|Fig.1: I wish I could take time out of my busy
hunting-gathering lifestyle to make one of these.
But first, let's review what we're pretty sure that we're almost positive about having a smidge of a clue of what we know about Stonehenge. First of all, it's old. While many archaeologists place the arrangement of stones between 3000 and 2000 BC, nearby postholes demonstrate that initial activity in the area began around 8000 BC (those poor doughnut-less heathens)! Further holes within the stone circle suggest that some wooden structure was built in the middle of the monument, but may not have been as patient to be marveled by tourists and has long since rotted away. Secondly, there are a lot of dead things buried here. Initially it was just the bones of deer and oxen, but recently archaeologists found the cremated remains of 63 people inside one of those supposed postholes. This might suggest that Stonehenge was nothing more than a graveyard, but there are plenty of other Neolithic burial sites that don't bother to use 50-ton stones to mark the graves! Besides, c'mon, a cemetery? Borrrrrr-anggg!
Speaking of those stones, where did they come from? The closest quarry was about 25 miles north of the site! Are you telling me these people carried rocks, weighing between 8,000 and 100,000 pounds, nearly the length of a marathon without everyone getting massive hernias? Another theory argues that certain stones in the structure couldn't be found in England, and had to be transported eight times that distance from Wales (fig.2)! Man, and I feel good about myself after taking a half-mile jog with keys in my pocket as the extra weight! Yet another proposal states that our megalithic masons had a little help from a glacier. 15,000 years prior, a big hunk of ice in the Irish Sea may have transported big hunks of rocks, known as erratics, to Wiltshire, before heading off to find a Titanic to sink. This would have made the job a lot easier to gather the materials necessary to construct Stonehenge, and in retrospect makes the builders seem not as ambitious when they don't have to lug the stones from Wales. Lazy bums!
|Fig.2: And you thought moving your friend's sofa into a U-Haul was bad...
|Fig.3: Most arduous game of "Connect the Dots" ever!
Which brings us to the major question: what is the point? For this, there seem to be more theories about Stonehenge than there are stones and henges, so let's run through the major ones in bullet-point formation:
- Merlin's War Memorial: Let's start with the most plausible. 12th century sources claim that giants built the structure in Ireland, using magical stones from Africa that could not only heal people with a simple touch, but also provide exact sound used for the drum fill in Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." When a 5th century Briton king wanted to build a memorial to honor the dead in just one of their approximately 4,538 battles against the Saxons, Merlin suggested magically moving Stonehenge from Ireland to England. And that's what he did, much to the chagrin of the Irish (luckily the Irish don't harbor any ill-will against the English for anything ever).
- Ancient Hospital: Keeping with the healing motif (but less so the magical crap), many believe that people came to Stonehenge to overcome sickness and injury. Whether it was actual medical treatments or old new-age religious hoopla that took place there isn't too clear. However, the presence of those cremated bodies, as well as other interred corpses with traumatic injuries such as a blow to the head, an arrow to the chest, or a really annoying hangnail, may demonstrate that these people were transported to Stonehenge to get better. Poor schlums.
- Fancy Calendar: As stated above, the positioning of the stones seems to alert folks of the winter solstice (if the non-stop Christmas music for the previous two months didn't tip them off earlier). But the possible existence of a wooden structure within the stone circle appears to follow a pattern that corresponds to the changing of constellations visible in the night sky throughout the year. That is key for knowing the timing of the seasons, especially important during the transition from a hunting-gathering to an agricultural society. Luckily, pin-up calendars with girls in swimsuits were invented after 2000 BC, which everyone agreed were more exciting to look at than a pile of rocks.
- Religious One-Upmanship: The concept of Stonehenge really isn't that unique in the British Isles, or even Southwest England! There is evidence that similar structures existed contemporary with our favorite henge, signaling a unity in religious practices on the island. This notably includes the Thornborough Henges in Yorkshire and Woodhenge just two miles away, which were much larger in size and scale than Stonehenge. The difference is that Stonehenge was built with, well, large stones, whereas other sites used decomposing material such as dirt or wood. Thus, Stonehenge has stood up well against the test of time, an idea that the architects of the structure may have considered in order to build a henge that was bigger, better, faster, stronger. (Environmentalists are just glad they never got around to constructing a Tirehenge.)
- Everybody Get Together, Try to Love One Another: A recent theory suggests that the importance of Stonehenge lies not in its function but merely its construction. The massive amount of labor involved in putting this thing together would have needed a lot of inter-cooperation from several British clans who might have otherwise killed each other like good decent Neolithic societies. This would especially be true if the larger stones did originate from Wales, meaning this project would have brought people together over hundreds of miles! It's almost like one of those cooperate retreats where you need to work with Barry from Accounting to complete an obstacle course while tied at the ankle and without touching the ground, somehow fostering a sense of community and comradery among the employees (mostly out of hatred of the employers).
|Fig.4: Inside Stonehenge, circa 2300 BC.
Of course, none of these theories have been proven (despite the obviousness of my circus hypothesis), and Stonehenge remains a huge mystery as to its purpose in the 21st century BC here in the 21st century AD! Do you have any ideas as to why this structure exists? If so, please tell us in the comments below! You don't even need to have silly things like facts or evidence to back up your claims! Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Until then, Stonehenge looms as one of the biggest question marks in ancient history, mocking the stupidity of our civilization. I'd give it a good kick if I wasn't so sure that Merlin would place a wart-festering curse on me.