Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England (2550-1600 BCE)

Stonehenge is the most famous of all megalithic monuments. A henge is an arrangement of megaliths in a circle. Henges are found almost exclusively in Britain.

This one, located in Salisbury Plain, England, is composed of two concentric circles surrounding a horseshoe formation of even more massive stones. The larger circle was built with sarsen stones, a form of sandstone, while the interior circle was built with smaller bluestones, various volcanic rocks. The horseshoe of trilithons, three-stone constructions, opens east. It is built with post-and-lintel construction and the stones used are the largest of the entire structure, each weighing from 45 to 50 tons! Like the elaborate temple in Hagar Qim (mentioned above), Stonehenge also makes use of post-and-lintel constructions. Post-and-lintel constructions can be seen in the large, outer circle and can most easily be found in the heavy, attention-grabbing trilithon formations of the horseshoe.

What I find most impressive, though, is the accuracy of this massive work of architecture. If one stands at the “heel stone” which is located outside and east of the rings, that person would mark the point where the sun rises during summer solstice. For this reason, scholars believe that Stonehenge most likely functioned as an astronomical observatory and an incredibly precise solar calendar for the Europeans who built it.

I am so amazed and in awe of how humans were able to achieve such feats, especially at such an early time in history. In the words of Fred S. Kleiner, the author of Gardner’s Art Through h the Ages, the megalithic tombs, temples, and henges of Europe are enduring testaments to the rapidly developing intellectual powers of Neolithic humans as well as to their capacity for heroic physical effort. I couldn’t agree more.

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