmarthenshire or the Brecon Beacons and may have stood as a single large monolith.

The north-eastern entrance was widened at this time, with the result that it precisely matched the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. This phase of the monument was abandoned unfinished, however; the small standing stones were apparently removed and the Q and R holes purposefully backfilled. Even so, the monument appears to have eclipsed the site at Avebury in importance towards the end of this phase.

The Heelstone (5), a tertiary sandstone, may also have been erected outside the north-eastern entrance during this period. It cannot be accurately dated and may have been installed at any time during phase 3. At first it was accompanied by a second stone, which is no longer visible. Two, or possibly three, large portal stones were set up just inside the north-eastern entrance, of which only one, the fallen Slaughter Stone (4), 4.9 metres (16 ft) long, now remains. Other features, loosely dated to phase 3, include the four Station Stones (6), two of which stood atop mounds (2 and 3). The mounds are known as "barrows" although they do not contain burials. Stonehenge Avenue, (10), a parallel pair of ditches and banks leading 2 miles (3.2 km) to the River Avon, was also added. Two ditches similar to Heelstone Ditch circling the Heelstone (which was by then reduced to a single monolith) were later dug around the Station Stones.
During the next major phase of activity, 30 enormous Oligocene-Miocene sarsen stones (shown grey on the plan) were brought to the site. They may have come from a quarry, around 25 miles (40 km) north of Stonehenge on the Marlborough Downs, or they may have been collected from a "litter" of sarsens on the chalk downs, closer to hand. The stones were dressed and fashioned with mortise and tenon joints before 30 were erected as a 33 metres (108 ft) diameter circle of standing stones, with a ring of 30 lintel stones resting on top. The lintels were fitted to one another using another woodworking method, the tongue and groove joint. Each standing stone was around 4.1 metres (13 ft) high, 2.1 metres (6 ft 11 in) wide and weighed around 25 tons. Each had clearly been worked with the final visual effect in mind; the orthostats widen slightly towards the top in order that their perspective remains constant when viewed from the ground, while the lintel stones curve slightly to continue the circular appearance of the earlier monument. The inward-facing surfaces of the stones are smoother and more finely worked than the outer surfaces. The average thickness of the stones is 1.1 metres (3 ft 7 in) and the average distance between them is 1 metre (3 ft 3 in). A total of 75 stones would have been needed to complete the circle (60 stones) and the trilithon horseshoe (15 stones). Unless some of the sarsens have since been removed from the site, the ring appears to have been left incomplete. The lintel stones are each around 3.2 metres (10 ft), 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) wide and 0.8 metres (2 ft 7 in) thick. The tops of the lintels are 4.9 metres (16 ft) above the ground.

Within this circle stood five trilithons of dressed sarsen stone arranged in a horseshoe shape 13.7 metres (45 ft) across with its open end facing north east. These huge stones, ten uprights and five lintels, weigh up to 50 tons each. They were linked using complex jointing. They are arranged symmetrically. The smallest pair of trilithons were around 6 metres (20 ft) tall, the next pair a little higher and the largest, single trilithon in the south west corner would have been 7.3 metres (24 ft) tall. Only one upright from the Great Trilithon still stands, of which 6.7 metres (22 ft) is visible and a further 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in) is below ground.

The images of a 'dagger' and 14 'axeheads' have been carved on one of the sarsens, known as stone 53; further carvings of axeheads have been seen on the outer faces of stones 3, 4, and 5. The carvings are difficult to date, but are morphologically similar to late Bronze Age weapons; recent laser scanning work on the carvings supports this interpretation. The pair of trilithons in the north east are smallest, measuring around 6 metres (20 ft) in height; the largest, which is in the south west of the horseshoe, is almost 7.5 metres (25 ft) tall.

This ambitious phase has been radiocarbon dated to between 2600 and 2400 BC, slightly earlier than the Stonehenge Archer, discovered in the outer ditch of the monument in 1978, and the two sets of burials, known as the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen, discovered 3 miles (4.8 km) to the west. At about the same time, a large timber circle and a second avenue were constructed 2 miles (3.2 km) away at Durrington Walls overlooking the River Avon. The timber circle was orientated towards the rising sun on the midwinter solstice, opposing the solar alignments at Stonehenge, whilst the avenue was aligned with the setting sun on the summer solstice and led from the river to the timber circle. Evidence of huge fires on the banks of the Avon between the two avenues also suggests that both circles were linked, and they were perhaps used as a procession route on the longest and shortest days of the year. Parker Pearson speculates that the wooden circle at Durrington Walls was the centre of a 'land of the living', whilst the stone circle represented a 'land of the dead', with the Avon serving as a journey between the two.
The last known construction at Stonehenge was about 1600 BC (see 'Y and Z Holes'), and the last usage of it was probably during the Iron Age. Roman coins and medieval artefacts have all been found in or around the monument but it is unknown if the monument was in continuous use throughout prehistory and beyond, or exactly how it would have been used. Notable is the massive Iron Age hillfort Vespasian's Camp built alongside the Avenue near the Avon. A decapitated 7th century Saxon man was excavated from Stonehenge in 1923. The site was known to scholars during the Middle Ages and since then it has been studied and adopted by numerous groups.

August 2000

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