Prehistoric hunting pits discovered at Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of Britain’s most important prehistoric monuments. The Stonehenge that can be seen today is the final stage completed around 3,500 years ago.

According to the monument’s website, Stonehenge was built in four phases:

First stage: The earliest version of Stonehenge was a large embankment or Henge, comprising a moat, embankment and the Aubrey Pits, all probably built around 3100 BC.

Aubrey’s holes are round pits in chalk, about one meter (3.3 feet) wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms.

Stonehenge (pictured) is one of Britain’s most important prehistoric monuments

They form a circle approximately 86.6 meters (284 ft) in diameter.

Excavations revealed human bones cremated in part of the plaster fill, but the holes themselves were likely not made to be used as tombs, but as part of a religious ceremony.

After this first phase, Stonehenge was abandoned and left untouched for more than 1,000 years.

Second phase: The second and more dramatic phase of Stonehenge began around 2150 BC, when approximately 82 blue stones were transported to the site from the Preseli mountains in southwest Wales. The stones, some of which weigh four tons each, are thought to have been hauled on rollers and sledges into the waters of Milford Haven, where they were loaded onto rafts.

They were carried over water along the south Wales coast and along the Avon and Frome rivers, before being dragged again by land near Warminster and Wiltshire.

The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, along the River Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to western Amesbury.

The journey took nearly 240 miles, and once at the site, the stones were placed in the center to form an incomplete double circle.

In the same period the original entrance was enlarged and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. The closest part of the Avenue, which connects Stonehenge with the River Avon, was built in line with the midsummer sunrise.

Third stage: The third phase of Stonehenge, which occurred around 2000 years BC, saw the arrival of sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), which were larger than blue stones.

They were likely brought from the Marlborough Downs (40 kilometers, or 25 miles, north of Stonehenge).

The largest of the sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weighs 50 tons and transport by water would not have been possible, so it is suspected that they were transported using sleds and ropes.

Calculations showed that it would take 500 men using leather ropes to pull a stone, with another 100 men needed to lay the rollers in front of the sled.

These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels – horizontal supports.

Within the circle, five triliths – structures consisting of two vertical stones and a third at the top as an architrave – were arranged in a horseshoe, which can still be seen today.

Final stage: The fourth and final phase occurred soon after 1500 BC, when the smaller blue stones were rearranged into the horseshoe and circle that can be seen today.

The original number of stones in the blue stone circle was probably around 60, but these have since been removed or crushed, some remain as stumps below ground level.