The Process Of Erection





Contrary to another cherished belief, the Sarsen Trilithons were

erected first, followed by the foreign stones. The building of the

group was continuous and no gap separates the Trilithon from the

foreign upright. Of this abundant ocular proof was forthcoming in

1901, when the foundations of the great Trilithon were laid bare, and

the leaning upright restored to its original perpendicular position.

When the ground was opened it was found that each upright had been

differently bedded in the earth--and for a very good reason. The one

was twenty-nine feet eight inches long, while the other was only

twenty-five feet. Obviously they were the two finest grey wethers

obtainable in the flock, and because of that, they were set aside for

the most prominent place in the enclosure. The master builder decided

that the height of this central Trilithon should be the equivalent of

twenty-one feet at the present day. Therefore it was necessary to bed

one stone deeper than the other, in order that their two summits

should be level to receive the lintel, or impost. One stone,

therefore, was sunk to a depth of four feet, while the other extended

downwards eight feet three inches. To compensate for the lack of depth

in the shorter stone, its base was shaped into an irregular projecting

boss to give it a greater bearing area. It was decided to raise the

larger stone first, and the foundation was dug as follows: A slanting

trench was cut with the deer's horn picks through the earth and chalk,

having at its deeper end a perpendicular chalk face against which the

Sarsen could rest when upright. Rubble and chalk were cleared away,

and the stone carefully slid down the plane to its foundation. To

raise it, now that its base rested against a solid wall of chalk, was

not a great matter. The same ropes of hide and tree trunks which had

served for its transport would again have come into play. Slowly it

would be levered up, and packings or wedges of wood or stone inserted.

Thus inch by inch, probably, it rose higher and higher, strutted up,

perhaps, by strong saplings as it reared its head above the busy crowd

of builders. Blocks of Sarsens were packed beneath it to equalise the

bearing, and then the excavation was filled in with chalk and rubble,

which doubtless was well rammed down and consolidated with the big

sixty-pound mauls. Among the packing of chalk and rubble were found a

considerable number of the rough implements already referred to.







The shorter upright was next set on end. A shallower excavation had to

suffice in this case, but the base of the stone, as has been already

intimated, was wider, and to secure greater stability blocks of Sarsen

were provided for the stone to rest on, other blocks being packed in

carefully as it was raised, and curiously enough among the firm

packing were several large stone mauls, fitted in to make the whole

mass solid and compact. There is no direct evidence as to the actual

method of placing the imposts upon the uprights. It has been

suggested, and with every show of reason, that one extremity of the

imposts would be raised and packed with timber. The opposite end

would then be similarly treated. In this way, by alternately raising

and wedging first one side and then the other, the impost could have

been brought, in time, level with the summit of its upright, and

levered over on to the tenons.



Such a method is employed by primitive races to-day.





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