Stonehenge. The Gaunt Ruin of England’s Salisbury PlainCategory: Land + People
By H. E. Edgerton
Stark on the windy plain of Salisbury stands a huddle of rough-hewed blocks that have defied alike the winds and rains of 4, 000 years and the probing questions of historian and archeologist. This mysterious relic of ancient Britain is Stonehenge — place of the “hanging stones”.
Nowhere in Western Europe can be found any monument quite like it; it stands alone. We can reckon when it was built and how; we can make learned guesses about its architects; but of its purpose and use through the dark centuries we may remain forever uncertain. Stonehenge, in the words of the novelist Henry James, “stands as lonely in history as it does on the great plain”.
To what use did men put Stonehenge? Legend and the fancies of antiquarians have supplied many a curious answer. Some believed the early British kings, slain by the invading Saxons, were buried there; other notions have it that Druids made it to house their pagan rites. Some say it was used for sun worship, assuming that it had been deliberately laid out so that its axis pointed toward the sun on the horizon at the summer solstice.
But perhaps the fairest summation is E. Herbert Stone’s. Says he: “It may have been a Temple for some form of worship — or a Court of justice — or a Hall for ceremonial meetings of tribal chiefs. All we can say with certainty is, ‘We do not know’ ”.
From National Geographic, June, 1960.