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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
Stonehenge building riddle tackled
The question of how Stonehenge was built has never been properly answered.

The Litho Lift
A full-scale version of the Litho Lift is now planned

One suggestion for how the giant rocks which comprise the 5,000-year-old monument were raised into place even involves Merlin the wizard.

But what is known is the first stones - weighing about five tons - were brought from Wales by water in about 2500 BC.

Some 200 years later, they were dug up and rearranged into the familiar 100m-diameter outer circle and inner horseshoe seen today.

'Sheer manpower'

Heavier stones were also brought in - weighing up to 45 tons - which were dragged from the Marlborough Downs.

It is accepted sheer manpower played some part in erecting each upright in holes in the ground.

But the real puzzle is how ancient Britons managed to hoist the massive "crossbars" on to the top of the towering edifices, up to 22ft high.

Engineer Nick Weegenaar, 52, of Bristol, claims simple mechanics and a cunning invention played their part.

Although he has never actually been to the World Heritage site, Mr Weegenaar has built a model of how he thinks the stones were put in place, and christened it the Litho Lift.

At a meeting in his workshop, unveiling the lift for the first time, he said: "This is a unique type of machine as far as I know. A full scale version is now needed."

According to Mr Weegenaar, the uprights were wrapped in a wood case and rolled forward, before being pulled into holes in the ground using pulleys and counter-weights.

But it is the stones resting on top of the uprights - the lintels - which really excite the father-of-two.

Nick Weegenaar
If it isn't this way, it must be another and we would continue to modify it until it worked
Nick Weegenaar

"The lintels were rolled in the wheel until they were above the uprights, and then lowered down.

"The wheel would have been on a track, with counterweights to act as ballast."

He points to sockets in the top of the uprights to back up this view and insists the counterweights would not have weighed as much as the lintels themselves.

Archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richards, who has also seen the Litho Lift, said it was an "interesting idea".

"The principles all work - but was it too sophisticated for the people at the time? I would be very interested to see how it would scale up."

But Dave Batchelor, head of local authority, historic environment liaison, at English Heritage, raised more serious concerns.

"This level of infrastructure is very likely to have left some traces and none have yet been found."

Stonehenge
The Stonehenge site is 5,000-years old

He also questioned whether the wheel would have been in use in England when the stones were raised.

Mr Weegenaar is not the first theorist to enter the ring - and he won't be the last.

In 2004, Gordon Pipes, of the Stonehengineers group, suggested that levers may have been used to move the giant stones.

The question may never be answered and this, in part, is what fascinates so many people about Stonehenge.

Mr Weegenaar is now keen to build a proper version of his invention - draft carpentry plans are in place - with a wheel some 12ft to 14ft in diameter, to prove his thesis.

"If it isn't this way, it must be another and we would continue to modify it until it worked," he said.




SEE ALSO
Proposals to recreate Stonehenge
09 May 06 |  Wiltshire
New theory on Stonehenge mystery
03 Dec 04 |  Wiltshire

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