Stonehenge is a prehistoric stone monument that stands on the open downland of Salisbury Plain in the English county of Wiltshire. Though archaeologists earlier believed that the Stonehenge was built sometime in 2500 B.C., most recent studies show that the monument was raised in 'phases' from 3000 B.C. to 1800 B.C. The Stonehenge consists of a number of huge blue stones and sarsens surrounded by a circular bank and ditch enclosure. Who built the mega structure and why, is a riddle that scholars all over the word are still trying to solve. Some of the theories about the purpose that the Stonehenge served are as follows:
The Merlin Theory
This is perhaps the most colorful theory proposed by Geoffrey of Monmouth, a mid 12th century historian. According to him, the blue stones that originated in Africa were brought to Ireland, to form the Giant's Circle due to their healing properties. However, Aurelius Ambrosius, King of the Britons, wanted the stones to be moved to England, to build a monument for the dead. When his troops failed to transport the huge stones, Merlin, the wizard used magic to transport the huge stones, some of which weighed around 50 tons!
The Roman Temple Theory
Based on the findings of Inigo Jones, architect John Webb proposed that the Stonehenge was a temple built by the Romans in honor of Coelus, the Roman god of sky. However, this theory was strongly criticized by Dr. Walter Charlton, who believed that the monument was built by the Danish invaders who came after the Romans. Both the theories have been discarded, as recent studies show that the Stonehenge predates both groups.
Built by Druids
The theory that the Stonehenge was built by the Druids was put forward by Dr. William Stukeley, an 18th Century physician and antiquarian. According to him, visitors from the Middle-East came to England in the mid 5th century. They founded the Celtic religion of Druids, and also built the Stonehenge.
A Religious Site
Sir John Lubbock, the famous mid-19th century archaeologist, was perhaps the first person who did the most credible research on Stonehenge. Based on the bronze objects that were found in the nearby graves, he dated the Stonehenge as a Bronze Age Site and correctly inferred that the site was erected in phases over a long period of time. He compared Stonehenge with other similar stone structures around the world and concluded that the Stonehenge was a place of worship.
Astronomical basis to the Stonehenge, was first put forth by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, a renowned English scientist and astronomer. However, persuasive evidence of astronomical association for the Stonehenge was given about half a century later by an American astronomer, Gerald Hawkins. He found 165 points on the monument that were linked with the solstices, equinoxes, and the solar and lunar eclipses. Supporting his theory is the fact that at the dawn of the summer solstice, the sun, the center of the Stonehenge ring and the two stones - the Slaughter and the Heel Stones are all in a line.
The Alien Hand
Geologists believe that the blue stones of the Stonehenge originated in the Preseli Hills of Wales about 137 miles away from the site of the Stonehenge. Given the huge size of the stones, moving them over 100 miles would be a herculean task. Many doubt if people living 5000 years ago either had the technology or if they were able to garner the brute muscle power required to transport the stones from the Welsh mountain range to Salisbury Valley, in England. This led to the origin of the theory, role of the aliens, in raising the Stonehenge.
A Burial Ground
Discovery of a large number of cremated remains in the Aubrey holes have led the present day archaeologists to believe that the Stonehenge was a ceremonial burial site, right since its earliest days. Some have dubbed it as the domain of the dead, while some have gone a step further to suggest that only the elite were buried at Stonehenge.
We might keep coming up with new theories and refute the existing ones till some conclusive evidence is found. However, till then, the huge stones stand quietly.