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Stonehenge, Summer Solstice 2006

A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images
Definition: A henge is the term given to a large prehistoric earthwork, usually but not always circular, whether of stones, wood, or earth. This word, interestingly, is a back-formation from Stonehenge.

Stonehenge was the Saxon name for the famous monument on the Salisbury plain, and the "henge" part is Old English for "hang," not earthwork. Nonetheless, the term henge is in wide use in both popular and scientific literature to refer to megalithic monuments of the Neolithic and Bronze ages, erected throughout Europe between about 3500 and 1200 BC.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Also Known As: Stone circle, alignment, cromlech are all types of henges
Henges of the world besides Stonehenge include the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands, Mayburgh (England), Carnac (France), Woodhenge at Cahokia Mounds (USA).

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