By Sarah Ann Rowen
|"Ales Stenar", Sweden's stone circle|
Shrouded in mystery, henges have captured the attention of millions of people around the world. Whether one has a casual tourist-minded interest, a curious, investigative mind, or an intense desire to research and discover their purpose, these sites appeal to almost anyone.
What is a Henge?
A henge can be described in simple terms as a historic monument that consists of a circle or oval shape of stone or wooden uprights. When people hear the word “henge” they automatically think of the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Interestingly though, according to some experts, the Stonehenge is not technically a henge, because its enclosing bank is surrounded by a ditch, rather than vice versa, like in a true henge. The term “henge” is actually derived from Stonehenge - the name is generally thought to mean “hanging stones” in Old Anglo-Saxon. However, in archaeological terms, the use of stones is unnecessary.[i] Although there are many other examples of henges, none are quite as well known as England’s Stonehenge.
Secular experts estimate that the Stonehenge was built between 3000 and 2000 BC. However according to the Biblical timeline we would estimate that it was built around 2200-2000 B.C. after the flood and the dispersion at Babel.
The Stonehenge is believed to have been built in three phases[ii]. The outer bank and ditch, which encircle the stones measures about 360 feet in diameter. The stones are about thirteen feet tall, six feet wide, and three feet thick.
Ariel Photo of the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England
Builders of the Stonehenge
People everywhere have studied and speculated throughout the years trying to discover who it was that built the Stonehenge. Some believe in the Arthurian legend written in the 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This legend states that giants helped Merlin the Wizard build the Stonehenge.[iii] Similarly another legend tells of the King Hengist falling upon Brythonic warriors and, through a trick, killed 420 of them. Legend has it that Hengist erected the stone monument as a sign of remorse for his wickedness in deceiving the warriors.
Even with all of the legends and myths out there, no one has yet discovered any concrete evidence pointing to who really built the Stonehenge. But even though we do not know who built it, the very fact that it exists is evidence of the intelligence of ancient people.
Henges Around the World
Henges, stone and other, have been found all across England and the world! One was discovered in 2012, just 130 miles away from the Stonehenge, near the village of Hollingbourne and the North Downs. Excavation is still in progress, but the size of it is exciting to researchers—165 feet across![iv] Compared to the Stonehenge this new discovery may seem small, however it is one of the larger ones discovered.
Henge Discovered in North Downs, England
Just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, at the Cahokia mound site in Illinois, there is a beautifully reconstructed wood henge. You can see incredible evidence of the intelligence and understanding of the Mississippian people as you gaze upon the 48 posts perfectly arranged in a circle with one center pole. These ancient people had sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, aligning their henge with the solstices and equinoxes. These were definitely not primitive people. (Read our blog post on Cahokia!)
Other henges around the world:[v]
- There are over 900 other stone rings in the British Isles alone
- The Nabta stone circle of Egypt is nicknamed “The Egyptian Stonehenge”
- The Gilgal Refaim is a stone circle in Golan Heights of Israel surrounded by legends of giants
- Sweden’s Stonehenge, “Ales Stenar”, still causes a lot of controversy concerning it’s purpose and date of construction
- The Brazilian stone circle near Sao Paulo is comparable to the English Stonehenge though not as old
Purpose of the Stonehenge and Other HengesHenges can be found from Israel to Illinois, therefore, one can assume they must have some significance to be so widespread.
People have different theories about what the Stonehenge was used for:
- Astronomical calendar/observatory
- Religious center for cult worship
- Ceremonial cremation area
Some of these ideas obviously have more credibility than others. Especially as we take a closer look into these sites we see an intriguing similarity. All of the henges found have astronomical alignments. The Stonehenge specifically is hailed as one of the greatest examples of archaeoastronomy ever discovered.[vi]
Stonehenge at Sunset
- Summer solstice (the longest day of the year)
- Winter solstice (the shortest day of the year)
- Spring and fall equinoxes (the night and day are the same length)
- Half quarter days (four take place between the solstices and equinoxes)
- Other lunar movements
Similarly, at the site found in North Downs, while still being studied, researchers have stated that it is possible that the east and west entrances may have been aligned to mark the sunset and the sunrise as well as other astronomical events.[vii]
There is also evidence to support the idea that these henges were used for ceremonial purposes during certain times of the year. Even today it is used for pagan purposes as well as the secular Church of England.[viii]
|Recent pagan gathering at the Stonehenge|
Sadly, although people realize that these are significant places and they are able to predict certain astronomical events, they fail to realize the One who created those astronomical events.
At Jackson Hole Bible College we believe that everything goes back to God. For that reason, when we look at the order in things, like our solar system, we trace it back to the nature and character of God. As Scripture states in 1 Corinthians 14:33, our God is not a God of disorder and confusion. When we understand that truth it makes sense that everything He creates would have order. Therefore, even something like the Stonehenge can be used to keep our focus on God and His nature and character!
People continually have an incorrect focus on creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Our focus should always be on Christ and His atoning death on the cross that paid the penalty for our sins. While creation is a wonderful thing and an incredible act of God, the crux of all of history was Christ’s death and resurrection. Too many times our focus shifts to something that is of no value instead of dwelling on things of God as it says in Colossians 3:1-3:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
So let us focus on our Saviour and His sacrifice, and seek to glorify Him in all that we do!
[i] Rowbotham, Willie. Henges. May 6, 2010. http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/stone-circles/article_stonecircles.htm (accessed August 8, 2013).
[ii]TIME Magazine. Science: How old is Stonehenge. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,857253,00.html (accessed August 8, 2013).
[iv] Ancient Henge discovered in North Downs. September 8, 2012. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2012/september/8/henge.aspx (accessed August 8, 2013).
[v] Landis, Don. The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution's Nightmare. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012. Pg 69
[vi] Zuk, Matthew. "Archaeoastronomy." The Genius of Ancient Man. July 3, 2013. http://geniusofancientman.blogspot.com/2013/07/archaeoastronomy.html (accessed August 8, 2013).
[vii] Ancient Henge discovered in North Downs. September 8, 2012. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2012/september/8/henge.aspx (accessed August 8, 2013).