After my recent chat with archaeologist Dr. Kenny Feder [shameless Damned Interview plug alert!], I’ve been sort of focused on archeological-type mysteries and the like.
And of course, my mind got around to one of the biggest ones known in human history, STONEHENGE!
Oh wait, I meant the real one!
Anyway, as luck would have it, I caught “Stonehenge Decoded” on the National Geographic channel the other night, and found it to be an excellent program, especially in HD. (Oh, and for more Stonehenge and Spinal Tap goodness, National Geographic has done a few short clips with ‘Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel — who suggests that the giant monoliths of Stonehenge were partially made with dinosaur saliva. Definitely worth a watch!) It was nice to see a presentation on Stonehenge rooted strongly in fact and the scientific method — actually, the latest discoveries about the monument came directly because of solid and thoughtful archeological work. Good stuff.
My wife and I visited England back in 1998 B.C. — Before Children — and during our trip, found our way to the Salisbury plain and Stonehenge. As you might expect, it was a great experience — it’s hard not to look at these massive stones that have been sitting there for thousands of years and not be impressed. We also made our way to nearby Avebury, home to an even older and more interesting ancient megalithic complex that features a larger stone ring as well as the mysterious Silbury Hill.
Created over 4,000 years ago, it stands over 130 feet tall, and despite centuries of study and excavation, no one is still really sure what its purpose was. Burial chamber? Fortress? Sacred monument? Doorstop? Like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop, the world may never know.
Closer to home, there’s Mystery Hill in New Hampshire, aka “America’s Stonehenge,” which some have suggested it is as old as Stonehenge and built by the same peoples or other visitors from the Old World. Although there are some parts of the site that have been dated to over 2,000 years ago, the majority of the complex lacks the actual evidence to bolster the more exotic claims — a lot of the structures at the site apparently may have been built by 18th- and 19th-century farmers. Despite its muddled pedigree, it looks like a fun place to check out.
And finally, here in Connecticut, there’s “Clonehenge” — aka “The Circle of Life” in the Sachem Head section of Guilford.
Designed and built on private property, its history and purpose are a lot clearer. In 2003, Dr. Jonathan Rothberg decided he wanted to build an observatory on his property but was thwarted by the local zoning board. Being resourceful, he instead circumvented the board and commissioned renowned architect Cesar Pelli to design an astronomically correct and working replica of Stonehenge, an enormous celestial clock using 700 tons of granite . . . as a pure work of art.
According to the New York Times story linked above, Dr. Rothberg said, “My position is, if I put up a piece of art, I don’t need permission.”
Sure, it’s not as old or as storied as the original Stonehenge or Avebury, but then again, the ancient people of Great Britain didn’t have Yankee ingenuity, now did they?