Tag Archives: standing stone

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Located in Wiltshire, England, it consists of a ring of standing stones within a variety of earthworks.  Stonehenge is found within one of the most dense collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, which includes the nearby site of Avebury.

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Stonehenge is thought to have been constructed over several stages between 3,000 to 2,000 BCE, however the site has been found to contain much older archeological evidence.  Initial Mesolithic post holes have been found and dated to around 8,000 BCE.

The first stage of construction at Stonehenge began around 3,100 BCE, consisting of banks, ditches and a circle of pits known as the Aubrey holes.  Cremated remains were found with these pits and experts suggest they are associated with some sort of religious ceremony.  Analysis of teeth found near the nearby Durrington Walls suggests that as many as 4,000 people had gathered at the site.

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The second stage of construction at Stonehenge occurred around 3,000 BCE and consisted of earthworks and timber postholes.  Additional cremated remains have been dated to this time, suggesting that Stonehenge was one of the earliest cremation cemeteries in the British Isles.

The next stage of construction began around 2,600 BCE, marking the transition from timber to stone. It is during this time that about 80 bluestones were erected to form a double circle.  The origins of the dolerite bluestones is thought to be from southwest Wales, however a glacial origin of the stones has also been postulated.  The northeastern entrance of Stonehenge was also widened and more precisely aligned with the mid-summer sunrise and mid-winter sunset.

From about 2,600 to 2,400 BCE, several sarsen stones were erected to form an outer ring and hanging lintels.  The final configuration was completed between 2,280 to 1,600 BCE, where the stones were rearranged to form the horseshoe and circle shape seen at Stonehenge today.

Major restoration began on the site in 1901, including straightening and moving several large standing stones.  In 1928, Stonehenge was purchased and given to the National Trust in order to preserve the monument and its surrounding land.  Archaeological excavations have also occurred over time, leading to new discoveries and further reconfiguration of the site.

Since Stonehenge was constructed during a time when little written records were kept, not much is known about its original purpose and usage.  Early writers speculated that Stonehenge was built and used by the ancient Druids as part of their ritual practices, however it has since been found that the site is much older.  Many theories have been suggested, such as Stonehenge being a place of healing, ancestor worship, or funerary monument.   However the site is still associated with much myth and legend.  Neopagans flock to the site in celebration, particularly at the solstices and equinoxes.  It is a place of beauty, magic and mystery.

Wiki – Stonehenge
PaganWiccan.About.com – Stonehenge

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Standing With Stones

Standing With Stones: A Journey Through Megalithic Britain
(DVD, 2008)

I watched a very interesting movie on the ‘standing stones’ of Britain, the megaliths, henges, stone circles, cairns and other neolithic structures built thousands of years ago across the British Isles.  Everybody knows about Stonehenge and Newgrange, but what about the other ones?  How many different megalithic sites are there?  What are their significance?

Types of Megalithic Sites (wiki)

Standing Stones – (aka megaliths) solitary stones set vertically in the ground
Stone Circle – a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle
Stone Row – (aka stone alignment) a linear arrangement of upright, parallel standing stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes
Dolmen – (aka portal tomb, portal grave, or quoit) a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table).  Usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow.
Cromlech (Welsh) – usually refers to dolmens, however it is widely used in French and Spanish to describe stone circles
Cairn – a man-made pile (or stack) of stones, often erected as landmarks
Barrow – (aka tumulus, burial mound, kurgan) a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves.  A cairn might also be originally a tumulus.
Henge – features a ring bank and internal ditch surrounding a central flat area.  May contain ritual structures such as stone circles, timber circles and coves.
Cist – a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead, perhaps under a cairn or long barrow
Cursus – (Latin for “course”) large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches, thought to be early Roman athletic courses

We journey through the UK and Ireland, staring in Southern England, making our way through Wales, Ireland, Northern England, Scotland, and the remote northern Scottish Isles.  One thing is abundantly clear – nobody really knows why these megalithic structures were built and what their exact purposes were.  Theories abound, however these ancient structures are still shrouded in mystery.

Here is a list of sites discussed in the DVD:

Western England
Ballowall Barrow
Mên-an-Tol
Rocky Valley
Nine Stones (Dartmoor)
Yellowmead

Southern England
Knowlton Henge
Chestnuts Long Barrow (Medway Megaliths)
London Stone
Wiltshire
Stanton Drew The second largest stone circle in Britain
Barrows
Rollright Stones
Stonehenge (Winterbourne Stoke, Barrows, North Kith, Cursus, Normanton Down Barrows, Darlington Walls, Woodhenge, West Kenet, Long Barrow, Silbury Hill)
Avebury – The largest stone circle in Britain
Goldrum
Priddy Nine Barrows
Stoney Littleton
Wayland’s Smithy
Belas Knap
Also: Uffington White Horse, Long Man of Wilmingdon

Wales
Gors Fawr
Ysbyty Cynfyn
Bryn Celi Ddu
Druid’s Circle (Anglesey)
Barclodiad-y-Gawres
Pont-y-Pridd
Rocking Stone
Tinkins Wood
Cerrig Duon / Maen Mawr
Pentre Ifan
Llech-y-Tripedd
Moel-y-Uchaf

Ireland
Castleruddery
Carrowmore
Maeve’s Cairn
Shronebirrane
Poulnabrone
Beaghmore
Browne’s Hill Dolmen
Creevykeel
Labbacallee
Urach
Ardgroom
Newgrange / Knowth / Dowth (Brú na Bóinne)

Northern England
Arbor Low
Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor
Bleasdale Circle
Rudston Monolith, Cursus
Long Meg and her Daughters
Formby Point
The Chasms
Mull Circle
Devil’s Elbow
Cashtal yn Ard
Castlerigg
King Orry’s Grave
Cursus
Langdale Axe Quarry
Druid’s Circle
Sunkenkirk

Scotland
Clava Cairns
Twelve Apostles
Cairnholy
Glenquicken
Cairnbaan
Achnabreck
Kilmartin Glen
Leys of Marlee
The Recumbents

Scottish Isles
Callanish (Calanais)
Maeshowe
Ring of Brodgar, Stenness – The third largest stone circle in Britain.
Grey Cairns of Camster
Skara Brae
Tomb of Eagles

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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