After a delicious pub lunch we headed for Stonehenge with the The Stonehenge Tour Company. I didn't know what to expect. I had read about it for years, seen various television shows about it and always found it mysterious but you really can't comprehend the magnitude of it all until you're right there.

Stonehenge is one of Britain's greatest icons, symbolizing mystery, power and endurance. Its original purpose is unclear, but some people believe that it was a temple made for the worship of ancient earth. It has been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. Others claim that it was a sacred site for the burial of high-ranking citizens of long ago. While its real purpose is unknown, only something very important to the people of the past would have been worth the effort and investment that it took to construct Stonehenge. We walked around the stones with a mobile phone like device that allowed you to stop at numbered markers and the speaker would then explain what you were looking at. I took care where to walk as there were people on the path around the stones meditating...

The stones we see today represent Stonehenge in ruin. Many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by previous generations for home construction or road repair. There has been serious damage to some of the smaller stones due to visitors stupidly engraving their initials on them or chipping pieces off them as a souvenir. So since 1978 you're no longer allowed to be up close to the stones. The prehistoric carvings on the larger sarsen stones show signs of significant wear. The stones used in that first circle are believed to be from the Prescelly Mountains, about 240 miles away, in Wales. The bluestones weigh up to 4 tons each and about 80 stones were used, in all. Modern theories speculate that the stones were dragged by roller and sledge from the inland mountains to the headwaters of Milford Haven. There they were loaded onto rafts, barges or boats and sailed along the south coast of Wales, then up the Rivers Avon and Frome to a point near present-day Frome in Somerset. From this point, the stones were hauled overland, again, to a place near Warminster in Wiltshire, approximately 6 miles away. From there, it's back into the pool for a float down the River Wylye to Salisbury, then up the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury, leaving only a short 2 mile drag from West Amesbury to the Stonehenge site. They must have REALLY wanted to build this...

Who built Stonehenge? Who knows? The most enduring theory is, the Druids. Which is a mistake. Julius Caesar and other Roman writers told of a Celtic priesthood who flourished around the time of their first conquest (55 BC). By this time, the stones had been standing for 2,000 years, and were, perhaps, already in a ruined condition. Besides, the Druids worshipped in forest temples and had no need for stone structures.
The best guess seems to be that the Stonehenge site was begun by the people of the late Neolithic period (around 3000 BC) and carried forward by people from a new economy which was arising at this time. These "new" people, called Beaker Folk because of their use of pottery, began to use metal implements and to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors.

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Sarum & Salisbury

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