18 Interesting Facts about Stonehenge (2023 Edition)

facts about stonehenge

One of the world’s most mysterious and ancient landmarks, Stonehenge has captivated the imagination of countless people across the globe, from scholars to poets, scientists to travellers, and ordinary folk everywhere.

The prehistoric monument, located in Wiltshire in southern England, is one of the world’s most famous and oldest man-made structures. But what is so special about Stonehenge? Due to it being founded over 5,000 years ago at a time when written records were not kept, it’s origins and purposes remain shrouded in mystery.

What we do know is the monolithic monument has connections to the rituals of ancient Druids, astrology, was constructed using incredible and near-impossible feats of engineering, and was thought to have healing powers due to the ringing sounds and vibrations caused when the stones were struck.

There are countless references in popular culture – in film and television shows, and The Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Spinal Tap have all included the stones in their music.

Today, the site is so popular with visitors, over a million people flock to the landmark each year. It’s become endangered due to erosion and there are now ropes to prevent the public from touching the stones. There are exceptions though – during the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, visitors are permitted to stroll between the stones.

Since its rediscovery in the 18th Century, the enigmatic nature of the site, along with the wealth of history of a landmark that has been around longer than almost any other man-made structure, has made Stonehenge infamous and its popularity is ever-growing. This in turn has given rise to extensive research by scientists and archaeologists who have been able to unearth some incredible facts and unravel the layers of mystery and information surrounding the site.

Scroll on for the most peculiar, fun, and interesting facts about Stonehenge.

Table of Contents

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What is Stonehenge?

 

Stonehenge is an enormous man-made circle of standing stones. The monument was built by our ancestors over the course of many centuries, many thousands of years ago. It is one of the world’s most iconic prehistoric landmarks, and also one of the world’s biggest unsolved mysteries.

stonehenge 2

 

 

Where is Stonehenge?

 

The famous monument is located on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It’s 8 miles away from Salisbury, and is situated just off the Amesbury Bypass (A303) on the left side of the road going towards to Andover.

 

 

When was Stonehenge built?

 

How old is Stonehenge? Work began on the stone circle around 5,000 years ago during the New Stone Age, but it took over a thousand years to build, over four stages. Archaeologists understand that the final changes were made around 1,500BC, in the early Bronze Age.

Stonehenge Facts: History & Origins

1. Stonehenge was built over several stages spanning centuries

 

The prehistoric monument went through various transformations starting over 5,000 years ago and didn’t begin as a circle of stones. It was originally a simple earthwork enclosure where prehistoric people buried their dead. The circular earth bank and ditch that surrounds the stones, can be dated back to around 3,100 BC, while the inner stone circle of the monument, was erected in the late Neolithic period, around 2,500 BC.

Over the following few hundred years, the stones were re-arranged and new ones added, with the formation as we know it today, being finalised between 1,930 and 1,600 BC.

Source: English Heritage

2. Its made of two different types of stone

 

There are two different types of stone used at Stonehenge: the sarsen stones are the larger, outer stones, and the bluestones make up the smaller inner stones. Sarsen stones are a type of sandstone found naturally in the surrounding area, about 20 miles from the site. The bluestones, however, originate from the Preseli Hills in south west Wales. over 140 miles away.

Planning a Visit to Stonehenge?

Learn my tips on how to visit the iconic monument for FREE in this post:

stonehenge 2

3. Transporting the stones remains a mystery

 

One of the biggest mysteries about Stonehenge is how the enormous rocks arrived at the site from a great distance away. An average saddens tone weighs 25 tonnes whereas the bluestones weigh between 2-5 tonnes each. There are numerous theories on how these stones arrived at Stonehenge, including the idea that the bluestones were brought over by glaciers. The most likely theory is that they were transported by humans using a network of waterways and hauling them over land.

 

 

4. Construction required incredible feats of engineering

 

It took sheer ingenuity to get the stones to stand upright. The builders eventually went with a technique more closely associated with woodwork than masonry. They created mortice holes and protruding tenons to slot the stones together, using tongue and groove joints. When the hole was dug for the stones, timber poles were places at the back of the hole as a brace support. The stone was then moved into position and hauled upwards with ropes while rubble was packed into the hole to secure the stone in place.

 

 

5. Roman artefacts have been found at the site

 

Various Roman artefacts including pottery, stone and metal items, and coins, have been found during the many excavations at Stonehenge.

What is special about the Stonehenge?

 

Not only is Stonehenge a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, the landmark is also the most architecturally sophisticated, prehistoric stone circle on earth, with Avebury being the largest in the world.

Along with inter-related monuments and their associated landscapes in the region, they are helping us to better understand the mysteries of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial practices.

18 Interesting Facts about Stonehenge (2023 Edition) 1
3D rendering of Stonehenge. Blue = stone. White = earthworks. Solid red arrow points towards the rising sun at summer solstice.

Weird & Fascinating Facts about Stonehenge

6. Stonehenge is historically linked with Astronomy

 

Stonehenge has a long and fascinating relationship with astronomy, according to the 2010 English Heritage reports. This is especially due to the fact the monument is aligned in the direction of the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset of the winter solstice. This was first discovered in 1720 by the pioneering British archaeologist William Stukeley. Since then, many renowned astrologers have studied Stonehenge, trying to find connections between its construction and the stars.

Stonehenge_from_the_Heel_Stone
The Heel stone was originally thought to be the precursor of Stonehenge.

 

 

7. It was built by people who left no written records

 

This is the main reason why there is so much mystery and so many unanswered questions surrounding the site.

 

 

8. Stonehenge is linked to an Arthurian legend

 

According to legend, the wizard Merlin removed Stonehenge from Ireland, where it had been built by ancient giants, and rebuilt it on Salisbury Plain as a memorial to 3,000 noblemen slain in battle with the Saxons.

merlin and giants

New Discovery alert!

 

It appears that Stonehenge may have originally been built in Wales! This incredible new revelation came to light in 2021 after evidence of a stone circle suspiciously similar to Stonehenge was discovered in Wales, very close to the quarry where some of the bluestones originate from. 

This would suggest that the stones stood in Wales for many years, before being uprooted and dragged to Wiltshire to form the Stonehenge we know today.

Source: The Guardian

9. It may have been a burial ground

 

In 2013 the cremated remains of 50,000 bones were excavated at the site, belonging to 63 men, women and children. These bones date back to 3,000-2,5000 BC. This suggests that Stonehenge could have been a burial ground at the beginning of its history.

 

 

10. Theories suggest Stonehenge was part of a larger sacred area

 

The grounds of Salisbury Plain, where Stonehenge is located, is a chalk plateau stretching over 300 square miles. Though Stonehenge may have been a burial site, its not the first sacred monument in the area. Three large timber posts erected on site date back over 10,000 years, which suggests that Salisbury Plain was already a sacred area long before Stonehenge.

Following a four-year scientific study using radar and non-invasive techniques to survey the area, the 2014 results revealed a number of hidden Neolithic shrines which gives yet more evidence to the theory that Stonehenge was one small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Stonehenge_(1963)
Photo taken by Inger Schulstad at Stonehenge in 1963.

11. The stones are “ringing rocks” with healing powers

 

The monument’s stones possess unusual healing and acoustic properties. When stuck, they vibrate and produce a loud clanging sound. This may explain why they were transported over such a long distance. Vibrational frequencies are often praised for healing properties, and in many ancient cultures such rocks are believed to contain the power to heal. In fact, Maenclochog means “ringing rock”.

 

 

12. The body of a decapitated man was excavated at the site

 

The remains of a 7th century Saxon man was found in 1923.

 

 

13. There is a circle of 56 pits in Stonehenge

 

Inside the enclosure sits a circle of 56 pits, known as the Aubrey Holes (named after John Aubrey, who discovered them in 1666). It’s exact purpose remains unknown, though some believe the pits once held stones or posts.

 

 

14. The earliest known realistic painting of Stonehenge was produced in the 16th century

 

Despite the stones being in existence for thousands of years, the earliest realistic painting drawn on site wasn’t produced until sometime between 1573-1575.

stonehenge painting
The earliest known painting of Stonehenge, drawn on site with watercolours by Lucas de Heere, circa 1573-1575.

 

 

15. Charles Darwin discovered why the stones are sinking

 

In the 1880s, Charles Darwin was carrying out some of the first scientifically recorded excavations at the site, and upon noticing that the monument was sinking, he concluded that earthworms were largely to blame for the stones sinking through the soil.

16. Stonehenge was in a pitiful state by the 20th century

 

By the start of the 20th century, there had been over 10 recorded excavations which had resulted in several of the sarsens to lean, and the site becoming a ‘sorry state’, according to English Heritage. As a result, the Society of Antiquaries lobbies the site’s owner, Sir Edmond Antrobus, and offered to help with conservation.

Stonehenge_-_Mabbett_postcard
Stonehenge postcard published by Mabbett of Salisbury. Circa 1907.

17. There was a battle near Stonehenge in 1985

 

The Battle of the Beanfield was a clash between a convoy of around 600 New Age travellers and 1,300 police that happened over the course of several hours on 1st June 1985. The battle erupted when the travellers, who were en-route to Stonehenge to organise the Stonehenge Free Festival, were stopped at a roadblock a short distance from the monument. The confrontation, which turned violent, saw 8 police and 16 officers being hospitalised and 537 of the travellers arrested in one of the biggest mass-arrests in English history.

 

 

18. It draws more than 1 million visitors a year

 

The ancient myths and persistent questions surrounding Stonehenge make the site incredibly popular and one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet.

 

Check out this informative and fascinating video below: Decoding the ancient astronomy of Stonehenge:

Commonly Asked Questions about Stonehenge

Here are 5 lesser-known facts about Stonehenge:

  1. The stones are “ringing rocks” with healing powers – The monument’s stones possess unusual healing and acoustic properties when they vibrate
  2. It was built by people who left no written records – the main reason why there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the site
  3. The body of decapitated man was excavated at the site in 1923
  4. Charles Darwin discovered that the stones were sinking due to earthworms
  5. There was a battle near Stonehenge in 1985

Not only is Stonehenge a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, the landmark is also the most architecturally sophisticated, prehistoric stone circle on earth, with Avebury being the largest in the world.

Along with inter-related monuments and their associated landscapes in the region, they are helping us to better understand the mysteries of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial practices.

It was widely believed that Celtic high priests known as Druids built Stonehenge.

In the 17th Century, archaeologist John Aubrey made the claim that Stonehenge was the work of a neolithic people known as Druids. Even today, people who identify as modern Druids continue to gather at Stonehenge during the summer and winter solstices.

However, in the mid-20th Century, radiocarbon dating showed that Stonehenge stood for over a thousand years before the Celts arrived in the region, dispelling the theory that the Druids built Stonehenge.

Modern historians and archaeologists now agree that several distinct tribes of people contributed to the building of Stonehenge over many centuries, each undertaking a different stage of its construction. This hypothesis appears to be supported by discovery of various bones, tools and other artefacts at the site.

The first phase was achieved by Neolithic agrarians that were indigenous to the British Isles. Over time, its believed groups with more advanced tools and a more communal way fo life left their stamp on the site.

So why were they built? This question remains as much a mystery as to how the site was built in the first place. While many historians agree that it was a place of huge significance for over 1000 years, we may never understand what drew early Britons to Salisbury Plain and inspired them to continue developing the monument.

A question many people ask is – can you touch the stones at the iconic monument?

Up until a few years ago you could wander between the stones and in the 70s and 80s people were even allowed to touch and climb the stones. This caused damage and serious erosion, so now the monument is roped off, and the closest you can get to the stones is 10 yards. However, it is possible to walk among the stones outside of public opening hours, on Special Access Visits. 

During the summer and winter solstices (21st June and 21st December), visitors are permitted access to the inner circle, though there are conditions – its forbidden to bring alcohol and drugs, and you can’t touch or stand on the stones.

This is a question that has puzzled people for centuries – even to this day, there is no proven theory.

How could people from thousands of years ago manage to transport and arrange such gargantuan stones?

The monument is made of two types of stones – bluestones, weighing 3,600kg each (about the same as two cars) comprise of the inner circle of stones, and the bigger sarsen stones, that make up the outer circle, weighing a staggering 22 tonnes each (equivalent to FOUR African elephants!)

Archaeologists believe the sarsen stones were hauled to the site on big wooden sledges from 20 miles away, but the bluestones have been traced to sites over 140 miles away in Wales! It’s thought they would have been dragged on sledges to a waterway and then floated on rafts to the building site.

At the site, builders would have spent hundreds of hours of hard graft shaping the stones with stone hammers and chisels. But how were these enormous stones lifted to their standing position? It’s thought that the workers dug deep ditches for the base of the boulders at first. And then they would’ve used ropes and strong wooden poles and frames to raise them up, before finally filling the ditches with rocks and rubble to secure them in firmly in place.

Again, no one really knows for sure. But the stones offer some clues which have resulted in many different theories:

Each year on the summer solstice, 21st June (the longest day of the year), the sun always rises over the Heel Stone at Stonehenge – a single large sarsen stone that stands outside of the main monument. And the sun always sets over the Heel Stone on the winter solstice, 21st December (the shortest day of the year). As such, researchers are convinced Stonehenge must have been a ‘calendar’ linked to the study of the stars.

Other theories suggest that the site may have been a place of healing where sick people flocked in hope of being cured by the monument’s miraculous vibrational energy. Others believe the site may have been a pagan temple to the sun and moon gods, or that the site was a kind of Stone Age ‘computer’ that credited solar and lunar eclipses.

One thing is certain – Stonehenge was used as a cemetery. There are estimated to be around 200 people buried at the site. Experts also think that important funeral rituals would have been performed at the site – though why the dead were laid to rest there, remains a mystery.

What is the mystery of Stonehenge?

 

A new BBC report published in June 2020 revealed the origin of the giant sarsen stones by the help of a missing piece of the site which was finally returned after 60 years.

Archaeologists pinpointed the source of the 15 enormous stones, each weighing over 20 tonnes, to an area 15 miles north of the site, near Marlborough Downs. The smaller bluestones have already been traced to the Preseli Hills in Wales, but the larger sarsens had been impossible to identify until now.

And finally.. are you allowed to touch Stonehenge?

 

A question many people ask is – can you touch the stones at the iconic monument?

Up until a few years ago you could wander between the stones and in the 70s and 80s people were even allowed to touch and climb the stones. This caused damage and serious erosion, so now the monument is roped off, and the closest you can get to the stones is 10 yards. However, it is possible to walk among the stones outside of public opening hours, on Special Access Visits. 

During the summer and winter solstices (21st June and 21st December), visitors are permitted access to the inner circle, though there are conditions – its forbidden to bring alcohol and drugs, and you can’t touch or stand on the stones.

stonehenge 1

So there you have it – 18 of the most weird, peculiar, and fun facts about Stonehenge.

I hope you find this post an interesting read, and that it inspires you to visit Stonehenge someday!

Check out the following links for more UK travel guide posts with free downloadable resources:

 

UK Travel Guides

 

British Isles Facts & Information Posts

Stonehenge Facts Wikipedia:

 

General Information

More information, statistics and general facts about Stonehenge, updated as of 2022. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • Location: Wiltshire, England
  • Country: England, United Kingdom
  • Landmark type: monument
  • Materials: Sarsen, Bluestone
  • Height: 4.1 metres high (13ft) per stone
  • Owner: The Crown
  • Founded: The Bronze Age (circa 3,500 BC)
  • Status: UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1986)
  • Official Name: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
  • Management: English Heritage
  • Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge
stonehenge sunset

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Billy

Billy

Lover of epic adventures, slow travel, and great coffee. When not travelling, Billy teaches dance, and creates performances on commissioned projects.

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Hey there! I’m Billy, the guy behind BRB | Gone Somewhere Epic. I’ve been travelling around the world for nine years, having an absolute blast going on epic adventures, without breaking the bank. Click here to read more about the art of budget travel.

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