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How to Build Stonehenge

'A gripping archaeological detective story' The Sunday Times

Mike Pitts


Described by the Sunday Times as 'a gripping archaeological detective story' and 'wonderful', Mike Pitts's book draws on a lifetime’s study and a decade of new research to address the first question that every visitor asks: how was Stonehenge built?

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Icon of the New Stone Age, sculptural and engineering marvel, symbol of national pride: there is nothing quite like Stonehenge. These great sarsen and bluestone slabs, arranged with simple, graphic genius, attract visitors from across the world. The monument stands silent in the face of the questions its unlikely existence raises: who built it? Why? How?

There has been endless speculation about why Stonehenge was built, inspiring theories ranging from the academically credible to the improbable, but far less investigation into how. In the millennia since its creation, pieces of Stonehenge have been knocked over by heavy machinery, found their way to Florida (and back again), and been exposed to radioactive sodium, but the seemingly impossible endeavour of raising the stones with Neolithic technology has remained inexplicable – until now.

In the past decade ground-breaking discoveries, made possible by cutting-edge scientific techniques, have traced the precise provenance of the bluestones in Wales, but can we plot their journeys to the Salisbury Plain? And how might teams of labourers lacking machinery or even pack animals have dragged them 150 miles to the site? How did they carve joints into the sarsen boulders, among the hardest stones in the world, and then raise them into place? Mike Pitts draws on a lifetime’s study to answer these questions, revealing how Stonehenge stood not in austere isolation, as we see it today, but as part of a wider world, the focus of a megalithic cosmology of belief, ritual and creativity.

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'[A] gripping archaeological detective story … [Mike Pitts] excels at helping his readers to share his own thrill at puzzling over ambiguous technical evidence … What an image of ancient Britain all this presents ... Pitts's wonderful book does not just explain Stonehenge - it tells us something eternal about the human spirit'
Sunday Times

'This is a book about people, the people whose inspiration and dogged determination created Stonehenge, and those whose curiosity has led us to understand the history of this remarkable site. In this deeply satisfying account the author tells the story from the search for the stone to the placing of the last lintel. He writes with erudition and enthusiasm in a way that makes us wonder anew at the stunning achievement that Stonehenge symbolises. This is essential reading for all who are curious about the human spirit'
Sir Barry Cunliffe, author of 'Britain Begins' and 'Bretons and Britons: The Fight for Identity'

'I read this book with huge enjoyment. A fascinating story, meticulously told, of how Stonehenge was built. We may never know why, but now we know how!'
Bernard Cornwell

'This excellent book …gives us a Stonehenge that lasted longer and changed more than we might expect, and took, perhaps, less time to build than we imagine'
Country Life

'A refreshing perspective on “the famous rocks” … Offer[s] one of the most convincing and visually stunning proposals for the construction of Stonehenge to date'

'An engaging, eye opening account from a leading expert in the field'
BBC History Revealed

'The very best exploration of how those people built that magnificent structure on the Salisbury Plain, a group that have often been hidden by the question “why?” are revealed with “how?”'
Sean Russell

'Fascinating … It seems our ancestors were also in the habit of chipping off bits from spare bluestones, perhaps as a way of transferring the magical landscape around Stonehenge to their own homes. Reading this book by the fireside is the nearest – and least damaging – modern equivalent'
The Spectator

'Thoroughly engaging'
Times Literary Supplement

'Pitts deftly weaves together antiquarian accounts, anthropological records, the latest research, and his own personal insights. The result is a highly readable and conversational account, with an intimate tone that effortlessly draws you into the complexities of the archaeological debates … An invaluable resource for those who wish to understand the fascinating and constantly changing story of Stonehenge'
Susan Greaney, Minerva

'In his heavily researched book, Mike Pitts examines the technical evidence to determine how the ancients would have built Stonehenge'

'Great affection for Britain’s best known pre-historic monument … comes through in this well researched and accessible discussion'
Fortean Times

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Publication date: 17 February 2022

ISBN: 9780500024195

Contents List

1. The Stones
2. Raw Materials: Bluestone
3. Raw Materials: Sarsen
4. Logistics
5. Construction: Bluehenge
6. Construction: Stonehenge
7. Afterlife

About the Author

Mike Pitts is an archaeologist and award-winning journalist. He has been the editor of Britain’s leading archaeological magazine, British Archaeology, for over a decade, and is the author of Digging up Britain, Digging for Richard III and Hengeworld.