Good Essays

Stonehenge is without a doubt the most interesting monument in Europe. The ring of stones standing in the open vastness of Salisbury Plain is an evocative image of wonder and mystery. (Scarre, 130) Stonehenge is both traditional and unique in Britain colorful history. It is traditional in that it falls within a whole class of monuments characterized by circular banks and ditches, or by rings of standing stones. Its uniqueness is engulfed within the size of the stones, the complexity of their arrangement, and the balancing of the lintels atop the uprights. There are three other major monuments in Britain, and while they don't receive the same consideration as Stonehenge, they too entice much scrutiny. While the unique characteristics of Stonehenge only help to intensify its marvel, the ambiguities of its intention pose questions that today are still not answered. This essay will discuss monumentality as it compares to the four major henge enclosures in Britain. The monuments, namely Stonehenge, Avebury, Marden, and Durrington Walls, will be used in conjunction with discussing what purposes monuments can serve, as well as what the remains of a site can tell us about the culture of a society.


The best-known neighbor of Stonehenge, the Great Circles at Avebury, was built between c. 2,500 and 2,200 BC. Together the two sites illustrate two important general characteristics of the culture of the Bronze Age: the large scale and self-confident view of man's relationship with nature and the almost manic tenacity of a people gripped by an obsession. (Castleden, 93) The Avebury site consists of 2 huge stone circles within the frame of a larger circle spanning twenty-eight and a half acres. The stone...

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...tionship of Woodhenge to the comparable timber structure excavated at Durrington Walls was unknown, but could be clarified by radiocarbon dates. Secondly, it was clearly desirable to obtain soil samples for molluscan analysis from the fossil beneath the bank and from the ditch. This provided information relating to the environment of the time, which could be compared with that from Durrington Walls. (Wainwright, 107) The mollusca from the fossil soil beneath the enclosure bank indicated an early woodland environment followed by a forest clearance phase. Finally, there was a period of dry grassland when the environment was free of wooded vegetation. While the duration of this cycle cannot be determined conclusively, knowing small pieces of information about what went on continues to aid scientists and archaeologists in painting a picture of the past.