Stonehenge, Located in Salisbury Plain, England Term Paper

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¶ … Stonehenge, located in Salisbury Plain, England, has been a source of public curiosity, professional debate and even controversy. What, the question has been asked again and again, is Stonehenge; when the question that leads to perhaps a better understanding of Stonehenge is: Why is Stonehenge there? Many more answers that lead to an expanded understanding of Stonehenge comes from asking Why, as opposed to asking What is Stonehenge.

This paper will explore the question of why, beginning with an examination of those questions that one would begin by asking at the outset of any architectural building project.

This might help shed some light on why Stonehenge was built, which will in turn lend itself to what Stonehenge is.

Stonehenge at a Glance

Researchers R.J.C. Atkinson and Hamish Hamilton (1956), in their book titled Stonehenge, write that first-time visitors to Stonehenge might at first glance experience some measure of disappointment because in their mind they have a preconceived image of the site where the structures loom large against the landscape (p.1). In fact, the authors say, the structure, on a whole and inclusive of the giant individual stones, is actually dwarfed by the landscape upon which it stands and which surrounds the site (p.1). This is an important clue as to why Stonehenge was designed on the particular site where it stands today.

The first note we make about the site, then, is this point: the structures are small in comparison to the landscape upon which they stand, and that which surrounds them.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Stonehenge, Located in Salisbury Plain, England, Has Assignment

The authors provide a succinct visual of the site, commenting further, "The monument stands on a slight eminence of the chalk downs, but its position was evidently not chosen to command a particularly wide view (p. 1)." This, again, is a significant structural point. The site, we might conclude, with its giant stone monoliths, was not constructed with a mind for admiring the view. This means that the structure had a very different utility. In this same paragraph, the authors note that the site is on a "slight eminence of the chalk downs," and we have to work a little harder here to understand the language in comparison to the description.

The term "eminence" in this case, would refer to the protrusion in the land that juts out towards the sea, or the "chalk downs."

Now we know that the site, the monument, is:

Small in size as compared to the landscape

Has a narrow view, does not allow for a "site-seer" view

Stands on protrusion - that banks down to the seaside

Based on this information alone, we can say that the site had no utility for protecting its builders from hostile forces of competitors. The site itself was subordinate to the land on which it stood, and that it stands on a "slight" eminence, meaning that it really had no value or utility to protect its builders. Protection is something with which any village or group would have needed to be concerned about during the prehistoric times when the site was constructed (Castleden, Rodney, 1993, p. 5). This, of course, is a first glance, since there is much more to be discussed about the structure. What is seen today, are remains of a prehistoric era, but not the entire structure. What cannot be seen, of course, is the structure as it might have looked during the prehistoric time that it stood newly completed. There are, however, indications of that too.

The remains that are seen today are the simply shaped blocks of a greater structure, built in a geometric pattern (Castleden, p. 5). They were part of a greater structure, as evidenced by the remains (Catleden, p. 5). However, we know from the earlier description here that Stonhenge probably had no utility as a fortress, and the fact that it was poor visibility from within the structure might have a twofold meaning. It might mean that as poor as the view was from within the structure, it was equally difficult to see into the structure from the outside, looking in. What might the builders have wished to prevent people on the outside from seeing? Given the age of the structure, and the details, there is room of course to speculate as to why Stonehenge was built.

Stonehenge Possibilities

If we can see Stonehenge as part of a regional tradition, we stand a better chance of understanding it, simply because we can apply knowledge and insights acquired at other comparable sites: then it may be possible to make better sense of the monument's peculiarities - and deduce its meaning (Castleden, p. 185)."

According to researcher Rodney Castleden (1993), in his book, the Making of Stonehenge, the original Stonehenge structure is not as apparent to the naked eye as it the replacement fixtures, which constitutes much of what remains today (p. 185). The existing original remains and those that represent the subsequent repairs to the original structure, lend themselves to identifying the use of the structure. Castlenden writes:

The large roundhouse which formed part of the Stonehenge I design was a regular component of the "public" architecture of the late Neolithic Wessex, and some have been found further afield. Roundhouses are known to have existed at the Sanctuary, Marden, Mount Pleasant and at nearby Durrington Walls. The northern roundhouse at Durrington was very similar in size to the one built at Stonehenge (p. 185)."

Here, the picture begins to emerge as to why Stonehenge was built; it was a place that was of service to its population. In what way it was of service, is still not clear, although we might take some direction from the fact that there is indeed an altar - which does not mean that there was "originally" an altar. The altar is found at other sites, but we do not know that they were in fact a part of any of the original designs and structures. At this point, without speculating, we know only that it was a site public service, not one, we surmise by its lack of strategic defense or offense, a place to seek protection against hostile or invading forces.

The quality of the stone used at the site is of a high quality, and was probably imported from another area (Atkinson and Hamilton, 1956, p. 3). The quality of the stone, combined with the idea that it was a public place, denotes a public place with a special or meaningful purpose.

This was a structure that was intended to perhaps make the public hold a special value to society are built with special materials, so as to memorialize the notions associated with the site. We see this is modern times in museums, churches, government and public buildings; and we see this same conveyance of special esteem in the castles of kings and queens, because their castles - such as Windsor Castle, or Buckingham Castle, in England, are not just where the Queen of England and her family live; it is also a place that contains the history, the genealogy of the country. What is preserved is their historical past, and it is preserved with a reverence. We can see from the special care, preservation and repair of the original materials and subsequent materials that there was a goal for Stonehenge to persevere and to stand against time.

If Stonehenge was meant to withstand the test of time, what did the ancient people who built, and their descendants who, for a period of time, maintained it, want those of us who came after them to know about them, to learn about them, through the remains at Stonehenge? Researchers Robert J. Wallis and Jenny Blain (2003) thought that the answer to that question perhaps could be found in surveying people about sacred sites and how they feel about those sites today.

The thoughts expressed might be close to what Stonehenge's builders and the people they built the site for felt, and wanted to preserve in Stonehenge.

It's like an ancestral memory bit that's stored up... You're drawn here, quite simply the bottom line is you're sort of drawn here, there's all sorts of, well a myriad reasons for that you see... To me it's like charging my batteries, it's kind of like these sort of gatherings like getting a new life really... And you don't have to be anything here... There's no real kind of code here at all, and that's what I love about, there's such diversity of people and it is real mixing... because everyone's allowed to be what they want (p. 307)."

The fact is that we do not know what went on at Stonehenge; whether it was a sacred place where people gathered to worship pagan deities, or if it was a place where sacrifices were made so that people would be rewarded with good weather or abundant crops. All we really have to go on today is the architecture, which tells us that there was a functionality to the site, that it was public,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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