Stonehenge and simple machines

Stonehenge built in the Neolithic age used simple machines. Where did they learn these techniques and how advanced was their knowledge of science?

Stonehenge┬áis the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. Together with inter-related monuments and their associated landscapes, they help us to understand Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial practices. Neolithic age was about 12,000 years ago and Bronze age around 2000 – 5000 years ago.

For a long time, I used to see this pattern and wonder what was special about this… they are just stones laid on top of stones in a circular pattern. When I realized this was a world heritage site, I started looking at this deeper. Truly amazing to see the architecture, craftmanship and simple machines that they must have used in that day and age.

  1. See the land around, there are no stones or mountains nearby.. so, the stones had to be transported to this place. What was the transportation mechanism used?
  2. On average each stone weighs about 25 tons (yes.. that is correct) and the largest stone weighs close to 30 tons. There are 56 stones in all that had to be transported to the place
  3. For hundreds of years, how are the top stones staying in place.
Diagram showing the joints used in the outer sarsen circle at Stonehenge
Picture courtesy English heritage UK org

4. The picture above shows the tongue and groove joints (simple machines) to create a locking effect. Seems simple right.. however, imaging carving this on stone, with precise measurements both on top of one stone and the exact measurements on the 2 top stones. Additionally, to keep the top stones sitting together with a locking effect, there is another simple machines. Usually these type of joints are seen mostly in woodworking. Carving this precisely on stones weighing 25-30 tons (one cannot even turn them around easily while working on them).

5. Technology needed to pull them (across over 150 miles), measure and drill the holes. Remember, electric drills came into place only in 1895, and according to, the first american springpole was drilled in 1806. Seeing the precision to which these heavy stones had to be drilled, there must have been some simple machines that must have been used for transporting, measuring and drilling.

6. Carving the stones might have been done when they were on the ground, how did they make them stand and how did they lift the heavy stones up and position them correctly to fit on and next to each other? What machines would have been in play there? How did they create the slope and angle to lift them? What could have been the material that was used to hold and lift? Cranes were not in place then…

Simple machines

Amazing craftmanship, amazing technology and usage, and awesome vision to create a monument that would stand the tides of time to tell us the history many centuries later. While we might be feeling proud of our inventions the last two centuries, these historic monuments remind us of what our ancestors were capable of – even in the Neolithic age.

In this post, I focused only on the simple machines and technology that needed to be used to move, lift, drill and set the stones in place. Research is still continuing to uncover many more fascinating mysteries from the past! For those who are interested in knowing more about it, please visit

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