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The Intriguing Ancient History of Salisbury

submitted on 9 June 2023 by

A Brief Prehistoric Backstory

Salisbury, England is a place that has been inhabited since before history had a chance to put on its pants. This sleepy, quaint town may be known for its peaceful rural setting, but you'd be mistaken to think it's lacking in intrigue. You see, the ancient history of Salisbury is anything but boring, and I'm here to give you a Gonzo-style tour of its fascinating past. First things first, let's hop in our time machine and travel back 5,000 years to the Neolithic period, when early humans just started to develop agriculture and the concept of "real estate." In Salisbury, these early settlers began constructing a mysterious monument that would later become one of the most iconic landmarks in the world - Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Big Rocks, Big Questions

Ah, Stonehenge, the circle of massive stones that has puzzled historians, archaeologists, and even a few alien enthusiasts for centuries. Built around 3,000 BC, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument that has long left researchers scratching their heads. Its construction required hauling enormous stones, some weighing up to 30 tons, from miles away. Why on earth would early humans go through all that trouble? Was it a sacred temple? A burial site? A prehistoric calendar? Or did the ancient architects just really, really love their boulders? Despite countless theories and investigations, the exact purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery. However, recent discoveries suggest that it was a place of healing and pilgrimage, drawing people from far and wide. And while we may never know the true intentions of its prehistoric architects, Stonehenge stands as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of our ancestors. It's also an excellent spot to snap some selfies and pretend you're a druid.

Old Sarum The Original Salisbury

Now let's fast-forward a few millennia to the Iron Age, when people decided that living in forts was a good idea (spoiler alert: it wasn't). Just two miles north of modern-day Salisbury lies the abandoned hill fort known as Old Sarum. This fortified settlement was first established in 400 BC and served as the original Salisbury until the town decided it was tired of living like a medieval sitcom and moved to greener pastures. Old Sarum's history reads like a Game of Thrones script, with a cast of kings, bishops, and soldiers vying for power. The fort changed hands multiple times over the centuries, from the Romans to the Saxons, and back to the Normans. The place even briefly served as a royal palace before King Henry I decided that Winchester was more his style. However, Old Sarum wasn't just a pawn in a political game of chess. It was a thriving community complete with a stunning cathedral, which was unfortunately demolished when the town moved. Today, you can wander the ruins of Old Sarum and imagine the bustling city it once was, or just enjoy the fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

Salisbury's Medieval Marvel

Alright, enough ancient history let's get medieval. In 1220, the inhabitants of Old Sarum decided to relocate to the present site of Salisbury, and thus, the modern town was born. The main attraction of medieval Salisbury was (and still is) the Salisbury Cathedral, a gothic masterpiece that has somehow managed to remain standing for nearly 800 years despite being built on only four feet of foundations. Talk about divine intervention. The Salisbury Cathedral is home to the tallest church spire in the UK, reaching an impressive 404 feet into the heavens. It's also the final resting place of Edward Heath, the late British Prime Minister who had a flair for sailing and playing the organ - not necessarily at the same time. But perhaps the most famous resident of the Salisbury Cathedral is the Magna Carta, the historic document that has been credited with laying the groundwork for modern democracy. The cathedral's Chapter House is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, which you can check out during your visit (just don't ask to make photocopies).

Final Thoughts on Salisbury's Ancient History

From Stonehenge to the Salisbury Cathedral, the ancient history of Salisbury is filled with mystery, intrigue, and more than a few big rocks. Whether you're a history buff, an architecture aficionado, or just someone looking for a good story, Salisbury's past has something for everyone. Just remember to bring your camera, your curiosity, and maybe a druid robe or two.

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