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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Stonehenge




Stonehenge

As both my faithful readers know, I’ve written about the ancient history of Britain.  The Celts owned it.  The Romans owned it. The Vikings owned it.  With the successful invasion of William the Conqueror (1066) the French owned it.  That may be a bit of an overstatement, since William (known as William the Bastard by his French foes) was not the King of France, but the powerful Duke of Normandy.  Still, the English court soon spoke nothing but French and the English language still reflects it. Also, those who spoke despairingly of William the Conqueror’s parentage soon lay decomposing in the cold ground.

Ok, good thumbnail  review, yes?  For something more thorough check these blog entries:

But, now let’s move back a few millennium and talk about the rocks on Salisbury Plain., a couple of hours by bus from London. Before even the Celts, another race or ethnicity or other PC vernacular came along, the Neolithic people lived all around the British Isles.  This was some 5000 years ago. Yes, even before your parents were born, kiddies. 

You’re probably mumbling, “Wonderful news for historians and archeologists, but what’s this pile of rocks got to do with me? “ You’re right. Go back to your video games.  For the rest of us, who enjoy mysteries and are fascinated by the world around us, and how the human species evolved, there are plenty of reasons.

Better tell you how Neolithic people fit in.  Stone age right?  Mainly no.  Stone age was the Paleolithic period, some 2.5 million years ago and Homo sapiens was only one of the species of humanoids and the only one that survived into the Neolithic Period.  The Neolithic Period is often called The Cradle of Civilization. Homo Sapiens began cultivating crops and animals.  The groups or tribes began to congregate.  When did this happen?  About 10,500 to 8000 years ago, put nobody can put a date on it.  The Stone Age morphed into the copper age and the bronze age and the iron age, but at different rates around the world, mainly Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East.  Technology was on a roll.  Houses. Pottery.  Metallurgy.  But, the roll was a slow roll.  In many parts of the world, South America and Australia for example, languished in Pre-History (unwritten history) until the arrival of Europeans.  In the case of Australia, there was no written language until the late 18th Century.

Now let’s move on to the world’s most famous circle of rocks, circa 2500 B.C.

Mysteries abound.  Who exactly were these people who built Stonehenge?  Why did they disappear?  How did they live? What’s important about Stonehenge?  With a visit you’ll find some answers, but also discover mysteries that still linger.  The most important mystery is:  Did they drink beer?

You can see the burial mounds and feasting mounds in the distance. 
One of the burial cylinders near the circle of stones.

I called these folks Neolithic, but scientists figure they lived at the cusp between the Stone Age and the bronze age.  These aren’t guesses.  Burial mounds surround the Salisbury Plain, many in sight of the famous stones.  Ancient people left numerous artifacts with their dead.

Archeologists found evidence of what the people ate.
Other spots apparently were used for feasts and celebrations and prove a treasure trove of cooking pots, old animal bones and skins, giving an insight into what the people ate, what clothes they wore and which things were important to them.  But, the ancient people give up their secrets slowly.  Every year the explorers of these remnants are able to tell us more.

What examination of the feasts sites is unable to tell us is if the ancients drank beer.  Well, dang, Honey, you call that a feast?  One thing we do know is that these people were lactose intolerant, but pots that once contained dairy products lead historians to believe milk was used to make milk derivations, such as butter, cheese, and yogurt.  How do they know this?  Caulk it up to microbiological examinations of pots.

Lots of misinformation about Stonehenge. Just one example:  For a hundred years or more, it was thought Stonehenge was a place for Druid ceremonies.  Problem is, the Druids lived in the centuries after the common era (CE or AD), some 2500 years after Stonehenge was built.  Still the idea persists.

How about the arrangement of the stones and where did the stones come from and how did they get where they are?


The construction appears to have taken about 1500 years, beginning with a big circle likely used for ceremonies involving burials.  I’m painting with a broad brush here, folks.  The stones were set in place between 2500 and 1500 BCE/BC.


Based on the types of stones, they came from Wales, some of them were moved over 150 miles.  Two types of stones, bluestones and sandstones.  Hard to see any blue in the bluestones, but I’m told when it rains there’s a blue tint.



As for the arrangement of the stones, archeologists and historians go with the theory that the arrangement is metrological, with the sun at sunrise shining over one stone at dead center and dead center through another stone exactly at the summer and winter solstice.



The summer solstice occurs on 20- 22 June, the longest day of the year, and the winter solstice occurs on 21- 22 December, the shortest day. Variations depend on time zones and where you live in the world.  Here’s a converter:  https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/seasons.html

Now your know more than 99% of the people who visit this wonderful Pre-history.   Time for a beer!




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