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Hengeworld [Paperback]

Michael Pitts
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Aug 2001
In November 1997 English Heritage announced the discovery of a vast prehistoric temple in Somerset. The extraordinary wooden rings at Stanton Drew are the most recent and biggest of a series of remarkable discoveries that have transformed the way archaeologists think of the great monuments in the region, including Avebury and Stonehenge; one of the world's most famous prehistoric monuments, top tourist site and top location for summer solstice celebrations. The results of these discoveries have not been published outside academic journals and no one has considered the wider implications of these finds. Here Mike Pitts, who has worked as an archaeologist at Avebury, and has access to the unpublished English Heritage files, asks what sort of people designed and built these extraordinary neolithic structures - the biggest in Britain until the arrival of medieval cathedrals. Using computer reconstructions he shows what they looked like and asks what they are for. This is the story of the discovery of a lost civilisation that spanned five centuries, a civilisation that now lies mostly beneath the fields of Southern England.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (2 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099278758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099278757
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 12.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Pitts is a writer and broadcaster who started out as a professional archaeologist and museum curator, directing excavations at Stonehenge and elsewhere. He has written for the Times, Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian, New Scientist, BBC History Magazine and other papers and magazines, and continues to conduct original archaeological research which is published in peer-reviewed journals. He enjoys photography and travelling (having spent some years in Asia, Canada and the Pacific, Madagascar and elsewhere), and helped to open and run a groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant at the World Heritage Site of Avebury in southern England. He is editor of the Council for British Archaeology's magazine, British Archaeology.

Product Description

Amazon Review

From an archaeologist and co-author of Fairweather Eden (on the Boxgrove excavations), comes a book that takes us from hard facts to speculation on prehistoric minds. Mike Pitts' Hengeworld unites societies of different dates, places and pottery styles by the action of building "circular enclosed spaces", seeking to "confront real people" from that henge-building Neolithic world. Dealing principally, but far from exclusively, with Stonehenge and Avebury, Hengeworld asks the usual questions concerning how they were built, how they looked in their time and the extent to which astronomy and religion had a part in their purpose. Combining reports of his own digs and new research with a re-examination of evidence gathered in the past, Mike Pitts also makes some significant new discoveries and solves some intriguing mysteries from the recent history of archaeological excavation along the way. Probing beyond the material world, he suggests "new contexts" for Stonehenge which "envisage metaphor and symbol". Hengeworld is supported by clear diagrams and well-documented evidence: there are over 75 pages of appended radiocarbon date tables, notes and bibliographic information. But Mike Pitts also tells a good story, ably capturing the excitement of new discoveries with an almost chatty writing style and touches of humour and suspense. This is a book which amateurs and professionals alike should find valuable and evocative. --Karen Tiley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Generations have tried to understand the meaning of this amazing monument... yet till now no one has bene able to say with any confidence what it was for... an up-to-date, eye-opening book on our greatest prehistoric monument" (Daily Mail)

"Reads like a whodunnit" (Manchester Evening News)

"Mike Pitts is that rare thing, an archaeologist who not only makes the news...but who can also write it. This book is a gem - witty, charming, urbane, informative" (Simon Denison, British Archaeology)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening view of a fascinating subject. 12 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Archaeology is terribly fashionable at the moment, as witnessed by such TV programmes as TIME TEAM and MEET THE ANCESTORS, but rarely do books on the subject generate the same enthusiasm in the reader. I am happy to say that this is a rare exception.
Mike Pitts obviously knows his subject, and so he should when you consider his biography, but, unlike so many other archaeologists who put down the trowel in favour of the pen, he also has the knack of being able to write entertainingly about it. I am not suggesting that this is a book that has been 'dumbed down', far from it. However, Pitts manages to educate the reader without swamping his text in archaeological jargon and, at one and the same time, make you want to keep on turning the page.
Admitedly, with such subject matter the author already had a headstart but, having recently read several other similar works, it would have been all too easy to go wrong. Pitts achieves an enviable balance. This is how archaeology should be presented to the public.
Matthew Champion.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mike Pitts is an extraordinarily talented writer, able to convey the most technical details with clarity, telling a story with suspense and drama, and enlivening longeurs with flashes of dry wit which, in less expert hands, would strike a jarring note. So why only 3 stars? I've just read this for the second time, and feel more than ever that Pitts was badly let down by his publishers who, whether to reach a wider audience or simply inpursuit of sales, chose a format which tragically fails to do the text justice. "Hengeworld" is published in novel format - thick, with small pages - and the cover picture is a rather sensationalist shot of the Heel Stone with Stonehenge in the background. The presentation, and the fact that Arrow books publish a lot of very popular titles, lead the unwary browser to expect a book which sets out a picture of neolithic culture at the time of the building of Stonehenge, with a final revelation of the truth about the meaning of Stonehenge, Avebury and Stanton Drew.

If you are a standing stone nut attracted by the lurid populist cover, you will find this book a disappointment. If you are the sort of person to whom it will appeal - the serious archaeology enthusiast - you may mistakenly pass it by, unless you click that this is THE Mike Pitts, the main authority on the subject. Pitts is a card-carrying proper, professional archaeologist, fully qualified to write the kind of definitive, dry survey of henge-building and its anthropological context that would have you dozing off in minutes. Instead, he has given us a book that rips along, full of zest and fascination, without succumbing to any of the baseless speculation or circular arguments that we would have found in a book by a mere journalist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By ManderW
I read this to get a quick background on henges before taking my American family members to see Stonehenge. Although I am an archaeologist, I don't study the British Isles, and I didn't know very much about the subject. This book gives a good overview of what is known and where those facts came from, which can be important in evaluating why and how our knowledge of "Hengeworld" is limited. The history of excavations was very enlightening, although it is somewhat sad to realize the negative impact that historic excavations have had on these sites.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Archaeology: brought to life. 2 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Archaeology is often accused of being a dry subject, and many books in the field seem sadly to conform to this archaism. Particularly for the beginner or the enthusiastic amateur, the heavy language and endless data can be somewhat overwhelming. Hengeworld is a welcome publication in that it captures all the raw imaginative energy of the subject, tapping the veins of what it is that most gets people worked up about 'bones and stones', yet still maintains the scholarly approach for those who can appreciate the science. As such it is a perfect read for anyone with a fascination with this period in human history. Mike Pitts' written style (previously so eloquently showcased in 'Fairweather Eden') is a perfect balance of the scholarly and the familiar, and he really makes the history and archaeology of the period he has termed Hengeworld come to life, telling a story with gathering pace with all the elan of a bestselling novelist. Un-put-down-able archaeology? Yes, it can happen!
Whatever your interest or your level of archaeological expertise, 'Hengeworld' has an obvious appeal. It provides thought-provoking propositions backed up by solid research, and is eminently easy to read without 'dumbing down' on the technicalities. Mike clearly has a passion for his Hengeworld, a quality that shines through in his writing and enlivens this story of past millennia in a profoundly evocative way, and his being the only living archaeologist to have dug at both Avebury and Stonehenge makes him the ideal choice to have produced this impressive and fascinating book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strictly for enthusiasts 25 Jun 2001
A menhir fest for archeology afficiandos, Pitts provides an immensely detailed chronological account of excavations at Stonehenge, Avebury and Woodhenge and comparisons with lesser known and recently discovered sites. The haphazard, amateur, shoestring origins of the discipline in Britain are described together with sketches of the often eccentric characters and leading lights of ancient and modern archeology. In this context, Pitts permanently lays to rest the idea skeleton 4.10.4 from Stonehenge was King Arthur. Discussing earth, stone and wood formations, there are few flights of fancy into more esoteric opinions of what these constructions represented, the author prefers scientific appraisal. As such the etiology of the ancient transport and erection controversy are examined without superfluous comment as are the astrological suppositions which ultimately depict Stonehenge as an early British computer. Thankfully in its place, Pitts creates a timeline of carbon dated gleanings which illustrate the frugality of valid evidence. It is from this he attempts to reconstruct, with admitted lacuna, the lives of the "henge people". In doing so he draws on historical similarities of the same period from around the world which will probably be a revelation to newcomers of archeological facts. Akin to this is a plea for more research into "rock-art" which so far seems to have had only one academic and present day champion in Jeremy Dronfield. Surprising when the doodles of ancient humanity can contribute so much to contemporary understanding. Packed with facts, concisely presented, this is a truthful, non-partisan, frequently humorous summary and a valuable addition to the reference shelf.
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