Chapter 2 Journal Activity
Are the current theories about Stonehenge convincing?
Well, or weeeelllll, as we’d say on social media, when we’re not going to be entirely straightforward with an answer. The thing is, I could write this journal entry based on the evidence presented here, or I could write it based on wider experience, which tells me that the past changes more than the future, as one might say. As a child, I and my contemporaries were taught that Stonehenge was built by, shall we say, cave men. They were unkempt, sturdy, none too clever locals, but very strong. But then came tecniques such as carbon dating, isotope testing, and more recently DNA testing, not to mention a lot more excavations, and reviews of previous excavations of evidence. And of course, there is realization that absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence.
Also, there are all the sources of information available to us, especially on the internet, from archaeologists and anthropologists worldwide to the holiday photos of our contemporaries, scientific research of a very wide nature, and much much more. Checking things like dates, weights and sizes, I’ve found that sources differ in the ‘facts’ they provide. Whilst this is likely to be related to when the information was put on the site, and may well have been the best available at the time, it can still be confusing. Work being carried out at present by archaeologists and researchers may alter the timeline as we see it today. Exciting research using DNA identification may also change our opinions of the origins of different generations of people involved with the construction and use of the monument, and with that, our understanding of its function throughout its development phases.
Then there are questions of interpretation. Say, for example, a charred grain of wheat were found adjacent to one of the stones at Stonehenge, and it was the only dateable evidence found in that excavation, would that mean it arrived in the ground at the time of the building or that it was dropped later and water or worms took it further down. And when looking at the likely area of birth of an individual skeleton, based on strontium or oxygen isotopes, we may find that that individual probably came from one area, though it could possibly have been another. I think, of all the variables we face when looking back into the prehistorical past, that of interpretation is the greatest, and in some ways the most interesting, especially hearing the views of the various 'leading lights', who don't always agree.
Theories about the function of the monument at present include a sort of calendar, a temple type building, a place of healing, and a place with acoustic significance, or combinations of these. With no evidence of a great number of slaves, the very fact of it's existence does at least seem to show that it had great significance to a large number of people, at a time when there were not high densities of population in the land. And whilst it certainly was an important place, there is new light currently being thrown on the role of Orkney and those parts of Britain, with which Stonehenge is linked through isotope analysis of feasting at Durrington Walls. Where once Stonehenge was interpreted at the most important place in the land, that role may now be occupied by Orkney, though the skill and grandeur of the stone structure is still unrivalled in the UK.
Of course, the interpretations of Stonehenge have been many and varied, so if today, some people question the validity of our current thoughts on the ‘who’, ‘how’, ‘why’ and so on, they are probably right to do so. I am convinced by much of the current information, but keep an open mind. After all, although it is exceptionally unlikely, we have no proof that the aliens didn’t build Stonehenge!