What is Stonehenge? Well, to quote one of my friends, “It’s a bunch of big-ass rocks.”
Personally, I was excited to visit Stonehenge simply because I’d been hearing about it for so long. It’s one of those sights that you see in your history textbook when you’re bored in class, learning about ancient peoples and nomads who used to inhabit the land we’ve now built up. I always found myself wondering who those people were, and for that reason I was fascinated by Stonehenge. But it isn’t just the prehistoric aspect that fascinated me, one of my favorite novels, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, has a scene that takes place at Stonehenge. That novel was made into a TV series featuring Eddie Redmayne, who I find absolutely adorable, so I could imagine him there at Stonehenge.
There’s so much more to see besides just “the big ass rocks” when you visit Stonehenge. The area is filled with archeological history. The land around the monument just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a World Heritage Site. This means that the land has been deemed as having “universal value.” Many people don’t realize that besides the monument itself, the surrounding area has more than 350 burial mounds and features other monuments like the Cursus and Woodhenge and Durrington Walls.
The Cursus, which has been described by some as “a landing strip for aliens” was likely used for ceremonial and traditional practices, but archeologists don’t really know what it is. The Woodhenge and Durrington Walls are also somewhat unclear in term of use, but recent findings suggest that they may have been where the builders of Stonehenge lived. I think the most fascinating aspect of Stonehenge is that it looks as if it was built with virtually no community around it. According to the park’s website, there’s very little evidence of any day-to-day activities around the sites. As for the monument itself, no one is quite sure what it was used for. Some researchers think it may have been used for funerals or other religious ceremonies, but it also may have served as a sundial of sorts. I’m no expert, but this page on the BBC breaks it down nicely.
According to an audio guide obtained at the museum, in total, building Stonehenge required millions of hours of labor and was built with tools made from wood and rope. That’s pretty amazing when you consider how big those stones really are. The people who built it seemed to have a fascination with circles, as there are many other places in the U.K. that feature strange circular landmarks. Building likely began 5,000 years ago, but in all, the monument was built in several stages over a period of thousands of years. So they aren’t just big-ass rocks, they’re also old-ass rocks.
The landscape surrounding the area is idyllic and green. I went on a particularly chilly February day, and I was bundled up and wearing about 3 layers of clothing. But the cold weather and the fact that it was before noon meant that everything seemed very still and there was morning dew on the grasses. There were sheep grazing as we walked from the visitor center to the monument, and off in the distance you could see people wandering on the plains, walking their dogs or just standing admiring the greenery.