Stonehenge
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Location Salisbury, England   map
Date -2750 to -1500   timeline
Building Type temple, observatory
 Construction System stone
Climate temperate
Context rural plain
Style Neolithic monumental
Notes circles of stone megalith
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Detail Drawing

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Discussion Stonehenge Commentary

The most famous Neolithic monument, Stonehenge was built in several phases on a sacred site on the Salisbury Plain. In form Stonehenge is a series of concentric rings of standing stones around an altar stone at the center. The first ring has a horseshoe plan of originally five trilithons, each of two upright stones supporting a single colossal lintel. Beyond these was first a circle of smaller uprights, sacred "blue" stones, transported from South Wales, and then an outer, enclosing circle of sandstone monoliths 13.5 feet high, which support what was once a continuous lintel. Beyond this a circle of small, movable "marker stones" were set in pits and farther out, a landscaped trench separated the site from the surrounding land. A long avenue marked by uprights sets up an axis, identified by the Heel Stone, a large stone with a pointed top.

The construction was highly accurate for the period. The engineering required for transporting, shaping, raising and connecting the stones and the accuracy of their positioning according to astronomical phenomena is remarkable evidence of the knowledge and skills of Stonehenge's makers. — JY

"Stonehenge's plan is both centralized—disposed around a vertical axis—and longitudinal, developed along a horizontal axis set into the central plan. The structure was part of the landscape, yet set off from it. It was an enclosure, isolated from the world by successive rings of stone, yet open to it through the stone screens. Indeed, at the very center the participant in the rites of Stonehenge experienced a most profound connection with nature, for the monument seems to have been dominated by a powerful cult of sun worship. From its center, with the awesome trilithons on three sides, one could observe on the fourth side, at the summer solstice (the longest day of the year), the rising sun coming up exactly over the apex of the Heel Stone."

— Trachtenberg and Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p51.

Details

The Standing Stones are up to 22 feet high, weighing up to 45 tons each. The uprights were carefully plumbed and shaped to an upward tapering convexity "anticipating the entasis of the Greek column." The lintels were cut in slight curves to make part of the circle, and were secured by integral stone mortise and tenon joints.

—Trachtenberg and Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p. 50.

"At Stonehenge, mortise-and-tenon joints secure lintels to supporting sarsens, while tongues similar to toggle joints link each lintel in the outer circle to its neighbor."

—Elizabeth L. Newhouse, ed. The Builders, Marvels of Engineering. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1992. p205.

The latitude of Stonehenge is 51 degrees, 11 minutes North.

Resources
Sources on Stonehenge

Nova. Secrets of Lost Empires : Stonehenge. Nova, 1997. VHS-NTSC format video tape. ISBN 6304463146. — Video - Available at Amazon.com

Spiro Kostof. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. Oxford University Press, 1985. ISBN 0195083784. plan drawing of Stonehenge 1 ca. 2750BC, fA, p39. plan drawing of Stonehenge 2 later third millenium BC, p39, fB. plan drawing of Stonehenge 3, p39, fC. plan drawing of Stonehenge 4 ca. 1500BC, p39, fD.   Available at Amazon.com   Available at Amazon.com

G. E. Kidder Smith. Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8109-3556-2. LC 90-30728. NA200.S57 1990. photo, p11.

Henri Stierlin. Comprendre l'Architecture Universelle, Volume 1. Paris: Office du Livre S.A. Fribourg (Suisse), 1977. detail drawing in elevation showing depth of stone placement, p47. detail drawing in plan and elevation showing convex construction, p47.

Russell Sturgis. The Architecture Sourcebook. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984. ISBN 0-442-20831-9. LC 84-7275. NA2840.S78. perspective drawing, p334.

Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture, from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1986. ISBN 0-8109-1077-2. aerial photo, f10, p51. plan drawing, f9, p51.   Available at Amazon.com Available at Amazon.com

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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MEgALiThiA - Stonehenge

EARTH MYSTERIES: Stonehenge

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