Stonehenge is a prehistoric, mysterious circle of upright stones in southern England. Construction on the great monument began 5,000 years ago; the famous stones that still stand today were put in place about 4,000 years ago.
This Prehistoric stone circle monument, cemetery, and archaeological site is located on Salisbury Plain, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. It was built in six stages between 3000 and 1520 bce, during the transition from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) to the Bronze Age. As a prehistoric stone circle, it is unique because of its artificially shaped sarsen stones, arranged in post-and-lintel formation, and because of the remote origin of its smaller bluestones from 100–150 miles (160–240 km) away, in South Wales. The name of the monument probably derives from the Saxon stan-hengen, meaning “stone hanging” or “gallows.”
The stones are aligned almost perfectly with the sunrise on the summer solstice, and it is almost unquestioned that Stonehenge was built as a spectacular place of worship. Although the faith of the Stonehenge builders predates any known religion, the site has become a place of pilgrimage and worship for Neopagans who identify themselves with the Druids or other forms of Celtic paganism. It is also popular with New Age devotees, who report powerful energies at the site.
Stonehenge was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. The great age, massive scale and mysterious purpose of Stonehenge draw over 800,000 visitors per year, and several thousand gather on the summer solstice to watch the sunrise at this ancient and mystical site.