Location: On Salisbury Plain in southwest England stands an ancient circle of standing stones known as Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world.
Built between 3,000 and 1,500 B.C., the circle measures 30 m across and is made with massive blocks of stone up to 4 meters high.
The stones found at Stonehenge were probably dragged to the site from quarries 32 km away. Holes were den dug for them and they were heaved into a standing prosition by teams of men, using primitive levers.
It is still a mystery why Stonehenge was built. Some people think it may have been used as the setting for pagan religious ceremonies. Others think they stones may have helped ancient man to follow the movements of the stars.
Stonehenge was desecrated sometime between 55 BC and AD 410 by the Romans, who tore down a number of the upright stones. In addition, two uprights and a lintel west of the Altar Stone fell in January 1797, and two other stones, an upright and its lintel, fell in 1900. In 1958 these five stones were raised, giving the monument the approximate appearance it had during the Roman occupation. On some of the fallen stones shallow carvings were found (1953) depicting bronze axheads of a type used in Britain between 1600 and 1400 BC and a hilted dagger of a type used in Mycenae, Greece, between 1600 and 1500 BC.
The outer bank, the ditch, and the Aubrey holes encircling the main construction date probably from the late Stone Age or early Bronze Age (circa 2000 BC). The main structure is dated between the early Bronze Age and the end of the Iron Age. The sarsen stones are dated from the carvings at about 1500 BC.
Parts of Stonehenge were built by a people who had widespread European trade connections and who established their principal settlements in the area between 1600 and 1300 BC. Although Stonehenge is related basically to the circular stone or wooden temples that were constructed in Britain during the Bronze Age, it is structurally unique among European prehistoric monuments.
In 1964, the American astronomer Gerald S. Hawkins reported findings obtained by supplying a computer with measurements taken at Stonehenge together with astronomical information based on celestial positions in 1500 BC when Stonehenge was in use. According to Hawkins the Stonehenge complex could have been used to predict the summer and winter solstices, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and eclipses of both the sun and moon. Moreover, a variety of other information pertaining to the sun and moon could also be predicted with remarkable accuracy. Hawkins concluded that Stonehenge functioned as a means of predicting the positions of the sun and moon relative to the earth, and thereby the seasons, and perhaps also as a simple daily calendar.