How did the ancient Neolithic people of England build Stonehenge? It’s a mystery that scholars have been puzzling over for centuries. While no single Stonehenge construction theory yet offered can said to be the final answer, there are many suggested methodologies which have been backed up with actual experimentation to demonstrate how it could have been done.
Over the years
Keep in mind that Stonehenge dates back to at least 3100 B.C., long before the wheel was in use, or other tools we take for granted, such as pulleys, levers or other common devices. While the earliest incarnation of Stonehenge was known to be made of wood, in the centuries that followed, the massive stones which stand today were added. The actual work on Stonehenge is said to have been done in phases and perhaps even by different people in different eras – over a time comprising maybe 1,500 years.
But that’s not to say it took 1,500 years to build Stonehenge. The gigantic 4-ton sarsen stones and smaller cap stones were probably a project accomplished over a single generation, or perhaps two generations, although nothing is known for sure.
It is known that the some of the largest stones, known as “bluestones” were quarried in Wales, some 150 to 200 miles from the Salisbury plains in England where Stonehenge is located. A number of workable Stonehenge construction methods the ancients could have managed this feat have been suggested.
Theories on Construction
One is the ball bearing theory. Researchers at the University of Exeter, for example, noticed that a number of small stone balls have been found around other monolithic sites. The suggestions is that dozens of small ball bearing like stones were placed under the stone slabs to help roll them along. In fact, a retired Michigan construction worker by the name of Wally Wallington was able to do just that using walnut-sized rocks. He showed that he could move a 1-ton slab 300 per hour with the ball bearing method.
Another suggestion is that the ancients weaved gigantic wicker-like cages, or cradles, to encase the rocks, making it easier to pull or roll them along the ground, and also float them on rivers. This method was tested by a BBC documentary maker with some success, although he used only a 1-ton rock, and not a 4-ton behemoth.
There are many scholars who believe that the ancient may have used oxen for extra pulling power. Some have suggested that using oxen with people power – and large logs to roll the stones along – could have been the way the giant stones were moved over vast distances.
But transporting the rocks is only half the problem. The next challenge is to move them around, set them upright and arrange them in the precise astronomical alignments they are found in today. Here again, many techniques have been suggested. One is that pits were dug at the foot of the large rectangular stones, and then tipped upward and into them. The stones could have been leveraged upward gradually by just inches at a time using large beams to pry them. Small, flat rocks were wedged into those few inches between ground and stone – then more prying upward, then more stones, until they were raised high enough to tip.
Others have constructed A-frame devices made of gigantic logs that served as leveraging machines that could have helped raise the stones using gangs of people pulling on ropes. Some have even suggested that giant kites were used to generate lifting power!
Naturally, the confounding enigma of how Stonehenge construction has given rise to many theories based on more magical or esoteric explanations. These are many and varied. Some say that vibration levitation methods, harkening back to the legendary city of Atlantis, may have been employed. Others prefer the ancient astronauts’ explanation.
The suggestion is that aliens from another planet or dimension assisted in the manipulation of the stones – and this would further explain the well-known astronomical configurations of Stonehenge. If they had help from “star people” why not build astronomical elements into the structure?
The only problem with mystical explanations is that they are utterly impossible to prove, and ultimately, unnecessary because the more mundane methods we have already talked about could have gotten the job done. It’s clear there are many conceivable methods that might have worked using Neolithic tools and resources, combined with human intelligence and will power to accomplish Stonehenge construction.