Mythical Place/Object Paper

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March 18, 2009StonehengeA place that has been surrounded in mystery, debate and speculation for centuries, located in the English county of Wiltshire on the Salisbury Plains, it is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric sites. One of the oldest buildings in Europe, Stonehenge is considered a ruin of an old structure, which name means hanging stone in the Saxon language. It has around one hundred and sixty-five stones (165) that are placed in an ordinary style. Construction on this magnificent monument began 5000 years ago, but the stones that still stand today were put in place nearly 4000 years ago. Even though Stonehenge is an amazing sight physically, one of the main things that attract visitors to Stonehenge is its mystery. Stonehenge is so mysterious because no matter how many theories we come up with, we can never be 100% certain on the purpose for which it was built or who actually built it.

At Stonehenge, there are five different types of stone circles. The five types are: the outer sarsen circle, the outer bluestone circles, the inner sarsen trilithons, the inner blue horseshoe and the altar stone. The outer sarsen circle is one hundred feet in diameter. Each stone is about thirteen and a half feet tall and seven feet wide and the space between each of the stones is approximately four feet apart. The outer bluestone circle is close to seventy-five feet in diameter. Most of the stones height are six and a half feet or taller and the stones are blue in color. Only six of the original sixty stones remain standing straight. The others either lean or lie on their side. The inner sarsen trilithons lie just inside of the bluestone circle. Some call the inner sarsen trilithon the sarsen horseshoe. The trilithon is arranged symmetrically in a horseshoe shape and is about forty-five feet across. Their overall height is about twenty-four feet high. Three of the original trilithons still stand in tact today. Just inside the inner sarsen trilithon is the inner bluestone horseshoe. The stones start out at around six feet and increase in size moving south-west until they reach a maximum of eight feet. Six of the original nineteen stones that made the horseshoe are still in place. In the middle of the inner bluestone horseshoe is a single large slab of gray-green sandstone. This stone is called the altar stone. It is approximately sixteen feet long and lies on its side. This stone was believed to have once stood upright.

There are many myths and legends about Stonehenge. In the past, people have associated the building of this monument with the Danes, Romans, Saxons, Greeks, Atlanteans, Egyptians, Celts, and even King Aurelius and Merlin. Many past archeologists believed that the Druids constructed it for sacrificial ceremonies. They believed that only such a mysterious and mystical group such as the Druids could build an ancient temple so magnificent. In recent years, however, researchers have proven this theory impossible. This is because scientists have discovered that its builders completed Stonehenge over a thousand years before the Celts ever inhabited this region, eliminating them from the possibilities. It has been verified, though, that the Druids did use Stonehenge occasionally as a temple of worship and sacrifice when they moved into the region. Modern Druids, still congregate at Stonehenge on the midsummer solstice, but today, for fear of its destruction, its caretakers shut off public access on midsummer's eve, and are on 24-hour guard year round. There are many other theories and myths about the builders of Stonehenge. Many sources site the devil, as a possible architect of Stonehenge. It is said that an old woman living in Ireland had the stones in her backyard. The Devil discovered them and wanted them for himself. He quickly devised a way of stealing them. Dressing as a gentleman, the devil visited the old lady, and asked if the monument was for sale. When she declined to sell such a magnificent structure, he showed her a large bag of golden coins. He told her that she could have all the gold she could count in the time it took to move the stones. Believing that he could never move such large stones before she finished counting the coins, she agreed quickly. Immediately he magically transported them to Salisbury Plain in England, where they stand today. The old lady could not count any gold in that short amount of time, so the greedy devil kept it all. Back in Salisbury, a priest overheard the devil bragging that no one would ever be able to tell how many stones his prize consisted of. Angered by the devil's boasting, the wise and strong priest said that he could. According to legend, he guessed exactly right. The devil became so enraged that he threw one of the large stones at the priest. The stone hit the priest's heel, but the priest was so strong that his heel dented the stone. Obviously, this tale is purely myth. But oddly enough, there is the imprint of a foot in the stone that archaeologists today call the Heel stone, and it stands outside the circle. Apart from the local myths, we have a good idea who the builders really are. Most scientists agree on the modern theory that three tribes built Stonehenge at three separate times. The first group was the Windmill Hill and they originated in eastern England, living close to the site where Stonehenge was erected. The second group was the Beaker people. It is believed that they originated in Spain and migrated northward eventually taking over northeast Europe. The Wessex People are considered the third and final group to work on the Stonehenge site. They were among the most advanced cultures outside the Mediterranean during this period. Although we may not be certain on who built Stonehenge one thing that we know for sure is that building Stonehenge was a very difficult task.

The Stonehenge that we see today is a part of three separate building phases. The three phases were Stonehenge I, Stonehenge II, and Stonehenge III. Stonehenge I was believed to have started in the Stone Age about 3000 B.C. There was a large circular space nearly one hundred yards across and was enclosed by a dirt bank. At that time Stonehenge was a simple open-aired temple. Stonehenge II was started around 2800 B.C. A large number of bluestones were brought in from Wales, which is one hundred and forty miles away from Stonehenge. Then they began forming two different circles inside the original circle. Stonehenge III was built in 2100 B.C. during the Bronze Age. At this time the sarsen stones were brought in from Marlborough Downs, about twenty miles away from Stonehenge. During this period the stones arrangement became very complex.

The first thing that was started on in the construction of Stonehenge was the digging of the ditch. The ditch was dug with deer antlers. After the ditch was finished they began working on the bank. The bank stands on the immediate inner edge of the ditch. After they completed the bank, they dug 56 pits called Aubrey holes. Their purpose is unknown although an astronomical role has been suggested. After the Aubrey holes were done the actual stone fixture was constructed. There are a few theories of how stones at Stonehenge were moved. One of the most accepted theories is that the stones were rolled on logs and then the stones were moved on rafts down rivers. The last effort would have been the erection of the stones. It is believed that a foundation pit was dug in the ground. The stone was then moved forward with rollers toward a ramp, until the base of the rock was just sticking over the hole. The outer end was then levered up, allowing the base to dip into the hole until the stone was balanced on a 30-degree angle. It was then hauled up by gangs of about 100 men pulling on ropes. The lintels were raised to the top of the pillars by first being laid parallel to the base of the uprights. They were slowly lifted with the use of wooden levers and temporary timber platforms, which slowly raised the lintel to the top of the stones. After all of the main circle stones were in place, they created what is called the Avenue. The Avenue, a laneway that runs through a break in the ditch, was created on the northeast corner of the circle and was later extended to the River Avon, two kilometres away. A “Slaughter stone,” was placed along the Avenue at the break in the ditch inside the circle. A "Heel stone," was placed 27 meters outside the main monument along the Avenue. It weighs 35 tones and stands six meters tall. And after the Heel stone was in place, Stonehenge was complete. Although years of erosion and weathering have broken down some of the stones, the main layout is still somewhat in tact. It was a long and difficult process of blood, sweat and tears but somehow they managed to create a structure like this, 4000 years ago.

Stonehenge is such a mystery because it is so hard to imagine how 4000 years ago, a civilization was able to move these stones, some weighing over 45 tones, from Wales to the Salisbury Plains with no modern form of technology. Everything about Stonehenge is considered to be architecturally advanced for its time. Today there is enough left of Stonehenge to speculate a purpose but not enough to say exactly how or why it was constructed. Stonehenge’s main purpose is unclear to us but we do know that at some point in time that is was a burial place because of the human remains found in the Aubrey Holes. Many speculate that it was created as a temple to worship ancient earth deities or the sun and moon. Others have called it an astronomical observatory, for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. Early in the 20th century, Sir Norman Locker demonstrated that the northeast axis aligned with the sunrise at mid-summer solstice leading people to speculate that the builders were sun worshipers. We know today that the Sun will return, because the course of the Sun has been scientifically explored. However, our ancestors did not take the return of the Sun for granted. For an agricultural society, whose survival depended mostly on crops, the return of the Sun was not just a matter of casual celebration; it was a matter of life or death. We do not exactly know Stonehenge’s purpose but we do know that with all the effort and time that went into building it, it was not constructed for a casual purpose. Only something extremely important would be worth the effort and investment that it took to construct Stonehenge. Stonehenge is a place where much human effort was expended for a purpose we can only guess at. But no matter what viewpoint is brought to it, and no matter what its original purpose was, it should be treated as the ancestors treated it, as a place of honor.

It is no doubt that Stonehenge is an unusual geographic phenomenon. This is because it is so hard to believe that thousands of years ago, people had the intelligence and the power to make a monument like Stonehenge. They had to bring in rocks from Wales, which is nearly one hundred and forty miles away. It would have been a difficult task for people to do today, imagine how hard it would have been back then when the best technology they had were logs and ropes. Something else unusual about it, is how lined it up with the sun and moon. The builders back then would have had to make the connection between the earth and the sun in order for it to be lined up properly.

One of the main reasons why Stonehenge is so controversial is because there are so many theories as to how and why it was built. Having so many theories confuses people but it also allows opinions to be made. Whether people believe that it is fact or fiction depends solely on who and what there beliefs are. If they are extremely religious, they may think that God had a hand in it and that it was used as a temple to worship Him. But if somebody was very practical and needed facts to support his beliefs, he may believe that the three tribes built it and that one or all of those tribes were sun worshipers because of the alignment of the sun on the summer solstice. There are many beliefs out there and because there are so many beliefs it is hard to figure out an explanation that is accepted by everyone.

Most people are certain that Stonehenge was constructed as a holy place for rituals and ceremonies. And it is very probable that the architects were sun worshipers, since the axis that divides Stonehenge is aligned with its entrance and is oriented toward the mid-summer sunrise. And based on all the research that I have done about this topic, I believe that three different groups during three different time periods built Stonehenge. This is because it is the most practical and has the most facts. I also believe that the first architects, The Windmill Hill people, meant it to be an open-aired temple. But as they passed on, I believe that the other two groups, The Breaker people and the Wessex people, turned it into some sort of astronomical calendar and observatory. This is because the suns align with Stonehenge perfectly during the summer solstice. Theses theories are most practical and that is why I believe them. But as previously stated, not everybody believes in practicality. There are many other reasons of belief out there and this one just happens to be mine.

In conclusion, the source and uses of Stonehenge are still an extraordinary mystery to us. Some of the theories stated contain logical explanations about the construction, uses and builders of Stonehenge, for example, Gerald Hawkins theory in which he states that 3 groups were the architects of Stonehenge. While other theories mentioned appear to be based on a myth such as Roop’s theory of the devil. There are many belief and theories out there but the fact is that the history and uses of Stonehenge still remains and enormous mystery to this day.

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