President Barack Obama made an unscheduled visit to the historic site at Stonehenge on his way from the NATO summit in Newport. The first monument at the site on Salisbury Plain was probably built around 5,000 years ago, to mark where prehistoric people buried their cremated dead.
It was only later that the enormous sandstone sarsens and smaller bluestones were set up in the centre, transported up to 150 miles. Historians believe the stone circle may have been a temple, a burial ground, an astronomical calendar or all three.
Although it appears isolated, it is actually just one part of a vast system of ancient earthworks on what would have been an unusually open landscape when Britain was an island of forests.
Despite its significance, it continued deteriorating badly until the turn of the last century, when passionate campaigns began to save it after it was gifted to the nation in 1918. Historians still disagree over the function of Stonehenge, which was far more extensive when it was assembled thousands of years ago on Salisbury Plan.
Built between 3,000 and 1,600 BC, the stone circle may have been a temple, a burial ground, an astronomical calendar or all three, scholars say. No one knows for sure either how ancient Britons got the stones, which weigh up to 45 tonnes, to the site or what they used them for.
Source: English Heritage. Photo: AP