History and Stories

History and Stories: Stonehenge

A World Heritage Site, Stonehenge and its surrounding prehistoric monuments remain powerful witnesses to the people of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages who created them.

Stonehenge has inspired people to study and interpret it for centuries, yet many questions remain to be answered – about who built it, when, and why. Find out about its archaeology and history here.

A winter sunrise at Stonehenge
A winter sunrise at Stonehenge

Key facts about Stonehenge

  • Work began on Stonehenge about 5,000 years ago, but it was built in stages over many years. The stone circle dates from about 2500 BC, in the late Neolithic period.
  • We don’t know exactly how the stones were brought to Stonehenge, but some of them – the bluestones – came from the Preseli Hills in south-west Wales, over 150 miles (250km) away.
  • We can only speculate as to what Stonehenge’s purpose was. But the fact that the sun rises over the Heel Stone on the longest day of the year (summer solstice) and sets over it on the shortest day (winter solstice) suggests that it was a prehistoric temple aligned with the sun’s movements.
  • Stonehenge’s builders raised the stones using joints normally found only in woodworking, and not seen at any other prehistoric monument. This makes it the most architecturally sophisticated surviving stone circle in the world.
  • Far from standing alone, Stonehenge forms part of a remarkable complex of connected prehistoric sites across the Wiltshire landscape.
  • In 1986, together with Avebury, it was one of the very first sites in the UK to be made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Making Stonehenge

  • History of Stonehenge

    Read a full history of one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, from its origins about 5,000 years ago to the 21st century.

  • Timeline of Stonehenge

    Use this timeline to see the key stages in Stonehenge’s history at a glance, from the earliest monuments to the present day.

  • Building Stonehenge

    Stonehenge is a masterpiece of engineering. How did Neolithic people build it using only the simple tools and technologies available to them?

What Was Stonehenge For?

  • Understanding Stonehenge

    Many theories have been put forward over the years about the purpose of Stonehenge. What does the evidence suggest that it may have been used for?

  • Why Does Stonehenge Matter?

    Stonehenge is a unique prehistoric monument, lying at the centre of an outstandingly rich archaeological landscape. It is an extraordinary source for the study of prehistory.

Explore Stonehenge and its landscape

  • Virtual Tour of Stonehenge

    Take an interactive tour of Stonehenge with this 360 degree view from inside the stones, which explores the monument’s key features.

  • Explore the Stonehenge Landscape

    Use these interactive images to discover what the landscape around Stonehenge has looked like from before the monument was built to the present day.

  • The Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape

    Explore this interactive map created by Historic England to find out about the latest in-depth research into the Stonehenge World Heritage Site landscape.

Image galleries

  • Stonehenge Collection Highlights

    Hundreds of prehistoric objects from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site are on display at the visitor centre. You can explore ten of them here in detail.

  • Image Gallery: Soldiers at Stonehenge

    This image gallery explores the story of how the landscape around Stonehenge and its communities were changed by the First World War.

  • Image gallery: visitors to Stonehenge

    Explore the changing ways in which Stonehenge has been experienced by its many visitors, and its status as a worldwide icon, through historical souvenirs, guidebooks, postcards and photographs.

More resources

  • Making Connections: Stonehenge in its Prehistoric World

    At the time of Stonehenge, people connected with others and with the world around them by making and sharing objects. Explore the story of these connections.

  • Food and Feasting at Stonehenge

    Find out what the people who built and used Stonehenge ate, how they cooked and served their food, and the cutting-edge science behind these discoveries.

  • Research on Stonehenge

    Our understanding of Stonehenge is constantly changing as excavations and modern scientific techniques yield more information. Read a summary of both past and recent research.

  • Restoration to Conservation

    Since coming into the care of the Ministry of Works in 1918, Stonehenge has had several phases of work to protect it. Find out more about the conservation work undertaken by English Heritage.

  • The First World War Stonehenge aerodrome

    As they travel from the visitor centre to the stones, few of today’s visitors to Stonehenge realise they are crossing the site of a First World War airfield. Find out more.

  • Archaeologists of Stonehenge

    We look at some of the archaeologists who have contributed to our understanding of Stonehenge, from the 17th century to the present day.

  • Ferguson’s Gang and Stonehenge

    How the drive to save the Stonehenge landscape in the 1920s inspired five young women to form a mysterious band who battled to save England’s threatened buildings and landscapes. 

  • Plan of Stonehenge

    Download this PDF plan to see the phases of the building of Stonehenge, from the first earthwork to the arrangement of the bluestones.

  • Buy the guidebook

    The guidebook includes a tour and history of the site and its remarkable landscape, with many reconstruction drawings, historic images, maps and plans.

  • England’s prehistoric monuments

    England’s prehistoric monuments span almost four millennia. Discover what they were used for, how and when they were built, and where to find them.

  • More histories

    Delve into our history pages to discover more about our sites, how they have changed over time, and who made them what they are today.

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