Notting Hill Gate

Prehistoric Britain


c. 2300 BC, Bronze Age stone circle, Salisbury Plain, southern England.

The midwinter sun can be seen setting behind the far uprights beneath their impossibly heavy stone lintels.


Stonehenge may in the third millennium BC have been part of a ritual landscape. Imagine the scene: a body lies at Woodhenge just outside the circular enclosure that now bears the name of Durrington Walls in Wiltshire. Within the concentric upright wooden timbers of this monument the remains are ready for their final journey. Carried to a boat that is waiting nearby on the river Avon, they are taken ceremonially downstream to another jetty where they begin an overland journey of a mile or so to the northeast entrance of Stonehenge. As the procession approaches this large circle, the midwinter sun can be seen setting in the space framed by the far uprights beneath their impossibly heavy stone lintels. Soon dusk descends as though in a final closure. Wood has been replaced by the permanence of stone.

Those of a thoughtful turn of mind might reflect upon the circle of bluestones whose healing powers caused them, many generations ago, to be brought from mountains far to the west. Buried in pits within this henge lie many deer antlers, known since time immemorial to possess the powerful symbolism of loss and regrowth. And at the end of a night and a day of mourning and a closing leg of this tearful journey, the body waits to be buried within its round barrow on a ridge nearby as the sun again nears the horizon to the southwest, marking the end of another winter's day. And the thoughtful reflect with anticipation upon the approach of the next cycle of the seasons, understand why their monument is in the form of a circle and wish prosperity on their community when spring at last arrives and, for the departed, good luck in her new life.

Burial rites and a ritual landscape in late-Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain in: Pryor, Francis, 2003. Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans. HarperCollinsPublishers. Chapter Nine: The Age of Stonehenge (the Final Neolithic and Earliest Bronze Age: 2500–1800 BC), pp 229–69.

See for yourself

Stonehenge – Wikipedia

History of Stonehenge – English Heritage

Significance of Stonehenge – English Heritage

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dark interior of a man-made cavern with a standing stone rising from the floor

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