10 Mar 2017, 02:58 PM
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Under the Shadow of Geoffrey of Monmouth?

1 comment

Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Account of the Building of Stonehenge" in 1136 is a lovely, fanciful tale that is more closely akin to myth or legend than it is to any real fact. However, I believe that because myth and legend often shape a cultural identity, that these ideas have persisted even into today.

Though Archaeologists of today would certainly not be under great influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth's account, they are likely scrutinized by the public based on public perceptions of Stonehenge that, as mentioned before, are shaped by the fancy and imaginations of writers like Monmouth.
It isn't however, outside of the realm of possibility that there are some bits and pieces of Monmouth's story that may contain some truth. It is possible, that his Arthurian account may contain some fact layered through the passing of legend from generation to generation.
'... "to honour the burying-place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant's Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality;"'
I believe that by looking at this particular selection of Monmouth's work that we may be able to glean some actual truth. He refers to the "Giant's Dance", and then proceeds to describe a stone structure that sounds very much like that of Stonehenge. Is it possible that in 1136, Stonehenge was rooted in the minds of the people based on knowledge that had been passed down from generations before them? i believe it is possible.
I would suggest then, that today's Archaeologists do not so much live in the shadow of Monmouth's work, but perhaps live with an awareness of what he had to offer beyond mist of myth and legend. I believe as Archaeologists and Historians, we must arm ourselves with at the very least, an understanding of the myth's and legends that make up a cultural identity for perhaps, underneath all the layers of time, and word weaving, we may reveal pieces of truth that help us come closer to understanding the mysteries of our subject.


almost 2 years ago

An excellent piece. Very interesting thoughts. Enjoyed reading it.

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