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Stoneage Europe
Ancient Mediterranean Art

Prehistoric Artifacts—United Kingdom

Paleolithic monuments cover the area now known as the United Kingdom. From the Orkney Islands in the North to Stonehenge in Southern England. The major sites are shown on the map. If you find reading the map difficult, try clicking on it for an enlargement.
Prehistory UK; [map] Stoneage Sites

 

Woodhenge

Stonehenge has a long history. No one's sure of exactly how it was used, but it's use must have been religious. The same site was in use for over 4,000 years. There is evidence that at an early period there were wood structures similar to the ones in stone that are there now.

John North in his 1987 book on Stonehenge has documented many sites in the Avebury region as well as other stone age sites in England. His thesis is that stone age man was fascinated by the stars and built major monuments both in wood and stone to observe them. The picture below provides an artist's reconstruction based on John North's work, of Durrington Walls, a wooden site 3 km North East of Stonehenge.

Prehistory UK: [model] Recreation of Durrington Walls

The only thing left of this site today is some ditches and the remains of post holes. One wonders if the reconstruction would look like this if Stonehenge didn't exist. Durrington Walls was active from about 2450 BC and the site was used for over a century. John North feels the alignment of the axis of the monument was related to the sun or moon. With the possibility of some star alignments.

If John North's reconstruction is accurate he feels that Paleolithic man was quite capable of making complex wooden objects and building monumental structures of wood. Yet the general consensus is that wood was not used as a building material for places to live. Many stone dwellings have been found, and most scholars believe that stone homes were the norm. That is a little counter-intuitive, wood is much easier to work than stone, so one would expect many wood dwellings in this period.

Another site, Woodhenge, is very close to Durrington Walls and contains six nested oval rings. It has been carbon dated at 2270 BC. In Woodhenge evidence of human sacrifice has been found. This leads one to believe that the site was of some importance and was not just created for recreation. Both Woodhenge and Stonehenge are very close to Durrington Walls, both are about 3 km North East of Stonehenge.

Other wood rings in the area predate both of these sites by six centuries, making the earliest activity at the site around thirty centuries BC. That is about five-thousand years ago.

John North in his book provides a new chronology of the site. He feels that the whole site evolved with each new addition building on or using elements of the previous structure, but perhaps changing the meaning of the structure in the process. At times part of the structure was dismantled and a new structure added. He feels this was continuous change as the site was used and so naming periods is misleading, never the less, I converted his time markers into periods, see the table below because it makes thinking about the site easier. Stonehenge was an active religious site for ten to fifteen centuries of use, it must have been both the ancient wonder of the world and a kind of Vatican for Neolithic man.

 

Stonehenge

North's Chronology of Stonehenge

 3000 to 2700 BC  Timber period
 2400 to 2300 BC  Trilithons and Sarcens
 2000 to 1900 BC  Blue Stones
 1800 to 1700 BC  Z and Y holes

Compare Stonehenge to the last ten centuries since Christ! What religious structures now remain since before 1,000 AD (ten centuries ago)? The site of the old Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is the oldest; it is over 20 centuries old, but only the western wall still exists; a few churches from the dark ages 300 to 1000 AD; and a couple of universities from around 1000 AD, although for the universities I doubt many of the original buildings remain.

Here is an air view and a couple of maps of the Stonehenge site with markings for the major parts. The air view is oriented looking toward from North at the bottom toward the South at the top, this is the opposite orentation of the two maps.

Prehistory UK: [map] Stonehenge

 

Here are some of pictures of Stonehenge. It seems acircle of large stones located in a pasture make for much romantic photography.

Prehistory UK: [photo] Stonehenge
Prehistory UK: [photo] Stonehenge upright details

 Prehistory UK: [photo] Stonehenge as a pile of rocks

 
Stonehenge: Sarsens with the Moon
Stonehenge

Some links if you want more information about the neolithic and Stonehenge:

Visitors information: The Stonehenge Organization

Additional Pictures of Stoneage sites: The Stones of England

There are many more good Stonehenge sites on the net. Use your favorite search engine to find them.

Stoneage Europe
Ancient Mediterranean Art

 

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2005-10-14