How Old Is This Stonehenge ?
Stonehenge itself evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years. There is, however, evidence of large scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape's time frame to 6500 years.
It is widely assumed that Stonehenge once stood as a magnificent "complete" monument, although this cannot be proved as around half of the stones that should be present are missing, and many of the assumed stone sockets have never been found. Dating and understanding the various phases of activity is complicated by disturbance of the natural chalk by periglacial effects and animal burrowing, poor quality early excavation records, and a lack of accurate, scientifically verified dates.
Archaeologists have found four, or possibly five, large Mesolithic postholes (one may have been a natural tree throw), which date to around 8000 BC, beneath the modern tourist car-park nearby. These held pine posts around 0.75 metres (2 ft 6 in) in diameter which were erected and eventually rotted in situ. Three of the posts (and possibly four) were in an east-west alignment which may have had ritual significance; no parallels are known from Britain at the time but similar sites have been found in Scandinavia. At this time, Salisbury Plain was still wooded but four thousand years later, during the earlier Neolithic, a causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood's Ball and long barrow tombs were built in the surrounding landscape. In approximately 3500 BC a large cursus monument was built 700 metres (2,300 ft) north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the trees and exploit the area.
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