How Was Stonehenge Built? I Oxford Open Learning


    How Was Stonehenge Built?

    With the Solstice upon us, our thoughts turn to the longest day and the many associated festivals and events that occur around this solar event. Stonehenge, the ancient and mysterious stone circle found in Wiltshire, has become a global focal point for the solstice, with 10,000 people from all over the world visiting it on the 21st of June last year, according to the BBC.

    When I am chatting about this event with friends, the inevitable question arises: ‘How were these stone circles made without heavy machinery?’ The answers, while entertaining have often been sketchy so I thought this year, I would see what the experts have to say on the matter!

    The Creation Of Stonehenge

    The organisation English Heritage has a pretty balanced view on this: they believe that the first monument of Stonehenge was not a great stone, but a circular earthwork enclosure, created around 3000 BCE.

    To begin with, a ditch was dug by people with simple deer antler tools, and the chalk was piled up, similarly using people-power to build an inner and outer bank. 56 timber or stone posts (they can’t be sure) were erected in the ditch. This was used as a cremation cemetery until about 2,500 BCE when the site was transformed to form the basis of the monument you see today.

    At this point, the enormous Sarsen Stones (weighing 25 tonnes) and smaller bluestones (weighing 2 at 5 tonnes) recognisable today were erected to form a greater monument. Owing to the sheer size and weight of these stones and the mystery of their transportation, many fanciful stories about Giants and wizards were thought up as an explanation.

    Science Over Magic

    In more recent centuries science has replaced such magic-realism, offering more plausible explanations of the construction process. State-of-the-art geochemical research has confirmed what for years had been suspected; that the Sarsen stones were brought down from the Marlborough Downs (West Woods area) with the efforts of hundreds of well-organised people. The smaller Blue Stones were transported from the Preseli Hills in west Wales. This may sound incredulous but unburdened by modern distractions like TV, the Internet, and theme parks ancient Britons could channel extraordinary levels of human effort into such tasks, allowing them to achieve feats that might seem remarkable by today’s standards.


    The Sarsen and flint hammer-stones found at Stonehenge is believed these to have used to shape and smooth the huge stones we know. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence as to how the stones were erected, but there is a belief that the process started by digging a large hole with a sloping side. The back side of the hole was lined with a row of wooden stakes. Using leverage, strategically placed weights, and an A-Frame and plant fibre ropes, the stone was hoisted and moved into position by the ancient Briton Tug-of-War team! Rubble was packed into the hole to secure the stone. The horizontal lintels were probably raised into position using timber platforms, with tenons then further shaped to securely hold the lintel in place.

    So, while we can’t know exactly how Stonehenge was constructed, existing evidence and intelligent guesswork have led to highly plausible construction scenarios.


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    I am a practising HR consultant working with several start-ups on an ongoing and ad-hoc basis in the London and M4 area, and am a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development or CIPD. I am the Director of; is a resource for start-ups and small business. It includes a blog containing career advice, small business advice articles, HR software reviews, and contains great resources such as HR Productivity Apps.