In southern England on the Salisbury Plain stands a circular formation of rocks called Stonehenge. People from around the world immediately recognize pictures of Stonehenge, as it's one of the world's most famous archeological sites. It's also one of Earth's greatest mysteries.
What is Stonehenge? Who built it? Why was it built? These questions remain unanswered today, some 4,600 years after Stonehenge was built by prehistoric peoples who left no written records. There is no shortage of theories about Stonehenge, though.
Ancient folklore holds that Stonehenge was created by King Arthur's wizard, Merlin, out of massive stones from Ireland that had been assembled there by giants. Others believe the stones were erected thousands of years ago by invaders from Denmark.
Still others believe the stones are the ruins of an ancient Roman temple. Could Stonehenge have been intended as a cemetery dedicated to an ancient ruling dynasty? A popular modern theory is that Stonehenge is a landing site for alien spacecraft!
Some people believe Stonehenge may have been an ancient healing site, since the people at that time may have believed the stones used had magical powers. Others think it was a site used for ancestor worship, since it has also been linked to a nearby wooden circle at Durrington Walls.
Stonehenge was first studied in the 1660s by John Aubrey. Since that time, thousands of scientists have studied the rock formations. Experts believe Stonehenge was formed in stages over 1,000 years or more. Some estimates place construction time at over 20 million hours!
What fascinates visitors to Stonehenge is how ancient peoples could have transported the huge sandstone blocks (each weighing about 50,000 pounds) over 19 miles to their current location. And how did they place them on top of one another? Without all the benefits of modern engineering and technology, how did they accomplish such an impressive feat?
Experts who support these theories point to the fact that Stonehenge aligns with the Sun and the Moon. They believe this supports the view that Stonehenge was used as part of rituals related to the changing seasons. Others point to alignment with certain stars, which could support Stonehenge's use to predict certain astronomical events.
Only one thing is certain about Stonehenge: it's an architectural marvel that will fascinate people for thousands of years to come. Regardless of whether we learn who built it and why, it will continue to spark curiosity and imagination for centuries in the future.