Chapter 2 Journal Activity
When? By Whom? How and Why?
When? By Whom? How and Why? To what extent are you convinced by proposed solutions.
The ‘when’ and ‘by whom’ of Stonehenge are probable the simplest of those questions to tackle as we can rely on concrete date for the answers. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ are more conjecture-based and, below, I will outline the solutions I see as most likely.
Firstly, when? Wooden posts, comprising the first structure on the Stonehenge site, were erected between 8,820-6,590bce. This is the earliest dated construction, however, the main building efforts took place between 3,100-2,000 bce.
By whom? The builders were Neolithic people. Studies of the animals bones found at Durrington Walls showed it housed families who had travelled from all corners of Britain. If this truly was a ‘worker’s camp’ for the builders of Stonehenge, as suggested, it would seem the construction effort was an island-wide endeavour. The Amesbury Archer burial, which contained the remains of a man from the Alpine region of Europe, revealed the extent to which the communication of persons was possible at the time. It is probable, therefore, that others from mainland Europe may have been in the vicinity and involved in the raising of Stonehenge also.
Why? The only theory as to why Stonehenge was built that has archaeological evidence to back it up is that it was used as a burial ground. The earliest human remains found there were dated from 500 years before the stones were erected. This would suggest that perhaps the original purpose for the site was as a cemetery. In fact, Stonehenge may not have had a single use. The purpose its original builders created it for may have evolved or changed completed over it’s millennium of active use. The many rearrangements of the stones inside the henge may indeed be signs of the site being repurposed.
The existence of the adjoining avenue, plus the alignment of the stones with the winter solstice, may imply that the site had a ceremonial use, perhaps used to mark religious, political or communal rites.
Finally, to ‘how’. The earthworks were completed using antler picks and wooden shovels. The transportation of the stones proves to be trickier to explain. In truth, I am not thoroughly convinced by any of the solutions put forward in this course.
The landscape surrounding Stonehenge doesn’t contain the large erratics that would be expected if the glacial erratic theory were to be true. Transporting large stones by track and ball bearing, or by sled doesn’t take into account that there is a marsh, the Vale of Pusey, which must be transverse to bring the sarsens from the Scarborough Plain to Stonehenge. There is no evidence that the Neolithic people of Britain had sea-worthy vessels that would bear the weight of even the smaller bluestones, so it’s unlikely, based on our current knowledge, they were moved by water. It’s possible that the method used has yet to be discovered. I was intrigued by the piece on Wally Wallington, showing that very large stones, indeed whole structures could be moved by the efficient use of counter weights, pivots and a single person. He claims by this method a lone person could move a one-ton block 300 feet per hour. While, again, this method does not take the Vale of Pusey into account and seems to be only possible upon the solid surface of dry earth or concrete and, therefore, it would be unlikely to be successful in the British climate. It does, however, demonstration that there are simple methods of transporting heavy stones that do not require a mass of manpower and materials. I believe that, given the lack of material such as rope and the distance that needed to be covered, a method such as this would be the most plausible option.