Dating to around 2500 B.C. and situated on a landscape rich with the remnants of ancient life and ceremony, Stonehenge has been an enduring source of speculation. Who erected it and how? What was its purpose? Though recent discoveries have answered many questions about its origins, the long-studied monument remains enigmatic.
Circle of Light
Photograph by Steve Vidler, eStock Photo
Sunlight bursts through a trilithon at Stonehenge, located on England's Salisbury Plain. Built on an already ancient earthen structure, the monument comprises bluestones brought from a distance of more than 150 miles and larger sarsen stones, believed to have been brought from Marlborough Downs, about 19 miles away.
Photograph by Tolga Akmen, Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Revelers gather to observe the summer solstice sunrise. Thousands flock annually to the site to welcome the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
Photograph by Macduff Everton, National Geographic Creative
Scholars and scientists have long searched for the meaning of Stonehenge, and theories about its origins abound. The way the gaps in the monument's concentric rings align with the sun—at dawn on the summer solstice and at sunset on the winter solstice—have led some to speculate that its primary purpose was astronomical.
Photograph by Marco Cristofori, Alamy Stock Photo
Stonehenge was added to the World Heritage List in 1986, along with Avebury—the world's largest prehistoric stone circle—and other Neolithic sites in the area. Here, sheep graze the plain near a burial mound, or barrow.
The Wide View
Photograph by Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd, Alamy Stock Photo
Henges are described as circular banks of earth paralleled by an internal ditch. Stonehenge itself is not, strictly speaking, a henge: The position of its bank and ditch are reversed.
What Lies Beneath
Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic Creative
In 2014, scientists announced that sophisticated underground mapping techniques had revealed an astonishing complex of ancient monuments, buildings, and barrows that had been hidden beneath the Stonehenge area for thousands of years.
Photograph by Arcaid, Getty Images
Archaeologically significant sites around Stonehenge include the Avenue, the Cursus, and Durrington Walls. The area is also home to Britain's densest concentration of round barrows.
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