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Stonehenge; A Brilliant Tourist Destination

May 20, 2008
There are few historical sites in the world that can instil as much mysticism and wonder as Stonehenge. This majestic monument has inspired visitors for millennia, from Bronze Age journeymen through to the contemporary tourist. Stonehenge remains as one of the most recognisable attractions worldwide, along with the statue of liberty and the Taj Mahal, a glimpse is enough to give recognition of the location and site.

Stonehenge is believed to have been built in three stages; the timescale of this construction is simply staggering. Current estimates have the construction period taking thirty million man hours, a feat that would not be matched today in an era of flat pack housing and quick builds. The work to build Stonehenge is believed to have spanned around three thousand years although some believe the site was used as much as six and a half thousand years ago.

The ritual significance of Stonehenge is hard to dispute; its location on Salisbury Plain is an ideal location for the solstice and other ritual festivals. The uses of Stonehenge are difficult to ascertain. The culture that constructed the site had no written language; subsequently the theories that have surrounded the Stonehenge have been fanciful as well as somewhat ridiculous.

Early scholars studying the Stonehenge site came up with the theory that Merlin, the sorcerer to the legendary King Arthur's court had the stone circle built by a giant that he had enlisted for the purpose. As per usual the culprit for this historical misinterpretation was Geoffrey of Monmouth, who contributed much to the medieval romanticism of King Arthur and his court.

Later during the seventeenth century, the architect John Webb surmised that Stonehenge was in fact a Roman temple to the god of the sky Caelus. While the interpretation may be mistaken, clearly during this period it was recognised that the site had a major role to play in the charting and utilisation of the sun and moon. This theory was however discounted with the belief during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the site was in fact built by the Danes. Up until the Victorian period it was believed that the Saxons had built Stonehenge.

At the turn of the century however academic study began to unravel the mysteries of the Stonehenge site. John Lubbock attributed the site to be Bronze Age due to the artefacts found in the vicinity. This theory has been debunked in recent years however. In fact, when it comes to Stonehenge, it is easy to evaluate the hard truths rather than theorise about uses.

We know that the site was built around three thousand BC thanks to carbon dating technology. While the theory that druids built Stonehenge remains a popular one, the carbon dating rules out their part in the construction of the site as the druids were predominant around 300 BC; although there use of the site cannot be discounted. The carbon dating also rules out the Romans as they are far too late.

Travellers to England should always include a trip to Stonehenge as part of their tour itinerary. It is an attraction that must be seen to be believed. Many underestimate the magical aura of the site, it is hard to dispute that there is something about the place that is difficult to determine. Maybe it is the fact we struggle to explain the construction and uses of the Stonehenge that makes it such a fascinating place. For tourists, this mysterious historical attraction is a vital component of any trip to England.
About the Author
Travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into Stonehenge as a tourist destination and the various theories relating to its construction.
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