How Stonehenge Works

Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker


Chuck: Hey, Atlanta, our home town.

Josh: Yeah. We are doing a live podcast right here, in Atlanta.

Chuck: That's right. As part of the Atlanta Science Festival we will be performing-well, not performing, we're just going to be sitting there, talking to each other.

Josh: Sure, performing.

Chuck: It's at the SCADshow Theater, which is right there in Midtown. It used to be the-

Josh: 14th Street Playhouse.

Chuck: That's right. And it's a great venue, and it is on March 23rd, and it is going to be-we're not going to tell you what it is, but we're going to be doing a sciencey topic.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Because it's a science festival.

Josh: Well, it's in partnership with the Atlanta Science Festival.

Chuck: That's right. And we're going to be getting started at 8:00 p.m., and doors will probably be about 7:00, 7:30. And you can get your tickets at So if you're in Atlanta or if you're in Macon or Athens or Nashville or Birmingham-

Josh: Yeah, the Southeast.

Chuck: Yeah, like this is your chance right now to come see us do a live podcast.

Josh: Yup.

Chuck: So we hope to see you there.

Josh: We'll see you there, Atlanta, and the Southeast, on March 23rd.

Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from


Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant and there is Jeri. It's a brand-new day.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] It is.

Josh: Is it. It's a Wednesday.

Chuck: Yeah. Welcome back, buddy, from vacation.

Josh: Yes. You mean I went to New Zealand?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And then to Okinawa. It was pretty awesome.

Chuck: Do you want to say anything about it or-?

Josh: New Zealand is wonderful and I always love Japan, any part of Japan.

Chuck: I've heard New Zealand is like America in the 1950s. That it's like-I've heard it described that way, as very pure, still, and like-

Josh: Oh, yes.

Chuck: Friendly and just, sort of, uncorrupted.

Josh: So, apparently, New Zealand ranks fourth on the Global Peace Index.

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Which is-you know, it takes into account, like, well-being and-

Chuck: Like we were in the 1950s.

Josh: Yeah. You don't get the impression that there's this naivety or innocence, necessarily. It's more just like they are a thoroughly content, peaceful people.

Chuck: Man, that's nice.

Josh: And it's not like-you know, it's not like that manufactured, like labored kind of like friendly contentedness that you kind of run into sometimes. This is the real deal, and it rubs off on you while you're there.

Chuck: That's nice.

Josh: New Zealander's are A-okay in my book.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Everyone we met. Everyone was friendly, except for one truck driver who I had an incident with.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: But, in retrospect, I look back and I'm wondering if he thought he was trying to protect me-

Chuck: Oh, wow.

Josh: -by not letting me go around him.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: But everybody else was just, like, totally friendly, neat, cool people. And we were everywhere.

Chuck: That's awesome.

Josh: Like, we were in the little spa town of Rotorua. We were in Auckland. We were in Wellington. We were in little Napier, which is like the art deco capital of the world.

Chuck: Oh, cool.

Josh: They had an earthquake in 1931, and it just leveled the town. Well, the fire afterward leveled the town. So they're, like, "We need to rebuild. What kind of architectural movement is hip right now?"

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Art deco. So they rebuilt the town in art deco. It's really pretty.

Chuck: I love art deco. That'd be nice.

Josh: You would love Napier.

Chuck: Cool.

Josh: Yeah. So, New Zealand, awesome, great stuff. Lots of sheep, like no joke.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah [LAUGHS].

Josh: There are probably more sheep than people, yeah. And it's a wonderful place.

Chuck: Awesome.

Josh: And then, of course, Okinawa. Once we got there we were like, "Okay, let's start eating."

Chuck: Yeah, you're like a Japan expert at this point, right?

Josh: Except I can't speak Japanese. But yeah, everything else I'm an expert.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: I'm learning. We hung out with-

Chuck: Good food?

Josh: -with Umi's family.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: And her little, I guess, second cousin or first cousin once removed, little kid. Awesome little precocious dude. At one point was trying to talk to me and he, like, just put his face in his hands and said in Japanese, "This communication in Japanese is not going very well."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] That's adorable.

Josh: Yeah. It was very adorable.

Chuck: And you ate like a king?

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: I bet.

Josh: Feasted.

Chuck: Man.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: That sounds great.

Josh: Thanks, man. Thanks for welcoming me back.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: I'm still a little jet-lagged, so-

Chuck: I noticed. [LAUGHS]

Josh: In case I get a little weird, that's why.

Chuck: Well, maybe one day we can hit up New Zealand on a tour.

Josh: I would love that. And Australia too. I know they love us over there.

Chuck: Well, we can't go to one without the other.

Josh: I just did.

Chuck: Well, for our Stuff you Should Know show.

Josh: Oh, I see what you mean.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Yeah, sure.

Chuck: That would be rude.

Josh: Yeah, it would.

Chuck: Awesome. Well, welcome back.

Josh: Thanks.

Chuck: And now, Stonehenge. [LAUGHTER]

Josh: Have you ever been?

Chuck: No. I've been to London and that's it, as far as the U.K. goes.

Josh: Yeah, same here. I would love to go to Stonehenge.

Chuck: Me too.

Josh: It sounds like a very, very cool place.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And I wanted to go before I researched this, but now that I have I'm like, I definitely want to go. Because it's not just Stonehenge. You think it's just Stonehenge and you go and there's, like, the rock formation and you get in your car and go home. You could do that, but you'd be missing out on, like, a whole, huge, rich tapestry of weirdo earthen-works that are totally mysterious to us, still to this day, in that whole area.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: I had no idea.

Chuck: I didn't either. It's a hotbed of henges.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: Which it-technically a henge, by the way, we should say is an earthworks that consists-

Chuck: Yeah, I didn't know that until I studied this.

Josh: I didn't either. So it's an earthwork that consists of a bank and a ditch. And in most cases the high bank encloses a ditch within it.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: But Stonehenge, which gives the name henge to other henges, is the opposite. It's a reverse henge. It has the ditch on the outside of the bank.

Chuck: Yeah. And, you know, it sort of looks-when you look at these images of henges from above, sort of like a crop circle with nothing in the middle.

Josh: Right, just grass.

Chuck: Just grass.

Josh: Yeah. And remember, that's where the home of crop circles started, was in that area, the Salisbury Plain.

Chuck: And outer space. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Alrighty, Stonehenge.

Josh: So, like we said, Chuckers, the whole reason for any of this stuff, for building these things, still defies understanding.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But exploration has gone back many, many, many centuries. You know, you don't just walk past Stonehenge and say, "Oh, that's natural." It's clearly manmade.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But the idea behind it has been lost. But study of the whole thing has, kind of-has yielded some pretty good stuff. Like, for example, we have a pretty good idea of when Stonehenge was constructed, and apparently, it was constructed over a period of less than 200 years.

Chuck: Yeah. We also have a pretty good idea about where it is because it is where it is, which is eight miles north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.

Josh: Right. Home of crop circles.

Chuck: Home of crop circles, and where the banshees live, and they do live well.

Josh: The banshees?

Chuck: Yeah. You not a Spinal Tap fan?

Josh: No.

Chuck: I've been having that song, Stonehenge, in my head all day on a loop.

Josh: They talk about the banshees?

Chuck: That's one of the lines: "Where the banshees live, and they do live well."

Josh: I thought they were from Ireland.

Chuck: Stonehenge. The banshees?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: I don't know. I mean, they're talking about druids in the song, as well.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: It's Spinal Tap.

Josh: Which is a common misconception, that the druids built Stonehenge, right?

Chuck: Yeah, they have dated it, and they were not there at the same time, correct?

Josh: Yeah. So back in the 19th century some antiquarians, which is what they used to call historians and archeologists and stuff before there were such things, figured that Stonehenge was some sort of druidic temple, which made a lot of sense because the druids were a weird mystery cult that were big on, like, human sacrifice and all sorts of, like, really interesting stuff. They were the priestly class of the Celts, right?

Chuck: Right.

Josh: The problem is, is the druids were around from about 300 BCE until the 1st century CE, when the Romans suppressed them, and Stonehenge is way older than that. At least the whole earthworks thing goes back at least 5,000 years.

Chuck: Yeah, and that's the earthworks. The actual large stones that it's most famous for, they date that between 2620 and 2480 BCE, which is about the same time as the Great Pyramids in Egypt. So if you're wondering how they managed to get these large stones, it's still a mystery.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: But they were not as advanced as the Middle East at the time.

Josh: Right. So in the Middle East they were-

Chuck: Not nearly.

Josh: No, they were well into, I guess, the Bronze Age while the-

Chuck: I guess so.

Josh: At that time Europe, Western Europe, at least, was still in the Neolithic, the new Stone Age. So yeah, the idea that there was this massive public works is a huge mystery, like why that happened, how it happened, how they got the stones there. There is another long-held theory that was recently discarded, that the stones were moved there through glacial activity.

Chuck: Yeah, not true.

Josh: Hundreds of thousands of years before. And they checked it out and they said, "No, these stones actually did come from quarries," at a minimum, I think, of 40 miles away.

Chuck: Yeah. They said that even if there was glacial evidence then it would not have been able to carry it that far.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: There's just no way.

Josh: Yeah. So humans did. Again, no idea how, because this is before the wheel was around in Western Europe, which makes the whole thing that much more impressive.

Chuck: Yeah. They've got some theories like-basically things that sort of acted as wheels before there were technical wheels, like small rocks or stone ball bearings or the old log roller trick, which makes sense. Because the largest of these things can weigh up to 50,000 pounds.

Josh: Yeah. And the smallest ones are, you know, about 5,000 pounds, 2 to 5 tons, for the smallest ones.

Chuck: Yeah, so you can't just get, like, the strongest men to lift these things.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: You got 100 hundred strong men because they're, you know, only so big. You can't crowd that many dudes around and lift this thing anyway.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: There's just no way.

Josh: It's a mystery.

Chuck: It's a mystery.

Josh: So let's talk about the stones themselves. I mean, this is what people think of when they talk about Stonehenge, but there's more to it, and we'll get into it. But the stones, the upright stones, are called sarsens, right?

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: And sarsen, it's a kind of sandstone that's particular or peculiar to the region.

Chuck: Yeah. And the closest they found this is the Marlboro Downs, about 20 miles away. So basically, if you haven't picked up on it by now, what we're saying is these stones weren't just laying around and they decided to prop them up.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: At the very least they were brought from 20 miles away, and likely much, much further.

Josh: Oh, I thought it was 40 miles away. Twenty miles away?

Chuck: Well, they said the closest source of this sandstone is 20 miles away.

Josh: Gotcha, okay.

Chuck: But there were-there's all different kinds of rocks, which we'll see.

Josh: Yeah. So the sarsens, it's a type of stone, but when you're talking about Stonehenge, if somebody points to a stone and says, "That sarsen there," they're talking about the upright columns.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: The sarsens are topped in the outer circle and in the inner circle of stones by what are called lintels.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Which are also sarsen stone, I believe. But because they're horizontal on top of the upright ones they're called lintels, and the upright ones are called sarsens, right?

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: Pretty cool. And again, these are really heavy stones. And again, we have no idea how they got them there, how they erected them, and how they got the heavy ones on top of the upright ones.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: That's crazy.

Chuck: That is pretty crazy.

Josh: Because, again, we're talking about many, many ton stones, right, each. But, as if just to show off for the people that followed, the people who erected Stonehenge carved the sarsens with a knob, knobs on top, and carved the lentils with grooves so that they fitted, and they were replicating a type of woodworking.

Chuck: Yeah, mortise and tenon. All put together these are called a trilithon.

Josh: In the inner circle, the big ones?

Chuck: Yeah. When you have the sarsens and the lintels, it's called a trilithon. And yeah, they don't know why they carved those because, apparently, when I heard that I was like, "Well, probably to make them fit together better." But they said that it really has nothing to do with it.

Josh: Well, they said it's totally unnecessary.

Chuck: Yeah, so they think if may be symbolic.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Which we'll get to later.

Josh: Sure. So you've got inside the inner circle, and I found this kind of thing, it's like describing a yo-yo motion or something like that, like a yo-yo trick. It's just easier to go see it yourself.

Chuck: There's a thousand-a million and a thousand great pictures of Stonehenge.

Josh: Yes. One million, 1,000 pictures.

Chuck: You've just got to look at one of them.

Josh: So, yeah. It'll help if you're checking this out while we're describing it. But there's the inner circle of Stonehenge, and those are made of trilithons, which are two upright sarsens and a lintel, right?

Chuck: Yeah. There's five of those.

Josh: And then-and those are the big boys. Those things are, like, 30 feet tall, I think is the tallest one.

Chuck: Yeah. Which is-I didn't realize it was that big.

Josh: That's, like, 10 meters.

Chuck: Yeah. You have to-I would say you probably have to go there and say, "Oh, this is bigger than I thought."

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Unless you thought it was bigger, then you might say it was smaller than you thought, you know?

Josh: [LAUGHS] Yeah. Unless the opposite is true.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: And then in the outer circle, it was, apparently-or it was intended, or it was at one point, to be a complete circle, and this is made of lintels and sarsens, but they're not trilithons because it's-just basically, if you took a bunch of sarsens, a bunch of upright columns and put them in a circle, and then topped it with as few lentils as would make a complete circle, that's what you have. So it made a ring.

Chuck: Yeah. And I think-my impression is that it was not ever completed, because there would probably be some evidence of the, you know, fallen-down sarsens or something.

Josh: Right. Well, there's the-

Chuck: Unless they were taken away.

Josh: That is the theory. That when the Romans came along or then later on when the Church came to power after the fall of Roman Empire, that locals were like, "Well, that's some pagan weirdness."

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: "We don't want to encourage paganism. Let's just take it and build a church. That'll show them." So it's possible that some of the rocks are-

Chuck: It was a circle.

Josh: -found in medieval churches in the area.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: Isn't that crazy?

Chuck: That is crazy. That's cray. And there are four more of the sarsen stones that actually all have names: the Slaughter Stone, the Heel Stone, which is huge, and then two Station Stones. And they're out of the outer sarsen circle.

Josh: Right. Inside the circle, and then also outside the circle, are what are called bluestones. These are the smaller stones that are between two and five tons, still-

Chuck: Yeah, little guys.

Josh: But that's what they're called, and there's a bunch of those guys, too.

Chuck: Yeah, and they're called bluestones because when they're cut or when they're wet they look blue.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: Pretty neat.

Josh: So that's the stones. And-

Chuck: But that's just the bluestones. There are all different kinds of rock, which proves that they came from different sources.

Josh: Right. Which-

Chuck: Which is a key.

Josh: It is a key. It also might get to the bottom of why Stonehenge was built. But we just touched the tip of the iceberg here by just talking about the rocks. We're going to talk about the larger henge part and what was originally there, right after this.


Josh: Chuck?

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Possibly one of the greatest things that ever happened to the internet was the advent of Squarespace.

Chuck: Yeah, man. If you want a website and you don't know how to write code, or even if you do, and you just want a more elegant, easy experience, you just go to Squarespace because they are based on simple drag-and-drop interface. They have a partnership with Getty Images. They have an integration with Google Apps. They have new templates and cover pages in Squarespace 7. It's all redesigned for your pleasure.

Josh: Yeah. And plus, if you find yourself mucked up in the mire you can get 24/7 support via live chat or email. And all of this, Chuck, is for only $8 a month, and you get a free domain if you buy Squarespace for a full year.

Chuck: Yeah. It's a pretty great deal. And if you're looking to sell stuff, every website comes with a free online store.

Josh: Speaking of stuff, Chuck, you guys out there in podcast land can start a trial with no credit card required, and start building your website today. When you decide to sign up for Squarespace, make sure to use the offer code STUFF to get 10% off your first purchase, and to show your support for Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck: That's right. So thanks to Squarespace for their support of us. Squarespace, start here, go anywhere.


Josh: All right, Chuck, because we're back.

Chuck: Yeah. I mentioned quickly before we broke about the bluestones being-coming from different places. One of the places they think that 11 of these bad boys came from was in Western Wales, 140 miles away.

Josh: Nuts.

Chuck: So that's probably the maximum some of these stones traveled.

Josh: Which-it kind of gives a little bit of credence, weirdly, to one of the old legends of where Stonehenge came from, which was Merlin.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Merlin and some of his boys stole it from Ireland, and the stones proved too heavy for the-I guess, Merlin's men to lift, even 15,000 of them. So he just used his magic to load them onto the boats.

Chuck: Which he should have done to begin with.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: They were like, "Why didn't you try this before? Like, Jimmy broke his back."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Right. Jimmy the Knight?

Josh: [LAUGHS] Yeah, Sir Jimmy.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] That was from the Historia Regum Britanniae.

Josh: That sounds like magic.

Chuck: Yeah, the history of the kings of Britain from Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Josh: I love that guy's name.

Chuck: And that was one of the original-Geoffrey of Monmouth?

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: Yeah, with a G.

Josh: Geoff-rey.

Chuck: Geoff-rey. That was one of the original theories, was that giants built this, and that-to commemorate the death in the battle against the Saxons was when Merlin was like, "Let's steal this stuff, the giants dance. Let's steal it."

Josh: The giants built it in Ireland, and Merlin was like, "Let's go steal that."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Because 400 Britons died, Britons.

Chuck: All right. So that was one of the theories, we'll get to a few more of those in a bet.

Josh: Okay. All right.

Chuck: But jumping back to the Salisbury Plain, what they do think is true is that they-

Josh: Not giants?

Chuck: Not giants.

Josh: Not Merlin?

Chuck: Was that this was a good place for hunting. It was a good hunting ground.

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Chuck: Because there's a causeway from glacial heaving and thawing, it formed what they call, like, an avenue, which-

Josh: Made of chalk, apparently.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Uh-huh.

Chuck: So this avenue coincides with the rising of the summer solstice and then the setting, eventually, with the winter solstice. And for many years they thought this was, like, this meant something. But now we think that it's just coincidence.

Josh: Right. But, I mean, like, if you're, you know, hunting woolly mammoths and eating psychedelic mushrooms and that's your existence, you see the sun come up and then go down, and this crazy, like-on the longest and the shortest day of the year, and there's like a white chalk line connecting the two, you're going to put a little significance on this.

Chuck: Yeah, of course.

Josh: So they did. That's why they think that they chose this site for Stonehenge.

Chuck: Like it was sacred and divinely inspired.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Again, you're on a ton of mushrooms at the time, so it made sense then.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Okay?

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Don't judge.

Chuck: So we mentioned the henge earlier, that was-these henges, I don't think we pointed out, they're not natural formations.

Josh: No.

Chuck: They are designed and built by people.

Josh: And so something like 3,000 years BC, so about 5,000 years ago, on the nose almost, some Neolithic Western Europeans in the area of what is now the Salisbury Plain grabbed some deer antlers, turned them into pickaxes, and started digging the circles that ended up becoming-the ditches that ended up becoming Stonehenge.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They built the earthworks. They dug the ditch. They made the bank. And then you had this raised ground, long before the stones ever showed up.

Chuck: Yeah, about 330 feet across. And like you said earlier at the beginning, it is a reverse henge because the high bank is on the inside.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And not the outside.

Josh: Right. Usually the ditch is inside the bank.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Rather than outside.

Chuck: I don't know why Stonehenge is different.

Josh: Who knows? Maybe they started to make it and were like, "Oh, man. We made it backwards."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] "Yeah, but we've already done, like, 100 feet, so."

Josh: Yeah. "I'm not digging another one."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] So they left a wider entrance on one side, on the northeast end. Leading to that avenue.

Josh: Which is kind of like-that's, like, where the avenue runs into Stonehenge?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Yeah. The main entrance.

Chuck: It's almost like a road to a roundabout.

Josh: Uh-huh. Or a cul-de-sac.

Chuck: Yeah. That's a-maybe that's what it was. [LAUGHS]

Josh: It was a sun temple cul-de-sac.

Chuck: And then there's a narrow entrance on the south side, and that's not all that's there. They found all these holes, the Aubrey holes, 56 of them, basically where they think that there were wooden posts. That there were either totems or some kind of a structure there previously.

Josh: Yeah, so that-

Chuck: Wooden structure.

Josh: -that's very significant. Something like 10,000 years ago, I think about 8000 BCE, somebody put up three pine posts. They think it was probably pine.

Chuck: Yeah, and those are not the Aubrey holes. Those are different.

Josh: Right. They discovered those-they were going to make a parking lot for Stonehenge in the '60s, and while they were-

Chuck: 1960s, yeah.

Josh: While they were excavate-yeah, I guess I should qualify that.

Chuck: Well, why there would be a parking lot in the 1860s or 1760s. [LAUGHS]

Josh: You don't know. Who knows? Well, actually, I guess we do know now there wouldn't be one.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So in the 1960s they were going to put a parking lot and they discovered these three postholes and they were like, "These probably held totems of some sort." This is huge because there's no other site like it. There's no evidence of any other kind of monument building this far back, 10,000 years ago in Europe. It was a very-that's crazy. So at least as far back as that, this site was considered somehow significant, if not sacred, by the locals.

Chuck: Ten thousand years ago.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: All right.

Josh: But then again, we're fast-forwarding to 5,000 years ago, 3000 BC, and that's when the earthworks have been constructed, the henges built. Now we're onto the Aubrey holes, because I think they were deposited at the same time, right?

Chuck: Yeah, 56 of them, and like I said, they could have had-they could have held bluestones, maybe that was a structure, maybe it was some sort of an astrological or austronimal-austronimal? Astronomical-

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: -design or layout or something.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: They didn't leave a book behind saying what they were doing, so we don't know.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: It's all just speculation.

Josh: All we know is there is a circle of holes that probably held something at some point. We don't know what.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: But that was the original henge, the original Stonehenge.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And then that was the first stage, right?

Chuck: Yeah. Basically at 2620-or between 2620 and 2480 is when these sarsen-the sarsen horseshoe came about.

Josh: Yeah, about 300 or so years after-

Chuck: Like what we know as Stonehenge.

Josh: -after the first construction of the earthworks, the stones come in.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Yeah. So they bring the stones in and, again, like you said, from as far away as Wales, the nearest is 20 miles away. There is definitely a quarry. Some stones came from, like, 40 miles away.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So they're coming from all of these different places, and they're being brought in and erected. And then the-that's the second phase. So the Stonehenge as we know and love it today was built about 2620 BCE.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Then about 2300 BCE the last phase of construction, as far as anybody can tell, is undertaken and it's basically like sprucing up the place.

Chuck: That's right. That's when they dug their ditches and banks. That's when the avenue was cleared out, which is 1.7 miles long, by the way.

Josh: Yeah, that's significant. Using deer antler axe picks they dug-they made ditches on either side of this avenue to clarify it, I guess.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: For two miles, basically.

Chuck: That's pretty amazing. And it followed a route to the River Avon. And then over the next few hundred years, basically, they would reposition some of these stones, these bluestones, to-I don't know why. To fit their whims, maybe? Or I'm sure they had reasons.

Josh: That's another mystery, too. Some of the stuff would be moved around from one place to another.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: You said that it goes to the River Avon.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: And I think about 2000 there was a big archeological survey undertaken that uncovered another henge called Bluestonehenge. That was at-where the avenue hits the River Avon, so at the far end of Stonehenge. They think that's where the bluestones came from. So, apparently-originally, they may have had another type of henge closer to the river and decided let's move it into Stonehenge proper. No idea why.

Chuck: You know, I used to go camping at a place called Sunfish Pond at the Delaware Water Gap when I lived in New Jersey, and there was-at Sunfish Pond there was this one big rock bank, basically, with just tons of these huge, awesome rocks. And people would build just things out of them.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Those little, like, little totems or little structures.

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: And I think everyone that went there was part of the ritual of camping there was to, like, spend a day moving these rocks around and doing stuff.

Josh: That's cool.

Chuck: And I think, like, this could very well be what happened here. People would show up hundreds of years later and be like, "I kind of like the look of that, but maybe this would look better over there."

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Like maybe it was-there wasn't some grand reason other than artistic.

Josh: I get that.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: My question is this: if you're talking about the smallest stone weighing two tons, that's not like-

Chuck: Well, that's true.

Josh: -you know, some hippie just going-

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Like, "I've got a few hours to kill."

Josh: -"I'm going to move this stone." Like, you've got to get a bunch of hippies together to move one of those, you know?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So that's a community effort. Every stage of Stonehenge is a communal effort.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which is-that's important, you know?

Chuck: It probably had more significance than just artistic.

Josh: But what is that urge that drove people out in the woods, you know, to-at where? At Sunfish Gap?

Chuck: Sunfish Pond, yeah.

Josh: Sunfish Pond. That drove them to move the rocks around? Like, what made you do it?

Chuck: Seeing other people doing it and thinking, "I want to build my own."

Josh: Yeah, yeah. Well, like, rock stacking is a thing too, right?

Chuck: Yeah. I mean, that's basically what we were doing.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: Stacking rocks.

Josh: Huh, yeah. So it's an ancient primeval urge.

Chuck: I guess so.

Josh: So we'll talk a little more about some of the surrounding landscape in Stonehenge, right after this.


Josh: Chuck?

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Have you ever tried walking into a bank and asking for a personal loan to, say, pay off a high-interest credit card or you want to do some home improvements or you're like, "Sure, I've got four cars, but why not have five?"

Chuck: I have done that exact same thing.

Josh: Yeah. And how was it? Was it a great experience? Easy? Simple?

Chuck: You know, it wasn't easy or simple, but I found out there's a better way to borrow money. It's called, and what it's doing is it's turning the lending industry on its head.

Josh: Kaboom. is the innovative online marketplace that connects people who need money with those who have money to invest, so everyone prospers.

Chuck: Yeah. It's pretty neat. You can borrow up to $35,000 at a low fixed rate without ever setting foot in a bank, and if you're an investor you're going to get solid returns, monthly cash flow, and a diversified portfolio that is empowering others.

Josh: Yeah, and, Chuck, to check your rate instantly without affecting your good credit, go to And, for a limited time, listeners to Stuff You Should Know will get a $50 Visa gift card when they get a loan.

Chuck: Wow, so up to $35,000 in your account, in just three days, and a $50 Visa gift card. Sounds pretty great to me, so just go to That's

Vo: Other restrictions apply, see site for details. Gift card is issued by Center State Bank of Florida pursuant to license from Visa USA, Inc. All personal loans are made by WebBank, a Utah chartered industrial bank, member FDIC, equal housing lender.


Josh: So, Chuck, Stonehenge isn't the only Neolithic weirdness in the area.

Chuck: No, man, that place is-there's a lot of wicker man stuff going on.

Josh: Yeah, there was.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: There is something, like, 1,000 barrows, which are, like, tombs, mound tombs.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: There's some other henges that don't have stones necessarily. There's one called Woodhenge. But probably the most important other site around there is called Durrington Walls.

Chuck: Yes, it is also a henge.

Josh: And it's on the other side of the River Avon. And one of the very significant things about Durrington Walls is that it is-it has an avenue, as well, that's aligned with the sun on certain days. And they just happen to be the opposite days of the Stonehenge avenue, or the same day but the opposite position.

Chuck: That's right. It had a couple of timber circles. It's about the same size as Stonehenge, roughly, and they think that this could have been, like, a staging area for what Stonehenge would become.

Josh: Which doesn't make sense to me. Like, they were saying, this is possibly the builders' camp for Stonehenge? Two miles away? That's not a convenient camp.

Chuck: No.

Josh: No.

Chuck: That's a good point.

Josh: Plus, also, so you've got Stonehenge, right?

Chuck: Right.

Josh: And then you have the River Avon, and then a little further up the River Avon you have-but across the other side, you have Durrington Walls, and on the summer solstice, Stonehenge hosts the Summer Sunrise, right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But on that same day, Durrington Walls, that avenue, features the summer sunset, so they're aligned.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Clearly, they have something to do with one another, at least in the Neolithic mind.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: So it's not just this-it's not just Stonehenge, this whole site is lousy with it. But why?

Chuck: Yeah. I mean, I guess that's-we should look at some of the older theories first that have sort of been debunked. We already talked about the giants dance and Merlin the Wizard, which we don't believe anymore, because we're modern thinking guys.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: King James I, in the 17th century, did an excavation of the site, and they found a bunch of animal bones and burnt coals.

Josh: Which I was just learning about him. He was a scholar king.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah, he was pretty interesting. Well, he had, like, the King James Bible.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: He had that translated.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But he also was, like, an early essayist.

Chuck: Oh, yeah?

Josh: Which was a new thing at the time. He was just a smart dude.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: As far as kings went. He wasn't just like the fat, drunk, turkey leg-eating kind, you know what I'm saying?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Like he actually was a thinking person.

Chuck: Well, if he commissioned an excavation that means he probably had a little bit of interest in things like this.

Josh: Yeah. And this is before archeology even.

Chuck: Yeah. He could have just had people beheaded and, you know, ate his turkey. Sure, so good for him. We're down with King James, is that what you're saying?

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: All right. So I don't think we mentioned either yet, that there have been a lot of body-well, not body parts, but bones found. And basically-

Josh: Yeah, and cremains.

Chuck: Yeah, human cremains.

Josh: Oh, wait. We're-

Chuck: Animal remains.

Josh: -not supposed to call them that, if I remember correctly.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Cremated remains, I think.

Chuck: Why, was that offensive?

Josh: Yeah. Remember funeral directors don't like to call them cremains. They said that that's just too shorthand.

Chuck: Right, sounds like a McDonald's way to go about it.


Josh: I got cremains in my burger at my McJob.

Chuck: But there have been a lot of-they think one possibility was that it was a burial ground for, maybe, royalty. It's mostly been men, so maybe important people.

Josh: Yeah. Which is another reason why-what was it called, mortise and tenon, that woodworking?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And we didn't mention that with the outer circle, where everything fits together, they used a woodworking technique called dovetailing, so that the lintels fit together to form like a-well, a-

Chuck: Tongue and groove?

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Exactly. So there's all this kind of woodworking simulation that's totally unnecessary, so they're thinking maybe that they were replicating a monument to a human dwelling, which could suggest basically a mausoleum of sorts.

Chuck: Yeah. And that ties in with a theory that-if Durrington Walls was a place of the living, Stonehenge was a place of the dead, and that's how they are connected.

Josh: Yeah. And Durrington Walls they call it a place of living because there's evidence of settlement, like human habitation, lots of animal bones, like, from food.

Chuck: That they'd eaten.

Josh: Food waste.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So yeah, it's clear that people lived in Durrington Walls.

Chuck: Not as many dead bodies.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: There's another theory that it's possible Stonehenge was a place of healing. There's something called the Amesbury Archer, who was discovered, and he was contemporaneous to Stonehenge. He had a knee injury, and they thought, well, maybe he was on his way to Stonehenge or something.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: They did a survey of the injuries and illness-evidence of illness of the remains at Stonehenge and found that it was about the same as other contemporary sites, so they don't think that it was a place of healing. Not like a spa.

Chuck: Right. Well-

Josh: It was probably a place of the dead.

Chuck: Probably so. And a lot of this new way of thinking has come about since the 2000s, started with a guy named Mike Parker Pearson.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Led the Stonehenge Riverside Project. And they've kind of brought, like, debunked a lot of these older theories that it was maybe a monument for astronomy or, you know, some of the other things we talked about.

Josh: Yeah. Apparently, like, if you're a Stonehenge expert you say, "Yes, Stonehenge was clearly constructed and in some way related to the summer solstice and the winter solstice, the sun."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But they kind of draw the line at they used it to predict solar eclipses and stuff like that. They were saying there's no evidence of that.

Chuck: No. Although it could be true, but they just don't know.

Josh: They just haven't figured it out yet.

Chuck: Another theory that I like that's one of the more modern theories is that it was a monument to unification, which is kind of neat, which makes sense. That the Britons, at the time, were from all sorts of tribes and that they blended together there, and that's why they might have brought stones from all over the place, as a symbol of our unification.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Like here's some stones from Wales. Here's some from here. Here's some from there.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And here's a big monument to us all coming together to one day rule the world.

Josh: And, well, significantly the Stonehenge site is at the area where three different chiefdoms, territories came together. So it is possible that it is a-if not a monument to, a monument from cooperation from these groups. Remember we talked about the Upper Paleolithic warlessness.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's, supposedly these chiefdoms were-they peacefully coexisted. Which also could explain why Stonehenge came about. You know, one of the things you do to keep your populations occupied and busy is creating massive public structures.

Chuck: Yeah, projects.

Josh: Like, pyramids or something like that, you know?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: And Stonehenge could have been the result of that, of clever chiefs saying, "I need to do something to keep everybody busy. Let's make Stonehenge."

Chuck: Yeah. My money-I mean, there's so many people buried there, in and around Stonehenge. They say, like, maybe thousands of people have been buried there, so I think it was probably just some sort of final resting place that looked nice and they dressed it up.

Josh: Yeah. And it's probable that the people there were part of the elite ruling class. There's, like-they found incense burner, polished mace head, some other evidence that the people there had some sort of political/religious power.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: That kind of stuff.

Chuck: And like we said, they're mostly men.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Which, at the time, of course, they would have been the people in power.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: Yeah. At the time.

Chuck: That's right. Not like these days when women can do anything they want.

Josh: We need to do an episode on the Equal Rights Amendment. Man, it is just mind-blowing to me.

Chuck: Yeah, let's do it.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: What inspired that? Patricia Arquette?

Josh: The factiousness about men being in power.

Chuck: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Josh: Or not being in power.

Chuck: Yeah, let's do that one.

Josh: Okay. Patricia Arquette inspired me. I'm like Meryl Streep here.

Chuck: Yeah, man. That was awesome. She was digging it.

Josh: Yup.

Chuck: You got anything else?

Josh: I'm sure we could go on about this for a while, but why?

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: You know, there was one theory that they erected Stonehenge to create this pipers' illusion. Did you hear about that?

Chuck: Oh, yeah. Like if two pipers in a field are playing in certain places it-they will cancel each other out.

Josh: Yeah. Which is weird.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's a weird acoustic phenomenon. And, apparently, in Stonehenge the phenomenon is replicated, and there is also an old legend that Stonehenge was the result of pipers leading maidens into a field and then turning them into stone.

Chuck: Ah.

Josh: Well, there's this acoustic archeologist who believes that a lot more archeological sites than we realize were dedicated to sound.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: And he has this theory about Stonehenge. May or may not be right. I get the impression that he was also postulating it to get attention-

Chuck: For his field.

Josh: -to his theories. Yeah.

Chuck: Well, there's definitely some weird acoustic features at Stonehenge.

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: So you can't discount that.

Josh: Yeah. Well, was it a byproduct or was it intentional?

Chuck: Right, yeah.

Josh: Who knows? We don't even know why they built it in the first place.

Chuck: Well, we're going to have to visit it if we ever go to England for a live show.

Josh: For sure.

Chuck: Just-

Josh: Maybe we'll do a live show at Stonehenge.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Possibly.

Josh: Pink Floyd.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They did something at the-

Chuck: They did it at Pompeii.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which I've been there.

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: And it's amazing. Not just because it's Pompeii, but because Pink Floyd played there.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: You know? We'll do our live thing at Stonehenge.

Chuck: I think, if I'm not mistaken, Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii was a concert in front of nobody.

Josh: Yeah. Well, on the-

Chuck: Is that true?

Josh: -on the "Echoes" video they're not playing in front of anybody, yeah.

Chuck: Yeah. I think that was the deal. That's so cool, wow.

Josh: I've got one more thing. There was a horrible police brutality incident at Stonehenge.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah. There was this hippie movement called the New Age Travelers.

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: From the '60s, '70s, into the '80s, and then in 1985 they were going to have-there were going to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge. And they had the year before, but 100,000 people showed up and, like, just trashed the place.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Like dug into the ground to build bread ovens and, like, toilets, and like just totally laid waste to the place.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And so the locals were like, "You can't go to Stonehenge again." So the cops tried to barricade it. The hippies tried to break through. The cops clubbed the hippies, including pregnant women and women holding children.

Chuck: Wow.

Josh: There were eyewitnesses. It was a horrible scene, and it was later called the Battle of the Bean Field. And after that, for like the next 15 years, there was no-you weren't allowed to go celebrate the summer solstice, which is a big thing for neo-druids and stuff-

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: -at Stonehenge. And then finally in 2000, the English Heritage Group, I can't remember what the full name is-English Heritage.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They're in charge of Stonehenge. They opened it back up. So now I think the most recent summer solstice had, like, 30,000 or so people peacefully celebrating it. I think if you dig there, though, you're in big trouble, still.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which, appropriate.

Chuck: I imagine it's pretty-it's a secure location.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: You can't just back into, like, Clark Griswold.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Okay. Now I really don't have anything else.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Okay. If you want to learn more about Stonehenge, you can type that word into the search bar at And since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.


Chuck: I'm going to call this ice cream email. And speaking of ice cream, we should thank a local ice creamery here.

Josh: High Road Creamery.

Chuck: Yeah. High Road here in Atlanta-well, just outside of Atlanta.

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: They got in touch with us, two people did, and one person said, "Hey, I don't know if you've heard of us, but you should try our ice cream."

Josh: Yup.

Chuck: And another person emailed from High Road-

Josh: It was like, "Yeah, you should."

Chuck: It said, "We'll send you ice cream." I was like, "I like you better."

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] So they sent us some ice cream and it's delicious, and we just want to say thanks.

Josh: And nutritious.

Chuck: I don't know about that. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Because that rhymes and you know it rhymes.

Chuck: But this is about ice cream from Nathan. "Hey, guys and Jeri. Just listened to your 'How Ice Cream Works' episode and thought your tuna gelato story reminded me of my own terrible gelato story." You want refresh people about tuna gelato?

Josh: Yeah. If you go to Plaza Fiesta, the Latin American Mall in Atlanta on Buford Highway, there is a gelato place there that, at least a year or two ago, sold raw tuna-flavored gelato. It was dead on, the taste.

Chuck: "So we lived in Naples, Italy for two years, guys, and fell in love with real Italian gelato. And it's safe to say my wife and daughter would get it at least three times a week, all year round. We took our summer holiday one year to a city called Tropea in the Calabria region. The city is famous for red onions, so much so that red onions in Italy are all called cipolle di Tropea."

Josh: Nice.

Chuck: "As we were walking through the city, we saw a place that had onion gelato, though, and decided to try it."

Josh: I don't know.

Chuck: I know. "Luckily, my wife was smart and suggested I try it before I ordered a whole cone of the stuff. Let me tell you, it was awful. It tasted like a spoonful of onion powder, and had the consistency of snot."

Josh: [LAUGHS] Oh, god.

Chuck: "And was cold. It was all I could do to choke it down without throwing up. Even after eating tasty strawberry and lemon gelato, the taste still lingered. To make it worse, every time I burped the rest of the night I got to relive the taste." Man. "So that's my story, guys. I will steer clear of the tuna gelato, if you stay away from the onion gelato."

Josh: I will stay away from the onion gelato, but I think you should try the tuna gelato.

Chuck: That's the deal, Nathan.

Josh: Yup.

Chuck: "Ciao," he says.

Josh: "Ciao, bella," and all that.

Chuck: I would taste any of those, the small spoonful.

Josh: Yeah. I'd like use the very tip of my tongue-

Chuck: Yeah, just-

Josh: -and like, lick the onion one. The tuna was-I mean, it was weird. It wasn't bad. It was just-it was-

Chuck: Strange.

Josh: -really surprising that, like, you could get-

Chuck: Get that taste.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] It's probably just ground up tuna that-

Josh: Probably.

Chuck: -was froze with some yogurt.

Josh: Yeah, like, it's not hard, dummy. If you want to get in touch with us for any reason whatsoever, you can tweet to us @SYSKPodcast, you can join us on Know, you can send us an email to, and as always, you can hang out with us at our luxurious, nutritious, delicious home on the web,


Vo: For more on this, and thousands of other topics, visit