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Stonehenge - The Inner Monument

 

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The Inner Monument

 

The central part of the monument consists of two different stone types, arranged concentrically; Sarsens ( a hard sandstone ) and Bluestones ( rhyolite or spotted dolomite ). A Sarsen circle encloses a Bluestone circle and a Sarsen horseshoe ( the Trilithons ) surrounds a Bluestone horseshoe.

The dome for interlocking with the lintel can be clearly seen in this photo taken as one of the Trilithons was re-erected at the beginning of the 20th century.

 

The Sarsen stones are 'local' to the area. These hard sandstone stones were transported from the Marlborough Downs; about twenty miles to the north-east of Salisbury Plain. They are the same type as used in the Avebury monument. The Sarsen stones have been shaped with great skill; not only are there domes on the uprights and indentations on the lintels for fitting and binding the structure, but the uprights are slightly tapered so that they look straight, and the lintels are curved to the shape of the circle. No mean feat if you consider it was done using stone tools. Hammer-stones weighing up to 60 pounds have been found.

The bluestones are not local to the area of Stonehenge. Geological analysis in relatively recent times has shown that the bluestones at Stonehenge originated somewhere in the Preseli mountains in Pembrokeshire, Southwest Wales. There may have  as many as eighty Bluestones, weighing up to five tons each. It's difficult to be certain, some are missing, others are broken and the pattern of holes is confusing.

Examination of the bluestones has found convincing evidence that the stones had been erected somewhere else. Stonehenge is not the first site where the bluestones stood as a circle.

In his  'History of the kings of Britain' written around 1139AD, Geoffrey of Monmouth had this to say of the construction of Stonehenge:-

"If you are desirous," said Merlin, "to honour the burying place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant's Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand forever."

At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, "How is it possible to remove such vast stones from so distant a country, as if Britain was not furnished with stones fit for the work?" Merlin replied, "I entreat your majesty to forbear vain laughter; for what I say is without vanity. They are mystical stones, and of a great medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coast of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country. ....There is not a stone there which has not some healing virtue." When the Britons heard this they resolved to send for the stones....A fleet therefore being got ready , they set sail, and with a fair wind arrived in Ireland. ...they went to the mountain Killaraus, and arrived at the structure of stones, the sight of which filled them both with joy and admiration. Merlin. .began his own contrivances. When he had placed in order the engines that were necessary, he took down the stones with an incredible facility, and gave directions for their carrying to the ships, and placing them therein. This done they set sail again, to return to Britain; where they arrived with a fair gale... Merlin set up the stones... in the same manner as they had been in the mountain Killaraus."

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain pp133+

download the History of the kings of Britain in .pdf format

 

To summarise the story

according to the experts;- the stones came from the Preseli mountains in southwest Wales, they were erected somewhere as a circle, then they were brought to Stonehenge and re-erected. The probability is they were moved using mechanical devices and ships.

 

According to Geoffrey, who claimed an earlier source;- the stones originally came from 'the farthest coast of Africa' (The scribes who were copying old texts commonly had only a sketchy knowledge of geography and 'Africa' or 'Spain' is usually shorthand for 'somewhere far away whose name I don't recognise or can't read'), subsequently the builders 'placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country' (In the first millenia the Scots lived in present day Ireland, the Irish were, off and on, settled in areas of Cornwall, North Devon and the south-western part of present day Wales. There are documents from the later 9th and 10th C. referring to an area settled by the Irish in the Southwest of England as Scotland.) Then the stones were moved, using mechanical devices and ships, to Sonehenge where they were set up 'in the same manner as they had been'

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The bluestones, 'stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality','mystical stones, and of a great medicinal virtue.' were transported to Stonehenge, re-erected and surrounded by larger, local stones.

 

 

"The great dolmens of Stonehenge, all of local stone, look as though they were erected to give importance to the smaller stones..which are known to have been transported all the way from the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire." - Robert Graves; The White Goddess, p282.

 

 

a sacred circle transported to Stonehenge for it's religious significance; in the words of Professor Rhys ' the stones were regarded as divine or as seats of divine power'. 

 

 

With the addition of a surrounding structure of larger and more imposing local stones. The Trilthon horsehoe and the outer Sarsen circle.

 

 

An existing sacred circle, whose stones originated in West Wales, was transported from an unknown, but undoubtedly sacred,  location to Salisbury Plain, re-erected in the same form at Stonehenge and a mirror structure of local stone was erected around it.

 

Because there is a human tendency when looking at such man made wonders as the pyramids of Egypt or the great Medieval Gothic cathedrals to wonder at the sheer marvel of the structure and forget that what mattered to the builders was what lay within; the tombs of Egyptian kings, the relics of early christian saints.

Their purpose forgotten.

So with Stonehenge, the bluestones within overshadowed by the Sarsen circle and the Trilithons have become the wonder of Stonehenge.

The purpose of Stonehenge forgotten..

 

 

Stonehenge Now - Aerial View

 

 

 

 

Next - The Bluestones

 

 

 

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