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Stonehenge

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Chapter 1 Journal Activity

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Stonehenge beyond the stones

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In Beijing, China, there is a tourist attraction called the World Park. It contains replicas of famous tourist attractions from around the world, including the Arc de Triomphe, Statue of Liberty and, of course, Stonehenge. It is an interesting place and well worth the visit. Nonetheless, I still went to see the real Stonehenge when I lived in Britain, even though I had already seen its Chinese twin. Clearly, Stonehenge becomes more interesting when it is thought of and experienced as part of its whole landscape, rather than as merely an oddly-arranged collection of stones.

The landscape around Stonehenge makes the monument more interesting because it provides information about how and why it was built. To determine how it was built, we need to know what local materials were available to carve and move the stones, and to raise them up. More importantly, to speculate as to why it was built, we need to know more about the people who built it (the same could be said about the "Stonehenge" in Beijing, which is interesting in its own way). As they could leave no written sources, the only way to do so is to examine what they have left around the landscape. These include archaeological remains, as well as the manner in which the area has been changed by human habitation. Of course, some factors may not have changed much over the thousands of years since Stonehenge was built. By observing the area as it is now, we can imagine how the builders of Stonehenge might have reacted to the conditions prevailing in their home.

Even though I am not a trained archaeologist, and therefore surely missed much of the information provided by the landscape, I still found visiting Stonehenge interesting. My tour guide could point to distant features and say "That is where the people walked from Woodhenge to Stonehenge" or "Over there is where archaeologists found such-and-such". The feeling of connection and wonder is not one I could have had if I could only see the stones.

Photograph of "Stonehenge" at the Beijing World Park.

"Stonehenge in China"

Comments

8 months ago

How interesting! Have you read Umberto Eco's Travels Through Hyper-reality, which includes an essay on reproductions of historical sites - he ponders what causes the urge to build them, and considers whether they have any kind of authenticity.

8 months ago

Hi Jodie,

I haven't read Travels Through Hyper-reality, but I think I would enjoy it. The World Park was opened in 1993. I suspect the impetus behind its construction was that the Chinese people had become interested in the outside world once more, both paying attention to what was happening abroad and wanting others to pay attention to them (hence the desire to host the Olympics). At the time, most Chinese people could not afford foreign travel to actually see the great monuments of the world. The World Park was a way of bringing the world to them.

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