Stonehenge; even the very name evokes a feeling of awe and mystery. At least, it does for me. Who built it? Why did they build it? Archaeologists have no idea, and neither does anyone else. There are many legends about the monument near Amesbury on the Salisbury Plain in Great Britain.
Stonehenge is a Neolithic monument built around 2500 years ago. It started out as a circular ditch and bank construction. It was simple. Then the builders added postholes to the site as the monument evolved. These postholes suggest that the first real structure to stand on the site was a round timber building. Following this construction was the addition of the stone structure whose remains are still visible to this day. No one really knows the reason why the ancients built the monument.
The reason that the ancient Britons built Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery. There are some legends and theories that people have put forth. First and foremost, is the theory that it was built as a sort of temple to whatever god or goddess the people worshiped at that time.
One theory suggests that the monument or temple was druidic in origin, but critics refute this theory by pointing out that not only did the monument predate Druids, but also Druids had no need of stone temples. Another theory is more fanciful, in that Merlin moved the stones from their original location in Ireland to their current location to enclose the graves of noble knights. This theory ignores the earlier incarnations of the monument and the fact that no such stone circle ever existed in Ireland, at least, not the size of Stonehenge.
There is another theory that says the monument was an astronomical observatory, but the predominant theory says that it was a temple. This kind of uncertainty is perfect for a writer seeking a story idea. There are a number of ways you can get a story out of the monument, who built it and how did they build it and why. These avenues of speculation will allow the writer to create a story to explain the monument as it is now. I’ve always considered the idea that far from being a temple or astronomical observatory, Stonehenge was a meeting place; a place where the people could meet and exchange goods, services and ideas. Someday, I will write that story.
I sometimes like to play around with archaeology. I don’t mean that I actually go on digs or anything like that, but it seems to me that everything they find, they attribute to religion in some way. Some even go so far as to speculate on the rituals performed there. Maybe they have sources to tell them that or maybe they just use their imaginations. In any case, they do it. I like to think about what might have gone on there, using my own imagination. I put only one constraint on it, it has to be something that is 180° from what mainstream archaeology says.
This is a version of the ‘What if’ story idea generation except that you start with a place. To do this, you read up on a place like Stonehenge and try to imagine yourself back in the day when the place was in use. Perhaps the reason for it was lost was that everyone knew it and there was no need to explain it or write it down, when writing came to the area. I doubt they would have simply forgotten. Someone always remembers. However, if the reason for building Stonehenge was to serve as a meeting place, why bother to mention that after it fell into disuse?
There’s the idea. What if they built Stonehenge as a place for all the tribes to come together, under the banner of peace and talk? What it was a sort of Neolithic United Nations? There’s a story in there. You would want a place large enough to hold a large number of people, a place that would last, season-to-season, and ready for use. What reason would there be for abandoning such a place? As I said, why bother to talk about something no one uses any more, whether the reason was that the land fell into the hands of a hostile tribe, or war, or pestilence.
What if Stonehenge was just an artist’s work, like Mount Rushmore in the United States, or the image of Crazy Horse, currently under construction in South Dakota’s Black Hills, near Mount Rushmore? That would have another story, how the artist got so many people together to build his dream, thoughts of the people who helped him achieve it. In this case, its purpose would not be considered as important to pass on to future generations as the knowledge they would need to survive.
As you can see, there are many stories here. If you are an archaeologist, it matters how you interpret a place like Stonehenge, if you are a writer, you are freer to let your imagination go. Grab some characters and let yourself go.
Modern neo-druids make a point of "worshipping" at Stonehenge at the solstices despite the fact that there is no evidence that the ancient druids ever worshipped there. Since the druids worshipped trees. It is doubtful that they would want to worship in a circle of stone. Anyway, Stonehenge predates the druids by several centuries, if not a thousand years. There could be a story in the modern druids using Stonehenge, maybe something mystical happens to one druid while at the shrine at the summer solstice. As you can see, there are a number of variations on what you can do with a site like Stonehenge. What you shouldn’t do is destroy it, even in your story, unless the story takes place in the future or an alternate universe.
Stonehenge is many things to many people.
It’s a giant astronomical calculator, a calculator for when to plant, a place of worship. It all depends on how you see it. I see it as a symbol of humanity’s ability to pull together when the goal is important. I see it as a symbol of hope that we are not too far down the path of self-destruction.