The emerged in several construction phases and around 2100 BC. Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world and a remarkable testimony to the prehistoric megalithic culture. The stone circular system with its stone pillars weighing up to 45 t as well as the stone circles in Avebury are witnesses of a time and a cult whose purpose is still unknown today. Near the Stonehenge megalithic circle are prehistoric settlements and tumuli.

Stonehenge: facts

Official title: Stonehenge, Avebury and related monuments of megalithic culture
Cultural monument: Stone setting with a low circular earth wall, largest still standing »stone pillar« 6.7 m high and 45 t heavy; the megalithic, 2.8 km long processional path and megalithic graves such as New King Barrows; in Avebury stone circles with a path lined with around 200 stones (West Kennet Avenue) to Overton Hill
Continent: Europe
Country: UK, Wiltshire
Location: Stonehenge, west of Salisbury; Avebury, west of Marlborough
Appointment: 1986
Meaning: incomparable traces from prehistoric times

Stonehenge: history

around 3100 BC Chr. first system with earth wall
around 2400 BC Chr. probably completion of the Avebury stone circle
around 2100 BC Chr. essentially the creation of today’s Stonehenge complex; made of 80 up to 4 t heavy »bluestones« from the Preseli Mountains (Wales)
around 2000 BC Chr. Renewal of the Stonehenge complex with sarsen boulders arranged in a horseshoe shape
around 1100 BC Chr. Extension of the Stonehenge processional path
since 1918 State property
1999 Stonehenge experiment, in which a 4-ton block of rock from the Preseli Mountains, almost 400 km away, was transported to Stonehenge on wooden rollers and on a self-made raft
2006 Discovery of the remains of a Neolithic village near Stonehenge, which is attributed to the builders of the complex
2010 In the course of new investigations of the Stonehenge complex, further circles, ditches and hills as well as ramparts and depressions were discovered

Primordial human gestures

According to businesscarriers, gently sloping hills stretch out in the south of England, here and there the slight curve of the horizon line is interrupted by Gothic sky-stormers or well-fortified Norman churches. And with them, Stone Age evidence like Stonehenge and Avebury vie for attention.

The huge, hard sandstone blocks, which were erected in Avebury on the inner edge of a double earth ring and set up to form a northern and southern stone circle, emanate something sacred and magical not only for Druids and New Age fans. In the 17th century, the archaeologist John Aubrey saw the elegance of a cathedral in the originally roughly hewn stones of Avebury; in Stonehenge, which for today’s observer so huge and much more famous ensemble, he saw only a parish church. And about Avebury’s »Diamond Stone«, also known as »Swindon Stone«, the legend goes that it should turn on its own axis once at midnight…

For the sober observer, on the other hand, the stones are nothing more than landmarks. One could even assume that they were created as part of a »land art project«, elements of an artificial and artistic landscape design. As huge as the “petrified deities” appear, they are lost in the vastness of the landscape, especially since their current picture is incomplete and some stone blocks are missing. The »stone arrangements« are now cut up by High Street and Green Street as well as highways, but the circle is still recognizable as the basic form of the design.

The circular basic structure can also be seen in Stonehenge in horseshoe-shaped stone settings and two concentric stone circles in the midst of lush pastureland and short-cut bowling lawn. But in contrast to Avebury, the stones here were mostly hewn and smoothed. Still impressive up close, the powerful monumentality of the »bluestones« is also lost here in the gently undulating surroundings. The “hanging stones” – named after the so-called triliths made of two pillar stones and a capstone – constantly attracted and draws admirers under their spell. While in the 1960s it was mainly the children of the so-called flower power era, more recently followers of the Celtic druid cult have come here for the solstice celebrations.

Neither here nor at other stone age monuments is the goings-on of the modern druids welcome. The growing number of visitors – more than 800,000 a year – and the associated volume of traffic give the responsible archaeologists and preservationists considerable headaches. Road demolition or an underground tunnel seem to be the only opportunities for the future. Because the A 303 and the A 344 destroy the entire ensemble, separate Stonehenge not only from “The Avenue”, a ceremonial path that leads to the “New King Barrows” barrows, but also from “The Cursus”, a ground monument that is now known as Processional way is interpreted. In the meantime, direct access to the monument is forbidden due to the huge number of visitors and out of fear of vandalism, the facility is fenced.

If one looks at the two huge stone settings of Stonehenge and Avebury, the circle – not the rectangle or the square – seems to be the original human form of “building”. After all, the circle can also be found as the basic shape of the megalithic temples on Gozo and Malta, the rotunda of Greek antiquity – the tholos with a columnar cella – the pantheon of the Roman classic and, like the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, as a classicist variant from the time of Prussian Berlin. Modernism also repeatedly takes up circular elements as part of urban architecture, such as Bruno Taut with his design for the so-called Hufeisensiedlung in Berlin-Britz.

The symbolic power of the circle is still at work today: by enclosing something sacred or simply valuable; and to this day circling is the primal human gesture to claim something for oneself. And it seems that this is how humans define their home: in the middle of the circle.