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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 ...
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.
Posted April 14, 2014
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.
Posted October 5, 2013
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.
Posted June 18, 2013
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.
Posted September 5, 2014
No text was provided for this review.