The Stonehenge Story

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The Sarsens (part two)
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When the sarsen stones arrived, pits were dug in the chalk with the antlers of red deer. Radio carbon dating only works on living matter, and the fragments of red deer antler found in the pits have been used to establish the time scale. The earth was carried away in the shoulder blades of cattle, and about two hundred men with the use of rollers, ramps, levers and ropes would have been needed as the stones were hauled upright until the centre of gravity tipped the uprights into place. The bases were then packed earth and discarded mauls; the sarsen stones allowed to settle and possibly left with a certain amount of movement to aid the workers align the stones more easily when the lintels were being placed in position.

The Sarsens (part two)

The largest stone – part of the great trilithon.

The lintels, which weighed up to seven tonnes, were raised in one of several different ways. The first possibility is that blocks of wood were placed at either end of the lintel as far up as could be reached. Then a timber platform was built, the blocks were raised again and the scaffolding built up again in stages until the top was reached.
A second theory is that ramps were built and the stones pulled up them. If this is the case the ramps were of timber and not of earth - the plain was much more heavily timbered four thousand years ago and wood was readily available and far more portable than earth. The archaeologists tell us there is no evidence of any excavation at this time. (A third possibility was put to me by an American tourist who said I had it all wrong and that the lintels were put in place by levitation!)
But still the job wasn't finished, because on the top of each sarsen stone is a tenon – at least two of the uprights show these clearly. All the sarsen stones had mortise and tenon joints; added to that the outer circle of lintels also had tongue and groove joints. Imagine the effort it took to rub away until all that was left was a small lump of stone. So we have carpentry joints in stone; the first henges were of wood and they did not survive, but this one, the great henge, remains one of the wonders of the world.

All of the stones were shaped and smoothed, tapering in at the top, the lintels delicately curved. The best and smoothest faces of the stones are towards the inside – this was a place that was meant to be viewed from the centre. When the monument was complete it looked perfectly symmetrical, which is why, when it was first discovered, it was thought to have been a temple built by the Romans when they occupied Britain for four centuries within forty-three years of the birth of Christ. When it was realized that it was ancient when the Romans arrived, John Aubrey, out of his burning desire to find an answer to its purpose, wrongly concluded it was built as a Druid temple. This has caused the archaeologists problems for three hundred years, so entrenched in the public mind has this become.

The Druids did not come into existence until a thousand years after the monument was complete; they did not build it and it is unlikely that they ever worshipped there, preferring to perform their rituals in groves of trees, near running water.

In the ditch between the stone circle and the Heel Stone is the totally misnamed slaughter stone. Because it was found laying with iron ore stains visible it was thought to be a bloodstained, Druid, sacrificial stone and given its evocative name. It was in fact one of a pair or even three stones, the ceremonial entrance way leading into the circle. The remaining stone is the largest of the Trilthons, with its great tenon, weighs fifty tonnes and has foundations eight feet deep. In 1220 medieval craftsmen built Salisbury Cathedral on foundations of only four feet, beneath which is shingly shale. The spire and the tower weigh 6 400 tonnes. Here in prehistory a 32 feet sarsen stone was erected and the quarter of its length hidden beneath the chalk.

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