Who Built Stonehenge?

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1 Who Built Stonehenge? By History.com, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 1,044 Level 1220L Stonehenge is one of the most famous places in the world. How it got there and what it was used for remain mysteries. Photo by: Pixabay For centuries, historians and archaeologists have puzzled over the many mysteries of Stonehenge. The ancient monument took builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect. Located in southern England, it is comprised of roughly 100 massive upright stones placed in a circular layout. While many modern scholars now agree that Stonehenge was once a burial ground, they have yet to determine what other purposes it served and how a civilization without modern technology or even a wheel produced the mighty monument. Its construction is all the more baffling because, while the sandstone slabs of its outer ring come from local quarries, scientists have traced the bluestones that make up its inner ring all the way to the Preseli Hills in Wales, some 200 miles from where Stonehenge is located. Today, nearly 1 million people visit Stonehenge every year. Archaeologists believe England's most iconic ancient ruin was built in several stages, with the earliest components constructed 5,000 or more years ago. This was late in the Neolithic age, which began with the start of farming and ended around the time humans started to use metal tools. This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 1

2 Building was spaced out over thousands of years Builders during the initial stage would have used primitive tools possibly made from deer antlers to dig a massive circular ditch and bank, or henge. It was before the use of more advanced tools became widespread in the period known as the Bronze Age, which followed the Neolithic age. The second phase likely began several hundred years later. Then, Stonehenge s builders hoisted an estimated 80 bluestones, 43 of which remain today, into standing positions. During the third phase of construction, which took place around 2000 B.C., sandstone slabs were arranged into an outer arc or ring. Some 50 sandstones are now visible on the site, which may once have contained many more. Radiocarbon dating suggests that work continued at Stonehenge until roughly 1600 B.C., with the bluestones in particular being moved several times. The completion of Stonehenge coincided with the start of the Bronze Age in Europe. By 1200 B.C., bronze had replaced most stone tools. Theories on how the boulders were hauled Stonehenge s sandstones likely came from quarries 25 miles north of Salisbury Plain, transported with the help of sledges and ropes. They may even have already been scattered in the area when construction began. The largest weighs more than 40 tons and rises 24 feet. The smaller bluestones, on the other hand, have been traced all the way to the Preseli Hills in Wales, some 200 miles away from Stonehenge. How did builders haul these boulders, which weigh up to 4 tons, over such a great distance? According to one longstanding theory, Stonehenge s builders made sledges and rollers out of tree trunks to lug the bluestones. They then transferred the boulders onto rafts and floated them along the coast and down a river. Alternatively, they may have towed each stone with a fleet of boats. More recent theories suggests they transported the bluestones with huge wooden baskets or a combination of ball bearings, long planks and teams of oxen. Some scientists have suggested that glaciers, not humans, did most of the heavy lifting. The globe is dotted with giant rocks that were carried over long distances by moving ice. Perhaps Stonehenge s mammoth slabs were snatched by glaciers during one of the ice ages and This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 2

3 deposited near Salisbury Plain. Most archaeologists have remained skeptical of the glacial theory, however, wondering how the forces of nature could possibly have delivered the exact number of stones needed to complete the circle. The wizarding world at work? According to the 12th century English writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, Stonehenge is the work of the wizard Merlin. The story says that British soldiers tried to bring back a giant stone circle from Ireland after a bloody battle. The British defeated the soldiers but failed to move the stones, so Merlin used his magic to move them above a mass grave. While many believed Monmouth s account for centuries, the monument s construction predates Merlin (who was inspired by real-life characters) by several thousand years. Other early theories attributed its building to the Saxons, Danes, Romans, Greeks or Egyptians. In the 17th century, archaeologist John Aubrey made the claim that Stonehenge was the work of the Celtic high priests known as the Druids. Even today, people who identify as modern Druids gather at Stonehenge every summer. However, Stonehenge stood more than 1,000 years before the Celts inhabited the region, eliminating the ancient Druids from the running. Many now agree that several distinct tribes contributed to Stonehenge over the years. Bones, tools and other artifacts found on the site seem to support this theory. The first stage was achieved by early local farmers. Later, groups with advanced tools and a more cooperative way of life left their stamp on the site. Many scientists think they were natives descended from the original builders. Stonehenge likely served many functions The purpose of Stonehenge is even more of a mystery than its origins. We may never know what drew people there and inspired them to continue developing it. There is strong archaeological evidence that Stonehenge was used as a burial site, at least for part of its history. Most scholars believe it served other functions as well, though, like religious ceremonies and memorials for ancestors. In the 1960s, the astronomer Gerald Hawkins suggested that the cluster of giant stones operated as an astronomical calendar. Different points corresponded to astrological events like eclipses. Critics say that Stonehenge s builders probably lacked the knowledge necessary to predict such events, though. England s dense cloud cover could also have obscured their view of the skies. More recently, signs of illness and injury in the human remains unearthed at Stonehenge led a group of British archaeologists to speculate that it was considered a place of healing. They may have thought the bluestones had special powers. This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 3

4 One of the most famous and recognizable sites in the world, Stonehenge draws more than 800,000 tourists a year. Stonehenge has been restored several times over the years. Some of its boulders have been set in concrete to prevent collapse. Meanwhile, archaeological digs and development of the surrounding area to increase tourism have turned up other significant sites nearby, including other mysterious stone circles. This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 4

5 Quiz 1 Read the paragraph from the section Stonehenge likely served many functions. The purpose of Stonehenge is even more of a mystery than its origins. We may never know what drew people there and inspired them to continue developing it. There is strong archaeological evidence that Stonehenge was used as a burial site, at least for part of its history. Most scholars believe it served other functions as well, though, like religious ceremonies and memorials for ancestors. Which idea is BEST supported by the above paragraph? Historians have concluded that it is unlikely that they will ever know exactly who built Stonehenge and why. Historians agree that Stonehenge most likely served many purposes, but disagree on how Stonehenge was built. Historians interpret evidence found at Stonehenge differently, which creates an ongoing debate about Stonehenge s purpose. Historians need to continue to study evidence from Stonehenge because knowing Stonehenge s purpose will end the debate surrounding it. 2 Read the following statement. Modern technology has allowed historians to create evidence-based theories about Stonehenge's origins. Which sentence from the article BEST supports this statement? Archaeologists believe England's most iconic ancient ruin was built in several stages, with the earliest components constructed 5,000 or more years ago. Radiocarbon dating suggests that work continued at Stonehenge until roughly 1600 B.C., with the bluestones in particular being moved several times. Perhaps Stonehenge s mammoth slabs were snatched by glaciers during one of the ice ages and deposited near Salisbury Plain. However, Stonehenge stood more than 1,000 years before the Celts inhabited the region, eliminating the ancient Druids from the running. This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 5

6 3 Read the paragraph from the section "Building was spaced out over thousands of years." Builders during the initial stage would have used primitive tools possibly made from deer antlers to dig a massive circular ditch and bank, or henge. It was before the use of more advanced tools became widespread in the period known as the Bronze Age, which followed the Neolithic age. What is the MOST LIKELY reason for including this paragraph in the article? to introduce the idea that Stonehenge was probably created using a variety of tools to trace the process of Stonehenge's construction by closely examining the tools used to provide evidence for the theory that Stonehenge was built by many different groups of people to suggest that the construction of Stonehenge would not have been possible without advanced tools 4 Read the final paragraph of the article. One of the most famous and recognizable sites in the world, Stonehenge draws more than 800,000 tourists a year. Stonehenge has been restored several times over the years. Some of its boulders have been set in concrete to prevent collapse. Meanwhile, archaeological digs and development of the surrounding area to increase tourism have turned up other significant sites nearby, including other mysterious stone circles. Why does the author choose to conclude the article with this paragraph? to provide a summary of the key points discussed in article to compare and contrast historians' thoughts about Stonehenge with tourists' thoughts to illustrate the need for continued research about Stonehenge to highlight the idea that Stonehenge continues to attract historians and tourists This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 6

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