Having realized that a lot of folks might not know about Henges other than Stonehenge, I thought I’d mention a couple of them here. The largest is Marden Henge. It’s pretty much just a large circular ditch and mound now, but it’s very large.
Marden Henge is the largest henge in Britain enclosing 14 hectares (Avebury encloses 11.5 and Durrington Walls encloses 12).
Also known as Hatfield Earthworks, there is not much to see but bank and ditch. Plenty of atmosphere though.
And then there is Durrington Walls:
The second largest henge structure known to exist in Britain or Continental Europe is Durrington Walls Henge in Wiltshire, Southern England, second only to Marden Henge further NNW.
Essentially, Durrington Walls Henge is simply the major component in a landscape series of interrelated sites, including nearby Stonehenge, the recently discovered sites dubbed Bluestonehenge & Woodstonehenge, Woodhenge, Coneybury Henge, as well as other, smaller henge-type structures. Acting as outer markers or distance and angle targets away from these hub centres are the mound complexes, like the sets or groups at Durrington Downs, The Packway, The Lesser Cursus and Cursus, Winterbourne Stoke, Normanton Downs, North Kite and the Lake Barrows, Wilsford, Lake Down, Vespasian’s Camp, Larkhill and the King Barrows, etc. These several hundred purpose-built, outlying marker positions are situated from less than half a mile, up to 5 miles out from the main henge sites of the district. In this study we will show the coded mathematical relationships existing between these many outer structures and the centre position of Durrington Walls Henge, which acted as the main hub position for all secondary structures in the district.
They have some nice photos, maps, et al of Durrington Walls too.
The Wiki on Henges has a list of a few more:
Avebury, about 20 miles (32 km) N. of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire;
The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney;
Thornborough Henges complex in Yorkshire;
Knowlton Circles henge complex in Dorset;
Maumbury Rings in Dorset (later reused as a Roman amphitheatre and then a Civil War fort).
Mayburgh Henge in Cumbria;
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, the UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Wiltshire, England.
Heart of Neolithic Orkney, the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Mainland, one of the islands of Orkney, Scotland;
Balfarg in Fife, Scotland;
Dunragit archaeological excavation site in Wigtownshire;
already mentioned: Thornborough Henges, Knowlton Circles, Stanton Drew stone circles, Arbor Low;
Links to all the above in the wiki article.
and the interestingly named King Arthur’s Round Table Henge
It is the fact that henges of various sorts are found all over the place (and since we know of some that have been destroyed during the time of written history, we can presume there were more than even the ones we’ve found) that leads me to the simple conclusion that these were modestly common places. Places where the local farmers might meet for a “farmers market” while visiting the local season solstice party and picking up a new “moon counter” or learning a new Henge Tuning Trick ;-)
Most do not have a megalithic character, in fact, they tend to just be the ditch and mound around the outside. This, to me, tends to confirm the notion that they had some simple sighting apparatus, probably just some simple wooden poles, for local use in calendaring. It also points up the “special” character of Stonehenge and that is why I think it was the Henge College. The NIST or Standards Bureau of its day.
Clearly, back then, they thought that “Everybody ought to have a henge!”…
There is a very interesting passage on that Durrington Walls link above. I’ll quote it here, but it’s probably better read in the context of the original article:
They were built as the primary fulcrum structures within sprawling “open air universities”. At these ancient schools the “brightest and the best” of gifted children were taught the astronomical and navigational arts. The concept of a horizontal-top henge wall was for creating an artificial horizon, similar to what one would see from a ship on the vast featureless oceans. Students situated within the henge, primarily at its centre, could become very familiar with the star, planet, sun and moon rise and set positions or cycles, by using the top of the henge embankments as the target region for 360-degree observation onto the ever moving and changing stellar display. This is consistent with what Julius Caesar said concerning the great schools of Britain run by the Druids of his time.
‘They do not think it proper to commit these utterances to writing, although in all other matters and in their public and private accounts they make use of Greek characters. I believe that they have adopted the practice for two reasons- that they do not wish the rule to become common property, nor those who learn the rule to rely on writing and so neglect the cultivation of memory; and, in fact, it does usually happen that the assistance of writing tends to relax the diligence of the student and the action of memory…They also lecture on the stars in their motion, the magnitude of the Earth and its divisions, on natural history, on the power and government of God; and instruct the youth in these subjects’ (see De Ballo Gallico, VII, 15, 16.).
The late era Druidic schools that Julius Caesar commented about, undoubtedly, had a pedigree back to similar schools maintained during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages*. British historian, Isabel Hill Elder, commenting on the Druidic schools, writes:
‘The students at these colleges numbered at times sixty thousand of the youth and young nobility of Britain and Gaul. Caesar comments on the fact that the Gauls sent their youth to Britain to be educated…It required twenty years to master the complete circle of Druidic knowledge. Natural philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, geometry, medicine, jurisprudence, poetry and oratory were all proposed and taught-natural philosophy and astronomy with severe exactitude’ (Elder refers to Strabo I IV, page 197. Caesars Comm. Lib V. Sueotonius, V Calegula. E. Campion, Accounts of Ireland, pg. 18.).
So when we have a written account from someone as notable as Julius Ceasar, I just don’t see the need to go making up a bunch of stuff about religious rites and crossing sacred rivers into the afterlife and other clap trap.
We have a written record of what they were for. Why so many folks feel compelled to make up so much stuff is beyond me…