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Stonehenge
Ten facts about Stonehenge
It is possibly the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. But how much do you know about Stonehenge? Here are ten important facts...

A visitor at Stonehenge (General Photographic Agency/Getty)
• Built in several stages, Stonehenge began about 5,000 years ago as a simple earthwork enclosure where prehistoric people buried their cremated dead. The stone circle was erected in the centre of the monument in the late Neolithic period, around 2500 BC

• Two types of stone are used at Stonehenge: the larger sarsens, and the smaller bluestones. There are 83 stones in total

• There were originally only two entrances to the enclosure, English Heritage explains – a wide one to the north east and a smaller one on the southern side. Today there are many more gaps – this is mainly the result of later tracks that once crossed the monument

• A circle of 56 pits, known as the Aubrey Holes (named after John Aubrey, who identified them in 1666), sits inside the enclosure. Its purpose remains unknown, but some believe the pits once held stones or posts

• The stone settings at Stonehenge were built at a time of “great change in prehistory,” says English Heritage, “just as new styles of ‘Beaker’ pottery and the knowledge of metalworking, together with a transition to the burial of individuals with grave goods, were arriving from Europe. From about 2400 BC, well furnished Beaker graves such as that of the Amesbury Arche are found nearby.”

• Roman pottery, stone, metal items and coins have been found during various excavations at Stonehenge. An English Heritage report in 2010 said that considerably fewer medieval artefacts have been discovered, which suggests the site was used more sporadically during the period

• Stonehenge has a long relationship with astronomers, the report explains. In 1720, Dr Halley used magnetic deviation and the position of the rising sun to estimate the age of Stonehenge. He concluded the date was 460 BC. And, in 1771, John Smith mused that the estimated total of 30 sarsen stones multiplied by 12 astrological signs equalled 360 days of the year while the inner circle represented the lunar month

• The first mention of Stonehenge – or ‘Stanenges’ – appears in the archaeological study of Henry of Huntingdon in about AD 1130, and that of Geoffrey of Monmouth six years later. In 1200 and 1250 it appeared as ‘Stanhenge’ and ‘Stonhenge’; as ‘Stonheng’ in 1297, and ‘the stone shingles’ in 1470. It became known as ‘Stonehenge’ in 1610, says English Heritage

• In the 1880s, after carrying out some of the first scientifically recorded excavations at the site, Charles Darwin concluded that earthworms were large to blame for the Stonehenge stones sinking through the soil

• By the beginning of the 20th century there had been more than 10 recorded excavations, and the site was considered to be in a “sorry state”, says English Heritage – several sarsens were leaning. Consequently, the Society of Antiquaries lobbied the site’s owner, Sir Edmond Antrobus, and offered to assist with conservation

8500-7000 BC
EARLY POSTHOLES
Mesolithic posts are raised to the north-west of the Stonehenge site.

3500 BC
FIRST MONUMENTS
Early farmers build the causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood's Ball, two courses monuments (rectangular earthworks) and several long barrows in the landscape north of Stonehenge.

3000 BC
EARLY HENGE
The first Stonehenge is built, an earthwork enclosure about 100 metres across enclosed by a circular ditch and two banks.
FIRST RAISED STONES
Stones are raised in the centre of the enclosure using larger sarsens in two concentric arrangements, and smaller 'bluestones' in a double arc between them.
2300 BC
INDIVIDUAL GRAVES
Well-furnished individual Beaker graves are dug near the Stonehenge site, including that of the Amesbury Archer.

2300-2200 BC
ALTERED STONES
The central bluestones are rearranged to form a circle and inner oval. The earthwork Avenue connects Stonehenge with the River Avon.

The Avenue, approaching Stonehenge
1800-1600 BC
PLANS TO REARRANGE
Two rings of pits are dug around the stone settings, perhaps for a rearrangement of the stones that was never completed.

1750-1500 BC
BRONZE AGE CARVINGS
Four of the sarsens are adorned with over 100 carvings of axeheads and a few daggers, perhaps symbols of power or status.

700 BC
IRON AGE HILLFORT
A major hillfort, Vespasian's Camp, is built about one mile east of Stonehenge, near the river Avon.

AD 43-EARLY 5TH CENTURY
ROMAN ACTIVITY
Many Roman objects are left at Stonehenge, suggesting the site may be a place of ritual importance to Romano-British people.
1897
TRAINING GROUND
The Ministry of Defence buys a vast area of Salisbury Plain for army training exercises.
1901
RESTORATION
Landowner Sir Edmund Antrobus organises the re-erection of the leaning tallest trilithon.
1915-1918
GIVEN TO THE NATION
Local landowner Cecil Chubb buys Stonehenge from the Antrobus family and gives it to the nation.
1964
RESTORATION COMPLETE
The last stones are consolidated.