Stonehenge, a collection of huge stones on Salisbury plain, "Wiltshire, England, about 8 m. N. of Salisbury. Its name is old Saxon, and signifies "hanging stones." Seen from a distance, they appear to be merely an irregular mass of stones, but a closer inspection shows them to have been originally arranged to form two ovals within two circles, surrounded by a bank of earth 15 ft. high and 1,010 ft. in circumference. There are altogether about 140 stones, weighing from 10 to 70'tons. They are much weather-worn, but in many of them the sharp angles and the tenons and mortices by which they were joined are well preserved. The outer circle has 17 stones remaining out of 30; the inner has but 8 stones entire, and fragments of 12 others. The inner oval consisted of about 20 smaller stones, of which 11 are still standing; the other oval consisted of 10 stones, of which 8 are remaining. Scattered over the plain are about 300 tumuli, or barrows, some of which have been opened, and found to contain charred human bones, fragments of pottery, and British and Roman ornaments and weapons. In the centre is a flat slab 15 ft. long, which is supposed to have been the altar; it is a grained calcareous sandstone, which strikes fire with steel.
On excavating at the foot of this altar, remains of oxen, deer, and other animals were found, intermixed with burnt wood and fragments of Roman and British pottery. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Stonehenge was erected by order of Aurelianus Ambrosius, the last British king, in honor of 4G0 Britons slain by Hengist the Saxon; but Polydore Vergil argues that it was a monument to the memory of that king. Some authorities believe it to have been a druidic temple, others assert that it was an astronomical observatory, and others that it was a place both of worship and of council, which was also used for assemblies of the people. Similar stone circles have been found in various parts of the world, and Sir John Lubbock refers them all to the bronze age, while other antiquaries and geologists maintain that some of them were erected 10,-000 to 50,000 years ago. Nothing has as yet been brought forward to establish any of these theories beyond controversy and doubt.