Circles without Class Ceilings
Why can prehistory be so entrancing?
Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?
Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?
So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?
Do you indicate liminality:
A corridor to another world:
A sacred, spiritual, site of worship?
Were you positioned high on the Wolds
So as to be close to the sun, stars, planets and moon?
Or merely because the soil was thin up there,
And high above the flood plains;
Or were you territorial markers,
Boundary-points, socio-political in meaning;
Or were you topographical in intent,
Adding meaning to a landscape;
Were you part of a network and fretwork
Of communication channels, made visible?
How did the practice of stone circle structure spread?
Was stone seen as sentient?
It warmed with the sun,
It cried with a thaw,
It spread patterns with lichen and moss,
It could be scented,
It could groan and cry out in anguish –
Or small stone and flints for tools,
Giant stones for thanks and worship,
The Gods of the Earth united with the Gods of the Sky
In calendrical geometry …
Or to demonstrate power over stone
In a belief-system’s symbolic display,
So as to ensure the continued production
Of rather more prosaic, but necessary, tools
That guaranteed survival and prosperity?
Now for a sort of social-psychological perspective,
Or is it anthropological …
Did everyone regard these structures,
And, indeed, the labour involved in their construction,
In a unified and collective way?
Were there, as it were, renegades,
Left field outliers, individualists,
Eccentrics and so on who questioned it all?
Commonality and cohesion are always assumed,
It seems to me on initial reading memory …
How was hierarchy, assuming it existed, revealed?
Doesn’t the assumption of hierarchy,
As both consequent cause and consequence
Of specialization- warriors and priests and rulers –
Merely reflect the assumptions
Of Western post-Enlightenment Capitalism …
Couldn’t those deposits –
Both human and artefact –
Symbolize the collective,
And be both part and representative of all?
The past might just be a different country,
And a prehistoric past might yet be a signpost
To a more sharing, caring future,
A collective rather than individualist one,
One that rejects hierarchy,
One that rejects celebrity,
One that embraces caring and sharing:
Circles without Class Ceilings …
Party like it’s 2500BC: Stonehenge building secrets unearthed
The process of building Stonehenge – and having a party at the same time – may have been more important than the finished monument, English Heritage has said.
Experts believe that choosing the stones, moving them and setting them up on Salisbury Plain, may have been a way of bringing people together to socialise and celebrate.
Over this weekend visitors, people who live close to the monument in Wiltshire and schoolchildren are being invited to try to move and set up a four-tonne stone similar in size and shape to the sarsen lintels at the famous stone circle.
The idea is not to puzzle out in a scientific way engineering aspects of moving and setting up the stones, but to bring people together to enjoy a communal experience.
English Heritage’s senior historian, Susan Greaney, said: “In contemporary western culture, we are always striving to make things as easy and quick as possible, but we believe that for the builders of Stonehenge this may not have been the case.
“Drawing a large number of people from far and wide to take part in the process of building was potentially a powerful tool in demonstrating the strength of the community to outsiders.
“Being able to welcome and reward these people who had travelled far, perhaps as a kind of pilgrimage, with ceremonial feasts, could be a further expression of the power and position of the community.”
Research showcased at Stonehenge reveals that prehistoric people brought animals to the site from as far afield as north-east Scotland, more than 500 miles away, to take part in lavish midwinter feasts.
Scientists examined some of the 38,000 bones and teeth (90% of them pig; 10% cattle) discovered at the site of a neolithic village called Durrington Walls, which lies about a mile and a half north-east of the main stone ring.
Durrington Walls was only settled for between 50 and 100 years but it is believed to have housed the circle’s builders and the first visitors after the sarsen stones were put in place.
Experts examined elements including strontium in the pig teeth found at Durrington Walls. Because isotopes of strontium differ chemically according to the geology of the place where the young animal fed, it is possible to discover where individual creatures came from.
They concluded cows and pigs were herded hundreds of miles along ancient byways and may even have been brought by boat to southern England. It suggested that in 2500BC Stonehenge was known across Britain as a place of pilgrimage and celebration.
Stonehenge experts have also been studying evidence from societies who more recently have practised moving huge stones – such as communities on the islands of Sumba and Nias in Indonesia, and in north-eastern parts of India.
Greaney said: “There are amazing photos from societies in Indonesia and parts of India within the last 100 years or so of people practising stone moving and raising. They show people in ceremonial dress, amazing feasts happening, hundreds of people coming together and having a good time.
“As soon as you abandon modern preconceptions that assume neolithic people would have sought the most efficient way of building Stonehenge, questions like why the bluestones were brought from so far away – the Preseli Hills of south Wales – don’t seem quite so perplexing.”
Over the weekend groups of about 40 people will use rollers and ropes to move a hunk of limestone (prosaically brought from a local quarry on the back of a lorry) before helping to erect it into a pre-dug hole. Visitors can simply turn up and join in.