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Stonehenge - The Naming of the Parts


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The Naming of the Parts

By the side of the Avenue to the northeast of Stonehenge is the the Heel Stone. It's shape is natural. It leans slightly, but whether it was erected at an angle or was originally erect is uncertain. From the Heel Stone to the centre of the monument is a distance of two hundred and fifty six feet.


The main part of Stonehenge is surrounded by a bank and ditch. The Avenue enters Stonehenge from the northeast, through a gap in the bank and ditch. At one side of the entrance lies a recumbent Sarsen stone known as the 'Slaughter Stone'. This stone once had a partner and the pair stood upright either side of the thirty five feet wide entrance.  Unusually for stone circle monuments the ditch is on the outside of the bank. The external ditch, more quarry than proper ditch, provided the material for the circular chalk bank. The ditch varies from 4 feet 6 inches to 6 feet deep and the width at the bottom is some 12 feet. The bank takes the form of a circle the crest of which is three hundred and twenty feet in diameter. At the time of its construction the bank measured twenty feet wide and at least six feet high.

Immediately inside the bank there are a series of fifty six pits known as the Aubrey Holes, named after their re-discoverer, John Aubrey who investigated them in 1666.

Stonehenge Map

No evidence has been found to indicate that the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge ever held either wooden posts or upright stones. Their function is unknown. The centres of the Aubrey Holes are all within 1 foot 7 inches of a circle with a diameter of 284 feet 6 inches. They are spaced slightly less than 16 feet apart. The Aubrey Holes have an average diameter of 3 feet 6 inches and an average depth of 2 foot 6 inches.

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The Four Stations or Station Stones stand inside the bank more or less on the Aubrey Hole circle. Two, diagonally opposite, have mounds and ditches, the other two do not. These mounds/ditches overlay both Aubrey Holes and the bank.

Stonehenge Map

The Station Stones form a rectangle whose diagonals intersect at 45, very close to the centre of Stonehenge  The sides and diagonals of this rectangle possess what Gerald Hawkins called 'astronomic significance.' One pair of sides mark the Summer Solstice Sunrise/ Winter Solstice Sunset, the other pair indicate the most northerly/southerly moonrise/moonset.

Only at, or very close to, the latitude of Stonehenge ( 51' 10" ) do these alignments intersect at an angle of 90.

'The implications of this are that the builders of Stonehenge had a knowledge of the global nature of the Earth' - Devereux

As the diagonal view across the 'Four Stations' is blocked by the central Sarsen stones, it is likely that the central Sarsen circle came after the Station stones in the sequence of construction.


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Between the Aubrey Holes / Station Stones and the central stones are two rings of pits called the Y Holes and Z Holes.

X and Y Holes

The twenty nine Z Holes are between 5 feet and 15 feet outside the Sarsen circle; the thirty Y Holes about 35 feet. They average around 3 foot 3 inches deep and appear to have been dug after the erection of the Sarsen circle. Neither describe a true circle. As with the Aubrey Holes there is little archaeological evidence as to the function of these holes. Suggestively almost every pit excavated held a Bluestone chip, specifically rhyolite, near the bottom. A similar rhyolite chip was found at the bottom of the ditch surrounding the Heel Stone.

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The central part of the monument comprises four concentric stone arrangements, two circles and two horseshoes. The outermost of which is the thirty stones of the Sarsen Circle.

Sarsen Circle Stonehenge Map

The Sarsen Circle has a diameter of 97 feet. The individual stones are 7 feet wide, stand 13 feet 6 inches high and are spaced 10 feet apart (centre to centre). The average error in the placing of these 25 ton stones is somewhere in the region of four inches. The top of each upright stone has two upstanding dome/knobs  on which fit recesses cut in the lintels. These lintels are carved to conform to the curve of the circle and each has an upright ridge on one end which fits a corresponding groove on the next stone.

The entrance to the Sarsen Circle is to the northeast. The gap between the uprights there is a foot wider than the average and the lintel above is deeper than the others, the underside cutaway to preserve a level top

Geologically these Sarsen (hard sandstone) stones are from the Marlborough Downs; about twenty miles to the north-east of Salisbury Plain. 

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Next is the Bluestone Circle some 76 feet in diameter

Bluestone Circle - Stonehenge Map

There may have originally been up to sixty stones in this circle, of which twenty currently can be seen. Geologically the Bluestones are rhyolite or spotted dolomite rocks from the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. The average spacing of the stones in this circle is about two feet.

The two stones at the entrance to the Bluestone Circle were set five feet apart and only six inches from their neighbours. They are also set back into the circle.

This is not the original placing of the Bluestones. Several of the stones are dressed in such a way that shows they stood as a 'henge' monument/circle before they were brought to their present site.

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Next are the Trilithons

Trilithon Stonehenge Map

The Trilithons are five linteled triads of large Sarsen stones averaging 45 tons, laid out in the shape of a horseshoe open to the northeast. They were likely originally erected from the outside. The openings in the Trilithons average 13 inches, that between the central stones may have been greater. The Trilithons increase in height, those near the entrance are 20 feet to the top of the lintels, the next pair are 21 foot 3 inches high and the central Trilithon lintel stands a towering 25 feet 6 inches above ground level.

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The Bluestone horseshoe

Bluestone horseshoe Stonehenge Map

The 19 Bluestones of the central horseshoe stand within the Trilithons and are similarly aligned with the opening to the northeast.  The diameter of the inner stones is 39 feet and as with the Trilithons these stones rise in height, from 6 feet at the outer ends to 8 feet at the centre. These bluestones also show evidence of having stood before.

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The Centre of Stonehenge

Altar Stone Stonehenge Map

The 'Altar' stone lies almost at the geometrical centre of Stonehenge. It is a pale greenish/brown micaceous sandstone which originated from the area around Milford Haven in Southwest Wales. The name seems to have come from it's position in front of the Trilithons. The Alter Stone measures 16 feet long, 1 foot 9 inches deep and 3 feet 4 inches wide. The original position of this stone is uncertain, there are stone holes suggesting it may have stood upright in front of the central Trilithon, or it may have been one of a pair somewhere near it's present position, or maybe it lies where it always has. 


Centre of stone circle, Stonehenge

Lat. N. 51 10 42"
Long. W. 1 49 29"



Next .... The sequence of construction


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