Most everyone has heard of Stonehenge, the stone circle in England that has been portrayed as an astronomers’ tool, a grave yard, a druidic sacrificial altar, and even in some movies and television programs as a portal to other dimensions and other worlds. But although famous, Stonehenge isn’t unique. There are other such stone circles all over the world, many containing one astronomy henge stone or even an entire grouping of them. The term henge is derived from the Old English word, henge, that became part of the Stonehenge name. Henge doesn’t mean circle or stone or earthwork, it means hang. It refers to the Stonehenge site specifically as horizontal stones were hung around the circle by placing them on top of vertical stone pillars. The name eventually came to denote a variety of similar sites, generally populated by some sort of stone formation within an earthen circle. But a henge only refers to stones set within an earthen circle. Without the earthen circle, either raised or dropped to be lower than the surrounding ground, it isn’t a henge, but rather a stone circle.
While many of these stone henges, including the famous Stonehenge, were used as burial grounds and sacrificial sites, almost all of them have some element related to astronomy. It’s sometimes argued whether or not these stone formations were built for astronomy first, but there’s no doubt of building skill and scientific know how that went into erecting them. The elements that have to do with astronomy include the markings of important dates, such as the summer or winter solstice, when the sun would rise at a point marked exactly by a stone placement. This might include the sun being viewable through a tiny window at sunrise from a point at the center of a circle. Stonehenge has an amazing array of astronomical measures built into the circle. It really doesn’t matter if they were the purpose for the site or added later. They’re still amazing.
A lesser known but no less spectacular henge is the Avebury Henge located in Wiltshire. The henge neighbors a number of other smaller stone circles, and encompasses the entire town of Avebury. It is believed that this henge had astronomical purposes as many of its stones, now mostly fallen, had positions that corresponded with key phenomenon. But it also had a relationship to ancestral and gender worship as the stones come in two main types