MARKING 35 YEARS SINCE STONEHENGE BECAME A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world and, together with Avebury and their surrounding landscape, was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. This gives it international recognition alongside such sites as the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China as a place of exceptional importance to all humanity.


This month we celebrate much that has been achieved in the past 35 years by English Heritage and its partners, from interpreting the history of this heritage site to protecting its future.

IMPROVED LANDSCAPE AND NEW VISITOR CENTRE

The old and outdated visitor facilities have been removed and the A344 that ran adjacent to the stones has been returned to chalk downland, reuniting the monument with its Avenue.

A new sensitively designed and environmentally sustainable Stonehenge visitor centre has been built, providing high-quality and fully accessible exhibitions, café, education facilities and shop. People are now able to walk from the visitor centre to Stonehenge, experiencing the landscape or can take the shuttle bus. In partnership with the National Trust, new panels have been installed across the World Heritage Site, to help people understand the other important prehistoric monuments in this unique landscape.

HISTORY BROUGHT TO LIFE

With the arrival of the new visitor centre, the way the whole World Heritage Site is interpreted has been improved. Innovative displays are designed to engage and inspire visitors, while equipping them to explore Stonehenge and its landscape. The reconstructed Neolithic houses bring prehistory to life in an immersive way and panels across the landscape help visitors to explore the wider area.

Numerous special exhibitions have brought unique perspectives on the Stonehenge story, the most recent of which is the photographic exhibition ‘Your Stonehenge: 150 years of personal photos’. This exhibition has continually evolved as many untold stories have been uncovered, including guitarist Brian May’s collection of Stonehenge stereoscopes, to memories of people involved in the monument’s restoration in the 1950s.

English Heritage has expanded the ways in which people can engage with Stonehenge by creating innovative digital content, such as Skyscape, an interactive online platform for viewing the skies above Stonehenge. In addition, thousands more people have been able to access the winter and summer solstices from around the world by tuning in to the English Heritage live-streams.

GROUND-BREAKING NEW RESEARCH

Since 1986, our understanding of Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape has been completely transformed. The first complete 3D laser scan of the stones was undertaken in 2011. This revealed previously unknown details, including tool marks made 4,500 years ago and scores of carvings of axes, added when the sarsens had already been in place for 700 years.

Work has also included: the publication (in 1995) of all of the 20th century excavations at Stonehenge; a major series of archaeological projects as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project 2005-9 leading to many new discoveries including the settlement at Durrington Walls; two excavations at Stonehenge in 2008; and the major geophysics ‘Hidden Landscapes’ project.

In 2020, a new study revealed the origins of Stonehenge's sarsen stones, solving a mystery that has been speculated on for centuries. Tests on a sample of one of the stones revealed that the sarsens came from West Woods, just south of Marlborough.

100 YEARS OF CONSERVATION AND CARE

Another significant anniversary was celebrated in 2018 as we celebrated 100 years since Stonehenge was given to the nation. This historic moment in 1918 set in chain a programme of care and conservation, which still continues to this day. In September 2021, cracks in the weather-damaged lintels (the elevated horizontal stones) were repaired. The condition of the stones is closely monitored to preserve them for generations to come.

Join an event

Join an event to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Inscription of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

Tune in to an online discussion between Alison Sheridan (former Principal Curator of Early Prehistory, National Museums Scotland) and Josh Pollard (Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton) as they discuss connections between Avebury and Orkney.

Book here.

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