Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It is one of the most famous sites in the world. Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks.
Watch this five-minute History Channel video to find out more details about the most famous groups of megaliths in the world and answer the questions about it.
The activity is suitable for intermedio 2 students.
1 When were the stones in Stonehenge put up?
2 What profession were the people who built Stonehenge good at?
3 Were the stones in Stonehenge obtained in the same area where the monument was built?
4 How were the stones brought to Stonehenge?
5 What are some of the theories about who built Stonehenge?
6 Why was Stonehenge built? Name one theory.
7 How big is the stone circle at Avebury?
8 What do we know about this part of the world and its people?
9 Why is it important to value Stonehenge?
To check your answers you can read the transcript below.
In the fields of South-western England stands Stonehenge, a unique and dramatic monument shrouded in mystery. These stones were put up four and a half thousand years ago. Some weigh more than 40 tons, yet they were arranged with pin-point precision.
It’s difficult to understand how they built Stonehenge because there’s so little evidence for us to find, but we assume that these people were good carpenters and so therefore could make wooden sledges which they would have put the stones on rollers and again they would have used some sort of platform or scaffolding of timber to get the lintels up to that amazing height.
Stonehenge was an evolving site for 1,500 years. It began in about 3,000BC with a circular ditch and bank. 500 years later came the stones. Some had travelled enormous distances.
Stonehenge is made of two types of stone. There are Sarsens, hard sandstone that comes from 25 miles from the north in the Avebury area, and then there are the Welsh stones, the blue stones which come from the Preseli Hills about 125 miles to the west. We have no idea how they brought them here because nobody’s ever found a stone anywhere along the route, but it’s a staggering achievement.
Over the centuries, the mysteries of Stonehenge have spawned many wild theories. In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed that they had been built by Merlin the Wizard. Today, some claim it was constructed by ancient aliens. The most enduring myth concerns a supposed connection to the Druids.
The association with the Druids is one of the very long-standing ideas about Stonehenge, but it has actually nothing to do with the Druids because they were priests who came along a thousand years or more after Stonehenge was finished.
Some theories can be easily dismissed, but the real meaning of the stones remains as elusive as ever.
Why they built Stonehenge is one of the real problems for archeologists because where do we find the evidence for it? There are three main theories. One is that it is a sort of solar calendar because of the way that it is aligned it does mark the changing seasons, the winter and the summer solstices. But also it suggested that perhaps it’s a place for the dead because people’s remains have been found here and also the suggestion that the stones themselves were thought to have healing powers, so there are probably over its long 1500 year life, a number of different reasons why it was built and used.
Stonehenge is the most spectacular site in a landscape full of prehistoric stones, circles, avenues and barrows, the burial mounds of the Neolithic people. The most imposing and mysterious is Silvery Hill. This 40-metre-high mound is as old as Stonehenge itself and the largest of its kind in Europe.
The stone circle at Avebury, 1,300 metres in circumference, is also the largest in Europe. Its purpose, too, can only be guessed at. What these places do tell us is much about the prehistoric society that built them.
What both Stonehenge and Avebury and other sites as well tell us is that this part of the world in the Neolithic was very rich. There were a lot of people here, it was a very well farmed and organized landscape, and there were resources here whereby people could come together to build these lasting monuments that have survived four, five thousand years and which we can still see today.
Today this mysterious landscape continues to intrigue and inspire.
Stonehenge has been both a magnet and an icon for centuries. It’s attracted early archeologists, artists like Turner and Constable, and I think it still inspires people today who come along to marvel at its construction and also have their own ideas about why it was built.
Each year the summer solstice draws thousands of revelers to Stonehenge. They come to greet the dawn, to worship old gods or just to have fun. Its vibrant proof of how the stones continue to inspire people in different ways, something they’ve done for thousands of years. This landscape forms a unique link to a megalithic culture that once spanned the whole of Europe. As such today it is recognized as Unesco World Heritage Site.
It’s incredibly important to value sites like Stonehenge and the landscape that surrounds it because they are a reminder of our deep past, of the fact that people were here shaping the landscape thousands of years before us, and hopefully these enduring remains will survive for thousands more years.
To discover more, Unesco World Heritage Sites, visit our history website.