I. On Salisbury Plain in Southern England stands Stonehenge, the most famous of all megalithic sites. Stonehenge is unique among the monuments of the ancient world. Isolated on a windswept plain, built by a people with no written language, Stonehenge challenges our imagination.
The impressive stone circle stands near the top of a gently sloping hill on Salisbury Plain about thirty miles from the English Channel. The stones are visible over the hills for a mile or two in every direction. Stonehenge is one of over fifty thousand prehistoric "megalithics" in Europe.
As Stonehenge is approached, the forty giant stones seem to touch the sky. Most of the stones stand twenty-four or more feet high. Some stones weigh as much as forty tons. Others are smaller, weighing only five tons. At first glance, the stones may seem to be a natural formation. But a closer look shows that only human imagination and determination could have created Stonehenge.
II. The Stonehenge today looks quite different from the Stonehenge of old. Wind and weather have destroyed a little of Stonehenge over the ages. People have destroyed much more.
Today, less than half of the original stones still stand as their builders planned. Many of the once upright stones lie on their sides. Religious fanatics, who felt threatened by the mysteries posed by Stonehenge, knocked over many of the standing stones. They toppled some of the huge stones, which then split into pieces; they buried others.
Other stones were "quarried" over the centuries as free building material and hauled away. Even into this century, visitors have come with hammers to carry away a chip of stone with them.
III. Only in recent years have the stones been protected from the huge amounts of people that see them every year. No longer can anyone roam among the stones. Too much damage, intentional or not, has been done by the hundreds of thousands of visitors. Today, tourists are even prevented from walking between the stones for fear that the millions of footsteps every year might make the stones unstable.
IV. The twelfth-century English writer and historian, Geoffrey of Monmouth, first recorded Merlin's building of Stonehenge in his famous book History of the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey claimed that his book was a translation of "a certain very ancient book written in the British language." However, no other scholar or historian knows of the existence of such a book.
According to Geoffrey, the great stones were brought from Ireland to England to mark the burial place of a group of slain British princes.