If memory serves me right, the first time I came across The Stonehenge was in the Asterix comic, Asterix in Britain. While the heritage site does not quite make for an important part of the story itself, its mention by Obelix as striking him funny that the Britains just kept some stones around in a circle and believed it to be magical was something that struck me as quite interesting. And since these were the pre-internet and pre-Wikipedia days, I did not have the necessary resources apart from the regular school library to find out more about this enigmatic place called The Stonehenge.
However, given that I was quite an avid quizzer and was always on the lookout to read up about new things to keep my competitive advantage, it was not too long before I read about this site and what I read piqued my interest even more, given that nobody actually had any conclusive evidence as to what purpose this site actually served.
At first sight and based on the various photographs of the place, The Stonehenge is just a mound on which huge slabs of rectangular stones of varying sizes have been placed in three concentric circles, the inner two being close to each other with the third one at quite some distance from the other two.
The surprising part about this heritage site is the fact that carbon dating and archaeologists put the age of these stones anywhere between 4000 and 5000 yrs, ie, these stones were kept here sometime between 3000 BC to 2000 BC and I personally am not aware of too many places in the world where something so ‘ancient’ (to use the term loosely) are actually visible to the general public. Therefore, when I actually planned a trip to London in late 2008, I noticed that a visit to The Stonehenge was actually only a day-trip from London and actually more than a few operators included this in a package tour. I immediately signed up for one of these and my wife and I were on our way to this wonderful heritage site.
When you first see the site itself, there is nothing too grand or ancient about it, but it is only when the Tour Guide starts explaining the various myths and legends associated with it that you realize that you are well and truly standing on the site of one of the most discussed about controversies and urban legends of our times. Ranging from theories which state that Stonehenge was a place of healing and ancestor worship, to theories which propose that it was part of a ritual passage from life to death, to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased, the stories about this place did not cease to amaze us.
What surprised my wife and I was the fact that these are huge stones with each one weighing approximately 50 tons each. And if they had been placed there in 2000 BC, then one wonders how the men of those days actually did it. After all, this was an era where animals were not yet domesticated, and man also had probably not invented the wheel or the pulley as well. Then how did they actually get these huge stones up and arrange them in perfect concentric circles is something that nobody actually has an answer to.
During the 18th and 19th centuries though this site was extremely popular and was visited by scores of tourists during the summer and winter solstice (longest and shortest days of the year) and the spring and autumn equinox. It therefore goes without saying that the site also has immense astrological significance.
And the fact that the British Government and UNESCO have prominently put this place on their list of monuments to be preserved and protected for eternity also add to the public perception that this is a ‘must see’ place when they are in the vicinity.
Despite all the hoopla and hullabaloo surrounding them, these stones have been quiet witnesses to many eras and probably have scores of stories to tell, if they could talk. Starting from humans who had just about evolved from being savages to today’s humans who use sophisticated laser and other state of the art technologies to gauge their age, these huge stone pillars have seen it all.
Please note that except for the first image of the post which is a picture taken by me, the rest of the pictures used in this post are from Wikipedia.
This post is also being used for Richa’s prompt of “Why I travel?” and although this post doesn’t quite answer that question directly, it is the interest that places like The Stonehenge generate that form one of my top most priorities for travel.