Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stonehenge -- it must be mid-summer!

I'm the author (with Cambridge Professor Caroline Malone) of Stonehenge, one of the "Digging for the Past" series published by Oxford University Press. So I'm always interested in what happens at Stonehenge at mid-summer. Here's some of the latest:

Authorities opened up the gates on the eve of June 21, midsummer, and this year 19,000 Stonehenge fans attended. Only four arrests! Not bad. Evidently the fans were well behaved this year in contrast to some real brawls between attendees and authorities in years past.

On the serious side: Stonehenge risks being stripped of its status as a World Heritage site (run by UNESCO) because of "second-rate" government proposals to ease traffic. The options were being discussed when we wrote our book in 2002 (see pages 37-38) and ministers are still dithering. Sir William Proby, chair of the National Trust, in an open letter to Stephen Ladyman, the transport minister: "If the government is unable to commit to implementing an acceptable long-term solution for Stonehenge then it would be better to make no long-term commitment. We should not tie the hands of future generations." And further: "the threat to Stonehenge is urgent, serious and imminent." The issue is not the preservation of the stones but protection and restoration of the surrounding site, believed to hold undiscovered archaeological treasures. Sir William continued: "we cannot stand by and allow a second-rate solution to damage forever one of the world's most important landscapes."

And lastly, just the other day, from my archaeology lists came the story of "New glacier theory on Stonehenge." Essentially the story said that the famous bluestones that make up part of the Stonehenge monument were not brought to the Salisbury Plain on the difficult route from Wales as many have proposed. Open University geologists say the stones were moved to Salisbury Plain by glaciers. In other words, Stonehenge builders used what they could in the natural, relatively nearby landscape.

Frankly, this is hardly new. In our book, published 5 years ago we said: "Not every expert agrees with this scenario [transport from Wales]. One prominent scholar, Aubrey Burl, wrote as recently as 1999 that 'transportation by land and sea would have been so hazardous as to be improbable.' ... Burl has also suggested that the Bluestones were dragged from an area only 10 to 12 miles from Stonehenge."


Blogger CJ Stone said...

Nancy, I'm an author like you, having written a couple of books on the Stonehenge phenomenon in the last 30 years or so. Check out by blog for the latest, on-going reports from this year's gathering.

12:24 AM  

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