stonehenge nuggets

There’s an interesting piece on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, a four-year collaboration between Birmingham University and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Austria, in the Financial Times today. 

“Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognito,” Vince Gaffney, head of the Birmingham team, tells Clive Cookson and Tyler Shendruk. “This project has revealed that the area is teeming with previously unseen archaeology.”

Among other things, they’ve discovered 17 new monuments nearby, as well as The Cursus, a rectangular enclosure with two pits “exactly aligned so that at the summer solstice the sun would have risen over the eastern pit and set over the western pit, as seen from the Stonehenge ‘heel stone.’”

“The new discoveries have finally overthrown the old idea, already under assault from modern archaeology, that Stonehenge was an isolated monument with access restricted to a priestly caste, at the heart of an empty landscape with other activities taking place outside its boundaries,“ write Cookson and Shenduk.

The New York Times’ Edward Rothstein, meanwhile, reviewed the renovated grounds of the main site in yesterday’s paper. 

“One of the intriguing things about Stonehenge, as we are reminded again and again, is that it can’t really be pinned down; we will never know enough,” Rothstein writes. “Was it a burial site, a temple, an astronomical model, a healing center, a monument to the ancestral dead?”

Or was it simply a massive, prototypical collection of stonekoans?

 © T.H. Forbes Co., 2015