on July 21, 2012
Unlike most of my reviews and stories, this one will not give background information, or perhaps just a minimum. There are two reasons for it: firstly, millions of words and thousands of volumes have been written about Stonehenge, and although a lot is known about the archaeology of the site, with the origins of stones and likely way of building the structure quite well explored, nothing - nothing - is truly known about the purpose of the 'henge nor about the people who built it. We can speculate, either fancifully (aliens?) or in a more informed and reasoned manner (ancient pre-Celtic people who happen to have inhabited that land and decided to transport massive stones from Wales over 150 miles in a land without mechanised vehicles, roads and quite possibly without wheels). But ultimately, Stonehenge speaks to us across the abyss of time from that period that is, for a reason, called ''prehistory'', and that means that, when brought to account, we don't know. This mystery is undoubtedly part of the attraction that this site has exerted on people throughout the years, but the mystery it's only a part. Stonehenge is one of the icons of England, and to some extent the whole of Britain, and apart from some London buildings, it's by far the most recognised and recognisable structure in these islands. This is not because it's mysterious, but because of its ancient age and incredible presence. Stonehenge was constructed 4,300 years ago (though there is evidence of previous buildings at the site that were at least 500 years older). It is roughly contemporary with the Cheops' Great Pyramid and it had been already standing for 500 years when the Cretan civilisation was destroyed by the Thira eruption. It was already old - thousands of years old - when the Greek upstarts started on the Athenian Acropolis. By the time Canute was trying to charm tides and prop up the London Bridge, Stonehenge was millennia old. And it is still there. I visited the site in Wiltshire in my early 20s, after the visitors have been separated from the stones by rope barriers, but before the more recent changes so I will not comment on the current arrangements, undoubtedly more informative and possibly more flattering to the structure and the wider ritual landscape. But you know what? Even from behind the rope, and even surrounded by swarms of visitors, and even with all the cultural baggage of information and speculation weighing heavily on anybody that tries to learn anything about the 'henge, the sheer presence of these stones is such that the hype, and the marketing, and the other visitors don't matter. If you are visiting South-East or South-West of Britain, or in fact simply anywhere within an acceptable travelling distance of the place, go and see Stonehenge. It's considered a must-see ''visitors attraction'' in England, and however terrible it sounds to those seeing authentic, unmediated and non-packaged experiences, is is just that: a must. Image via flickr, under Creative Commons licence, by nyaa_birdies_perch (aka mari).
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009