This post is part of a series of “Ask Google? Ask Fairlie!” posts. Today I ask Google about Stonehenge in the England. I type the start of a question into Google and based on the Google auto-completion suggestions, I find out what most people are wanting to know. Then I answer those questions myself. Who needs Google when you can ask Fairlie?
Is Stonehenge a henge?
Well that’s an interesting question. And not one I’ve ever thought to ask before. It must be. It’s called StoneHENGE after all. But I checked out what the good folks at QI: Quite Interesting had to offer on this topic, and they say, in fact, Stonehenge is not a henge.
A ‘henge’ is defined, archaelogically speaking, as a roughly circular or oval-shaped flat area enclosed by boundary earthwork consisting of a ditch on the inside and a bank on the outside. Stonehenge however, is the other way around: ditch on the outside, and bank closest to the centre.
If you’re a pedant and definitely want to see a henge, not a Stonehenge, the nearest one is Avebury which is about 30 kilometres north of Stonehenge.
Is Stonehenge natural?
What an odd question to be Googling! Do some of us actually think Stonehenge just sprang anew in all its circular, stone-balancing, chiselled glory from the landscape?
A definition of ‘natural’ in The Oxford Dictionaries is: ‘existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind’.
There’s a lot of theories regarding how Stonehenge came to be, but I think one thing for certain is that members of the human race had a hand in creating it.
Is Stonehenge fake?
It’s probably the same people Googling this question too.
The Oxford defines ‘fake’ as: ‘not genuine; imitation or counterfeit’. In order for Stonehenge to be ‘fake’, there would have to be a real one somewhere else that it is masquerading as. If that was the case, I suspect we would have found the ‘genuine’ Stonehenge by now.
Or perhaps some of us are worried that Stonehenge is a hologram? An elaborate projection to make us believe that these giant stones are actually standing in a field? Or are we concerned it was created on the backlot of a Hollywood studio out of papier mache?
To all of the above, I say, ‘These stones are real’.
In December 1987, I visited Stonehenge with my Aunt and Uncle, while I was on holiday in the UK. We didn’t realise when we arranged the visit, but it was actually the winter solstice – and visitors were being allowed into the centre of the stone circle. So, I’ve seen the stones right up close. I’ve walked around them. I’ve appreciated the majesty of those towering structures. I’ve been awestruck by the magnitude of the task of construction.
Stonehenge is real, right enough.
What is Stonehenge…?
What is Stonehenge used for?
The key word in this question…’IS’. What IS Stonehenge used for, not what WAS it used for. Because, goodness knows, archaeologists have been debating for years what the original purpose of Stonehenge was, let alone subsequent purposes over time.
As recently as 1918, Stonehenge was in private ownership. In September 1915, Stonehenge was put up for auction after the heir to the Antrobus baronetcy, whose family had owned the entire area since the 1800s was killed in the Great War. A wealthy local resident, Sir Cecil Chubbs wandered into the auction and, on a whim, bought it for £6,600 as a gift for his wife. She was said to be less than thrilled. Three years later she gave the site to the British nation, and it’s been preserved and protected for the public ever since.
So, now Stonehenge is an important tourism drawcard for the United Kingdom. Over 1,000,000 visitors turn up each year to ogle the stones. It’s open every day except Christmas and Boxing Days, but entrance is now via timed tickets which are booked in advance. There’s only very limited availability of walk-up tickets.
During the day, visitors have to remain at a distance outside the stone circle, but you can apply for Stone Circle Access Visits which take place outside the normal opening times (i.e. very early in the morning or late in the evening). During these visits, 30 people are allowed into the centre of the stone circle.
What is Stonehenge made of?
Oh, you wanted more detail than that?
Okay then. The stone structure of Stonehenge consists of two main types of rock. The big ones (known as sarsens) are a type of sandstone, which came from a site near near to Marlborough, 30 km north of Stonehenge. The smaller stones (known as bluestones) are a form of igneous rock which came from the Preseli Hills in north Pembrokeshire in Wales (about 225 kilometres from Stonehenge in a straight line).
How each type of stone was transported to the site, by whom, and exactly when is still a matter of much investigation.
What is Stonehenge really?
Oooh, there’s a real Googled suspicion that Stonehenge is not what it seems, isn’t there?
Essentially, Stonehenge is a unique prehistoric monument. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1986.
The English Heritage website sums up the significance of Stonehenge as follows:
- Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated and only surviving lintelled stone circle in the world.
- The earliest stage of the monument is one of the largest cremations cemeteries known in Neolithic Britain.
- The stones were brought from very long distances – the bluestones from the Preseli Hills, over 150 miles away, and the sarsens probably from the Marlborough Downs, 19 miles to the north.
- The stones were dressed using sophisticated techniques and erected using precisely interlocking joints, unseen at any other prehistoric monument.
So, in answer to the Googled question, I say, Stonehenge is really pretty awesome.