Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge and the Avebury Henge became World Heritage Sites in 1986. Stonehenge itself is owned and managed by English Heritage and the surrounding downland is owned by the National Trust. Stonehenge is a Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monument located near Amesbury, Wiltshire, about 8 miles northwest of Salisbury.

It is made up of earthworks surrounding a circle of large standing stones. It is believed that the standing stones were put up between 2500 BC and 2000 BC although the surrounding circular earth bank and ditch have been dated to about 3100 BC.

The name "Stonehenge" comes from the Old English words "stan" meaning "stone", and either "hencg" meaning "hinge" ( the big stone lintels hinge on the upright stones) or "hen(c)en" meaning "gallows". Archaeologists now give the name "henge" to earthworks consisting of a circular banked enclosure with an internal ditch.

Dating the various phases of building at Stonehenge is complicated because the early excavation records were not precise and there has been a disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing.

Excavations

Conservation

By the beginning of the 20th century a number of the stones had fallen, perhaps due to visitors clambering on them during the nineteenth century. Three phases of conservation work were undertaken which righted some unstable or fallen stones and carefully replaced them in their original positions using information from antiquarian drawings.

The midsummer sunrise began attracting modern visitors in 1870s, with the first record of recreated Druidic practices dating to 1905 when the Ancient Order of Druids enacted a ceremony. The earlier rituals were augmented by the Stonehenge free festival, held between 1972 and 1984.

In 1985 the site was closed to festival goers by English Heritage and the National Trust by which time the number of midsummer visitors had risen from 500 to 30,000. There was then no midsummer access for almost fifteen years until limited opening was negotiated in 2000.

In more recent years, the setting of the monument has been affected by the proximity of the A303 road between Amesbury and Winterbourne Stoke, and the A344. The Department for Transport announced that the A303 would be upgraded, including the construction of the Stonehenge road tunnel. But as yet no work has been done on this

Stonehenge - English Heritage

The Stonehenge Project

 

World Heritage Sites in Britain