Find Out Why Stonehenge Was Built

by | March 19, 2022, 16:48 IST

t Stonehenge main by John Nail of Pexels

Image: John Nail/Pexels

Researchers from Bournemouth University in England believe they have finally worked out the purpose of Stonehenge 

There have been theories about why Stonehenge was built, some of them credible, others not really. But, now, researchers from Bournemouth have worked out why this prehistoric monument was built.

Stonehenge can be found on Salisbury Plain in England. It consists of a dramatic ring of vertical sarsen standing stones (“the sarsen circle”) topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. Each of the impressive standing stones rises 13 feet high, is seven feet wide and weighs a whopping 25,000 kilograms. It is on many travellers’ bucket lists to see, and, indeed, to see the stones in the fog or in bright sunlight is an unforgettable sight, made more memorable by the fact that we were never really sure what Stonehenge was all about. 

Now, researchers from Bournemouth University believe that they know why Stonehenge was built: It is a calendar.

The idea is not totally new. For a long time, it was thought that the circle of stones helped mark the seasons especially for ceremonial purposes  but the new study from Bournemouth proposes that Stonehenge marks a much more specific timeline. In a statement, Professor Darvill, from Bournemouth University, said,  “The clear solstitial alignment of Stonehenge has prompted people to suggest that the site included some kind of calendar since the antiquarian William Stukeley… Now, discoveries brought the issue into sharper focus and indicate the site was a calendar based on a tropical solar year of 365.25 days.” He added, “Finding a solar calendar represented in the architecture of Stonehenge opens up a whole new way of seeing the monument as a place for the living, a place where the timing of ceremonies and festivals was connected to the very fabric of the universe and celestial movements in the heavens.”

According to this theory, the arrangement of stones would have let the people of the area know what day it was in a calendar set by the sun. And, with a year of 365.25 days, that solar calendar year was not very different from our current calendar.

i Stonehenge by Jan Zidlický of Pexels

Image:  Jan Zidlický/Pexels

The stones would have been a physical representation of the time passed. 

As per the Bournemouth University study, the 30 stones in the sarsen circle each represent a day in a month, which had three weeks of 10 days each. Our forefathers in the region also had a way to account for the fraction of a day each year (think of our own leap year);  every four years, they had a short month – only five days long. These extra days were called intercalary days. 

The study also believes that the five trilithons (two upright stones with a stone balanced on top) in the centre of the prehistoric monument were dedicated to deities.  

Every year, the winter and summer solstices land on the same pair of stones. This makes for a dramatic sight today, but it would have served an additional purpose back then - to confirm the record keeping of days. 

A similar date-keeping method was followed by civilisations in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean, although it is unclear whether the Stonehenge was created by the local people themselves, or influenced by the thoughts of travellers from other parts of the world.


Also see: Think Stonehenge Is Old? Arthur’s Stone Is A Millennium Older!
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