The Online Library of Knowledge

British history


Stonehenge todayStonehenge todayStonehenge was built about 4500 years ago on Salisbury Plain in southern England. It originally consisted of two circles of 82 standing stones, one circle inside another. Large capping stones, called lintels, rest on top of them. The outer circle of standing stones are each around 4.1 metres (13 feet) high, 2.1 metres (7 feet) wide and weigh around 25 tonnes. Surrounding the stone circles are a circular ditch and banks. Many of the stones at Stonehenge still stand today.

Ancient earthworks near StonehengeAncient earthworks near Stonehenge

Earlier structures 

The earliest structures at Stonehenge—pits in the ground, some of which once held large wooden posts—date back to between 8500 and 7000 BC. At that time, when much of the rest of southern England was covered by woodland, the chalk downland around Stonehenge may have been an open, grassy landscape. This might explain why the location was chosen as a sacred site. Earthworks, including several long barrows (mounds of earth or stone, probably built as tombs), and enclosures, were built in the area around 3500 BC.

A plan showing the circular ditchA plan showing the circular ditch

Circular ditch

Four of the sarsens at Stonehenge are covered with hundreds of carvings. Most of them are depictions of axe-heads as well as a few daggers. They date from about 1750–1500 BC, during the Bronze Age in Britain.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile