Exemplar 4: The Theories of the Stonehenge

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The Stonehenge

    Many human beings declare that the Stonehenge is a mysterious landmark of man kind and have no idea how or why the stones were placed where they are today. It is very strange to think that the stones were placed in the great Salisbury plain but at a point in time, they had to come from a rock formation, such as Prescelly Mountains. On my web page I will be explaining multiple theories based off scientists, myths and in depth research on the puzzling landmark; the Stonehenge.

What are the different theories that explain the Stonehenge?

Thesis: The Stonehenge is defined by the many different theories of how it was built, how the stones were transported and who built the famous structure.
Background Information:
    Did you know that the Stonehenge got its name due to where it was built? The landmark was built in a human made ditch, also know as a henge, with the resources of stones. Therefore, the name Stonehenge was born. Today, the Stonehenge still stands in England. This odd landmark is an obvious example of impressive engineering skills involving time and labor. The two main types of rocks that are found in the Stonehenge are the Sarsen stones and the Bluestones. Compared to the Bluestones, the Sarsen stones are much taller and heavier. These stones particularly form the inner, first circle of rocks while multiple circles of the Bluestones surround the Sarsen stones. On the other hand, the Bluestones weigh much less at 4 tons and are clearly shorter than the Sarsen stones by a good couple of feet. However, many of the stones today have fallen or have been removed due to structural damage; specifically the Bluestones. Due to the hazards of the Stonehenge's overall condition, tourist contact has become more restricted and limited.

If you want to see how the Stonehenge rocks are set up, take a look at these two websites:

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If you want to get a further look into the period of time in which the Stonehenge was built, Neolithic Period, take a look at this website: http://www.ancient.eu.com/Neolithic_Period/

How the Stonehenge was built
    First and foremost, the process of building the Stonehenge was exceptionally long. According to prehistorian and archaeologist, Julian Richards, it took almost three years to fully complete the landmark. Although most professionals and scientists are unsure of how the Stonehenge was built, there are multiple rather accurate theories that have come up today. In order for the stones to stand upright and in a precise arrangement, the builders had to level off the ground and anticipate where they were to place the stones. To figure out the circumference or how big the circle portions were going to be, the architects used a sturdy stick, which was connected to a rope attached with an antler at the end. Furthermore, they placed the stick, in what they believed to be the center of the circle, using it like a compass. By doing so, they etched the outlines of the proximity of where the stones would be placed. Sadly, today there is no evidence of this method; not even markings on the ground. Therefore, it is one of the many theories on how the Stonehenge was built. Another step or assumption in building the landmark was digging the ditches. Of course, back then they did not have shovels or the tools that we have today. Thus, they had to use what was around them, such as deer antlers, ox-shoulders or specific shaped rocks. These builders had to construct the henge or the ditch, for the stones and oddly enough, little tombs or Aubrey Holes for cremated people. After the ditch was erected, the builders moved onto assembling the Bluestones circles. Although the first circle was completed, the second Bluestones circle was never finished. The Bluestones were hard to construct with, but the Sarsen stones were clearly more strenuous to build with. Due to the size and weight of the Sarsen stones, the architects had to make sure the land was level, or in some cases, make sure the top of the stone was even to build on. Therefore, they had to incorporate load-bearing building components and extra supports. When the stones were placed on top of each other, lintels or load-bearing supports were included. This architectural component helped in evening out the mass of the top stone so it did not overbear or unbalance the bottom trilithons. Trilithons are the two bottom, vertical supporting stones that hold up the third stone that is balanced on top of them. (For a further explanation of Trilithons and Lintels, refer to picture below on the left). An interesting theory, in addition to supports, is carving little pegs on top of the trilithons. With these small pegs on top, the third rock and lintel, which would have a small indent or hole, to have the ability to snap into place. Scientists have found that this theory is true, due to evidence from some of the fallen trilithon rocks having pegs. Relating to this theory, researchers have come up with the method that the rocks were correctly clipped into place by using a ramp and ropes. In order to pull the stone, it took a couple hundred men; shown in the lower right picture. Overall, the Stonehenge has many theories on how it was built.
Click on picture                                                       to see an animation

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How the Stones were Transported
    Secondly, the Stonehenge is defined greatly by how the stones were transported. In spite of the many contradicting theories that scientists have argued over, there was one reoccurring method that I found. Using timber or logs to roll the rocks over the land. For some reason, this way of transportation seemed the most reasonable and sufficient to the builders, since it is found on half of the websites. Also, since the wheel had not yet been invented, the plan involving the logs came that much more to good use. With the help of an estimated amount of 500 people, the architects worked at transferring the rollers in front of the stone or clearing any debris that stood in the path. However, the historical website by the Bradford Foundation speculates against the method of the rollers. They claim that the stones would be too heavy for the wood pieces and, in fact, crush the rollers. Furthermore, the foundation had a positive theory of their own. They believed that the stones were moved across the land by well built sleighs: a sledge attached to two greasy pieces of wood that was pulled by a rope. (As seen in the picture below to the left).
Even though this theory seems more strenuous than the first method, it does have a higher advantage in all seasons. Obviously the spring, summer, and fall would be the most grueling time to transport the stones. But if you get some snow or ice, perhaps it will assist with the hauling of the stones. According to multiple researchers, this theory would have been the most systematic way of moving the stones. The snow or ice would help reduce the mass and promote a smoother, easier process of transportation. Since the stones would move with ease, the amount of people that it took to move one stone could be reduced. However, when it came to moving the stones across water bodies, the builders couldn't just use sleighs or rollers. Their first proposition to hauling the rocks across the rivers and lakes, was to use strong rafts, specifically for the Bluestones. Since they were much lighter than the Sarsen stones, the Bluestones were much more simple to transport. During this process, the builders had to use long stakes as paddles to guide the raft in the correct direction. Contrasting, the Sarsen stones did not necessarily have the option of rafts. Due to their size and weight of 50 tons, the Sarsen stones could not be transported across the river. Additionally, a final way in which the stones were transported, was by wicker basket-like cages. The founder of the theory, Garry Lavin, believed that the wicker baskets served both a purpose on land and in the water. Lavin claimed that on land, the stones were put in the wicker baskets and pulled by the builders with the help of oxen. In water, Lavin declared that the wicker baskets could also float. Overall, there are many theories explaining how the stones were transported.

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Who Built the Famous Structure
    Finally, the Stonehenge is obviously elucidated by who built the famous structure. One prominent magician believed to be the founder, was Merlin. Many people trusted that he was the reason to this mysterious rock formation since humans couldn't possibly have built it. It is said that a king had sent for Merlin because he wanted to make a memorial site for his slayed princes. He particularly asked Merlin to get the rocks for him from Ireland, because he had no clue how to move them all the way to England. However, the stones that the king sot out for, were already in a Stonehenge formation, also know as the Dance of the Giants. Merlin said that giants had set up the stones, and therefore the circle of stones was known as the Dance of the Giants in honor of their hard work. Meanwhile, the king found this story ridiculous and decided to go to Ireland himself with his troops to extract the stones. When the king got to Ireland, he was not expecting the Irish army to be ready. So in the process, a mini war occurred, which the king won. Here, the king attempted at moving the stones but failed. Pityingly, Merlin used his magic to move the stones onto the king's ships and from there on, declared the king's men to finish the rest. Overall, people were led to believe that Merlin's magical trait was what built the Stonehenge. Another theory, which is probably the most accurate is having the Romans build the structure. Many architects, such as Indigo Jones, realized that the Stonehenge portrayed similar angles and positions like roman theaters. For example, the equilateral triangles, units of measurement, building's proportional in size and shape, were all found in both of the distinguishing, historical erections. Between the two lower pictures, it is clear that the two constructions share the roman method of equilateral triangles.
Stonehenge Roman Theater 
However, Jones' theory was shot down after researchers claimed the Romans were too "sophisticated" and focused too much on clean lines, to build the Stonehenge. Instead, they suspected that a lower level human being built the structure. Hence, nobody truly has discovered the secrets of the Stonehenge or who has built this odd erection.

If you want to find out more about the Roman Theater's architecture, take a look at this website: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tham/hd_tham.htm

Why is the Stonehenge Important
    Not only has the Stonehenge given us a further in depth look at architecture during the Stone Age but it has also defended many different theories. Without this famous landmark, our researchers and scientists would not have the correct knowledge to approach other inexplicable, historical structures. The Stonehenge is one of the reasons why we have been able to uncover the secrets of alternative constructions. Therefore, due to all the theories and architecture that the Stonehenge has given us, it has become very important.

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