Standing on the grassy Salisbury Plain of Wiltshire, England, I am one of dozens of modern-day curious tourists gazing at the huge stone monoliths of Stonehenge. With cell phone cameras held aloft, we jockey into position to get the best photos – made fabulous on this particular day by the long shadows in the setting sun – to post on social media.
I work hard at taking my consciousness out of the present-day techie world and way back to the Neolithic Age of 10,000 – 3,000 BCE. It’s not easy, you know, because we’re so used to cranes lifting tons of building materials hundreds of feet in the air, not to mention drills, power tools galore, and trucks to haul everything. Heck, the invention of the wheel only happened at the tail end of the Neolithic Age, meaning that Stonehenge – built around 3,400 BCE – may have been constructed without its use. The enormous stones, weighing up to 50 tons, were transported from the Prescelli Mountains of southwest Wales, an astounding trip of 150 miles.
Why Build This Thing?
So to me the big story is about motivation. What could motivate humans to toil for 300 years to build Stonehenge? What was so vitally important for thousands of people to devote their entire lifetime to construct such a thing? And all with no wheels, no metal tools, and no mechanization whatsoever?
The Neolithic Age, the last of the Stone Ages, was a time of great development of civilization. Agriculture was begun, replacing hunter-gatherers. Villages were formed where humans gathered and shared information.
Reliance on nature was directly tied to survival in those days. Imagine their epiphany when humans discovered that the moon has an 18.6-year cycle and then repeats, making it a predictable happening. The sun has cycles as well, leading to the ability to predict seasons. To early humans, this must have been an enormous victory, and feeling of control. The great wild natural world could be harnessed! Ancient humans felt, perhaps for the first time, in control of their destinies.
I like to envision the great swelling of joy their villages gained and the power brought by this knowledge. I like to think their motivation came from the desire to harness and showcase the solar and lunar cycles in the form of a monument – Stonehenge. The gathering of spirit and power to accomplish such a great task gave rise to a movement, a direction, and a purpose for being human. I like to think their awakening humanness played a part in the motivation. They could make a difference.
There are many theories about why Stonehenge was constructed, and how humans used the circular monument, but any number of them could be true. As an homage to the solar and lunar cycles, humans gained control over their environment. In addition, once built, the hallowed ground in the monument gave solace and healing powers, or religious comfort. Sacrifices may have been performed to appease the gods. They buried their dead in the land around Stonehenge to give comfort.
To me Stonehenge is a place of positive energy and a wholesome history. It feels like the best of human spirit, where we band ourselves together for the greater good.
As I walk away, I’m sad. I want to stay and wonder. I want to stay and feel what ancient humans felt. But I must return to the modern world.
What I can do is take a little of Stonehenge’s spirit with me, reminding me always that together we can accomplish great things. I vow to be that human that finds joy in collaboration, helping those around me to live better lives.
House sitting affords Conrad and me to experience fabulous places around the globe. And being a travel blogger means I am offered tours to these places. It’s quite a wonderful combination and we’re so grateful for our life of travel.
We took a day-long combination open-top vintage bus through London, boat ride down the Thames, and visit to Stonehenge sponsored by City-Discovery.com. And this is the link to the specific tour we took. The site is an aggregate of worldwide tours and activities. Simply set the city, and voila!, you have a list of available tours there, from simple walking tours to major days-long adventures. You choose. It’s a nice concept and we are happy to blog about our experiences with them.
Wishing you safe and happy travels always and all ways.