Ancient Stonehenge circle is the star of the first ultra high relief silver Monuments by Moonlight coin

One of the world’s most enigmatic and ancient monuments, Stonehenge has a surprisingly limited presence in the modern coin world. Now the Commonwealth Mint has chosen it to launch their new Monuments by Moonlight proof coin series. An ounce of 0.999 silver is the canvas of choice and the strike is an ultra high relief one – up to an impressive 1.6 mm for this weight.

Just renders at present, but it’s a well chosen view of the mysterious stones and it looks to have an impressive sense of depth. Very clean, with just the series title inscribed on the reverse, the monument and moon play off each other well. It’s a coin we look forward to seeing better pictures of soon. This one should be available for sale very shortly, with shipping commencing from the first week of August.

Following in September will be a coin depicting the equally enigmatic Easter Island giant heads, and in October, that icon of American history, Mount Rushmore. It’s certainly an eclectic mix, coming from different time periods and widely spaced locations. If these are successful, there are no shortage of future subjects that would fit the bill.  The Pyramids of Giza, Leptis Magna in Libya, temples in Cambodia, Latin America, Greece or India – the list is endless.

Issued for Fiji, that island nations coat of arms adorns an obverse that is common to the series. Packaging comprises a black wooden box in a themed outer shipper, and a certificate of authenticity is included. Each coin will have a mintage of 2,019 pieces. A fine debut issue that we look forward to seeing more of.

STONEHENGE

Stonehenge is a Neolithic / Bronze Age monument located on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, southern England. The first monument on the site, began around 3100 BCE, was a circular ‘henge’ earthwork about 110 metres in diameter, a ‘henge’ in the archaeological sense being a circular or oval-shaped flat area enclosed by a boundary earthwork.

This structure probably contained a ring of 56 wooden posts (or possibly an early bluestone circle), the pits for which are named Aubrey Holes (after the 17th century local antiquarian John Aubrey). Later, around 3000 BCE (the beginning of Stonehenge Phase II), some kind of timber structure seems to have been built within the enclosure, and Stonehenge functioned as a cremation cemetery, the earliest and largest so far discovered in Britain. Phase III at Stonehenge, beginning around 2,550 BCE, involved the refashioning of the simple earth and timber henge into a unique stone monument.

In the first stage, two concentric circles, (sometimes known as the ‘Double Bluestone Circle’), of 80 ‘bluestone’ (dolorite, rhyolite and tuff) pillars were erected at the centre of the monument, with a main entrance to the North East. These bluestones, weighing about 4 tons each, originate in the Preseli Hills, in Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales, and were probably transported from there to Salisbury Plain over a route at least 185 miles long (see the chapter on Preseli). Apart from the bluestones, a 16.4 foot long greenish sandstone slab, now known as the Altar Stone, was brought to Stonehenge from somewhere between Kidwelly, near Milford Haven on the coast to the south of the Preseli Hills and Abergavenny, in southeast Wales.

It is thought that that the north eastern entrance to the enclosure was remodelled during Phase III so that it precisely aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. Outside this entrance another feature, known as the Avenue, was added to the Stonehenge landscape. The Avenue (probably a ceremonial pathway) consists of a parallel pair of ditches and banks stretching for 1.5 miles from Stonehenge down to the River Avon. It had previosuly been thought that around 2,400 BCE the bluestones were dug up and replaced by enormous sarsen blocks brought from a quarry around 24 miles to the north on the Marlborough Downs.

Thirty of these huge sarsens, each around 13.5 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighing around 25 tons, were set up in a 98 foot diameter circle. On top of these were placed smaller sarsen lintels (horizontal stones) spanning the tops and held in place by ‘mortice and tenon’ joints. Within this sarsen circle a horse-shoe shaped setting of 15 more sarsens, making five trilithons (two large stones set upright to support a third on their top) was erected. Somewhere between 2280 and 1900 BCE, the blue stones were re-erected and arranged at least three times, finally forming an inner circle and horseshoe between the sarsen circle and the trilithons, mirroring the two arrangements of sarsen stones. This arrangement is essentially the monument that we see the remains of today.

But why was Stonehenge built and was was it used for? As mentioned above, the monument certainly functioned as a cremation cemetery early in its history, probably for the burial of elite members of clans or prominent local families. The presence of a number of burials around Stonehenge which exhibit signs of trauma or deformity have suggested to some researchers, among them Professor Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University, that the monument was a place of healing, akin to a prehistoric Lourdes. Other researchers, such as Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of the Stonehenge Riverside Project at the University of Sheffield, believe that Stonehenge functioned as the domain of the dead in a ritual landscape that involved sacred processions to the nearby henge monument of Durrington Walls.

But it would be wrong to attempt to define a single use for Stonehenge. The function of the monument probably changed many times over its 1500 year history as different peoples came and went in the surrounding landscape, and the nature of society changed irrevocably from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

Haughton, B. (2010, December 14). Stonehenge. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/stonehenge/

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $1 (Fiji)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 38.6 mm
FINISH Proof
MODIFICATIONS High-relief
MINTAGE 2,019
BOX / COA Yes / Yes
THE COMMONWEALTH MINT