Tenons And Mortices

Hitherto no word has been said as to the arrangement of mortice and

tenon, by which the Trilithons are keyed together. This has been done

purposely, in order that the constructional questions relating to

Stonehenge should, as far as possible, be dealt with together, and in

due order. In the outer circle of Trilithons each upright had two

tenons worked on its apex, to bear the two lintels or horizontal

stones which rest
d upon it. Corresponding mortices were sunk in

those stones to admit the tenons. In the case of the Trilithons of the

Inner Horseshoe, only one tenon on each upright was necessary.

Further, the ends of the lintels of the outer circle were shaped so as

to dovetail into one another, and form what is known as a toggle

joint. This can easily be seen to-day, in the group of three

Trilithons which lie between the Altar Stone and the Hele Stone. This

careful arrangement, of mortice, tenon, and toggle, has doubtless very

much to do with the comparative stability of Stonehenge at the present

day. Had these simple but effective measures not been taken, it would

not be exceeding the bounds of possibility to say that to-day the ruin

would have presented a mass of fallen stones, and the task of their

reconstruction would be well-nigh impossible.

Evidently the early mason found the cutting of these tenons by no

means an easy task, for, with two exceptions, the workmanship is not

remarkable. Luckily for the observer to-day the tenon on the remaining

upright of the Great Trilithon is very strongly marked, and stands out

boldly on its apex, thus affording a clue to those existing on other

stones. The mortice holes were easier to accomplish. A small

depression may have been made first of all, and then a round stone

inserted with sand and water. In this way a smooth hollow could soon

be worn. This principle is and has been applied by stone-using peoples

in all quarters of the globe. The rough dovetailing of the lintels of

the outer circle would present no difficulty to users of the tools

already mentioned.

To-day the surfaces of the Sarsens bear undoubted signs of weather,

but in the Stonehenge of yesterday the Sarsens were beautifully

finished with rough tooling all over their surface. This final finish

was achieved by the Quartzite Hammers (Class IV.). A very beautiful

piece of this work was discovered by Mr. Gowland in 1901. In the

process of raising the upright of the Great Trilithon, a thin slab of

that part of the stone which had been buried in the foundation became

detached. The tooling upon this fragment is absolutely perfect, and as

clean and sharp as it was when it left the hand of the craftsman about

four thousand years ago. So remarkable was the workmanship that

experiments were made on pieces of Sarsen with various materials to

endeavour to secure the same quality of surface, during which it was

found that whereas the ordinary masons' chisels of to-day failed to

produce the effect, a quartzite pebble used as a tool at once

reproduced the character and surface of the original finish on the


The foreign stones appear to have been treated in a very similar

manner, but it is not possible to discuss this with the same detail as

in the case of the Sarsens, for the body of the rock to be dealt with

varied vastly in quality and fracture. The method of dressing by

pounding was probably not adopted. Quantities of small chippings from

the foreign stones were found in 1901, so many indeed as to justify

the claim that these stones were actually dressed on the spot, and not

partly shaped before being transported to the circle, as in the case

of the Sarsens. This at once disposes of a popular and ingenious

suggestion that the foreign stones were originally a temple elsewhere,

and that in migrating to Salisbury Plain, the tribe had brought their

temple with them.