Showing posts with label who built Stonehenge?. Show all posts
Showing posts with label who built Stonehenge?. Show all posts

Friday, July 9, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.III

  What was Stonehenge’s purpose? Scholars have long assumed the site had religious significance, a theory supported by the absence of debris such as broken pottery. Quack theories proliferated until 1963, when the British astronomer Gerald Hawkins introduced what is now the most widely accepted explanation. Hawkins noted that when a person stands in the center of Stonehenge, certain celestial bodies appear over various stones with a regularity that defies coincidence. Hawkins recovered astronomical data from the time of Stonehenge’s construction and, with the help of a computer, confirmed a number of these astronomical alignments. Most spectacularly, during the summer solstice – an important date for an agricultural community- the sun seemed to rise directly over one of the larger stones. It seems as if Stonehenge functioned as a giant calendar and observatory, one of man’s first great efforts to keep track of time.

  In the wake of this discovery lay unanswered questions. Some archeologists suggest that Stonehenge was also used to predict solar eclipses. Its social function, as opposed to its religious or calendar purposes, has yet to be fully understood. These mysteries may very well endure as long as the ponderous stone themselves. As Henry James remarked about the mysteries of Stonehenge,” you may put a hundred questions to these rough hewn giants….. But your curiosity falls dead in the vast sunny stillness that enshrouds them’.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.II

The first builders of Stonehenge were probably members of a prosperous, warlike group of people called Beaker Folk, known for their use of pottery drinking vessels. Even so, one can sympathize with the archeologists who remained incredulous that a primitive Stone Age people, lacking initially both metal tools and system of writing, could build such a complex structure. The ultimate success of the builders depended on a combination of ingenuity and sweat. Stonehenge contains some marvelous, delicate touches; the upright stones, for example, were fashioned with a central bulge (as in the column of many classical Greek temples), so that a circular perspective was preserved when viewed from below. But much of its grandeur is due to the blue stones’ sheer size- and that, of course, translates into back breaking labor.

The bluestones used in the second ring came from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some 240 miles away, transported by water with rafts and on land in wooden sleighs. (A team from the BBC demonstrated that this was possible; a group of able –bodied young men moved stones of similar size using a sleigh tied to log rollers.) The larger sarsen stones, weighing as much as 50 tons apiece, were found loose in a region 20 miles away.  They were dragged, one by one, by teams of up to 1,000 men. These stones, pounded into shape with smaller rocks, were placed into deep pits on the site, sloping to one side and later raised by using a primitive rope operated lever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.I

Centuries ago , a visitor might have attributed Stonehenge’s construction to magical powers; a typical 12th century British legend asserted it was built” not by force but by Merlin’s Art”, and the site has been associated with Druid assemblies. More recently, its design has so impressed archeologists that they have insisted it could only be the product of an advanced, colonizing population. Mycenae, a flourishing citadel culture on the Greek mainland, and Brittany, in north western France, were suggested as possibilities for this invading force, because each boasted similar, if less impressive, gigantic structures made of stone.

  So the archeological world was shocked when in the 1960s carbon dating revealed that the original building of Stonehenge occurred possibly as early as 3000 BC, centuries before the Mycenaean period. In fact the tests confirmed that Stonehenge was built in stages spanning a period of up to 1,500 years, as later immigrants renovated the original site. Stonehenge I, the earliest version, was little more than a raised bank with a ring of 56 shallow pits just inside. Stonehenge II, begun in about 2000BCand more sophisticated in its design, consisted of a double circle of huge blue stones; some time before 1500 BC, these were replaced in Stonehenge III by a 100 foot diameter ring of 30 larger sarsen sandstone monoliths. On top of some of these stones were set huge lintels, with peg and socket joints used to secure them in place, forming a vast horseshoe of triithons.