Stonehenge-A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument

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Overview

Stonehenge stands as an enduring link to our prehistoric ancestors, yet the secrets it has guarded for thousands of years have long eluded us. Until now, the millions of enthusiasts who flock to the iconic site have made do with mere speculation—about Stonehenge’s celestial significance, human sacrifice, and even aliens and druids. One would think that the numerous research expeditions at Stonehenge had left no stone unturned. Yet, before the Stonehenge Riverside Project—a hugely ambitious, seven-year dig by ...

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Stonehenge--A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument

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Overview

Stonehenge stands as an enduring link to our prehistoric ancestors, yet the secrets it has guarded for thousands of years have long eluded us. Until now, the millions of enthusiasts who flock to the iconic site have made do with mere speculation—about Stonehenge’s celestial significance, human sacrifice, and even aliens and druids. One would think that the numerous research expeditions at Stonehenge had left no stone unturned. Yet, before the Stonehenge Riverside Project—a hugely ambitious, seven-year dig by today’s top archaeologists—all previous digs combined had only investigated a fraction of the monument, and many records from those earlier expeditions are either inaccurate or incomplete.

Stonehenge—A New Understanding rewrites the story. From 2003 to 2009, author Mike Parker Pearson led the Stonehenge Riverside Project, the most comprehensive excavation ever conducted around Stonehenge. The project unearthed a wealth of fresh evidence that had gone untouched since prehistory. Parker Pearson uses that evidence to present a paradigm-shifting theory of the true significance that Stonehenge held for its builders—and mines his field notes to give you a you-are-there view of the dirt, drama, and thrilling discoveries of this history-changing archaeological dig.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A University College London archeology professor and leader of the groundbreaking Stonehenge Riverside Project expounds on recent research into the famed site in this revelatory study. The ambitious project represents the most current thinking on the construction of Stonehenge, its relation to surrounding Neolithic sites, and its possible purpose. As Pearson (If Stones Could Speak) writes in the introduction, “in archaeology, context is everything.” As such, he and his team took as their working hypothesis the idea that Stonehenge could only be understood in the context of other proximal sites, particularly Durrington Walls. The spark for the idea came from a Malagasy colleague, Ramilisonina, who suggested that, as in Madagascar, perhaps the timber circles of Durrington were indicative of a monument to the living, and the stones of Stonehenge to the dead. In his recounting of seven seasons of archaeological digs at Stonehenge, Durrington, and other sites in the area, Pearson addresses everything from the bureaucracy of archaeological permissions to whether the druids, either prehistoric or modern, are relevant to an understanding of Stonehenge. This detailed work may challenge casual readers, but it will prove immensely rewarding to any student of the subject. 16-page color insert, b&w photos throughout. Agent: Bill Hamilton, A.M. Heath & Co. (U.K.). (June)
Foreword Reviews
“Because the author cites dozens of digs and scientific analyses—many of which lead to various interpretations—this is a difficult book to summarize without risking oversimplification. Fortunately, Pearson writes in an accessible, easy-to-follow style and provides an array of helpful diagrams,reconstruction sketches, and photographs.”
Foreword Reviews
Aubrey Burl
“This is brilliantly written scholarship. The book combines old ideas about the circle with the unexpected revelations of today. It is a triumph.”
Aubrey Burl, author of A Brief History of Stonehenge and seven other books on prehistoric stone circles
Iain Finlayson
“From 2003 to 2009, the archaeologist Mike Pearson led the Stonehenge Riverside Project. . . . 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 (London)
Richard Bradley
“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
The Guardian
“Parker Pearson has collated [all the research findings], accessibly, in his book.”
The Guardian
From the Publisher

“[Stonehenge—A New Understanding] will prove immensely rewarding to any student of the subject”
Publishers Weekly

“Because the author cites dozens of digs and scientific analyses—many of which lead to various interpretations—this is a difficult book to summarize without risking oversimplification. Fortunately, Pearson writes in an accessible, easy-to-follow style and provides an array of helpful diagrams,reconstruction sketches, and photographs.”
Foreword Reviews

“Renowned archaeologist Pearson presents the findings of the most ambitious and scientifically informed investigation of Stonehenge thus far . . . The most authoritative, important book on Stonehenge to date.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred

“A solid, comprehensive introduction to this important World Heritage Site, showing how an immense archaeological project is conducted from beginning to conclusion. Recommended to all interested readers.”
Library Journal

“This is brilliantly written scholarship. The book combines old ideas about the circle with the unexpected revelations of today. It is a triumph.”
Aubrey Burl, author of A Brief History of Stonehenge and seven other books on prehistoric stone circles

“From 2003 to 2009, the archaeologist Mike Pearson led the Stonehenge Riverside Project. . . . 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 (London)

“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

“Parker Pearson has collated [all the research findings], accessibly, in his book.”
The Guardian
Library Journal
Stonehenge has piqued the interest of the public and of professional archaeologists for centuries, but no comprehensive archaeological study was made until the 2000s. Now Pearson (archaeology, Sheffield Univ., UK; The Archaeology of Death and Burial), who led the 2003–09 Stonehenge Riverside Project, details the discoveries made by his team over seven field seasons. The team examined not just Stonehenge but the landscape of which it is a part to put other sites in context with it. The detailed chapters cover background on previous archaeological digs in the area, burial practices, DNA analysis of area people, the role of the River Avon in the movement of site objects, and substantive information on the sourcing of the massive rocks that the Stonehenge structure comprises. The author found inter alia that Stonehenge was a place for interring cremated remains, while an adjacent site—Durrington Walls—was constructed of wood and was used for the living (indicated by the presence of food remains). The team also discovered that burial practices changed over the years, which may indicate an alteration in attendant religious beliefs. VERDICT A solid, comprehensive introduction to this important World Heritage Site, showing how an immense archaeological project is conducted from beginning to conclusion. Recommended to all interested readers.—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Comm. Coll., Tucumcari, NM
Kirkus Reviews
Renowned archaeologist Pearson (Archaeology/University College London; From Machair to Mountains, 2012, etc.) presents the findings of the most ambitious and scientifically informed investigation of Stonehenge thus far. Majestic, enigmatic and captivating, the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge is a mystery archaeologists have been struggling to solve for more than 300 years. Here, the author unveils the critical new discoveries made during the massive investigation he oversaw from 2003 to 2009: the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Forty-five excavations within the 6,500-acre Stonehenge World Heritage site revealed Stonehenge to be not just a monument that exists in isolation, but one of many monuments constructed within an ancient sacred landscape. From a massive Neolithic avenue connecting the neighboring wood henge Durrington Walls to the River Avon, to the discovery of 63 ancient cremation burials at Stonehenge, Pearson presents new evidence that indisputably links Stonehenge to a network of similar cremation monuments and ancient cemeteries across greater Britain. The project has also provided a tantalizing glimpse into the lives and minds of Britain's prehistoric people. Lipid analysis of animal bones discovered at Durrington indicates that feasting took place there on a grand scale during midsummer and midwinter. Along with animal bones in large quantities, an entire Neolithic settlement was unearthed there as well, proving that while Stonehenge was a place that honored the dead, Durrington was a place of celebration for the living. Filled with maps, drawings, photographs and diagrams, the book details the group's findings in a well-organized, absorbing manner. While the tone is decidedly academic, Pearson's style is accessible enough--and the information discussed provocative enough--to make this book required reading for serious Anglophiles, students of archaeology and anthropologists alike. The most authoritative, important book on Stonehenge to date.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615190799
  • Publisher: Experiment, The
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 958,426
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Parker Pearson is professor of archaeology at Sheffield University and an internationally renowned expert in the archaeology of death. The author of fourteen books and over 100 academic papers, he led the Stonehenge Riverside Project from 2003 to 2009. He has appeared in the National Geographic Channel documentary Stonehenge Decoded and in the NOVA episode “Secrets of Stonehenge.”


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    I am a high school sophomore and I read this book for my researc

    I am a high school sophomore and I read this book for my research project. I was very excited about learning about Stonehenge. Personally, I found this book satisfactory, yet interesting. The reason being is because some of the information in the book was either off topic or boring. However, I also found it interesting because there were many new things that I learned about Stonehenge because of this book. Than You Mike Parker Pearson! Furthermore, my favorite part was where Pearson explained the placement of the rocks within the monument. I was very interested in learning about how the placement of the rocks coincide with astrology.
    However, my least favorite part was where he went into detail about which rocks were used in Stonehenge. Honestly, it was such a drag to read that part! However, the rest of the book was pretty good because it included the main points of Stonehenge, and a ton of sufficient information.


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  • Posted October 5, 2013

    Old. Stonehenge is old. It has something to do with Druids and a

    Old. Stonehenge is old. It has something to do with Druids and astronomical calculations, and it's out in the middle of nowhere (aka Salisbury Plain.) That's about all I knew about Stonehenge until I read Mike Parker Pearson's enlightening book, Stonehenge: A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument.

    How old? Well, that's not as easy to answer as you might think. It's a little like asking, "How old is Troy?" It depends on which Troy you're talking about, because there were a series of Troys, exposed one by one as the archaeologists dug down into the layers of the continually rebuilt city.

    Stonehenge is much the same. There were five Stonehenge stages, with different stones and ditches and ridges as Neolithic, Copper Age, and Bronze Age peoples built and rebuilt the monument. It was begun in about 3000 BC and was abandoned in approximately 1520 BC. (May I just remark here how awed I am at the scientists who have been able to determine these dates and the centuries of work that have gone into the study of Stonehenge. Inigo Jones and Flinders Petrie among others studied the site.)

    What about the Druids? They did not build Stonehenge. Scientists have irrefutable proof that the Druids had nothing whatever to do with Stonehenge. This does not stop people calling themselves "Druids" from considering Stonehenge theirs and petitioning the government to rebury the bones found in the area of the monument. Nor, for a time, did it stop UK government regulators more concerned with the possibility of injuring the feelings of New Age pagans than with hard science from ruling that the bones had to go back into the ground.

    When American Indians complain that scientists are removing the bones of their ancestors from sacred ground and plead to have them returned it makes some sense. These really are ancestors, those really are sacred places for their tribe, and they can prove it. That self-described 21st century "Druids" should be given the same respect is ludicrous. Fortunately the government reversed their position and allowed archaeologists to proceed to conduct the 2003-2009 Riverside Project, which has vastly increased our knowledge of Stonehenge.

    Is Stonehenge in the middle of nowhere? Well, when you look around when standing at Stonehenge you don't see a lot except for a highway that was build very close to the monument. (Who was the bureaucrat who allowed that to happen?) But as Pearson's book shows, Stonehenge was build in a complex of henges, some wooden and others of stone. A reconstructed map shows well over a hundred Stone Age henges, wooden circles, palisades, stones, barrows, trenches, burials, houses, and walls (indeed an entire village) in the area called the Stonehenge-Durrington Walls complex.

    Astronomy? Indeed, Stonehenge stones line up perfectly to catch the midwinter sunset and the midsummer sunrise. The astronomer-priests who built it knew what they were doing. And now, thanks for people like Mike Parker Pearson and the other scientists who worked on this project, we know what they were doing too.

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  • Posted June 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This work is an interesting and valuable description of seven ye

    This work is an interesting and valuable description of seven years worth of investigations around the larger Stonehenge World Heritage site in southern England, and represents the latest understanding of the monument's purpose and place within the larger world. The great value of this book is it summarizes the origin, time period and use of Stonehenge and the surrounding settlements.




    The author, Pearson, has been an archaeologist of neolithic sites in Britain, and elsewhere, throughout his career. This work should introduce the reader to how professional archaeology is done today, the many challenges involved and how conclusions are drawn from the matter.




    The narrative of the text is largely a successive description of this ground breaking investigation of Stonehenge, and not much of the text is taken up with a tremendous amount of broader historical narrative. In short, the text reads like a very long, professional conference paper, but it is accesible to the laymen who is interested in the site and the history of the region. This book, representing unprecedented access to the site itself, largely revises the whole history of the region and site, and is well worth the time for those interested in this enigmatic, ancient monument.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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