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More than ten thousand years ago ridges began to form in the landscape of what is now Wiltshire, England, a couple miles west of Amesbury. Those structures funneled snowmelt and rainwater between them. Then yearly freezing and thawing formed deep grooves that just so happen to align with the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset. So, about five thousand years ago, a powerful band of Stone Age Celts encountered that rather bizarre astronomical anomaly and they immediately attributed spiritual significance to it. After all the solstices and equinoxes were of the utmost importance to Neolithic Brits.
In 3100 BCE a royal family from Wales came to the sacred site and ordered the erection of a cemetery for the aristocracy. It started as a ring of 56 rather large blue stones that came from their old home more than 150 miles away. They were brought on oak sleds and boats and then more sleds and up and down ramps and so much more. These were then placed at one end of the strange astronomically aligned geological feature. Meanwhile dedicated laborers extended the trail all the way to the river where they erected a smaller stone circle with about half as many rocks at the other end. Thus giving rise to Stonehenge and Bluestonehenge, also known as West Amesburyhenge.
The old Welsh dynasty lasted for 500 years and in that time hundreds and hundreds of members of the aristocracy were cremated upon more than fifty funeral pyres on those hallowed grounds. Collective tombs were used in that way for 25 generations, then Stonehenge was rebuilt by primitive technocrats who wanted to also use the site as both a tool and a temple as well. To do that they brought in even bigger sarsen stones from about 20 miles away and constructed an enormous stone observatory that contained what looked like five large doorways, known as the trilithons. They also brought all of the old blue stones into the new monument, thereby enshrining them.
So, about 45 centuries ago, over a period of roughly 45 years time, those highly ambitious Stone Age people built this along with another solstice celebration center about 2 miles northeast of Stonehenge, known as Woodhenge. The two sites were nearly identical in size, and they reciprocated each other. This was all set up in such a way that on the morning of the winter solstice Woodhenge pointed to the rising Sun while Stonehenge framed the setting Sun. Then 6 months later the midsummer sunrise was observed at Stonehenge and sunset at Woodhenge.
In this way, blocks and logs were all locked together in complex ways to create portals for the Sun and Moon on solstices and lunarstices, respectively. Stonehenge, in particular, was a massive marvel of ancient engineering that consisted of immense stones that were 13 feet high and weighed about 25 tons, but everything fit together perfectly. The sheer scale and fine-tune precision of their craftsmanship stands testament to their exceptional capabilities. The pillars had tabs that went into slots on the lentil caps in the trilithons, and the almost perfectly level stones that make up the outer ring were even fitted together with tongue and groove joints.
As a result of their sophisticated understanding and steadfast devotion, those Neolithic Brits were able to construct an incredibly accurate kind of calendar church that brought to life long-held beliefs about their heritage. As part of this, there was an opening for the winter solstice Sun and there was another for the Moon on each lunarstice above the lentil ring and below the top of the central grand trilithon. Simply put, the Sun was viewed through the bottom of Stonehenge and the Moon was seen through the top of it. So, once a year the setting Sun heralded the darkest point in the great wheel of the changing seasons, which was very important to the first British agriculturalists.
In the mindset of the Neolithic Brit, stone was for the dead and wood was for the living. As part of all of this, midsummer was celebrated primarily at Woodhenge and midwinter was celebrated primarily at Stonehenge. To be more precise, they would have begun celebrating midwinter during sunrise at Woodhenge and then they would have formed a procession along the river where they would have ended during sunset at Stonehenge. People would have come from as far away as the Northern Isles with livestock for the annual feast at Woodhenge when everyone would drink and dance to their heart’s content. It was all part of a widespread religious tradition that thousands of people took part in each and every year for decades on end.
The thing is that by 2000 BCE it all came to an end when the Stone Age finally gave way to the Bronze Age. In the process of it all, funerary customs changed and cremation stopped. Instead, people were interred and grave goods were even buried with them. These memes were all part of a major shift in society that changed England forever. In the days of old everyone was buried in a mass grave but now individual plots emerged on the outskirts of the monument in the form of earthen mounds and later out into the cemeteries. So, in the end, the henges were eventually all just abandoned over time as antiquity gave way to modernity.