Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Free online Stonehenge Course - Highly Recommeneded

Free online Stonehenge Course from the University of Buckingham with Dr Graeme Davis

Highly recommended. 

(This site may be quiet for a while as I participate in the course.)

About this course

Course Summary

When was Stonehenge built? Who built it? How was it built? Why was it built? Answers cannot be promised to all of these, but we can get better at asking the questions and work towards solutions. We can look at how people have responded to Stonehenge. Most of all we can begin to think about what Stonehenge means to us.

What do I learn?

  • To understand present archaeological thinking about Stonehenge.
  • To evaluate responses to Stonehenge in art, literature, music, architecture and culture.
  • To consider your own response to Stonehenge, expressed through two peer-evaluated mini-essays.

What do I need too know?

No entry requirements. This MOOC is open to all.

Course Structure

Chapter 1: The Stonehenge Landscape Stonehenge as a landscape of prehistoric sites. A historical context: the Mesolithic, the Neolithic and the building of the Stonehenge.
Chapter 2: Who built Stonehenge? Theories: when, by whom, how and why.
Chapter 3: Stonehenge Problems Context - the Stonehenge landscape: problems with transportation and erection. Part destruction - why and how?
Chapter 4: Responses to Stonehenge An array of responses: Geoffrey of Monmouth (1138); the antiquarian tradition, the temple and astronomic alignments traditions; various amateur theories; the archaeological traditions. Stonehenge, Woodhenge: monuments in a landscape
Chapter 5: Cultural Contexts Stonehenge in fiction, poetry, music, art and popular culture.
Chapter 6: Stonehenge Today Stonehenge as a cultural icon, emblem of Britain, World Heritage site and sacred space. Blick Mead as the cradle of Stonehenge.
Chapter 7: Reassessing Stonehenge Written activity as an assessment
Chapter 8: Responses to Stonehenge Examination of students' responses through their essays. Integration of blog, Wiki, Twitter and eBook as a way of continuing the discussion after the course.


Approximately two hours per week for watching video lectures, completing quizzes and homework assignments.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Why is Stone 23 so clean?

As your average tourist walks on the hard path at Stonehenge one of the first sarsens they come close to is Stone 23. They will probably find a member of staff standing on the path at that point who during the long watches of the day may also have been looking at the stone.

The stone (arrowed in the picture below) is very clean in a band in the middle, this is usually thought to be from the cleaning off of graffiti but I think there may be another explanation.

Stone 23 unexpectedly fell over in March 1963,  and 1963 was when the centre of the  circle was gravelled. It was put back up in 1964.

In the pictures below, from Hawkins' book Stonehenge Decoded, it can be seen how the clean area was lying on the ground for that year and the bottom postcard, copyright 1970, shows the distinct band of clean stone. I think the fallen stone may have rocked a little as people stood on it and that area was sand blasted clean by this action of the stone on the ground.

As usual click to embiggen

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Stone Plan Comparison

From ©Anthony Johnson 2008 ; this is the very large plan of the stonehenge stones as they are:

And this is what the assumed position of the stones would be if the Great Trilithon and nearby stones had been perpendicular to the central axis.

Click on plans to enlarge them and simply switch between them to do a blink comparison, as in this animated gif.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

New Parker Pearson Book on Stonehenge Announced

Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery (Cba Archaeology for All)

by Mike Parker Pearson (Author), Joshua Pollard (Author), Colin Richards (Author), Julian Thomas (Author), Kate Welham (Author) (to be published 28 April 2015)

Monday, 15 December 2014

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below by Paul Burley

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below 

by Paul Burley

Paul kindly sent me a copy of his book.

My first impression was very positive, it is a handsome book, well printed and illustrated. This is surprisingly important, there are books on Stonehenge I refuse to read because of their shoddy feel and look.

The book is thoroughly researched and referenced though some of the diagrams don't aid understanding as well as they could. Which is a shame as Paul's thesis is monumental in scope and importance. Nowhere does he spell it out in a few simple phrases so my paraphrase of it is that the ancient landscape around Stonehenge, especially the Long Barrows and Cursus, were laid out as a large map or representation of the stars and constellations. This is analogous to other ancient civilisations' spiritual respect for the cosmos.

He analyses alignments and sightlines and angles to a great degree of precision, and this makes for a very interesting read. My regard for Stonehenge is more boringly mechanical than his lovingly told descriptions of rituals and how they may have been echoed at the site.

For me it was a bit too astronomically technical, but that would suit many researchers into Stonehenge. I found the lack of a clearly defined thesis made it hard to judge the claims being made and the potential counter arguments that the components of his astral map were too temporally distinct and diverse and so on, were not acknowledged. This left me with the feeling that the theory was only half argued and that I was unconvinced.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I learned a lot and it made me think of the landscape in a different way, even if I didn't immediately become a full flown convert at first reading. For anyone interested in archeoastronomy and Stonehenge I can recommend it.