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Chapter 5 Journal Activity

Finishing the job begun in the 20th Century


Just two years ago, we passed the anniversary of the purchase of Stonehenge for £6,600 (the equivalent of around £3 million today) around by Sir Cecil Chubb. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of his donation of the monument to the British nation. More recently, English Heritage, the charity that operates the site on behalf of the Crown spent £27 million refurbishing the site.

The transformation of Stonehenge from an oddity in private hands, sold for a relative pittance, to a priceless national treasure illustrates the larger story of the monument over the 20th century. The monument went from a curiosity interesting mostly to antiquarians and romanticist writers to a major archeological site. Stonehenge has become a major tourist attraction, and even a focus for religion. Thanks to all this new interest, we know have a much better idea of who built Stonehenge, as well as how and when they did so.

So what does this mean for Stonehenge in the 21st century? I predict that archaeologists will continue to round out our knowledge of the monument and its builders. However, given the great advance over the 20th century, I do not think it is likely our view of the how, the who and the when of Stonehenge will change as considerably in the 21st century.

However, as we come to know more about Stonehenge and its builders, the mystery of why Stonehenge was built will only deepen. As archaeological science tells us more about how the ancient's lived, we only become more curious about what the ancients thought. Absent the miraculous discovery of written records (a cuneiform tablet written by a particularly well-traveled Sumerian, perhaps?), this is something which we shall not know. I will end with a final prediction: this enduring mystery will continue to attract larger and larger crowds to the ancient stones.

Source: Justin Parkinson, "The man who bought Stonehenge - and the gave it away", BBC News Magazine, 21 September 2015 (

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