Builders

 

Who would dedicate such time and such effort to the building and alignment of this temple of the sun? "The period of prehistory to which the successive buildings of Stonehenge belong, namely the early and middle part of the second millennium B.C., is one of exceptional interest but also of great complexity, for it witnesses the arrival in Britain of a number of immigrant foreign cultures..." (p.142, Atkinson, 1956) No one culture can be held responsible for the entire construction of Stonehenge.

The indigenous inhabitants preceding the assembly of Stonehenge were primarily scattered groups of hunter-gatherers. These peoples had no forms of agriculture or domesticated animals. In fact, these peoples most likely resembled the present-day aborigines of Australia. These peoples did not build houses or religious monuments, and left almost no traces of their existence. These individuals had no direct role to play in the construction of Stonehenge-- but they are, however, the ancestors of the Secondary Neolithic cultures we believe were responsible for the construction of Stonehenge.

It is these Secondary Cultures that formed the initial force behind Stonehenge. These groups of peoples probably had some form of tribal organization, as evidenced by numbers of embanked circular enclosures. These areas, called "henge monuments," are constructed much like the bank at Stonehenge, only with their ditches located on the inside. These henges may have served as religious gathering sites or as governing platforms or even as markets-- we may never know. The most important find, however, is a group with the ditch and bank arranged as they are at Stonehenge, and with the addition of a ring of pits filled with the cremated remains of human beings. It is thus clear that one of the groups of the Secondary Neolithic cultures had a major role to play in the construction of Stonehenge I.

Another group responsible for the construction of Stonehenge was the Beaker culture, named for their pottery drinking cups. As to the daily life of the Beaker people, we know virtually nothing. The only remains left by their culture were there graves. They did, however, build two types of possibly religious monuments, namely free-standing stone circles and henge monuments, often enclosed in earthwork ditches and banks. (Atkinson, 1956) The Beakers are generally held responsible for the building of Stonehenge II because of the findings of Beaker pottery in the ditch at a level that would have corresponded to the arrival of the bluestones used in the double circle, a construction characteristic of the Beaker people. "Because Beaker pottery was sometimes 'embedded in the top of the silts', it would place the building of the stone monument about the overlap of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages" (p.936, Lawson, 1992).

The final group responsible for the construction of Stonehenge was the Wessex culture of the early Bronze Age. The Wessex culture is generally ascribed with the construction of Stonehenge III. Like the Beaker culture, the Wessex people left little trace aside from their burial sites for study. But it is the Wessex culture, we believe, that was largely responsible for the expansion of commerce. It is in their burial sites that we find exceptionally large amounts of richness and elaboration. Necklaces of amber, for example, were obtained possibly from entrepots far to the south in Central Europe. (Atkinson, 1956) It is quite feasible this culture became able to control the resources and labor necessary in the final construction of Stonehenge. The final evidence for their great role in the construction lies in their numerous graves near Stonehenge itself. "When one stands within the barrows on the skyline of Normanton Down, one can be sure that in them the builders of Stonehenge themselves now rest from their labors" (p.163, Atkinson, 1956)

*Table from Stonehenge, by Leon E. Stover & Bruce Kraig