In today’s ultra-modern world, remnants of bygone eras are increasingly rare. Don’t get it misconstrued: Petrified reminders of our ancient roots are certainly still out there — but nothing lasts forever, especially with the current pace of development. This scarcity lends itself well to those inquisitive in nature and adventurous in spirit. Traveling to the lodestones of history not only provides the usual thrill of adventure associated with the journey, but also the unique payouts of goosebumps and existential marvel upon glimpsing the destination. The best of the best of these have certainly captivated your imagination since childhood: The Great Wall of China. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The Colosseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens are all quick to mind. But none carries the weight, or the allure, of Stonehenge.
Located in modern-day Wiltshire, Stonehenge’s history has only presented itself piece by tantalizing piece in the past few centuries. Here’s just a peek.
Before the quintessential crop of stones circled the spot as we know it today, Stonehenge was a collection of pits — dug with primitive tools such as deer antlers — theoretically with large pine totem-pole-like posts in some of them. It’s hard to nail down specifics, as day one of Stonehenge was some time in the Mesolithic period, between 8500 and 7000 B.C. The earliest components of our modern Stonehenge wouldn’t arrive until 3000 B.C. when the site was encased by a huge circular ditch and accompanying bank — or henge. Even then, it would still be quite some time before a stone was stood up.
While the first stones to arrive on the scene were the 80 non-indigenous bluestones (the smaller stones composing the inner circle of Stonehenge), the sarsens themselves (the posterchild megaliths of the site) weren’t erected until approximately 2000 B.C. — about the same time as the pyramids of ancient Egypt.
Possibly more mind-boggling is the matter of sourcing the stones. The sarsens are thought to have come from Marlborough Downs a mere 20 miles away, but the bluestones seem to have originated from Preseli Hills in southwest Wales — roughly 140 miles away. For context, these “smaller” stones still weigh roughly four tons, and this was still well before wheels or pulley systems. Theories for transporting the bluestones abound: Some scientists believe rafts floated them along the Welsh coast and River Avon, others believe they were towed in sleighs with squads of oxen. Everything from logrolling to massive tracks slathered in animal fat has been proposed: Geologists have even floated the idea that ancient glaciers did most of the heavy lifting, displacing the stones with moving ice floes.
Gazing out upon this literal monument of ancient humanity, the immediate question on most people’s minds is “Why? Why was this built?” To which we reply: “Great question!”
The stones themselves came to this spot at a time of great change — metalworking, Beaker pottery and individuals being buried with grave goods were all the latest rage in a society that left no written records. As such, modern science has had to make some deductions: The site itself is aligned with the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice, and the excavations of culled animal bones has led to the belief that communal gatherings took place in the winter. The stones themselves were brought here because this was already an established spiritual spot for several millennia. Any claims beyond that start to venture into the realm of hypothesis, and the facts only get murkier the farther back you go in time.
Eager to learn more about this curious crop of stones? We’ve barely scraped the surface — from the scores of ancient graves dotting the landscape, to the “fresher” ancient Roman artifacts found about the area or Charles Darwin’s take on the local earthworms, Stonehenge is a magnetizing pillar for humanity’s history. A tour of the area is enough to awaken anyone’s inner archeologist — and our travel agents can help make it happen.
Not only can our travel agents facilitate all the logistics of travel and lodging to the United Kingdom, but also they can promise plush perks and amenities with industry-leading companies. Traversing the English countryside with CIE Tours International is the adventurous journey you hoped for, and then some. CIE offers over a dozen tours from 6 to 23 days — and custom private driver options — that visit this mystical site. Their well-versed guides add to the experience with their historical knowledge and fascinating stories of the legends that live on in the mysterious region. Your journey’s beginning is simply a click away.