Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Stonehenge" from Voice of America

I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today we tell about new discoveries near Stonehenge, the famous ancient circle of stones in southern England.


For thousands of years, the circle of ancient stones called Stonehenge has been one of the most mysterious places on Earth. Scientists say Stonehenge has stood in England for at least 4,000 years. Millions of people from all over the world have visited the ancient monument.

Stonehenge is the best known of a number of such ancient places in Britain. It stands on the flat, windy Salisbury Plain, near the city of Salisbury, England. Early Britons built Stonehenge from bluestone and a very hard sandstone called sarsen. Experts believe the builders of Stonehenge knew about design, engineering and sound. These ancient people did not have highly developed tools. But they built a huge monument of heavy stones.

Some of the monument's standing stones have lintel stones on top. The lintels lie flat on the standing stones. Most of the stones of Stonehenge stand in incomplete formations of circles. They differ in height, weight and surface texture. One of the largest stones weighed about 40,000 kilograms. Some stones are more than seven meters high. Other broken stones lie on the ground.

Work on Stonehenge may have started as early as 5,000 years ago. Scientists believe it was completed over three periods lasting more than 1,000 years. Archaeologists have studied Stonehenge for many years. For centuries, people have questioned the meaning of the stones.

Now, archaeologists have discovered remains of an ancient village that may have been home to the workers who built Stonehenge. People from the village also may have used the huge monument for religious ceremonies. The discovery of the village helps confirm an important theory about Stonehenge.

The huge monument did not stand alone. Stonehenge may have been part of a larger religious complex. The theory also proposes that people held events in the village and at Stonehenge to celebrate the change of seasons and honor the dead.

The scientific process of radiocarbon dating found that the village is about 4,600 years old. The archaeologists believe the inner circle of Stonehenge was also built at about that time. The timing led them to believe that the people of the village could have built Stonehenge.

The scientists found the remains of the village about three kilometers from Stonehenge. Archeologists from the Stonehenge Riverside Project made the discovery in and around an area called Durrington Walls. Scientists believe Durrington Walls was an ancient community with hundreds of people. It included a larger version of Stonehenge made of wood and earth.

Mike Parker Pearson was the main archaeologist for the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Mr. Parker Pearson said placing the plan of Stonehenge over that of the wooden structure at Durrington Walls proves the great similarity of design.

The team of researchers discovered the remains of several houses. Mr. Parker Pearson says his team found remains of stone tools and bones of humans and animals in the houses. The researchers also found jewelry and broken clay containers. The large amount of animal bones and pottery suggested that the people might have been taking part in a celebration. The floors had marks that showed where fires had been built.

Julian Thomas of Manchester University discovered the remains of two houses that were separated from the others. They lacked all the objects and remains found in the other houses. Mr. Thomas said religious leaders might have lived in the two houses. Or the houses might have been religious centers. Study of the area is far from finished. As many as 25 or 30 houses may be found in and near Durrington Walls over time. The Stonehenge Riverside Project will last several more years.


Researchers believe that no people ever lived at Stonehenge. So the village might have provided places to stay for the people attending celebrations at Stonehenge. Many scientists believe the early people gathered in the area to mark the change of seasons -- the winter and summer solstices.

The winter solstice takes place when the sun reaches its most southern point. It is the shortest day of the year. The summer solstice happens when the sun reaches its most northern point. It is the longest day of the year.

The researchers also found a stone road near Durrington Walls. The road is about 30 meters wide. It goes to the Avon River. A similar road goes from Stonehenge to the same river. Mr. Parker Pearson said Stonehenge and the Durrington Walls area had many similarities.

For example, Stonehenge was in line with the sunset during the winter solstice. The wooden structure at Durrington Walls was in line with the sunrise that same day. The road from Stonehenge to the Avon River was aligned with the sunrise during the summer solstice. The road from Durrington to the Avon was in line with that day's sunset.

Mr. Parker Pearson said he believes the discoveries show that Durrington and Stonehenge may have represented the living and the dead. The temporary wooden circle at Durrington represented life. The permanent stone monument at Stonehenge represented death.

Mr. Parker Pearson said he believes that the ancient people had celebrations at Durrington. Then they went down the road and placed human remains or dead bodies in the Avon River. The river carried the remains downstream to Stonehenge.

The people traveled by boat to Stonehenge. There they burned and buried the remains of the dead. Scientists have found evidence of funeral fires near the Avon River not far from Stonehenge. Earlier discoveries produced burned remains at Stonehenge. And the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered burned remains of about 250 people.


Joshua Pollard of Bristol University and his team discovered a sandstone formation that marked an ancient burial area. They found a sarsen stone almost three meters long. It was lying in a field next to the Avon River, about three kilometers east of Stonehenge. The scientists say it had been standing upright, like the stones that form the main structure of Stonehenge.

They also found partly burned remains of two people buried next to the stone. And they found stone tools, clay containers and a rare rock crystal. Mr. Pollard said the crystal possibly came from as far away as the Alps mountains.

Today, the work of the Stonehenge Riverside Project is increasing knowledge about ancient life in Britain. The research team says there is evidence from old maps and ancient sources for other similar monuments near Stonehenge and connected to it. Another theory says that people from other areas in Europe traveled to Stonehenge for the observances held there.

Some day, researchers may be able to tell the whole story of the ancient village and the stone and wood monuments. But until that day, Stonehenge and its ancient partners are keeping many secrets.


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Barbara Klein. And I’m Steve Ember. You can read scripts and download audio on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Click here for the Stonehenge Timeline

This link explores possible meanings of Stonehenge

Welcome to this website. Check out the INDEX TO EXPLORATIONS for more amazing articles from Voice of America and Edcon Publishing.

All these comments are very welcome. There is also an article about the origins of the English Language you might find interesting.


1. Archaeologists have lately discovered remains of a community, 4,600 years old, near Stonehenge in a area called ________________ .

a. Salisbury
b. Durrington Walls
c. Avon
d. Cambridge

2. Whereas the road from the village to the Avon River is aligned to the sunset at the Summer Solstice, the road from Avon to Stonehenge is aligned to the ______________________.

a. sunset at the Winter Solstice
b. dawn at the Summer Solstice
c. sunset at the Summer Solstice.
d. twilight at the Winter Solstice

3. The remains of another circle at the village similar in form to Stonehenge, only made of wood, and also _______________ Stonehenge, was recently discovered.

a. smaller than
b. about the same size as
c. larger than
d. twice as large as

4. Archaeologists concluded from the discovery of _____________________ that religious ceremonies may have taken place at the village near Stonehenge.

a. bones of the dead
b. jewelry and pottery.
c. animal bones and jewelry.
d. animal bones and pottery.

5. Evidence of funeral fires at _________________ shows that the people at the time Stonehenge was constructed burned their dead.

a. Durrington Walls
b. Avon
c. Stonehenge and Avon
d. Stonehenge and Durrnington Walls

6. The Winter Solstice is the time when the day is the shortest and the sun is at its most _________________ point.

a. southern
b. horizontal
c. northern
d. vertical

7. The recently discovered 4,600 year old village three kilometers from Stonehenge was probably a place where ____________________ .

a. people lived year round
b. only people from the British Isles visited
c. people came only for religious ceremonies
d. only the priest class lived

8. The best definition for "lintel" is _______________________ .

a. a sandstone structure near Avon
b. a wooden post at Durrington Walls
c. a type of boat used for transporting remains of the dead
d. a rock parallel to the ground that was placed along the tops of some of the stones

9. Another name for this selection could be ________________ .

a. "Rituals Around the Avon River"
b. "New Discoveries About the Mysterious Stonehenge"
c. "The Uses of Radio-Carbon Dating"
d. "The Mystery of Durrington Walls".

10. This article is mainly about _________________________ .

a. exciting clues recently discovered about Stonehenge and the area around it
b. the role of solstice in pre-literate societies
c. Britain's variety of ancient sacred monuments and their meaning
d. the fact that a lot needs to be understood about Britain's ancient history

Enjoy the following video about Stonehenge from Youtube:

How did they move those massive stones? This youtube video considers the problem. Watch this video from eslvideos.com. It has a quiz after the video. WELCOME TO THE MISSION LANGUAGE LAB NETWORK OF WEBSITES! THERE'S A LOT TO DO AND LEARN HERE, SO DON'T CHANGE THAT DIAL! MUSIC, LANGUAGE, ARTICLES, VOCABULARY PRACTICE, AND MORE! ENJOY!


  1. very helpfull, thanks

  2. i love stonehenge, i've been there for a ear ago : ))

  3. I love the mystery surrounding stonehenge wish i could shed some light on why they are there a mystery forever no doubt

  4. I love that music, why doesn't it give a note about what the music is titled, and who made it?

    Does anybody know where I can find that music?

  5. Nice place hope I can. Go there. Some day!!

  6. Dustin Ocoileaing said it is sad to see it in ruins...

  7. So my ancestors were smart... As if I knew them for their light and sound doctrine...

  8. I have never been there but I am interested in the mystery of this place. It takes me in a very long travel in the ancient past. I love this...

  9. Very interesting and informative! Glad to know that research is being done to find out what the stones mean. I went there about 15 years ago and was shocked to see that it is by a highway!Hope to visit England again! Thank you

  10. cool story brah

  11. I had a dream about this place last night. i wanna visit it! it looks kinda cool

  12. I am coming from Australia in August and I am looking forward to seeing it. What mysteries it holds? What tales it could tell?

  13. OMG this place is awesome no wonder every1 wants to visit it!!! its full of History Mystery and Magic! =D

  14. These comments are really great. I agree with everyone. This place is strange and mysterious. Because we have no writing from that period, we can only guess as to the meaning of these stones. Perhaps someone can tell me why this particular post gets way more visits and comments than any other on this website.

  15. awesome! it was too difficult to understand for me but this article and audio video made me understand that what stonehenge is infact.