Stonehenge - a monumental failure?

Moros

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
3,059
#1
I recently attended a lecture where it was suggested that Stonehenge was not only left unfinished, but that is was poorly built - not because of stupidity but because the builders exceeded their capacity to fulfill their project. They were using carpentry skills on stonework, on a monument that was bigger than anything built before, and seemingly ran out of manpower, organization, or time. The fact no one else replicated their efforts is given as an indication that people knew it had failed and so weren't going to waste their own time replicating a failure.

What's the archaeological verdict on this? Was Stonehenge really never completed?
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,332
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#2
Which Stonehenge?

The early ones were made by excavations, holes in the terrain and wooden poles. Sure they were complete.

Regarding the stone circle ... it's not complete, it's a visible matter of fact. Anyway there are clues on the terrain that the missing stones were at their place in a far past, but the problem about where did those stones go is still at the core of many debates.

Did Stonehenge fail?

This is an interesting theory which deserves some attention. Since it was a kind of astronomical passive observatory it suffered the effects of the precession and this could have given to the later generations the impression that the "mechanism" was not accurate. Overall if they made for real reference to a stellar system [if they used only the sun and the moon as reference the matter was different].
 
Sep 2013
589
Oakville, Ontario
#5
I believe Stonehenge was completed at successive stages from about 3000 BCE to 1500 BCE at which point it was seemingly abandoned. Perhaps the religion changed, or the site no longer satisfied the spiritual needs of its creators, or it stopped being the focal point for the unification of the original natives of the British Isles, perhaps because of climate change or social upheaval. Nobody is really sure.

Whatever happened, Stonehenge fell into disuse and some of the original bluestones were even taken and carted away, leaving the few that we can still see today. I don't think it was a failure but rather a change of priorities or a newer belief system replacing the older one, much like what must've happened to Gobekli Tepe, which was an ancient site of similar complexity built by hunter-gatherers that ended up being deliberately buried.
 

Moros

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
3,059
#6
Which Stonehenge? - well, the stone Stonehenge. Previous structures there were not "Stonehenge" since the name comes from what is visibly present.

And I'm not so much asking whether the monument became obsolete, but more interested as to whether it was ever completed. The ruined structure we see is normally reconstructed as a circle of stone uprights and lintels thus;


But the lecturer was saying that surveying what is there now



is seems that a portion (the left side) of the structure was actually left unfinished - not that the stones were there and then plundered as building material (the lecturer is well aware of that argument), but that there is no evidence for all the stones ever having stood of fallen there in the first place.

It was left incomplete because human ambition exceeded human ability. It was never repeated and the technology used never advanced because the endeavour failed.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,090
#7
I recently attended a lecture where it was suggested that Stonehenge was not only left unfinished, but that is was poorly built - not because of stupidity but because the builders exceeded their capacity to fulfill their project. They were using carpentry skills on stonework, on a monument that was bigger than anything built before, and seemingly ran out of manpower, organization, or time. The fact no one else replicated their efforts is given as an indication that people knew it had failed and so weren't going to waste their own time replicating a failure.

What's the archaeological verdict on this? Was Stonehenge really never completed?
Stonehenge was not a single planned construct in the first place. It was a religious site that evolved over a long period of time and for that matter, manpower was never an issue in the relative bounty of agricultural surplus and free time in the neolithic/early bronze age. The religious beliefs and organisation that encompassed Stonehenge were quite advanced for their day, varying from veneration of the dead (as part of a wider monumental system in in the region) to a place of healing. We know that worshippers travelled, with livestock, from the Orkneys to attend rituals in midwinter. We know that people travelled from Europe to attend rituals there, possibly to seek help with medical issues. Stonehenge was a successful centre of worship for some considerable time, and whilst it remains the prime example of such sites surviving, henges and stone rings were a commonplace feature of the ritual landscape in the British Isles.
 
Aug 2010
14,645
Wessex
#8
If they were capable of building half of it, they would have been capable of building the whole of it; so even if it was unfinished (which is disputed), it didn't lie beyond their technical capacities, and its incompleteness would have been due to other factors (e.g. lack of manpower due to social changes, there are many possibilities).
 
Dec 2010
11,643
Near St. Louis.
#9
If they were capable of building half of it, they would have been capable of building the whole of it; so even if it was unfinished (which is disputed), it didn't lie beyond their technical capacities, and its incompleteness would have been due to other factors (e.g. lack of manpower due to social changes, there are many possibilities).
Unless they lost the technology to do the rest of it, for whatever reason.
 

Jim Casy

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
4,420
Scotland
#10
Which Stonehenge? - well, the stone Stonehenge. Previous structures there were not "Stonehenge" since the name comes from what is visibly present.

And I'm not so much asking whether the monument became obsolete, but more interested as to whether it was ever completed. The ruined structure we see is normally reconstructed as a circle of stone uprights and lintels thus;


But the lecturer was saying that surveying what is there now



is seems that a portion (the left side) of the structure was actually left unfinished - not that the stones were there and then plundered as building material (the lecturer is well aware of that argument), but that there is no evidence for all the stones ever having stood of fallen there in the first place.

It was left incomplete because human ambition exceeded human ability. It was never repeated and the technology used never advanced because the endeavour failed.
The dry summer (and the wrong length watering hose) of 2013 produced evidence that may suggest the circle was completed. There is nothing (digs) planned to confirm it as yet as far as I am aware.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-28967538
 
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