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Stonehenge

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Chapter 3 Journal Activity

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Myths and Masonry

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Geoffrey of Monmouth had put together some of the folk tales of Britain and tried to make a coherent history out of them. He was a British cleric, born in the early 12th century who first attempted to write a history of Britain, including the Legends of King Arthur. His work was regarded uncritically, for many centuries, and was absorbed into the oral and written traditions of the United Kingdom.

Folklore has a role in both entertaining and in passing on a set of values. Most folk tales contain moral lessons to be learned or warnings about how not to behave.

As the stories persisted, they influenced the thinking of many of the antiquarians who first visited Stonehenge, and tried to search for signs of human sacrifice - one of the supposed attributes of Druids. This sort of random digging did much harm.

Stukely, a reknown antiquarian, maintained that the Druids (a group of mystical priests recorded by the Romans) had built and used Stonehenge. He interpreted the stones in that light. This idea was only gradually dispelled. However, it must be remembered that if it were not for antiquarians, many of the ruins of Britain would not have attracted romantic and historical associations and might therefore have been levelled to the ground.

Various gentlemen antiquarians and later archaeologists, with ever improving techniques and a more rigorous intellectual approach, gradually came to the conclusion that these stones were very much older than had previously been realised. They started to record their finds in a more rigorous fashion - although sadly some lacked the discipline to publish all that had been found. Initially archaeology was still something more akin to treasure hunting.

If I might make a local parallel, the Calder Stones, in Liverpool, were believed to be part of a Druids' Circle and Joseph Needham who owned the land (from 1827), on which they were found, had them arranged in a circle, a position that they are still maintained in. This idea of a Druids' Circle, persisted until the very end of the 19th century, when a learned discussion, conducted in the local paper (the Daily Post) and led by Professor Herdman, dispelled this belief and concluded that they were in fact part of a Neolithic Entrance Burial. Various roads in the area are named after Druid,s and so to some extent the myth persists in the popular imagination.

Despite the efforts of archaeologists and vast bodies of data and evidence, many people still believe that Stonehenge is a Druid shrine.
So the myth persists and is still more important than the actuality in the mind of the public.

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