Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each around 4.0 m high, 2.1 m wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. Inside is a ring of smaller bluestones. Inside these are free-standing trilithons, two bulkier vertical Sarsens joined by one lintel. The whole monument is aligned towards the sunrise on the summer solstice.
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.
One of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, Stonehenge is regarded as a British cultural icon. It has been a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882 when legislation to protect historic monuments was first successfully introduced in Britain. The site and its surroundings were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage.
Stonehenge could have been a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. Deposits containing human bone date from as early as 3000 BC, when the ditch and bank were first dug, and continued for at least another 500 years.
Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records. Many aspects of Stonehenge, such as how it was built and for what purposes it was used, remain subject to debate.
“Heel Stone”, “Friar’s Heel”, or “Sun-Stone”
The Heel Stone lies northeast of the sarsen circle, beside the end portion of Stonehenge Avenue. It is a rough stone, 4.9 m above ground, leaning inwards towards the stone circle. It has been known by many names in the past, including “Friar’s Heel” and “Sun-stone”. At the Summer solstice an observer standing within the stone circle, looking northeast through the entrance, would see the Sunrise in the approximate direction of the Heel Stone, and the Sun has often been photographed over it.
A folk tale relates the origin of the Friar’s Heel reference.
The Devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up, and brought them to Salisbury plain. One of the stones fell into the Avon, the rest were carried to the plain. The Devil then cried out, “No one will ever find out how these stones came here!” A friar replied, “That’s what you think!”, whereupon the Devil threw one of the stones at him and struck him on the heel. The stone is stuck in the ground and is still there.
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable attributes this tale to Geoffrey of Monmouth, but though book eight of Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae does describe how Stonehenge was built, the two stories are entirely different.
GET TO KNOW GNOMUS
Who is Gnomus?
Gnomus Enormis is a friendly giant. He is the Caretaker of the Earth and the Guardian of all Wildlife. He has looked after this planet since it began.
Why is Gnomus coming to Stonehenge?
Gnomus is here to check on his old friends, the stones of Stonehenge. He can remember the Neolithic people who built the monument and will be sharing stories about how they built it, who else has visited over the past 5,000 years, and reminding us that we must all be caretakers of the earth.
How old is Gnomus?
Gnomus is 500 million years old. He’s way older than the stones themselves!
How tall is Gnomus?
Gnomus is 4 meters tall – that’s almost as tall as the average sarsen stone!
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