How Stonehenge was Really Built

There is almost an industry about the many theories of how Stonehenge was built - but we don’t have to guess how it was constructed as there is a Roman description of it.

"From Quintus to MT Cicero

The temples of the Britons are raised and constructed in a circular form, with obelisks of stone, over which are imposts, all of huge dimensions untouched by the chisel; a peace offering to Geranius, or Apollo, the sun. The huge stones of which they are composed, lay scattered by the hand of nature on the plain: these, with myriads of labourers, the high priest caused to be rolled up on the inclined planes of solid earth, which had been formed by the excavation of trenches, until they had attained a height equal to their own altitude; these pits being dug, they were launched from the terrace and sunk so as to stand perpendicular, at due and equal distances in the circle, and over these were placed others horizontally. After having completed one circle, they formed another that is concentric at some distance, and towards the extremity of the area of the inner circle, they placed a huge stone for the purpose of religious rites. When the sun enters into Cancer, [mid summer] is the greatest festival of the god; and on all high mountains and eminences of the country, they light fires at the approach of that day, and make their wives, their children, and their cattle, to pass through the fire, or to present themselves before the fire in honour of the deity. Deep and profound is the silence of the multitude during this ceremony, the appearance of the sun above the horizon, when, with loud and continued exclamations, and songs of joy, they hail the utmost of that luminary, as the supreme triumph of the symbol of the god of their adoration."

The text online


The way it seems it was built was to construct an earthen ramp to the height of the intended circle. The stone was then rolled up the ramp and tipped in to a hole prepared for it and so on to the next stone.

It is not clear from the text what happened next but once the stone was set in place soil was presumably piled around the stone to the level of the original ramp forming a working platform with which to lever the lintel in place once the adjoining stone was set and ready. If this method was used it would certainly make the tops of the uprights easy to dress, they could have been pounded with stones to the correct height, the height of the platform. This method would also allow some tolerance as to the depth that the stones were initially set, levelling them off afterwards would be easier than setting then to an exact height. Being on an earth platform would also allow fire to be used to soften the stone making the pounding process more effective, it would also stabilise the stones while the lintel was moved in place.

So it would appear that vast quantities of piled up earth was used by the builders – a kind of earthen scaffolding which was then dug away when the section was complete. The soil was dug from trenches – presumable the pits and the circular trench that surrounds Stonehenge and all other British stone circles. When the circle was finished the soil was presumably dumped on Silbury Hill.

What is odd is that this evidence has been overlooked, it used to be known about in the early nineteenth century, and it has been publish so it ought to be in all major libraries – it is worrying that earlier historical discoveries like this can be ignored by contemporary archaeologists.

It is genuine Roman history, written down at the time and therefore very reliable, it is entirely possible that it was dictated to a professional scribe - almost like a modern recording. Quintus was Cicero’s brother (Cicero was one of the leading Roman senators of his generation) who was visiting Britain after the Roman Conquest.

It is without doubt Stonehenge that is being described, Stonehenge being the only stone circle in Britain with lintels and an inner circle. It would seem that Stonehenge was a ‘tourist’ attraction even to the Romans, as it was already ancient then, and it was certainly visited a great deal by the Romans as there have been numerous Roman finds there to such an extent that some antiquarians thought that it had been built by the Romans.

What is slightly confusing is that Quintus seems to be describing Stonehenge actually being built as an eyewitness whereas we now know that it was built far earlier, he seems simply to be recounting what he had been told by the Druids, they would have been still active at this time and would have had knowledge of how it was built.

His description of the ceremony is fascinating, the British could not have been the rabble they are normally portrayed as, since they were able to keep silent on the lead-up to the sunrise and organise the lighting of beacons. For some reason archaeologists claim that Stonehenge had fallen out of use before the Romans arrived, which has always seemed odd as the ceremony is sill observed even today at least in a secular form, why would it die out before the Roman period simply to come back later at some unspecified time? This clearly is not the case so the archaeologists are just plain wrong.

Although this ceremony must have taken place, why would Quintus lie to his brother? It was still however a very ancient rite and therefore no longer typical of British worship but was probably followed for the sake of ‘tradition’ just as it is now. The ceremony is very ancient indeed, dating back to when the monument was first built to reveal the rising sun in mid summer and quite possibly had remained little changed.

In London at this time, was another temple of Apollo where Westminster Abbey is now and this would have been a current working temple (think cathedral) even though like some contemporary British cathedrals it was already over one thousand years old and would have been built like a classical temple in stone with circular walls and a domed roof if the image that survives of it is accurately based on earlier lost images. See temples.

One of the trendy theories, that Stonehenge was primarily constructed for moon worship can also be discounted, the text says the chief use was for the midsummer sun rise, the sun entering Cancer is mid summer.

We also get to find out what it was – a temple, and who it was dedicated to – Apollo, who is of course the sun god, the British holy day of the week Sunday is no doubt an echo of this. Apollo is the Roman name for the sun god, the British apparently – Geranius. This is an important lead that needs to be followed up as it ought to be possible to pinpoint the actual religion of Britain at this time.

home | missing Roman road | The real Troy discovered | pre-Roman London | Britain's forbidden history | contact the author