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The final phase
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The final phase

Further changes took place between 2300 and 2000 BC when once again the stones that lay in and close to the enclosure’s entrance were repositioned. It is at this time, if not earlier, as suggested by recent archaeological evidence, that the line of the entrance was extended down the sloping hillside by the twin ditches and banks of the Avenue.

This is also when the bluestones, those that had stood in the double bluestone circle (the Q and R Hole setting), with the possible addition of stones from elsewhere, were rearranged. As many as 60 of them were set up in a circle just inside and concentric with the outer sarsen circle. Inside the horseshoe of sarsen trilithons more bluestones, the tallest and most elegantly shaped pillars, were set up, initially to form an oval. At a later date, perhaps even as late as Roman times, stones were removed from the north-eastern end of the oval, leaving the inner bluestone horseshoe of today.

The final phase

Bronze daggers of the Early Bronze Age, when Stonehenge was in its final phase (now in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes).

The creation of these new bluestone settings also involved the placing of the Altar Stone at the closed end of the bluestone horseshoe, in the shadow of the Great Trilithon. This finely worked slab of greenish sandstone from south Wales is the largest of the non-sarsen stones. It may have stood as a wide pillar at the focal point of the central stone settings, or may have lain flat, as a real altar. With the exception of the Y and Z Holes, dug just outside the sarsen circle perhaps as late as 1600 BC, this was the end of construction at Stonehenge.

The final phase

A Winter Solstice gathering during the final phase of Stonehenge in about 2000 BC.

Much of this effort, over more than 1000 years, was to create a temple to the sun. Built into the structure of Stonehenge from the very beginning was one fundamental alignment. The line that runs out from the open end of the stone horseshoes, through the entrance and down the first part of the Avenue, marks the position of the rising sun at midsummer and, perhaps more importantly, of the setting sun at midwinter.

What rituals may have been carried out at these times can only be guessed at, but it is likely that only the most important people would have been allowed within the stones themselves. Here, partly hidden from those who had travelled to be part of the great occasion, they would have carried out ceremonies to ensure that the seasons changed.

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