"If you want to create a lasting work that is beautiful and fitting and will be talked about for all time to come, then bring over here the circle that the giants built in Ireland -- a wonderful, huge, round work with stone set on stone -- so strong and heavy that no strength of men now alive can ever lift them."
"Merlin,"said the king, laughing,"since these stones weigh so much that no one can budge them, who could possibly bring them over here? Don't we have stones enough in our kingdom already?"
"King," said Merlin, "don't you realize that brains are better than brawn? Strength is fine, but cunning is much better, since it often succeeds where muscles fail . . . Cunning can move those rocks and bring them to you . . .These stones are beneficial and healthful for the sick."
"Merlin arranged the rocks in order, side by side. The Britons call this the Giants' Carol in their tongue; in English the name of the place is Stonehenge; in French it is 'Hanging Rocks'."
|Because of Merlin's mythic relationship to the 'Hanging Rocks', Stonehenge is often linked with Arthurian legend. The legend was first recorded in Historia Regnum Brittaniae by Geoffery of Monmouth, who related that the stones were brought from Africa to Ireland by giants. Later in the myth, Merlin is commissioned by Aurelius Ambrosius to bring the stones to Britain so that they can be set up as a war memorial. Called the Chorea Gigantum, the Giants' Ring, this monument becomes the burial place of Aurelius, Uther, and Constantine, Arthur's successor. Some archaeologists now believe that this legend is a remnant of truth; they argue that the relatively small stones that formed Stonehenge I were quarried in Wales and shipped to the Salisbury Plain through the Bristol channel. If the stones arrived over water, it is possible that the legend of the stones may be partly true. However, most archaeologists agree that Stonehenge was erected from about 3100 BC to 1500 BC possibly by the so-called Beaker people, named for the characteristic pottery found in their tombs. The gigantic monument was constructed during the Neolithic and Bronze periods in three stages referred to as Stonehenge I, II, and III.|
|The first stage of Stonehenge consisted of a large round ditch with a bank inside it which was excavated by Neolithic people using deer antlers as picks. Two entry stones were erected at the northeast entrance and inside the ditch and bank the 56 mysterious Aubrey holes were excavated. Stonehenge remained in this form for 500 years before it reverted to scrubland. The second stage, initiated around 2100 BC, incorporated 80 bluestone pillars which were to be erected in concentric circles. The bluestones were also aligned in an avenue that corresponded to the rising of the sun at summer solstice. This stage, however, was never finished. Around 2000 BC, the process which yielded the Stonehenge recognizable to modern people began. The gigantic linteled sarsen stones and horseshoe formation inside the ring were constructed over the next 500 years.|
|Over the centuries, Stonehenge has provoked many theories about its origin, use, and meaning; it has been regarded as a temple, calendar, and computer. Such hypotheses of meaning are equally applicable to the other neolithic formations in Britain. Just as mysterious as Stonehenge, several of these numerous formations are Arthur's namesakes. Stone alignments appear in three basic types in the UK. The first, known simply as a standing stone or menhir, is a single erect stone that often distinguishes the northerly or southerly setting of the sun or moon by point at the top of the stone leaning to the horizon. The second type is the stone ring. Again the astronomical events marked are usually the extreme rising or setting of the sun and moon. The third alignment is straight rows of stones usually found in northern and western Britain; these formations usually seem to have no astronomical basis. Despite years of scientific inquiry, Stonehenge and other neolithic monuments seem as puzzling now as they have for centuries. It seems suiting that such ancient constructions are linked with the legendary king -- both undeniably play an enormous role in Britain's shadowy, mythic past.|