Pixie Kidnappings and Stonehenge Happenings
Welcome back to the History Through a House: Blogosphere! This week in the studio we covered stone circles and their historical and cultural significance in Europe and beyond. We dive into Arthurian mythology to discuss whether Merlin had anything to do with Stonehenge, spoiler alert he didn’t. Finally we travel around the globe to examine how other cultures used stone circles, and the similarities to the circles we see in England. It’s all megaliths and Merlin this week, and we’re happy to have you along with us.
Megaliths are structures that are built from massive stones. It was originally thought that the trend of lugging massive stones into formation was a trend that followed a group of people, similar to the Beakers. Now thanks to carbon dating it’s believed that the ancient people residing in current day France started constructing megaliths and the trend was passed through maritime trade routes. Megaliths aren’t a strictly European trend as we see them being constructed around this time in the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia. In Europe the two most common types of stone circles are concentric and recumbent. Concentric stone circles are constructed of larger circles surrounding smaller circles. Recumbent variety feature a stone turned on its side, known as the recumbent, the tallest stones are stood on either side of the recumbent with the stones becoming smaller around the circumference. Of all the concentric stone circles in England Stonehenge is the most recognizable.
Stonehenge is constructed of megaliths 14 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighing 25 tons. Stonehenge was originally a circular bank and ditch enclosure, and over 1500 years would be rebuilt and reorganized until it became the Stonehenge you drive past on the A303. There are two varieties of stone that make up the henge. Radiocarbon dating shows that the sarsen stones come from the surrounding area, but the bluestone was mined from a quarry in Maenclochog a town in Wales nearly 200 miles away. It seems impossible that the Neolithic people would have been able to move the components of Stonehenge, but modern science has tested and proven many possible methods for moving the massive weight of the stones. Regardless of how it was done the amount of time that went into building Stonehenge indicates its importance to the people who built it. Excavation at Blick Mead has led to the conclusion that the area around Stonehenge has been inhabited since its first iteration. Thousands of pieces of flint were uncovered as well as bones that all date back 8,000 years. There is also evidence of auroch bones in the ditches around Stonehenge implying the ancient people were herding cattle for food, and they were important enough to be buried at Stonehenge. But what was the purpose of building something so monumental? The horseshoe aligns with the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice. Celestial bodies held great importance for the ancient people, and the construction of Stonehenge seems to have been built in relation to the change of seasons. Pig bones are present around the henge as well, testing the bones revealed that some of the pigs had been herded locally, but had also come from Wales and Scotland. Is it possible that Stonehenge was the precursor to modern day barbecue? If animals were being herded from that far away it must have been for something important such as fostering peace between nearby tribes. Hopefully this week was as informative for you as it was for the boys. Make sure you tune in next week when we cover the final years of the Bronze Age.