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Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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The site
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The site

Stonehenge sits within a triangle of land bordered on two sides by busy roads. To the south is the A303, the main route from London to the South West. To the north lies the A304, which runs right past Stonehenge and cuts the main temple off from its landscape setting. This situation is not ideal, and there are plans for great improvements. The current approach to the stones is through a tunnel under the A344. From here, visitors follow a route that circles around the monument. The path crosses the outer ditch and bank, and loops towards the central stones before recrossing the bank and ditch and completing the circuit. This allows visitors to view all parts of the site surviving above ground.

The most visible elements of Stonehenge are the stones themselves. Some are small, unshaped or broken, but many are massive, finely worked and intact. The central cluster has a jumbled appearance, but its stones were once arranged in a series of circular and horseshoe-shaped structures. Other stones, sitting in isolation near the inner edge of the bank, and in the entrance to the earthwork enclosure, had companions that had now vanished.

The site

Stonehenge in its present-day setting between two busy roads.


The earthworks, enclosing Stonehenge have also changed. The ditches were dug from the chalk that underlies the site and the banks formed from the excavated material. When first dug they would have been gleaming white, but now, with the ditches largely filled in and the banks slumped and eroded, they are simply soft shapes in the grass. Other structures, revealed only briefly during excavations, are once again hidden from view.

Under the grass Stonehenge is dotted with hundreds of small holes, many of which once held an upright timber post. A circle of larger pits known as the Aubrey Holes, which originally held upright timbers or small stones, lies close to the inner edge of the bank. The positions of those that have been excavated are marked by pale concrete spots in the grass and on the path. Surrounding the central stones are two circles of smaller pits, known as the Y Holes and the Z Holes.
Together these structures of earth and stone, and the faint traces of timber, go to make up the ancient monument that we know as Stonehenge.


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