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Stonehenge: Exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery Hardcover – 7 Jun 2012
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'From 2003 to 2009, the archaeologist Mike Pearson led the Stonehenge Riverside Project that studied Stonehenge… His book is a detailed account of that archaeological survey, expressed in a genial style that invigorates the story of the groundwork' --Iain Finlayson, The Times
'The book describes one of the outstanding archaeological projects of recent years. It is accessible, original, carefully researched and important. But, above all, it is exciting' --Richard Bradley, Reading University
About the Author
Mike Parker Pearson is a Professor of Archaeology at Sheffield University. He is an internationally renowned expert in the archaeology of death and also specialises in the later prehistory of Britain and Northern Europe and the archaeology of Madagascar and the western Indian Ocean. He has published 14 books and over 100 academic papers.
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There were many surprises; the discovery of the naturally occurring, straight, parallel ridges running northeast/southwest, providentially aligned to the solstices, which almost certainly prompted the original builders of Stonehenge to site it where it is. Then there was the finding of sarsen stone chippings, complete with the outline of one of the great stones, indicating where the final ‘dressing’ took place. Also intriguing were new finds related to the adjacent monuments in the surrounding area – Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and the newly discovered ‘Bluestonehenge’. For me one of the most exciting developments, was the finding of exactly where the bluestones were quarried, in the Preseli Mountains/Hills in Wales.
The book is dense in detail, taking one through the actual archaeology as it developed mentioning all of the old theories and work of previous antiquarians and archaeologists. It is a real pleasure to read, and bears ‘dipping in’ over and over again. A splendid achievement; Mike Parker Pearson is to be congratulated.
The meaning of the link between Stonehenge and other local sites is a topic Parker Pearson has been associated with for a while now and he summarises this story very well by describing excavations at Durrington Walls, along the River Avon and at the site now known as Bluestonehenge. Crediting his Madagascan colleague Ramilisonina at the beginning, Parker Pearson makes a strong case for their notion of lands of the living and the dead, based on the contrast between wood and stone.
With the bluestones coming from beyond the local landscape it's not surprising that the story becomes national rather than just regional. However the revelations about the exact origins of the bluestones were new to me. I especially liked the links with sites in the Orkneys as Parker Pearson established the importance of Stonehenge within the whole of the British isles. The significance of the periglacial features revealed toward the end adds another new chapter to the interpretations of the site.
Ultimately Mike Parker Pearson presents an optimistic view of the society creating this monument, based on unity and, perhaps, peace.
I would really recommend this book. However much you think you know about Stonehenge you are likely to learn more. And if you get the chance to hear him speak, take it. I envy his UCL students.
In this book, Professor Parker-Pearson uses an easy going style to describe the sequence of events which led to recent discoveries in the last few years. Focusing not just on the monument but its surrounds and other relevant locations, the book takes care to explain how and why recent investigations took place. New discoveries are recorded in some detail together with short descriptions of existing knowledge and a useful revision of the established time-scale for the monument's construction: The attention to describing new information leads to a slightly dis-jointed approach, which was probably unavoidable given the breadth of sources; but compensated for by the enthusiasm which runs through the book.
Overall, the book is different from other works on Stonehenge because of the concentration on providing the latest information, from a variety of investigation projects, in an easily digestible form.
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Auger coring 1.2m (4ft) below it too Hard?
Your Book does not Mention it, Why?