Stonehenge commemorates the Saxons’ ‘Night of the Long Knives’

Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in Historia Regum Britanniae that Merlin the Magician brought Stonehenge from Ireland.

In Ireland the stone circle was called the Giants Dance. Merlin told King Aurelius that the Irish stones would make a fitting memorial to the Britons slaughtered by the Saxon Hengist on Salisbury Plain[1]. Hengist had invited the British chiefs to a feast to celebrate the agreement a peace treaty. On an agreed signal, Hengist and his men drew daggers and murdered his guests. This became known as ‘the Night of the Long Knives‘.

“If you are desirous,” said Merlin, “to honour the burying-place of these men with an ever-lasting monument, send for the Giant’s Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand for ever.” [2]

Merlin then:

When he had placed in order the engines that were necessary, he took down the stones with an incredible facility, and gave directions for carrying them to the ships, and placing them therein. This done, they with joy set sail again, to return to Britain; where they arrived with a fair gale, and repaired to the burying-place with the stones. When Aurelius had notice of it, he sent messengers to all parts of Britain, to summon the clergy and people together to the mount of Ambrius, in order to celebrate with joy and honour the erection of the monument. [3]

Stonehenge was Minoan

Stephen Gardiner was Bishop of Winchester from 1531 to 1555. He said that:

Stonehenge was built possibly by the Minoans. It presents one of man’s first attempts to order his view of the outside world.[4]

The Minoan Civilization was on the island of Crete. It lasted from around 3650BC to about 1100BC. I don’t know why Gardiner whould have linked them with Stonehenge.

Stonehenge was Roman

The architect Inigo Jones argued in his Stone-Heng Restored that Stonehenge was built by the ‘Romans’ – specifically the Etruscans[5].

it will evidently manifeft, (whatever else hath formerly been delivered) there was no fuch thing in Britain, before the Romans arrived here, as that which we now call Stone- heng[6]

Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones was one of England’s most significant architects. He designed the piazza at Covent Garden, the Queen’s House at Greenwich and parts of Wilton House[7].

Inigo Jones undertook the first serious survey of Stonehenge, at the request of James I.

Stonehenge was built by the Danes

In his 1663 book, Chorea Gigantum, Or The Most Famous Antiquity of Great Britain, Vulgarly Called Stone-Heng Walter Charleton compared Stonehenge with stone circles in Denmark, and drew the conclusion that they were built by the same people[8].

Stonehenge is a ‘Temple of the Druids’

John Aubrey was the man who discovered the Aubrey Holes. He was also the first person to recognize that the stones at Avebury formed a circle.

As far as I know, he was the first person to state that Stonehenge and other stone monuments were ‘Temple of the Druids’. As Rosemary Hill writes:

If modern archaeologists have any quarrel with Aubrey it is with this almost passing reference to the Druids, which unwittingly ushered in more than three centuries of, from their point of view, nonsense[9]

My view, for what little it’s worth, is that the word ‘Druid’ has been used rather vaguely both by Aubrey and by other antiquarians. It seems to me that it’s a synonym for ‘British, pre-Roman pagan’ rather than a reference to any specific set of beliefs or practices.

Aubrey perhaps uses the word to signify an indigenous British inspiration for Stonehenge as opposed to a Danish or a Roman one.

He wrote in The Natural History of Wiltshire that:

THE celebrated antiquity of Stonehenge, as also that stupendious but unheeded antiquity at Aubury, &c. I affirme to have been temples, and built by the Britons. See my Templa Druidum.[10]

John Aubrey 1626-1697

Apart from the ‘Aubrey holes’ mentioned above, John Aubrey is perhaps most famous for his biographical works ‘Great Lives’.

Anthony Wood, who had been a patron of Aubrey, described him in a court case as ‘a shiftless person, roving and magotie-headed, and sometimes little better than crased’[11]

Stonehenge was Phoenician

In 1676, Aylett Sammes wrote, in his Britannia Antiqua Illustrata, that the Phoenicians had settled the coasts of Britain, and that they had built Stonehenge.

Sammes also suggested that the Druids sacrificed both animals and people in a burning Wicker Man.

According to Sammes, the Phoenicians and the Druids worshipped Hercules at Stonehenge under the name of Ogmius[12].

Stonehenge was a British imitation of Roman architecture

In 1695, Thomas Tanner argued, in ‘Britannia‘ that the Henge was built after the Roman Invasion, in imitation of Roman architecture[13].

Thomas Tanner

Thomas Tanner was a friend of John Aubrey. Towards the end of his life Aubrey gave Tanner his ‘History of Northern Wiltshire’ to finish.[14]

Stonehenge is related to the sun and the moon

In 1771, Dr John Smith[15] published the Choir Gaur, in which he said that:

  • The outer circle represents the solar year,
  • the inner circle represent lunar months
  • the sun rises above what he called the Heel Stone at midsummer

The book was subtitled ‘The Grand Orrery of the Ancient Druids, Commonly Called Stonehenge, Astronomically Explained, and Mathematically Proved to Be a Temple’

Stonehenge’s measurements are based on the Hebrew cubitt

In 1747, John Wood wrote Choir Gaure, Vulgarly called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain. He believed that the design of the Henge was based on the same unit of measure as the Temple in Jerusalem. This was known as either the Hebrew or the Druid cubitt[16].

John Wood

John Wood was an influential and successful architect. He designed the King’s Circus at Bath[17], the Queen’s Square at Bath and the Exchange at Bristol[18].

Wood’s ‘Choir Gaur’ included a very precise survey of the monument[19]. The measurements were recorded in some cases to the nearest quarter of an inch[20]

Stonehenge is a Buddhist temple

In 1860, James Ferguson argued in the Quarterly Review that Stonehenge had been built after the Romans had left as a Buddhist temple[21].

Stonehenge was built by the Belgae

William Long posited that the Stones were erected by Northern Gauls – the Belgae, [22]

Stonehenge’s bluestones came from Preseli

In 1923 the geologist Herbert Thomas published an article called ‘The source of the stones of Stonehenge’ in the Antiquaries Journal[23]. The article suggested that the Stonehenge bluestones matched an outcrop of rocks near a place called Carn Menyn in the Preseli Hills in Wales[24].

See also:BBC NEWS | Wales | South West Wales | Stonehenge quarry site ‘revealed’

Stonehenge near Salisbury

Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried to Salisbury Plain by glaciers

The archaeologist Aubrey Burl, I think, first suggested that the Stones were brought to Salisbury Plain by glaciers. Wikipedia says:

His approach led him to question what he sees as the over-romanticised view that Stonehenge was built from bluestones hauled by hand from the Preseli Hills in south west Wales to Salisbury Plain. Rather, the stones were left close to the site by earlier glaciers and then exploited by the monument’s builders[25]

A modern day geologist, Brian John has further developed this argument. Mr John has a blog, which is well worth following, called Stonehenge Thoughts. I don’t understand all of the geological detail on the blog, but it’s always very good on the latest theory in the news. See:

The cursus marks the route of a tornado

George Meaden suggested that the cursus marks the route of a tornado in The Stonehenge Solution: The Secret Revealed

The Stones were moved by levers

Gordon Pipes, of the ‘Stonehengineers’[26] group of scientists and archaeologists, has suggested that levers may have been used to move the giant stones. [27]

Stonehenge should be returned to Wales

In 2004 Dr Robyn Lewis, the leader of the Gorsedd of Bards wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph. He noted that, according to forensic tests, some of the people buried near Stonehenge were Welsh and that some the Stones themselves come from Wales. He argued that, consequently, the Stones should be returned to Wales.

He wrote

“Since the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland a few years since, and it is clearly only a matter of time until the Elgin Marbles are returned to Greece, may I express a request that Stonehenge be returned to Wales?” [28]

There were a couple of replies in the Telegraph:

Stonehenge and the ball bearings

Stonehenge was a hospital

In 2006, Professors Geoff Wainwright and Timothy Darvill argued that the Stones were a centre for healing.

Simon Jenkins wrote an entertaining piece about this on The Guardian website

The Stones were transported wrapped in wicker rollers

In 2010, Garry Lavin, a former BBC presenter, suggested that the individual stones were wrapped up inside wicker rollers, then rolled into place.

He tested his theory by moving a one-ton stone in a wicker roller that he himself had constructed. [29]

Stonehenge supported a wooden structure

Bruce Bedlam argues that the visible stones support a larger wooden building:

Stonehenge design was ‘inspired by sounds’

The idea here is that Stonehenge was inspired by the sounds created by two pipers or flautists playing together.

If the two musicians were a few feet apart, then the overlapping music would create louder spots and quieter spots in the surrounding area. If plotted these would resemble ‘the spokes of a wheel’ – or the positioning of the upright stones and space of Stonehenge.



  1. Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 , Page 22 []
  2. Arthurian Passages from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Also []
  3. Arthurian Passages from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Also []
  4. This is quoted widely on ‘Quote of the Day’ type websites. I will try to find a reference []
  5. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009, Page 26 []
  6. Full text of “The most notable antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stone-Heng, on Salisbury plain. Restored by Inigo Jones esquire, architect generall to the late king” []
  7. Inigo Jones – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  8. John Henry, ‘Charleton, Walter (1620–1707)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010 [, accessed 5 July 2012] Link:Oxford DNB article: Charleton, Walter []
  9. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009, Page 33 []
  10. []
  11. John Aubrey – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  12. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 []
  13. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 []
  14. John Aubrey – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  15. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009, Page 49 []
  16. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 []
  17. The ‘Circus’ concept was an architectural hit, although as Rosemary Hill notes, in her wonderful book ‘Stonehenge’ it devolved over time into the modern day roundabout []
  18. John Wood, the Elder – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  19. I’m never quite sure whether monument is a valid word for Stonehenge, although it is widely used – I need to look it up []
  20. John Wood Architect []
  21. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 []
  22. ‘Stonehenge’, Rosemary Hill, Profile Books, 2009 Page 131 []
  23. Herbert Henry Thomas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  24. EARTH Magazine: Stonehenge’s Mysterious Stones []
  25. Aubrey Burl – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  26. Whatever the merits of the theory, ‘Stonehengineers’ is a great word! []
  27. BBC NEWS | England | Wiltshire | New theory on Stonehenge mystery []
  28. A matter of time? – Telegraph
  29. Stonehenge ‘was built by rolling stones using giant wicker baskets’ | Mail Online []

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