Saturday, 20 October 2012
Damage to Stonehenge can take many forms and is often from the best of intentions. The painters of these symbols probably thought they were helping save the world from nuclear annihilation, though it is noticeable that they managed to put up the symbol of a luxury German car manufacturer rather then the Chicken Foot symbol of CND.
But look in the background (click picture for larger). The photograph has captured the putting down of the gravel surface that Stonehenge had in the 1960s and 1970s. It was hoped it would protect the monument but the abrasive particles in visitors' shoes eroded much of the surface of the fallen stones.
And the surface is being compacted with a heavy vibrating roller!
I also note that the gravel seems to be piled up next to stone 54, where it is thought there maybe an ancient mound - see http://www.sarsen.org/2012/01/three-original-standing-stones-of.html.
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From the late 1940's into the early 60's and beyond lots of University Students put their 'special' fingerprints on the Stones. Custodians would remove the painted graffiti with mineral spirits and thinner!
The practice was discontinued when they discovered that the lichens were being adversely affected.
Today we see evidence of the 1972 call letters from one of the many Pirate Radio Stations out in the Channel. One can also still see remnants of the DNC symbols in addition to the word: "Radio" on many of the East Side Stones, done in yellow. (I spent a lot of time in northern Europe back then and remember listening avidly to those great radio stations!)
The gravel was thought to be a good idea at the time, yes. After the Restorations of 1958 & 59 the number of annual visitors sky-rocketed and, as there was unrestricted access back then, the grassy interior would turn to mush after a rain. The base coat was made up of iron slag and coal clinkers, then covered with 3/8-inch pea-stone. It made Stonehenge look very utilitarian, and was eventually removed for the reasons you mention.
The gravel piled against the South Trilithon is there to help gravity-pack those Stones, as these were excavated and righted in 1964.
An interesting footnote to the gravel-coat occurred earlier this year when rabbits kicked out some oxidized iron from under S-14. This created a bit of an archeological flurry until the 1963 slag & clinkers were remembered.