Construction

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?