Posted by: nancycurteman | August 23, 2012

Stonehenge and the Amesbury Archer Mystery

Stonehenge and the Amesbury Archer mystery have been a puzzle for many years.

Construction began on Stonehenge, a megalithic monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, in Neolithic times around 3000 BCE. It was built in stages over 1,400 years. The structure started out as a huge circular earthen ditch with wooden posts and walls. About 2300 BCE, large blocks of bluestone were erected followed in later years by the addition of the massive sarcen stones for which Stonehenge is so well-known. Some of these stones weighed as much as 26 tons.

Mystery surrounds Stonehenge. Who built it? How did they transport the huge stones? Why was it built? And—how was the Amesbury Archer involved?

The Stonehenge builders are enshrouded in mystery. Ideas about their identity abound. They include Druids, Egyptians, Romans, Atlantans, Greeks, sun worshippers, prehistoric chiefs and even visitors from outer space.

How did primitive builders without wheels transport blocks of bluestone from a quarry in the Preseli Mountains in Wales 240 miles away? Speculation has it early builders transported them on rafts using local rivers, then dragged them overland. The early builders may have used rollers, sledges, levers and big animals to move the larger sarcen stones from the quarry at Marlborough Downs in north Wiltshire.

Many theories exist regarding the reason for building Stonehenge. It may have served as a temple at which feasting rituals were celebrated during the summer solstice and in midwinter. Perhaps it was a healing site or a place where  human sacrifice was practiced. There is archaeological evidence that it served as a burial site possibly for members of ancient royal families. Research and calculations by Gerald Hawkins indicate Stonehenge was an observatory used to predict astronomical events like eclipses. The Hawkins theory seems plausible.

The tomb of the Amesbury Archer, nicknamed “King of Stonehenge,” was discovered in 2002. Artifacts in the tomb and careful examination of the body indicate he was a skilled craftsman and metalworker who came to Wiltshire from the Alpes region in Central Europe 4300 years ago. He arrived in Wiltshire at the time of the erection of the sarcen stones at Stonehenge. His burial site is the first evidence of an elite class with the power to organize. It is possible that the Archer was linked closely to the stones. Archaeologists believe he may have helped plan and organize the building of the sarcen section of Stonehenge. He may have even had a hand in helping erect the stones.

Stonehenge and the Amesbury Archer will remain clouded in fascinating mystery for years to come.

The skeleton of the Amesbury Archer with his grave goods are on permanent display at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

Visit Stonehenge by taking a 90-minute train trip from London’s Waterloo Station to Salisbury. From right outside Salisbury train station, take the bus that goes to Stonehenge, a 30-minute ride. Take an audio tour then visit the gift shop. Work in a tour of Salisbury before returning to London.

More Tips:

The Isle of Man: An Adventure in History and Mythology
The Isle of Jersey’s Famous Lily

Isle of Wight: Something for Everyone

The Isle of Guernsey: A Place That Exceeds Expectations


  1. NIce. Now there’s somewhere I have been. Even have a photo of me standing by a stone. (Amesbury that is). Someday remind me to tell you the story of the horse I almost hit on the way there.


    • I’d love to hear the story about your almost encounter with the horse. I bet my readers would like to read it, too. Consider sharing it with all of us.


  2. A place I would like to visit in my world-spanning time-machine. Once I’ve determined how it was built, I’ll get back to you. ))


    • Do get back to us about how Stonehenge was built. I saw an interesting theory. It was a photo of a large dinosaur tied to a sarcen stone looking like he would pull it into place. Did they domesticate dinosaurs?


  3. Stonehenge . . . oh, how its stones fascinate us. Thanks for spotlighting it, NC.


  4. The Salisbury-Stonehenge bus tour takes you to Old Sarum too, which is well worth a look. It was once the site of Salisbury (New Sarum) but is now deserted. For many years it returned a Member of Parliament despite having very few inhabitants


    • That is great information. Old Sarum is remarkable in British history. I’ve read some interesting pieces about it.


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