‘Stone Age’ relic or post-Babel construction?
Standing tall and silent in southern England’s Salisbury Plain, like an array of monolithic guardians to a history long forgotten and shrouded in the mists of time, is Stonehenge. It is Britain’s most culturally iconic, enigmatic megalithic site. With claims of being more ancient than the oldest Egyptian pyramids, the mighty stone blocks that comprise Stonehenge have long challenged researchers to explain how they were transported and erected, for what purpose, and by whom.
Let the rocks speak
Geologists have determined that at least 42 of Stonehenge’s smaller, volcanic ‘bluestones’1 (each weighing between 2–5 tonnes) were transported from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, West Wales—a staggering 250 km (180 miles) away! Furthermore, ancient quarrying marks have been discerned in these outcrops during an archaeological exploration in 2019.
Stonehenge’s larger blocks are called ‘sarsen’ stones, the name for a form of silicified sandstone (sandstone impregnated with silica). These weigh on average 23 tonnes, with the largest, called the Heel Stone, weighing a staggering 32 tonnes.
Sarsens are also found as isolated boulders, called ‘erratics’, strewn across the southern English landscape, the nearest occurring at Marlborough Downs, some 32 km (20 miles) away. Sarsens are believed to have formed above chalk, which chemically altered the sandstone to form ‘silcrete’, like a thick crust.
The sarsens must have been worked on site, because mounds of flaked rock and stone hammers have been found. The blocks were shaped to fit together, like mortise and tenon joints. For interested readers, a virtual 3D tour is available online.2
Even the name Stonehenge is mysterious. It is likely derived from the Old English words stān (stone) and hencg (hinge)—since the stone lintels ‘hinge’ on the uprights.3 Whatever the meaning, a lot ‘hinges’ on the interpretation of their history.
History in the eye of the beholder
Intensively studied for over a century, science has begun to lift the veil on Stonehenge’s secrets. Archaeologists have learned much from what has been discovered about the site and the surrounding ceremonial landscape in which it stands.4 Using observational science, we can agree as to the size, weight, chemical composition and general descriptions of the stones, as well as the dimensions of the earthworks which once surrounded them and the artefacts associated with them.5 However, when it comes to their history, no investigators from that ancient past have left a record of any observations. So imagination, necessarily guided by presuppositions, comes into play.
Based on carbon-14 dating assumptions,6 the site is claimed to be up to 10,000 years old, which exceeds the biblical age for creation itself. Consequently, Bible-believers need to discern the facts and separate them from the fiction. Opinions about Stonehenge rest on different worldviews, and history is usually written by the ones whose view ‘wins’.
Real history depends on the Bible
So, where does Stonehenge fit in world history? After Creation and the Fall, the next greatest event in Earth history is the global Flood of Noah’s day (c. 2500 BC). God declared to Noah, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land … Behold, I will destroy them with the earth … For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh…” (Genesis 6:7a, 13b, 17a). Such a globe-destroying Flood would have erased every trace and memory of man’s pre-Flood civilization from the face of the earth, except those on board Noah’s Ark. Even megaliths as massive as Stonehenge wouldn’t stand a chance against the mighty Deluge of Noah’s day. The Flood eroded and reshaped the entire surface of the earth, depositing huge depths of sediments full of the dead remains of the pre-Flood world. Besides, the sarsen stones are a sedimentary rock, mostly composed of sand laid down by moving water—and it is overwhelmingly likely this was formed during the Flood itself. Stonehenge simply cannot be a pre-Flood construction.
Scripture’s next historic milestone is the Tower of Babel, where the “earth [that] had one language” was divided in Peleg’s day (Genesis 11:1, 10:25, c. 2250 BC).7 Genesis 11:1–9 tells of the building humans erected in rebellion against their Creator. As a result, God confused the one language spoken until that time, and scattered the people over the face of the earth (Genesis 10:32). The dispersed groups carried with them whatever technology and knowhow had been retained by people in these groups. This would help determine the nature of the civilization each group would ‘re-establish’ in various locations. Remarkably, in many places where these groups settled, huge megalithic structures were erected.8 Their purpose seems to have been to once again engage in worship of the “host of heaven”, mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament as a mark of rebellion against God.
It has been noted that Stonehenge is aligned with the direction of the sunset of the winter solstice and sunrise of the summer solstice. Those studying the astronomy of the ancients have made claims about Stonehenge’s use as an astronomical observatory, or calendar, used amongst other things to help plant crops, based on detecting alignments with the sun, moon and stars. It lends credence to the possibility the heavenly bodies were worshipped here, which were believed to guide all aspects of the lives of those which built and used the ceremonial site.
Further evidence of Stonehenge’s ceremonial significance is the acoustic properties of the aforementioned bluestones. When struck, the stones give off a metallic bell-like sound. Cross-cultural studies from much of the ancient world suggest that rocks with such musical or unusual sound properties were thought to contain magical forces or spirits. This might be why they were specially brought in from so far away.
Stonehenge: consistent with biblical history
When we consider the facts surrounding Stonehenge, there is nothing in observational science and archaeology that contradicts biblical history. It all hinges on worldviews and the interpretation of data by experts who were not there to observe when such monuments were first constructed. The Bible is God’s history book of the universe; it’s His story, so it should be our guide to understanding the past. As impressive as Stonehenge is, it’s a post-Flood, post-Babel monument, built by humans who were created with intelligence from the beginning.
A moving tale of human ingenuity
Modern experiments have demonstrated how the stones could have been moved and erected using only materials likely available to the original builders. British engineer Mark Whitby, archaeologist Julian Richards, and 130 volunteers moved a 40 tonne stone with a sled and lubricated rail, up a 1:20 slope. On level ground, or downhill, it was calculated that a similar stone could reasonably be transported 10 km per day. Their paper considered, but gave reasons why they discarded, the idea that rollers or similar methods were used. This stone was then raised upright into a hole, with the same profile found at Stonehenge, engineered in such a way as to allow the block to tilt to 70 degrees without sliding, before dropping into position. This was achieved by placing a stone at the hole’s leading edge, upon which the slab rotated, as on a hinge, and pulling it vertical by use of an A-frame lever. A scaffold ramp was constructed behind the stone, upon which the lintel was hauled on rails, onto the top of the standing stone, to form the completed trilithon (lintel resting on two standing stones).
References and notes
- Building Stonehenge, www.english-heritage.org.uk; accessed 15 Aug 2019. Return to text.
- Stonehenge virtual tour: inside the stones, www.english-heritage.org.uk; accessed 15 Aug 2019. Return to text.
- Or hen(c)en meaning ‘hang’ or ‘gallows’. Return to text.
- Led by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, lbi-archpro.org/cs/stonehenge; accessed 27 Jul 2019. Return to text.
- Neolithic stone tools, antler picks and ivory jewellery, but later Roman artefacts show it became an important shrine; see www.english-heritage.org.uk; accessed 27 Jul 2019. Return to text.
- Based on 14C dating of charcoal at the site, interpreted as proving the site “continuously evolved over a period of about 10,000 years … [and Stonehenge was] built between roughly 5,000 and 4,000 years ago”; Jarus, O., Stonehenge: Facts & theories about mysterious monument, 2017, livescience.com, accessed 15 Aug 2019. Return to text.
- Archbishop James Ussher calculated the Babel event at five years after Peleg’s birth. James Ussher, (Pierce, L&M, Eds.) The Annals of the World, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, p. 22, 2003. Return to text.
- Read about the 1000s of pyramid structures documented at: world-pyramids.com; accessed 27 Jul 2019. Return to text.