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The Station Stones and South and North Barrows
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The Station Stones and South and North Barrows[As the path continues around the perimeter of the enclosure, it passes a small sarsen stone close to the inner edge of the bank. This is one of four known as the Station Stones that originally stood on roughly the same line as the Aubrey Holes. Of the four, two still survive: one upright, the other fallen, and both showing some small signs of having been shaped. The two missing stones were each surrounded by a circular ditch, creating the appearance of low mounds that became known as the North and South Barrows. Despite this name they are not burial mounds.

The Station Stones were most probably put in place at the same time that the central sarsen stones were raised, and their precise position was very carefully calculated. They mark the corners of a perfect rectangle with its central point in the exact centre of the monument. The reason for this is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the Station Stones were survey makers for the original builders.

It is important to remember that there are other elements of Stonehenge that can no longer be seen on the ground: structures of timber and arrangements of pits that have only been rediscovered by excavation. The Aubrey Holes, discovered by John Aubrey in the XVII century and excavated by Colonel William Hawley in the early 1920s, have already been mentioned. But there were two other circles of pits both of which lay closer to the central stone settings. Colonel Hawley discovered these in 1923 and they were named the Y Holes and the Z Holes. Each circle originally consisted of 30 pits, oblong and about 1 m. (3 ft) deep. They appear to have been dug late in the period of Stonehenge’s construction, almost as an afterthought, but there is no evidence that they ever held uprights of stone or timber; so their purpose is unknown.

The Station Stones and South and North Barrows

Early Bronze-Age pottery vessels discovered in barrows close to Stonehenge (now in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes).

The landscape of Stonehenge.

The path round the outside of the enclosure offers visitors a good view of the wider landscape. Stonehenge lies at the heart of an area rich in archaeology, within which are several more henges and other ceremonial sites, traces of prehistoric settlements, fields, boundaries, flint-working sites and, perhaps most obvious, burial mounds.

On every hilltop visible from Stonehenge there are low grassy mounds, some within woodland, others fenced or unfenced within fields. These are round barrows, each the burial place of someone of wealth and status in the early part of the Bronze Age, the time when the building of Stonehenge was nearing its completion. The position of these barrows is quite deliberate, many of them strung out along the crests of low ridges where they would have been most visible and most able to advertise the power of the people who lay beneath them. When first built, their mounds of chalk, dug out from a surrounding ditch, would have gleamed white against the grass.

The Station Stones and South and North Barrows

One of the massive inner sarsen trilithons, with a bluestone in the foreground.

The landscape surrounding Stonehenge contains one of the highest concentrations of Bronze Age round barrows in the country. The mounds that can be seen today have survived centuries of landscape change that saw the deliberate destruction of many barrows and the gradual erosion, through ploughing, of many more. Originally there were more than 300 round barrows within a 3-km. (2-mile) radius of Stonehenge. This was a huge attraction for antiquaries and early archaeologists in the XVIII and XIX centuries, with the result that nearly every barrow that can be seen has been at least partially excavated at some point in its history.

Many of the magnificent finds of pottery, amber, bronze and gold can be seen in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury. Much of the surrounding landscape can also be explored on foot from Stonehenge.

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