Henge, Henge, Everywhere a Henge
Everyone knows all about Stonehenge. Well, I take that back – everyone seems to be aware that Stonehenge exists, and that it’s that big circle of enormous rocks stacked up in an inexplicable circle in Southwestern England, but know one seems to know ALL about Stonehenge. The big questions that will likely remain a mystery forever are How? and Why? Of course, there are tons of theories about why it’s there – a big calendar or clock, a place of worship, burial ground, a star gate, a place to hold hands and sing songs about flowers and butterflies and peace, or maybe it’s an alien landing zone.
The big news to me, however, is that Stonehenge is not alone. It’s not the only henge out there. There are bunches and bunches more.
Just two miles northeast of it’s much more famous cousin, is Woodhenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a wooden version of Stonehenge. All the scientific dating of the site shows that the Woodhenge is probably over 4,000 years old, so, after that much time, there’s no wood left in the henge, but from the air, archaeologists could see that there was a pattern of holes in the ground that looked like something must have been there long, long ago. Soil samples contained the remains of rotted wood, showing that at one point most of the 168 holes contained wood posts that may have weighed up to five tons each. They were situated in an almost identical pattern to that of Stonehenge. Most of the posts were buried over six feet down into the ground and probably stood over 25 feet tall.
My first reaction to Woodhenge was that it was probably the ancient druids rough draft. I figured they probably built the wood one first, just to see if they could do it, then built the stone one later on after they’d perfected the design. However – I was wrong. I know that’s hard to believe, but I was. Those scientists, with all their sciencey equipment found a bunch of pottery fragments at the site, which helped them determine when Woodhenge was likely built, and they say it was probably about the same time as, or even after, Stonehenge was constructed.
Of course, since Stonehenge is mostly still there, it’s easy to see. Woodhenge not so much. Even though it was built about the same time as it’s rocky BFF, Woodhenge rotted away and wasn’t discovered until 1926. About 40 years after that, another wooden henge structure was found (or what’s left of it anyway) less than a football field away from Woodhenge. Of course, you can visit Stonehenge and see the giant rock circle, but all that’s left of Woodhenge is 168 cement posts marking the spots of the original wooden ones.
About a mile Southeast of Stonehenge is another hengeriffic site. This one’s called Bluehenge or Bluestonehenge, named after the bluestone chips found at the site. The stones are similar composition to those still standing at Stonehenge, and some researchers think that Bluehenge, which looked like a mini-Stonehenge was the Stonehenge rough draft.
There’s nothing left at Bluehenge today, and scientific dating suggests that it was constructed before Stonehenge and dismantled around the time that Stonehenge was built. Some of the scientists think that the Bluehenge rocks may have been torn down and moved to build or maybe repair Stonehenge.
Another one, Coneybury Henge, was found in 1980 and excavated in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, there’s not much left of that one, because the land had been plowed over for farming, but the archaeologists did find similar ditches and post circles as found at the other sites.
Then, in 2010, yet another henge was discovered. This one is being called New Henge, and is about half a mile from Stonehenge. This one took so long to discover, because it’s completely underground. Radar technology has allowed scientists to study the new site, showing them that it was set up nearly the same way as Stonehenge, but contained a burial mound in the middle of the circle of rock. Some dispute these findings, but unless they have Mole Men that can help them see things better, I’ll go ahead and believe the science dudes.
Even cooler is that all these sites are built around the River Avon, and a series of roads and ditches may have connected them all, leading many to believe that they weren’t all individual sites, but somehow part of one bigger complex structure, with the wood and stone symbolizing different things, perhaps life and death.
I used to think Stonehenge was this mysterious, isolated monument, making the Southwestern area of England some sort of magical time portal. Now, knowing that there’s isn’t just one henge, but a whole Hengeapalooza over there, I think I may have been right. No, you can’t physically travel through time in Stonehenge – at least not until we find the ancient on/off switch for it – but in a way you can. You can walk through those sites, see how they’re connected, theorize how and why they were built, and try to imagine the way people lived in that area 4,000 years ago. That’s almost as good as time travel.
We’re just trying to share some of the interesting and strange things we learn about the world around us. This article is from Mr. Curtis, who has been with TAP since the beginning, way back in 2007. Mr. Curtis is the group’s leader. He’s mostly fearless. He’s never been to any henges, but he likes Angry Birds, and these places remind him of them. If you are affiliated with Minooka TAP (student, teacher, parent, family member, or past traveler) and you’d like to submit an article, please email us at Minookatap2@gmail.com