We can’t know the ‘why’ of Stonehenge. This book reveals the likely ‘how’

Hannah Fish in The Christian Science Monitor:

On Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, rests an extraordinary monument that has puzzled and inspired people for millennia: the circular set of rocks known as Stonehenge. The iconic scene, so precisely designed and constructed, provokes a litany of questions: What motivated the Neolithic people to create such a thing? Where did the huge, 20-ton stones come from? How was it built?

Archaeologist and journalist Mike Pitts, who has studied the ruins for decades and co-directed excavations at the site, offers readers an in-depth assessment in “How To Build Stonehenge.” While he doesn’t try to answer the first question of why – writing that “imagination is the only limit” to finding a motive – he does break down the second question into several components: how the stones were obtained, how they were moved to the site, how the structure was erected, and how its construction has changed over time. Overall, the book feels geared toward readers who relish granular technicalities of geological analysis. Yet for those who are more interested in the human aspects of Stonehenge’s construction, Pitts’ review of how megaliths have been handled over time still proves noteworthy.

For example, studies have identified the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales, as the place where the smaller ring of rocks known as bluestones were quarried. The bluestones, which weigh an average of 2 tons apiece, were somehow transported to Salisbury Plain, which lies 140 miles from the Preseli Hills. (By comparison, the larger slabs, known as sarsens, weigh 20 tons and are thought to have come from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles north of Stonehenge.) To begin to understand how the bluestones could have been moved such a distance, Pitts turns to another corner of the globe: the Indian Ocean.

More here.