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The Sarsens (part two)

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The Sarsens (part one)

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The Sarsens (part one)
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Four thousand years ago, possibly as early as 2 300 BC, the great sarsen stones made their appearance on the site and Stonehenge began to emerge, as far before the birth of Christ as we are now after the event. The stones came from the Marlborough Downs twenty miles away. They are a type of sandstone and are also known as grey wethers. It is believed that the word “sarsen” is derived from “Saracen”. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Europe, during the Crusades, the Saracens were the strangers, the sarsen stones were the stranger stones.

The Sarsens (part one)

“The Heart of the Sanctuary”.

This stone has a high surface resistance to abrasion, on Mohs scale, which measures this, diamonds are ten, steel is 6,7 and sarsen stone is 7. The only tool that was available to dress and work the stones was sarsen stone itself. Round balls of stone, of various sizes, known as hammer stones or mauls were used, and the enormous effort of rubbing stone against stone, often only discarding dust particles, would have begun. The stones were roughly dressed at source and then dragged to the monument, probably on a form of sledge or on rollers. Archaeologists have calculated that it would have taken a thousand men seven weeks to move one stone, and fifteen hundred when they were travelling uphill. It is estimated that ten years was needed to bring more than eighty stones to the site. It should be noted that, like icebergs, there is a great deal unseen beneath the surface, and that the uprights have between four-and-a-half-feet and six feet of foundation beneath the chalk.
A circle of thirty uprights was erected, with thirty lintels making a continuous circle on the top, and in the centre five great trilithons, their size making it likely they were in place before the outer ring was built. A trilithon is two uprights with a lintel across the top, they were horseshoe or bulls horn-shaped, and opened in the direction of the sunrise. The first two were twenty feet high, the second pair twenty one feet high and the central trilithon twenty four feet high.

No one knows if the number has any significance, but one theory is that they were meant to represent the five tribes of the Wessex Chieftains who were powerful Plains dynasties with great flocks and herds. They traded in weapons and bronze tools manufactured on the continent, and into their graves they took the evidence of their wealth: pottery, weaponry, jewellery and sometimes tools. Another, that Stonehenge was sepulchral and the trilithons compared to a five chambered cairn. The theory I prefer which ties in astronomically, and also if I am honest because it is more romantic, is that they represent the five planets that can be seen with the naked eye in the night sky - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Here we are indulging in conjecture and fantasy for as the twenty first century approaches, the Stonehenge people recede ever further from our understanding.

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