When we studied ancient civilizations in school, it was usually about Egypt, Greece and Rome. To us, the history of early England went only as far back as King Arthur in the Ninth Century A.D. We knew little of an ancient English monument at Stonehenge that was built 5,000 years ago.
I’m a travel writer and editor and have two travel websites with my father, travel4people.com and travel4seniors.com and had always wanted to visit this special place.
When we booked a tour in England last year, we were excited to learn it included a visit to ancient Stonehenge. Our bus went from London through the English countryside on the 85-mile drive to the Wiltshire area. As we approached the car park, we could see the main Stonehenge structure across the roadway. It was a wide circle of huge flat rocks, some topped with other big rocks.
We entered the Stonehenge monument area through a tunnel under the road, and as we approached, the massive structures became even more impressive. The stones stood more than 20 feet high, and we were told by our guide that each weighed from 25 to 30 tons.
Of course, everyone had the same questions. How could primitive people haul those enormous rocks to the Stonehenge field? Even more amazing, without any modern machinery, how could they lift them straight up, then raise the other rocks to the top? Was it some sort of temple?
The guide said no written records exist of how and why the structure was built. However, he did explain that one purpose of Stonehenge was as an ancient astrological observatory. He pointed to one of the largest slabs, and said if we stood in an exact spot within the circle on June 21, the longest day of each year, we’d see the sun rise directly in line with the stone.
As for how the big slabs were brought to the Stonehenge location, the guide said the most likely scenario was that they were found near the coast of Wales. They were then dragged to the shore, loaded onto rafts and floated the 250 miles along the Avon River in England’s Bristol area. There are still traces of the logs and tracks where the rafts were pulled along to their present site.
We could only imagine the days of heavy labor it took for hundreds of people to pull each stone, and then stand them up to complete the monument. There were more questions that could only be answered with guesses. Were those workers there of their own free will, or were they slaves as those who hauled stones for the Pyramids in Egypt?
Our visit to Stonehenge was a memorable one, and we came away with new respect for the creativity of England’s long-ago ancestors.