A considerable volume of literature has been written about Stonehenge of varying quality and precision, from Chippendale's excellent 'Stonehenge Complete' to Druidic fantasy. The attraction for me of this book was its claim to literally solve aspects of this outstanding and enigmatic monument.
It is not until circa page 170 of its 269 pages that it ventures into its claimed new territory so for those with an already good understanding of the topic it takes a while to hit its stride. But for those new to the subject the first 170 pages provide a cogent and succint summary of Stonehenge's history.
The warming thing about the author's style is his humility in explaining his rationale and analysis and how persuasive that is in drawing you into his thinking and approach. Augmented by the substance of his arguments where he conclusively proves the geometric and architectural intelligence weaved into the design of Stonehenge the author makes a genuinely important contribution to the understanding of this famous structure and has the humility to concede that there is more left to discover.
There are some issues of varying significance though, e.g. he insists that it is "impossible" to ever know the planning intent behind the Bluestone circle due to disturbance to date and incomplete excavation, yet the excavation that has yet to be done will surely add to our knowledge; he insists that no unit of measure was used in the construction of the monument as it is purely a series of scaleable geometric constructs yet admits measuring rods have been found in Bronze Age graves and the most casual observer must see that the conformity of the stone circle's height and the lintels require measurement as well as geometry - geometry gives you a plan, height and choice of diameter require measurement; he describes Hawley's suggestion of the fallen Slaughter Stone having been originally in Hole E as "inexplicable" subsequent to reporting Hawley's qualified explanation that the socket of Hole E had an imprint that resembled the base of the Slaughter Stone; most egregiously, the author repeatedly insists that the surveyors could not have surveyed the Y and Z and other holes from the centre using a cord after the stone monument's construction as the centre stones would obstruct any such cord. Equally, he requires the bank to have eroded by the time the Station Stones were being surveyed to provide the required line of sight from the ground. But the surveyors, architects and constructors of Stonehenge were not people who allowed any obstacles to get in their way whether it was bringing the Sarsens from the Marlborough Downs, the bluestones from the Prescelli mountains, erecting the 45-ton Sarsens or fashioning mortice and tenon joints to accommodate the 6-ton lintels. It is somewhat ironic that armed with a complex CAD computer the author could not envisage those responsible for constructing Stonehenge to literally circumvent the obstructing stones problem (should it have been one) by simply elevating the cord above the monument with the aid of just two tall poles attached to each end and survey whatever they chose, unimpeded by anything. (I also do not fully agree with his account of the lesser astronomical significance of Stonehenge nor the choice of 30 Sarsen uprights of the circle being simply fortuitous due to the naturally available stone sizes - there is surely much more significant meaning to the numerics and metrics of the monument than that and the builders repeatedly adapted what they had rather than be confined by what they had.)
These anomalies should not detract from the painstaking analysis and laudable effort expended by the author to create such a worthy addition to the Stonehenge canon though. Our knowledge and understanding is greatly enhanced as a result of his work and no doubt, as the author suggests, this will provide a higher platform from which future studies can start.
Now, when is English Heritage going to commission the long overdue completion of the excavation and restoration work at Stonehenge?
9 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?