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Comparing Ancient and Classical Art Essay

Ancient and classical art comes in all different shapes and sizes of visual experience. In this paper we explore into the making and design of two unique architectural buildings, Stonehenge and The Great Stupa at Sanchi. These two fascinating buildings were built in different eras from BCE to CE and yet have many similarities, and as well carry distinct differences between the cultural values and the purpose they were intended. This paper will also focus on the area’s region and the functions these two artifacts carry in our culture in the present day.

The Stonehenge is located in Wiltshire, England. The Stonehenge is made up of many different size stones. The heal stone alone is 16ft tall, weighing 35 tons. When the sun sets, this stone casts a shadow towards the main circle of stones. There are two smaller stones known as the “Avenue”, which are lined up and these also cast a shadow in the direction of the circle. There are 2 stones that follow the “Avenue”, that stand next to each other, almost like an entrance to the outer circle of stones. The two stones are known as the “slaughter stone”. The slaughter stones were believed to be a place of human sacrifice. The main circle of stones are known as “The Sarsen Circle”.

These stones are set in a circle and supported by tenon joints. The circles of stones are also circled by the outer bank, which is a 330ft in diameter and is the oldest construction in the area. In the middle of the circle consists of five trilithons. These stand 22ft above ground and are 8ft below ground level. The weight of these stones is 50 tons. In the inner circle is also the “Altar Stone”, this is made of smooth, green sand stone, which is known as one of the most recognizable stones at Stonehenge. The main circle of stones, have smaller stones inside, which also form an inner circle and these are known as “Bluestone Circle”. The Stonehenge was believe to be built in 2750-1500 BCE.

The stupa sits on a hilltop in central India. The stupa consists of four gateways and each gateway has decorations that tell a story in regards to the life of Buddha. The shape of the stupa is dome shaped and is surrounded by a fence to limit distractions during the meditation period. The dome has an upper and lower pathway. The lower path represents the path of life and the upper representing enlightenment. The top of the dome has an umbrella, which is a tower of three discs, smaller at the top and bigger at the bottom.

All three discs represent something different, from top to bottom, Buddha, his teachings and the community of Buddhist. The Stupa was built over 400 years, but most of its completion was in 15CE. The Stonehenge World Heritage spans ten miles around the famous site of Stonehenge. The region is also known as the Salisbury Plains as the location is grassy and flat. This Neolithic artwork in the United Kingdom is a famous destination for many individuals around the world.

Unlike the region in which Stonehenge is located, the Great Stupa at Sanchi rests upon a hilltop in central India. Sanchi, which stands for small village is located in the Raisen district of the Madhya Pradesh (“Sanchi City Travel Guide”, n.d.). The surroundings of the Stupa is calm and restful and it is surrounded by hills, trees, and other types of vegetation. Many individuals still visit this religious site along with other temples and stupas located in this region.

Scientists believe that it took over 600 individuals to create the famous Stonehenge monuments. This was because some of the rocks weighted some 50 tons. Great teamwork by the Neolithic people of Britain is attributed to the creation of Stonehenge.

The great emperor Ashoka of Maurya is the creator of the Great Stupa at Sanchi although this site was rediscovered in 1818 by a British officer. It was then that the site was reconstructed to the condition that is in today. It is believed that that Ashoka created this and many other stupa in the area to divide relics of Buddha after his passing (“Stupa”, 2013). Their designs are circular, which is the first thing that viewers notice. With the huge stones used to build the Stonehenge and the complexity of The Great Stupa at Sanchi, it definitely would have taken teamwork to get the jobs done. As the Closer Look states, “The stupa was built over a period of 400 years” (Closer look n.d.) and the Stonehenge took hundreds of people’s cooperation to build. These many groups of people probably valued socialism and teamwork in their cultures. With their hard work they completed something bigger than themselves which probably made the activity that more valuable and special.

The Closer look suggests that the Stonehenge was a burial ground due to the discoveries of human remains. According to Mike Parker-Pearson, “Villagers would have transported their dead down an avenue leading to the River Avon, then journeyed downstream, in a ritual symbolizing the passage to the afterlife, finally arriving at an avenue leading up to Stonehenge from the river.” (Closer Look n.d.) As for The Great Stupa at Sanchi, it represented Buddha’s life and was also a place for meditation. The Stonehenge and The Great Stupa at Sanchi have one obvious similarity; they both are made of stone and they took many of years to complete. These two works of art are very different from one another. The Stonehenge purpose is unknown still to this day. There are guesses and assumptions but there is no known fact about what it was used for. The Great Stupa at Sanchi was used for meditation purposes and where pilgrims would try to achieve harmony with Buddha and his life path.

The Stonehenge was seen a great place to socialize but on the other hand, The Great Stupa at Sanchi was used by people to be peaceful, quiet, and calm. This great place is a relic of Buddha, and is used to worship him, as well as other Buddhist Gods. These two historical places, architecture could not be any more different. The Stonehenge is made of many separate stone setups that make up a circle and The Great Stupa at Sanchi is a dome shape to represent the earth. These two works of art, Great Stupa at Sanchi and the Stonehenge, both still have a function in today’s culture. They both are not physically used by everyone like they once were, but people are still able to see them in person. They are now tourist attractions which help others understand what they are, how they were, utilized, and more about each culture in that era.

In conclusion, when we compare the architectural values and the visual description of each artwork, we find that they both hold a special meaning to the time and era of its making. It can range from religious interpretation to the never ending mysteries that these attractions hold. It is all in the eye of the beholder. Whatever their original designs were meant for, whether it is human sacrifice or to leave a piece of art that would last through the ages, it is undoubtedly part of the power that ancient and classical art hold. So knowing the designer, the builders, and geographic locations of these pieces all play a part in their signature, it still leaves the world debating on whether it is even human design or that of a much more advanced race.

Closer look. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Sanchi City Travel Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hoparoundindia.com/madhya-
Stupa. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/stupa/ University of Phoenix.(2010). A World of Art, Ch.17. Retrieved from University of Phoenix,
ARTS230 website.

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