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.