Why Stonehenge is Famous

Top 5 Facts Why Stonehenge is Famous?

You must’ve seen that massive stone structure on a wide, lush green plain, often regarded as one of the modern wonders of the world. It’s Stonehenge, a giant monument located on Salisbury Plain in southern England.

It’s a megalithic structure with a long history dating from the prehistoric times. Stonehenge is not your “just another” ancient site. It is one of the hot favourites for tourists when it comes to historic sites, so much so that Stonehenge attracts over 1.2 million tourists annually.

But why exactly? It’s just a few raised stones on a wide plain. What’s so special about these stones, and why is Stonehenge incredibly popular? Well, for starters, these stones have archaeological significance and indicate certain seasonal changes that can be tested and proven even today.

Sounds intriguing? Well, let’s explore the reasons why Stonehenge is famous among tourists.

What Is Stonehenge?

Stonehenge is an enormous structure built by raising huge stones in a particular way. The stones date back thousands of years to the Neolithic era. Stonehenge consists of 83 stones, which together form a unique ring-like structure that signifies astronomical events. The bigger stones are known as sarsens, and they weigh around 25 tons.

Stonehenge is just one part of several Neolithic and Bronze Age structures, some made of similar huge stones and others erected using wooden structures.

The exact purpose of building Stonehenge remains unknown, even after years of studies and archaeological research. Based on the skeletons found on the site’s premises, some believe it was an ancient cemetery. Others believe it was a place of rituals and festivals for Neolithic people.

You can certainly have an opinion on the exact purpose of raising these enormous stones. However, there are still some reasonable concerns about Stonehenge. Like the Pyramids of Giza, several unanswered questions make this monument famous among tourists.

When was Stonehenge Built?

Stonehenge is said to have been built in multiple stages. The latest activity around the monument that somehow modified its structure, as seen today, was in AD 43 by the Romans. Here’s how Stonehenge was built in chronological order:

  • 3000 BCE—Early Henge: This is the year the first stone was raised and a circular enclosure around 100 metres across was built.
  • 2500 BCE – First Raised Stones: The coming years and ages saw the construction of the famous Stone Circle via the Sarsen stones in 2500 BCE.
  • 2400 BCE—Individual Graves: Europeans arrived at Stonehenge, introducing new beliefs and cultures regarding burial practices. The site continued to be a cemetery for the next few centuries.
  • 2300–2200 BCE – Altered Stones: The small stones, also known as the Bluestones, were altered and raised in a way, creating an inner circle as seen today.
  • 2100–1500 BCE—Bronze Age: Several other burial sites and cemeteries were created in the premises of Stonehenge in the form of large ring pits.
  • 1750–1500 BCE—Bronze Age Carvings: The large stones, called the Sarsens, were carved with supposed “power” symbols.
  • 700 BCE—Iron Age Hillfort: Near Stonehenge, the premises undergo yet another construction, a “Hillfort,” almost a mile away from the monument.
  • AD 43—Roman Activity: The Romans used the site for some unknown rituals, which are speculated to have been associated with their beliefs.

5 Reasons Why Is Stonehenge Famous?

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

So, what exactly pulls over a million tourists every year to Salisbury in awe of this monument? Is it curiosity, aesthetics, or just an interest in history? Let’s find out:

1) Mystery and Intrigue

“Cool, mysterious, strange, and intriguing”. These are the words that easily attract us as curious humans. Even a fictional story with the slightest touch of mystery would pull us to listen to it. Stonehenge is an actual historical site, after all, with so many unanswered questions about its construction.

The mystery surrounding Stonehenge has given rise to several questions that even archaeologists failed to answer. For instance, after learning about the site, you may wonder:

  • How were these massive stones brought to this site from long distances?
  • Who carried them and raised them?
  • How exactly were they raised?
  • How are they so well-preserved after thousands of years?

Well, no one knows! This mystery intrigues you enough to make you want to visit “a bunch of stones” that were once a significant site for humans.

2) Ancient Construction

The site has a significant history that spans thousands of years. According to archaeologists, even the construction of the site, from raising the first stone to turning it into a proper stone circle as seen today, took at least 2500 years. Imagine the thrill of visiting and having an up-close view of something so well preserved over these years.

The bigger stones, i.e., sarsens, were sourced from Marlborough Downs, at least 20 miles away from the site. The smaller stones (bluestones) were brought from even farther, about 140 miles away in West Wales.

Even the smallest major stone at Stonehenge weighs almost 2 tons and was brought from a location at least 225 km from the site. So, a question similar to that about the Egyptian Pyramids comes up: How were these stones brought here, and who brought them?

3) Alignment with Celestial Events

The most common reason behind building Stonehenge is its alignment with Celestial Events, particularly the summer and winter solstices.

  • During the winter solstice, the sun perfectly aligns with the Heel stone at sunset time.
  • During the summer solstice, the sun rises through the gap between the Heel stone and the large stone of the outside Sarsen circle, in case you’re viewing from the centre of the inner stone circle.

Such unique alignment with solstices would attract almost anyone. It’s an event equally associated with astronomy, seasonal change, and aesthetics. Evidently, Stonehenge remains the most crowded during Winter and Summer Solstices.

3) Cultural Symbolism

We’ve just mentioned how accurately Stonehenge aligns with the Solstices. This allows us to see this monument as a representation of ancient wisdom and mystery. History buffs visit Stonehenge to admire the wisdom of Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures.

Additionally, historians suggest that neo-druids, pagans, and other groups used to gather at Stonehenge for “spiritual ceremonies.” In an attempt to uphold that cultural and spiritual symbolism, people visit Stonehenge to ensure that it retains its status as a meaningful destination.

Did You Know? There’s a dedicated tourism facility near the Stonehenge monument called the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. The centre is home to countless artefacts, contemporary artwork, and relevant exhibitions, adding a unique flavour to your Stonehenge tour.

4) Tourism and Pop Culture

Tourism and pop culture play a big role in why over a million people flock to Stonehenge. Over the years, this monument has popped up in several movies, TV shows, and books.

Think about films like “This is Spinal Tap” and “The Transformers: The Last Knight” or TV shows like “Doctor Who.” Stonehenge is portrayed in these cultures as some sort of magical place or power source.

Such subtle or straightforward mentions make Stonehenge a familiar icon, even for those who’ve never been to England. Pop culture fans would become curious about the site and want to experience the real thing.

Are you planning to visit Stonehenge? Check out the amazing Stonehenge Tours from London, which include complete guided and self-guided tours of the site and a visit to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, which houses thousands of precious archaeological objects from around the world.

You can also combine your Stonehenge tour with other nearby historical and royal destinations, such as Bath City, Salisbury Cathedral, and Windsor Castle.

Conclusion

Thousands of people visit Stonehenge during different times of the year to have an up-close view of these massive stones. It’s also a way to crack the questions that have yet to be answered. Certain things about Stonehenge, such as the alignment of solstices, also entice people to visit and live in those moments. 

Since the site is mostly crowded around the solstices, it gets the most coverage during those days, adding to its approval in pop culture. All these factors contribute to Stonehenge’s fame and popularity. But the site is certainly worth a visit, especially if you’re in London on a weekend getaway.

FAQs

When is the best time to visit Stonehenge?

If you want to experience the actual thrill of Stonehenge, visit the monument during the summer or winter solstices to watch the sunrise and sunset alignments. If you want to avoid crowds and have a more calming experience, visit Stonehenge during Spring or Autumn (March-May or October—November).

Are there any theories about the purpose of Stonehenge?

Different theories originated after years of research around the site to explore its purpose. The most notable theory is that the site was built to indicate summer and winter solstices. It was also supposedly a spiritual and healing centre significant in Neolithic culture. A thousands-of-year-old Neolithic skeleton was discovered near the monument, suggesting that it could also have been a cemetery for Bronze Age people.

How long does it take to see Stonehenge?

A complete tour of Stonehenge may take around 90 minutes to 2 hours, including a visit to the monument, the Visitor Centre, and the exhibitions near the site. If you’re on a self-guided tour, you can quickly take a round of the stone circle and conclude the tour in just 40 minutes.

Is Stonehenge accessible to people with disabilities?

All the areas in Stonehenge, including the Visitor Centre, Stone Circle, exhibitions, and restaurants near the site, are accessible to people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. Tour buses, coaches, and shuttle buses are also wheelchair-accessible.

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