It is perhaps the actual construction of Stonehenge that is the most
inspiring of all. For a period of over three-hundred years, up to thousands of workers
may have labored to produce the marvel of Stonehenge. "We can shrewdly surmise that
their attitude toward their task was very different from that of the Egyptian laborers. The
great pyramid was certainly one man's tomb-- Stonehenge must have belonged to
everyman" (pp.72-73, Hawkins, 1965). The total amount of work, as calculated by
Hawkins (1965) would have amounted to an awe-inspiring 1,497,680 man-days! This
would have taken incredible planning and administration for generations-- think of not
only the physical labor involved, but the supplies needed, the food and clothing required
by the workers... I cannot help but find that this alone is simply amazing!
Hawkins (1965) provides an example to illustrate just how all-involving
the construction of Stonehenge must have been: at the time of his writing, the Space
Program was the most absorbing pursuit of the United States. According to his estimates,
one of every thousand Americans was somehow involved-- the same would have been
true in England at the time of Stonehenge's construction, but England's population totaled
only 300,000 at the time! This is to say that their efforts were more dedicated than the
Space Race was to us, and accordingly, Stonehenge must have been of even greater
importance to them.
As Stonehenge was such a monumental undertaking, it could not have been
assembled overnight. As mentioned above, Stonehenge was built over a period of about
three-hundred years, and in three stages, appropriately named: Stonehenge I, Stonehenge
II, and Stonehenge III, which was divided into three sub-stages: a, b, and c. Atkinson
(1956) explains the stages as follows:
Stonehenge I comprises the Heel Stone, the ditch, the bank, and the
Aubrey Holes, together with the two stone-holes in the entrance, the post-holes on
the causeway and near the Heel Stone, and possibly some wooden structure at the
center of the circle.
Stonehenge II is the double circle of 82 bluestones in the Q and R
Holes, the Avenue [leading to Stonehenge], the Heel Stone ditch, and possibly the
two axial stone-holes on the Avenue.
Stonehenge IIIa includes the Four Stations, the Slaughter Stone and
its former companion, the sarsen circle and the horseshoe of sarsen trilithons.
Stonehenge IIIb comprises the setting of dressed bluestones, and the
Y and Z Holes.
Stonehenge IIIc is represented by the existing setting of the
bluestones in the circle and horseshoe.
It is in the very assembling of Stonehenge that we find the most
amazement. The commitment displayed by its builders is nothing short of unbelievable.
The ingenuity and technological know-how of the builders of Stonehenge force us to
wonder just what the human mind can accomplish when it focuses its power on one thing
so whole-heartedly. Think of the difficulty involved! The builders didn't construct
Stonehenge conveniently near a quarry. Instead, they transported massive rocks in excess
of twenty tons over twenty miles to their chosen location! They didn't just look for
ideally shaped stones-- they actually shaped and worked them, even constructing joints to
interlock the structure! They didn't give up when the first generation of builders began to
die-- they continued until the end of its construction, some three-hundred years later!
Moving the stones must have been one of the most consuming jobs for
the builders. Hawkins (1965) calculated that with sixteen men per ton, and at an average
weight of thirty tons (with the trilithons weighing up to fifty!), it would have taken
eight-hundred men to transport the stones via a sledge and log rollers. Even more
amazingly, this process would have taken at least a full seven years! Others, up to
two-hundred, were probably along just to help clear the way and guide the sledge.
Numerous theories abound as to how the transport actually might have taken place, but in
any case, it was a colossal endeavor.
Once at the location, the stones had to be worked using tools such as
mauls weighing up to sixty pounds! Because of sarsen's extremely hard composition, the
tools used to shape the stones would have had to have been made of an equally hard
material, such as sarsen itself. Experimenters found that a strong man bashing away at a
block of sarsen with a maul can chip away just a scant six cubic inches per hour! With at
least 3,000,000 cubic inches needing to be chipped from the Stonehenge sarsens, this
endeavor alone could have taken a considerable amount of time. This dressing, of
course, was only the coarsest of the process, with many more days spent smoothing the
stone to its final shape.
To erect a pillar, still more rigorous work had to be undertaken. Once
a stone had been dressed and prepared for raising, a hole in the desired location had to be
dug. The hole was always rectangular, with one side probably set at a forty-five degree
angle. The chosen stone was then pushed down into the hole on a sledge of logs. Stakes
lined the angled side of the hole to allow the stone to slide easily to the bottom. Next,
ropes made of various fibers and sinews were used to pull the stones upright. The
workers then frantically worked to pack the surrounding earth before the stone could
topple. "Anything and everything the laborers could reach they threw into the gaps, to
keep the stone from falling over: mauls and other tools, rocks, bones, scraps, turf--
everything went in" (p. 71, Hawkins, 1956). For perhaps months afterward, the stone was
allowed to settle in safely before work could proceed.
Perhaps only years after the erecting of the pillars could the placement
of the lentils could begin. We found that it was this task that amazed us the most in the
construction of Stonehenge. We can only speculate as to how the actual lifting was
performed, but the commonly accepted theory, although as hard to fathom as it may
sound, is perhaps the only reasonable explanation as to how the builders could have
accomplished their task: using a lattice-work of logs, the lentil stones were "jacked" up
and into their final resting places. Basically, the method consisted of wedging a stone
onto a single log, then wedging another log under the opposite side, parallel to the first.
Next, the stone was wedged up and another log was insert underneath, perpendicular to
the first set. This process was repeated on the other side, and continued onward and
upward until the stone had been raised to the level of its corresponding pillars, where it
was finally rocked into place. "Such a latticed tower would require about a mile of
six-inch diameter logs cut into twenty-foot lengths with notches similar to those in a log
cabin wall" (p.72, Hawkins, 1965) Think of the amount of work involved in hauling the
necessary lumber alone! Other similar methods have been contrived to afford
explanation of the lintels' raising, all equally astounding.
We found it hard to visualize the sheer amount of work needed to
complete Stonehenge. The complexity and the difficulty of its construction boggles the
mind. What planning was involved, what dedication! We are only left to wonder just
who built Stonehenge, and for what reason?