Saturday, 25 August 2012

Audio Guide Script Stonehenge

Standard audio tour script

ENG10662 Script for translators 7 Mar 07    
99 Welcome
Welcome to Stonehenge.
Make your way to the tunnel while I tell you about your audio guide.
As you go round the site you’ll find circular markers set low on the ground near the path.
Each has a number. All you have to do is key that number into your audio guide and then
the green play button to hear the relevant commentary. Sometimes we’ll suggest you key
in an extra number to hear more information.
To adjust the volume use the loudspeaker buttons. To pause a commentary press the red
button – and then the green to re-start. If you miss something you can rewind using the
double-arrow button on the left.
When you get to the tunnel walk on through - past the artist’s impression of a prehistoric
landscape on the wall - and keep listening.
Stonehenge has stood here for thousands upon thousands of years. It was already an
ancient site by the time the Romans invaded Britain. But its original purpose has long been
lost, swept away by the mists of time. Throughout history countless people have been
drawn here to admire, to marvel, and to wonder why and how it was built. Hundreds,
maybe thousands, of prehistoric people toiled to make this unique construction. The
centuries have taken their toll but the monument still remains imposing, enigmatic and
forever mysterious.
We will give you a brief history of Stonehenge as you walk around the site and you’ll also
have the choice of listening to more explanations on the wider landscape and to some of
the myths and legends that have grown up around it.
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And if you’d like any information that isn’t included on this tour do ask our custodians.
They’re always on site and are very happy to answer questions. Whilst no stones have
been replaced, several have been re-erected or straightened in the last one hundred
years. This has been done to ensure safety and greater understanding for visitors.
But for now, walk on up the ramp and look out for the first marker – number one. You’ll find
it on the right, a little way along the path. When you reach it, press number one on your
handset, then the play button.
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1 Introduction
Stand here for a moment and listen as you look towards the stones. They’re still an
impressive sight, but now only about half of the original monument remains. Some stones
have fallen down, others were taken away long ago to be used in such things as buildings,
or repairing farm tracks. And still others were damaged by souvenir hunters. In earlier
times visitors hired hammers from the blacksmith in Amesbury to chip off a keepsake.
Before Stonehenge was built the whole of Salisbury plain was a forest of towering pines
and slender hazel trees, very different from the open landscape here today. Over many
centuries this gave way to more open downland in which work on building Stonehenge
Henge is the old English word for hanging or gibbet. So Stonehenge really means the
hanging stones. Stonehenge is the third and last to be built here. The earliest henge on
this site dates from around three thousand and fifty BC – over five thousand years ago –
and wasn’t made from stone. It consisted of a circular bank and a ditch, some one hundred
metres, three hundred feet wide, with a ring of timber posts inside the bank. You can just
see the remains of the bank over to your right. The huge ditch was dug out by hand – deer
antlers were used as pickaxes and the shoulder-blades of cattle as shovels. A
backbreaking task that must have taken years, but those were the only tools they had.
Now follow the path towards the next marker, number two, but keep listening.
Each stone would have towered around six metres, eighteen feet high, and was linked to
the others by a continuous ring of lintels, those top pieces, shaped to fit on top of the
pillars and to curve in a giant circle. Within this outer circle is an inner circle of slightly
smaller stones, bluestones. Both these circles enclose two horseshoe shapes. Five giant
archways called trilithons form the larger one and inside it is a smaller horseshoe of
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It was during excavations of this ditch that antlers were found. And it was by carbon dating
them that we know the approximate age of this first Stonehenge, which was about 3000
BC. And we know that wood was used because, in 1666, John Aubrey, a famous
seventeenth century gentleman who was an amateur archaeologist and historian, found
a ring of fifty six timber post-holes around the edge of the bank. They became known as
aubrey holes and are marked by white discs. Look out for them as you walk around the
site. There are two original entrances through this bank and ditch, a larger one to the north
west and a smaller one in the south.
So about five thousand years ago the first site here at Stonehenge was already in
existence. A circle of wooden posts surrounded by a bank and a steep ditch all dug by
hand, using pieces of bone.
The next building phase began around 2900 BC and lasted for around three centuries.
Timber constructions were erected within the bank, the ditch was allowed to fill in and ash
from cremated bodies was interred in it and in the aubrey holes, which by that time had
been lost their timbers and became partially filled in. This may have been some form of
ceremonial burial.
Now, when you reach the second tour marker, which is on the right, press number two on
your keypad and then press the play button.
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2 The stones
Three hundred years later, in around 2600 BC, at about the same time as the first
pyramids were being built in Egypt, the first stone structure was built here at Stonehenge.
Eighty or so bluestones were transported from the Preselli mountains in south west Wales
– some three hundred and eighty five kilometres, that’s two hundred and forty miles away.

They were probably dragged down to the sea, loaded onto huge rafts and brought up the

river Avon, which flows past Amesbury and through Salisbury. Then, somehow, they were

carried a considerable distance overland to here.

Now move on towards the next marker, but keep listening.

Once they were here, the bluestone monoliths were set upright into the ground. They’re
the smaller stones inside the circle you see today. No mean feat when you think that each
one weighs around five tons! Some are only stumps now, but others still stand proud, in
the same position they have held for centuries.
But why they were brought all that way is still a mystery. Perhaps it was because the
bluestone is always warmer to touch than other stones. Or perhaps it was for their colour.
If you split a bluestone open, inside it’s blue with white specks. Perhaps the stones were a
status symbol, brought back after successful trading, because the Preselli mountains were
the first landmark to be seen from the sea on the prehistoric trade route from Ireland. At
that time, Wiltshire, the home of Stonehenge, was a rich area of good farmland,
prosperous communities, and the bluestones may have been intended as a centre for
ceremony to celebrate that fact.
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The bluestones were placed to create a double horseshoe shape. But before this phase of
Stonehenge was complete, work stopped. And began again two or three hundred years
later on a new, bigger, Stonehenge.
When you reach the next marker press number three then the play button, and we’ll tell
you about this final phase.
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3 Construction

So, over five thousand years ago, the first henge was built. Then four thousand five

hundred years ago the bluestones were erected, creating the first Stonehenge. And for

about the next thousand years, the stone circle was remodelled at various times before

being abandoned about three thousand five hundred years ago. For example, the

bluestones were dug up and moved nearer to the centre. A stone was placed in the

middle, now called the altar stone. And a number of huge sandstones were brought from

the Malborough downs, about thirty kilometres, that’s nineteen miles north of here.


To shape these giant stones known as sarsens the builders hammered away using balls of

stone called mauls. They gave each sarsen a broad base and tapered it towards the top.

Some of the marks they made can still be seen.


And to secure the lintels, the cross-pieces at the top, they used woodworking techniques.

The tall pillar standing on its own in the centre has a pointed bump on its top. This fitted

into a hollow carved into the bottom of the lintel and held the lintel secure as it rested on

top of the sarsen. It’s a form of mortice and tenon joint and is the same idea as the ball

and socket joint on the hips and shoulders of a skeleton.


But that wasn’t all. To make each lintel fit snug against each other the builders carved a

vertical tongue and groove joint on each one, so the lintels slotted together like the pieces

in a jigsaw. They were also given a slight curve to form a smooth circle. This forms a ring

beam which links the tops of the stones together and gives the whole structure more


Now continue along the path to the next marker, which is on the left, but keep listening.

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We don’t know how those stones, the sarsens, were brought here from the Marlborough

downs. On log rollers or sleds, perhaps. And once they were here, we don’t know how the

builders ever managed to get them to stand upright. The heaviest of the stones weighs

forty five tons, roughly the same as seven large elephants. We’re almost sure that deep

holes were dug with one sloping side, then the stones were levered down the slope and

heaved upright. To do this we think they used wedges, levers, rollers, ropes and the sheer

muscle power of hundreds of men. It was a massive job because a third of each stone is

below ground. But eventually the stones were set firmly into place, like giant teeth into the

gums of the earth.


Once the upright stones were in place, the lintels had to be positioned on their tops. Again,

we’re not sure how this was achieved. Perhaps a wooden ramp was used to haul the

lintels to their resting places; but the most widely accepted possibility was that a timber

scaffolding was used. And by using this, together with levers and wedges, those long-ago

builders were able to raise the lintels to their final positions, and the building was complete.


When you reach the next marker, press number four, then the play button.

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4 Purpose of Stonehenge
From here you can see in the distance, framed in the farthest arch, the heel stone. You
may have to move a pace or two to see it clearly. On midsummer’s day, the summer
solstice, the sun rises over the heel stone and its rays shine through the archway towards
the altar stone, which now lies flat in the centre of the circle but was once an upright
sarsen stone.
This alignment of Stonehenge seems to indicate that the midsummer sunrise was an
important occasion for the people who originally used it, as it was in medieval times and
still is for some today. And of course all those thousands of years ago our ancestors were
entirely ruled by the changing seasons so it’s natural that they were acutely aware of the
way the seasons were marked by the movements of the sun and moon.
The people who lived in southern England three and a half thousand years ago were
farmers. They lived in circular houses, clustered together in little settlements; they made
their own pottery, wove cloth, and were expert woodworkers. Whilst Stonehenge was still
an actively used site, they became very skilful metalworkers using bronze to produce
weapons such as axes and knives together with more personal items such as jewellery.
They were also traders. They traded stone for their tools from as far away as northern
Ireland, Wales, the Lake District in the north of England, and the west of Cornwall, and
traded their pottery across the country. So they were a prosperous people. And with
prosperity came a social hierarchy.
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Once the real purpose of Stonehenge had been forgotten, many myths and legends
sprang up about the site. There has always been a lot of speculation about why it was built
and what it was used for. For a long time people thought the site might have been used as
a sort of prehistoric observatory for looking at the stars and planets. Some even took this
idea further and suggested it might be a sort of calculator for the stars and planets. But
now greater understanding of astronomy and other prehistoric sites show that these ideas
don’t really have a factual basis.
Now move on to the next marker, number five. But if you’d like to hear more about some of
the myths and legends as you go, press number forty four, four and four again, and then
the play button. If not, when you reach the next marker press number five, then the play
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44 Myths and legends
Many of the old myths feature giants building Stonehenge, but one of the earliest legends,
dating from the twelfth century, involves the wizard Merlin. After vanquishing the Saxons,
the British king, Aurelius Ambrosius, decided to erect a memorial to the four hundred and
sixty British nobles who were treacherously massacred by the Saxons at Amesbury abbey.
He called in the wizard Merlin, who said, send for the giants round. This was a ring of
stones said to have been transported to Ireland from Africa by the giants. The king’s
brother, Uther Pendragon, set forth for Ireland with fifteen thousand men. They reached
mount Kilaraus, where the giants round stood, but try as they might they couldn’t dismantle
the stones. Merlin grew impatient and used his magical powers to take down the stones
himself and bring them here, then erected them again in exactly the same way as they had
stood in Ireland. Kings Aurelius and Uther Pendragon are both said to have been buried
here at Stonehenge, and Uther Pendragon’s son was of course the legendary king Arthur.
Famous for his knights of the round table, and the quest for the holy grail.
According to another myth it was the devil who put the stones here. He was employed by
Merlin to take the stones from an old woman’s back garden, again in Ireland. Dressed as a
gentleman, the devil offered the old woman as much money as she could count while he
gathered up the stones. She foresaw the task would take an immense amount of time and
that she would be as rich as a princess. But the devil tricked her, for as soon as she
started counting the money he had bundled up the stones and vanished. It’s said that as
he flew here with the stones he dropped one or two, and those can still be found in the
surrounding countryside.
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Perhaps, with this long history of recurring stories of the stones being flown or magicked
here, the theory that they were brought by aliens from another planet is not too far fetched
after all. The stones were also believed to have healing powers and it was said that
casting scrapings of the stones down a well would cleanse the water of all the venomous
creatures, especially the toads.
Now, when you reach marker number five, which is on the left, press number five on your
handset, then the play button.
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5 Station stones
The small stone nearest the marker is part of another mystery of Stonehenge. It’s a station
stone. We think there were once four of these station stones, though now there are only
two. But what were they for? Again, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that this
stone is near the position of the sunrise on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice,
just as the last place we stopped marked the position of the sun on the summer solstice,
the longest day.
Something else that’s remarkable. If all four station stones were in place and a line was
drawn between them, they would form a perfect rectangle along the axis, or centre line of
the stone circle. And if you then join all four corners to the centre, the point where they
cross is the centre of the circle, where the altar stone used to stand. There’s a diagram in
the guidebook showing this.
Yes, the station stones have certainly been here a long time, perhaps since the very first
henge built in stone, so just possibly they were put there to guide the builders. Reference
points for prehistoric surveyors, perhaps.
But the most tantalising mystery is why? Why did they build Stonehenge in the first place?
And then build it again and again? Was it a temple? To a sun god? Or an ancient
observatory, a place to study the movement of the sun and moon? Was it built for science
– or for religion? In those days science and religion weren’t the two schools of thought they
often seem today. Why did people look after Stonehenge so carefully for such a long
period of time, nearly fifteen hundred years, before abandoning it some three thousand
five hundred years ago?
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Now move on to marker number six, but keep listening.
For about three hundred years, some people have associated the druids with Stonehenge.
But there’s no evidence to suggest that they were ever here. It seems to have been John
Aubrey, who discovered the aubrey holes in the seventeenth century who first suggested
they might be connected with Stonehenge. Roman historians writing about their arrival in
Britain at around ad forty five talk about coming across the druids as part of a Celtic
religious sect. But even though this religious practice may have been in existence for up to
a century or so before then, Stonehenge was already an ancient and probably ruined site.
The roman accounts also described the druids as holding their ceremonies in forest
clearings, rather than building special centres of their own.
When you reach marker six, press number six on your keypad, then the play button.
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6 Heel stone
You’re now standing near the heel stone, the tall stone near the road, opposite the marker
number six. It leans towards the circle, almost pointing at it. The heel stone’s a sarsen that
hasn’t been shaped by hammering with mauls, which is why it’s an irregular shape. It
marks the end of the avenue, the procession route used in the long-ago ceremonies that
may have taken place here. You can’t see the avenue very well now, but if you look at the
base of the heel stone, you’ll see a slight ridge in the ground on either side. Those are the
borders of the avenue. The avenue continued across the road and over the field beyond,
then it turned right and went up the hill to your right, over the hill between the trees and
down to the banks of the river Avon near Amesbury.
But imagine how even more impressive the stones would have been if you were taking
part in a procession, approaching Stonehenge by the avenue. The way the sarsens were
shaped gives an optical illusion of greater height and the circle would have towered above
you as you climbed up the hill. Perhaps it was, after all, simply a symbol of power. Maybe
that was the real power and significance of Stonehenge. The power it had over the daily
lives of the people and as a symbol of existing authority which lasted for well over a
thousand years.
But if it was simply a symbol of power, why then does it also act as a calendar? You can
use the position of the sun on the stones to work out what month you’re in. Midsummer,
the summer solstice, is on the 24
June. In that month the light of the sun falls through
that central archway opposite you. But in July it falls through the next archway to the left.
In August it falls through the next archway after that, and so on, as the days grow shorter,
until the winter solstice in December, when the birth of a new year was celebrated and the
light falls through the archway near the station stone we’ve just passed. In January it starts
coming back round this way, until June, when it falls again through the centre arch.
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If you turn round now and face the heel stone, over to your right in the field there’s a small
round mound. That’s a barrow, an ancient grave. Other barrows can also be seen from
here in the distance and this area has perhaps the densest concentration of burials of this
type in a three kilometre or two-mile radius. They’re arranged in groups, in a linear pattern
on the crest of ridges. The generations of people who used Stonehenge gradually
changed the way they buried their dead. They went from using communal burial places,
sometimes called long barrows, to burying their dead singly. The body was placed in a pit,
accompanied by grave goods, favourite items such as a decorated pottery vessel and
stone or flint tools. Sometimes, especially if they were rich or celebrated, a bronze dagger
or bronze trinkets would also be put in and very rarely, gold jewellery. Occasionally even a
dog or horse was buried with them. Then the earth would be piled on top, making these
round mounds. Later, other bodies or the ashes from cremations would be buried in these
Now, before we move on to the last marker, turn back towards the circle and have a look
at the so-called slaughter stone – it’s in the ditch between the heel stone and the circle. In
reality it’s probably a sarsen that has fallen. The sarsens contain iron ore, which, when
wet, turns red, and this is really noticeable here as the stone is lying down. This geological
phenomenon gave rise to the myth that it was used as a sacrificial stone. In fact all the
sarsens would turn red in this way if they were lying down.
It’s time to move on to the last marker on our tour. You’ll find marker seven near the tardis,
which looks like a sentry box. If you’d like to listen to more about the wider landscape as
you go, press number sixty six, that’s six and six again, then the play button. If you’d like to
hear about other sites of interest in the area, press number sixty seven, six then seven,
and the play button. Otherwise, press number seven when you reach the marker, then the
play button.
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66 Wider landscape
Stonehenge is a creation of generation upon generation of people. The monument and the
landscape we see around it have been used for thousands and thousands of years. Yet
the rich archaeological fabric that makes up the site remains fragile and sensitive to
change and the trappings of modern life. It is priceless and irreplaceable, requiring care
from all who come and spend time here.
English Heritage is charged with looking after Stonehenge and is committed to its
conservation and good management for future generations. We encourage people to
enjoy, understand and appreciate England’s historic environment. The National Trust,
which owns nearly fifteen hundred acres of the land that lies around the monument, is
equally concerned for the well-being of this area. If you have the time, an exploration of the
surrounding countryside, with its henges, cursus and barrows, and all the other
monuments, is well worthwhile. And, later, you may like to visit the museums in Salisbury
and Devizes, where artefacts excavated from Stonehenge can be seen.
We are standing in a vast landscape, with Stonehenge as the ultimate expression of the
power that held prehistoric society together thousands of years ago. People have been
travelling past Stonehenge since time immemorial, pausing to gaze and wonder at the
mysterious site.
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But some of those who came in the past showed less care for the stones than those who
come today. We think up to forty per cent could be missing, taken by those who, seeing
the site abandoned, had little hesitation in taking stones for either building materials or
souvenirs. Today that would be unthinkable, the more we understand it the more we
realise how precious its preservation is. Stonehenge is a forceful symbol of how our
prehistoric forebears, 5000 years ago, imposed their will on their contemporary society. An
attempt to ensure continuity in what was an uncertain world. Stonehenge gives us a
unique insight into those far-off times and a sense of perspective of our place in the history
of human progress, for these stones have outlived many civilisations, and they may well
outlive ours.
If you would like to hear more about other sites of interest in the area, press number sixty
seven, six then seven, and the play button. Otherwise, press number seven when you
reach the marker, then the play button.
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67 Other sites nearby
About eight hundred metres, half a mile to the north of Stonehenge lies the cursus, an
enormous earthwork some two point eight kilometres – one and three quarter miles – long
and ninety metres, one hundred yards wide. On either side of it was a small bank with a
ditch outside – but much of this has now been ploughed flat. This type of earthwork was
named cursus by the eighteenth century historian, William Stukeley, who thought it was
used as a racecourse for chariot races by the ancient Britons! It dates from the first phase
of Stonehenge and can be visited by following the way-marked trail from the Stonehenge
car park.
About three kilometres, two miles north of Stonehenge, off the A345 from the countess
roundabout, are Durrington Walls and Woodhenge – both of which probably date from a
few hundred years after the first stones came to Stonehenge. Large amounts of decorated
pottery and animal bones were found during excavations at Durrington Walls, which point
to some special ceremonies being held there. A grave was found in the centre of
Woodhenge, which is now marked by a small cairn of flints. In it was the body of a three
year-old child, whose skull had been split before burial. This is one of the few pieces of
evidence for human sacrifice in Neolithic Britain.
And finally, further to the north, to the west of Marlborough, is Avebury, a megalithic stone
circle that encompasses part of the village.
If you would like to hear more about the wider landscape of Stonehenge, press number
sixty six, six and six again, then the play button. Otherwise, press number seven when you
reach the marker, then the play button.
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7 End of tour
Given to the custody of the nation by Sir Cecil Chubb in 1918, designated by UNESCO as
a world heritage site in 1986, Stonehenge is without doubt one of the finest and most
mysterious of prehistoric monuments. Turn slowly in a complete circle and take in all you
can see. Stonehenge isn’t special just because of the stones. It’s also special for the
plants that grow here. Even those yellow and grey patches on the stones are unusual.
They’re not stains but tiny slow-growing plants called lichens. At the last count we found
more than ninety different kinds!
Now take a last look at Stonehenge. Even if we take away all the stones and all the stories
there’s still something very special about this place, something secret and hidden. The
great Wessex novelist, Thomas Hardy, felt this, and used Stonehenge as the setting for
his heroine, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, last night of freedom. As dawn approached.
Hardy  The band of silver paleness along the east horizon made even the
distant parts of the great plain appear dark and near; and the whole
enormous landscape bore that impression of reserve, taciturnity and
hesitation which is usual just before day. The eastward pillars and
their architraves stood up blackly against the light, and the great
flame-shaped sun stone beyond them; and the stone of sacrifice
midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering little
pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still.
Thank you for joining us on this audio guide to Stonehenge. Our custodians are happy to
answer any questions, so please do ask. When you’re ready, walk back through the tunnel
and place your handset in one of the stands provided. Please remember to do this as the
handsets contain an alarm that activates as you pass through the turnstile – and it makes
a horrible noise!
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Once you’ve returned your handset, why not wander around the shop or take a little

refreshment before you go. In the shop you can buy souvenir guidebooks. They’re

illustrated and tell you more about Stonehenge. And why not take this opportunity to join

English Heritage. If you join now, your entrance fee to this site will be refunded. There’s a

special membership rate for families and senior citizens, and you’ll be able to visit all the

other English Heritage sites free.


But again, please return your handset first.

As you leave and walk towards the car park, you’ll see two large standing stones, though

not as large as those you’ve just visited. One is bluestone and the other a sarsen. Touch

them and feel the difference. Whatever the weather, the bluestone is always warmer. Why

this is will always remain a mystery.

Goodbye, safe journey – and do come back sometime, to walk the wider landscape.

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