Archaeology of Stonehenge

Henges were used world wide by many different types of people. A henge is a circular ditch inside of a bank. Many groups would use wood in order to create posts in a circular formation. Groups would use this in order to perform rituals and to understand time. A henge would help groups with astronomical observation. With a henge one could keep track of solar movements, knowing days, months, and years. To date there are about 1000 known henges world wide, but more are being discovered all of the time. The most well known, and extraordinary henge is Stonehenge. 

Stonehenge is in Southern England. It is thought to have been built around 5000 years ago (3000 BCE). It is also said to have taken around 1500 years to build. Archaeologists were able to find “Neolithic homes” in the area of Stonehenge, suggesting settled society was there. There are many different parts of Stonehenge that need unpacking. First being the “Aubrey Holes.” At the time of the creation of Stonehenge, 56 pits were dug about three feet wide and deep. These holes are thought to have measured the lunar cycle. They are called Aubrey holes because a man named John Aubrey first discovered them in the 17th century. Next, The first stones to be used were the bluestones. These stones are thought to have been brought from 200 miles away in Preseli Hills, Wales (London Toolkit). This might not sound too impressive until you realize that each stone was around 4 tons and the wheel had not even been invented yet. Next are the massive stones that give Stonehenge the form we all know today. These stones are called the Sarsen Stones, and are thought too have come from 20 miles away. These stones are around 7 meters tall and weigh around 20. All of these Stones along with others made it possible to track astronomical alignments.

Along with this, Stonehenge is also thought to be a sacred burial site. In 1919 archaeologists were able to find 58 individuals buried (Shaw). In more recent years more people were found leaving the number at 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge. The people found buried here were thought to be the elite of the elite. One of the individuals found was able to be traced back to Switzerland. This led archaeologists to believe that Stonehenge was also a pilgrimage site. Today thousands of people still visit Stonehenge to see the enormous “mystery.” The most popular day to go is for the summer solstice, where the sun perfectly aligns within the rocks. All of this information was able to be discovered through archaeology, making Stonehenge one of the most recognizable archaeological sites in the world.

“The Mysteries of Stonehenge.” The mystery of Stonehenge – what was it used for? Accessed November 13, 2022.

“Stonehenge Cremations Shed Light on Where Mysterious Monument Builders Came From.” Science. Accessed November 13, 2022.

Stonehenge during a summer solstice

A map of where Stonehenge is located

Wetherill Brothers and the “The Cliff Palace”

1) “Cliff Palace” at Mesa Verde National Park

Sometimes archaeological discoveries are made by accident. This has happened many times throughout history. A great example with Richard Wetherill and his brother in law Charles Mason. The two were ranchers in Mesa Verde in the southwest Colorado area. On December 18, 1888 the brothers rode to a cliff, herding cattle, where they unexpectedly saw a ruined site built into a cliff. Richard would go on to describe it saying that it was arranged in a way that made it seem like they were “visiting.” Richard came up with the name for this mind blowing site: “The Cliff Palace.”

2) Pueblo Mug

went into the site and found extremely well preserved pieces of pottery and other interesting artifacts. He saw the 150 rooms and 23 kivas that made up the site. Through much more research and work on the dwelling many conclusions were able to be drawn about the people that lived and created this site. Archaeologists determined that the people who lived here were the Ancestral Pueblos from the Pueblo III period. The Ancestral Pueblos were thought to have built the site in the 1200s. They were said to have moved to the area in order to ensure safety and a warmer, drier climate. Living in the cave area also helped keep everything in the site extremely well preserved. The artifacts were protected from pot-hunters and the buildings were protected from weathering effects because of its hidden cliff location. There were an estimated 625 people who lived in this dwelling. The people all had rooms for family and then they would share a Kiva for their ritual gatherings. A Kiva is an underground, excavated room for people to practice their religion. Extended family members would share these in order to perform their ceremonies.

At the Cliff Palace many artifacts were able to be found. It is stated that baskets, sandals, jewelry, textiles, and pottery were found. Pottery being the most important. Pottery showed skill and technology at this time. The Ancestral Pueblos living here were starting to make the pottery multi-colored as well. Another important thing found at Cliff Palace was Macaw feathers. These feathers were extremely significant because they were from Central America, showing trade.

Now Cliff Palace is a part of the Mesa Verde National Park. Thousands of people from around the world come and visit to see the amazing site year round. With these tours the area and buildings have been seeing more rapid deterioration. With this there are conservation efforts in place trying to keep the site as long as possible.


Simmons, Marc. “Trail Dust: Mesa Verde Pioneer Richard Wetherill Met a Tragic End.” Santa Fe New Mexican, June 5, 2015.

Yongli. “Cliff Palace.” Articles | Colorado Encyclopedia, May 25, 2016.

“Artifact Gallery.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed September 25, 2022.