THE COST OF BUILDING THE STONEHENGE COMPLEX

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


A standard formula has been used to calculate how long it would have taken to create earthworks in chalk country, based on the volume of chalk shifted and the mean distances vertically and horizontally that it had to be moved. The figures arrived at here for transporting and raising the stones are lower than those normally quoted because I am assuming oxen were used for pulling. The figure for sarsen lintel raising is based on the Atkinson method, not the Pavel method. The convention of using the term ‘manhours’ is used, although most of the work would probably have been done by young teenagers: ‘child-hours’ would be nearer the truth.


Robin Hood’s Ball 175,000 man-hours

Coneybury feast pit 70

Long barrows (17 barrows, 5,000 per barrow) 85,000

Great Cursus 1,250,000

Lesser Cursus 68,000

Stonehenge I (+4 sarsens from Avebury) 100,000

Coneybury henge 45,000

Durrington Walls superhenge 880,000

950,000

Durrington Walls 4 roundhouses 20,000

Woodhenge 5,000

Stonehenge II Double Bluestone Circle 840,000

Stonehenge II Avenue (+17 pairs of stones) 110,000

Stonehenge IIIa transporting stones 380,000

making stone-holes 20,000

felling and shaping timber 5,000

sledges, back-up 15,000

shaping the stones 700,000

raising the uprights 100,000

raising the lintels 180,000

Stonehenge IIIa total work 1,500,000

Stonehenge IIIb 10,000

Stonehenge IIIc 10,000

Stonehenge IIId (Y and Z holes) 5,000

Stonehenge IV 100,000

Round barrows (240 barrows, 1,000 each) 240,000

Total work on Stonehenge I–IV 2,675,000

Total work on monuments excluding Stonehenge 2,768,000

Total work: all monuments in 100 km2 5,443,000


Interesting and unexpected results emerge from these new calculations. The spectacular Stonehenge IIIa design took a comparable amount of labour as building the Great Cursus and thus, by implication, could have been built by a community of comparable size. Stonehenge certainly absorbed an enormous amount of labour, but not nearly as much as is conventionally assumed. The total figure arrived at (admittedly a minimum figure) is less than a tenth of the 30 million man-hours often quoted, partly because the use of sledges and oxen is assumed. Even so, by the end (i.e., around 1100 BC) Stonehenge had absorbed thirty times as much labour as Stonehenge I.


At the other end of the time-scale, it is clear that the causewayed enclosure required a large amount of work, and represents a significant community effort as early as 3900 BC. This background context of large communal work projects is vital to any understanding of Stonehenge. Even though Stonehenge took a large amount of labour it still, incredibly, represents only half the work that was invested in ritual monuments in that (100 sq.km) area, the clearest possible indication of ceremonial hyper activity.

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