Chapter 2 Journal Activity
On Identifying Stonehenge.
Though much of Stonehenge remains a mystery that we continue to work towards uncovering, it is the people at the heart of Stonehenge that are the real enigma.
Who were they exactly? Why did they build Stonehenge? Why did they dedicate time and man power over a thousand years building this great monument? Were they lay-people, were they special in some sort of religious context-priests or priestesses. Were they special in a sense of some kind of societal hierarchy? These questions are all valid questions, and though we do not have a written record to work with, we do have the archeology. Amidst the dirt and the stones, we must find our answers.
It has been said that Stonehenge as a monumental place has a totemic value, meaning the the people viewed it as an expression of their identity. However, we must be very careful that we do not look just at Stonehenge on its own. The point must be made that across the British Isles, other neolithic constructions were happening, and it would be incredibly foolish to assume the peoples of the time had no knowledge or contact with each other. They were not building in isolation.
If we agree then, that Stonehenge has a totemic value, can we also agree that that might mean it also had a religious value of some kind within the society of the time, and then by extension that there was a broad scale religious belief system fueling the movements and behaviors of many of the peoples that inhabited the areas around the monumental sights we see and know today?
Taking a quick step back to review what we know: Mesolithic people frequented the location of Stonehenge regularly-there was a mass amount of hunting that occurred there. Eventually the Mesolithic people converged with the Neolithic and more permanent dwellings began to take their place. The spring at Blick Mead is an obvious feature that would have drawn people as well as animals to the place regularly. So we can see that there is a very practical purpose for people groups frequenting the area where Stonehenge was built, but we have to ask ourselves, did this area represent more to them than just a plentiful place for food and water? I would say so.
Water, in many cultures has a religious significance. I would extrapolate in this case to say that it very likely had some religious significance to the Neolithic peoples as well which would then make sense that they would strive generation upon generation to build an enduring monument that would forever mark the land as special and set apart.
But where did they get the idea to do this? Where did they learn how to craft the stone, and move the stone? I believe that by looking at earlier stone monuments across the landscape of the British Isles that we can begin to paint a broader picture.
Just as religions across the world today have spread and endured thousands of years with monuments being erected as places of worship, and religious significance, I believe that Stonehenge is much the same. i would suggest that Stonehenge is the most spectacular of the Neolithic sites, much like a great cathedral in Europe would be for Catholicism in the Middle Ages. i believe Stonehenge was planned for, was a part of a larger scheme within the spread of a set of religious beliefs that rooted and grounded themselves within the cultural mindset of the Mesolithic and then even more so by the Neolithic peoples of the British Isles and perhaps even beyond.