Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Stonehenge brand

  As I have previously noted, somewhat wearily, the Stonehenge brand is so valuable to the nation, in terms of income generated and PR value on a global scale, that there is a great reluctance to do anything that might decrease its impact.  This is all about economics -- in a time of recession.  So no matter what I or the geologists may say about the "Stonehenge story" needing to be revised to take account of the recent discoveries, I doubt very much whether any of the guidebooks will be rewritten any time soon.  I have frequently contacted English Heritage to ask them to remove or amend some of the "statements of fact" that appear on their web sites and in their publications, relating to the bluestones, but as far as I can see nothing has been done.  If nothing else, that is bad science, for to pretend that there is certainty when there is in fact an ongoing debate is disingenuous and even dishonest -- and this complacency also shows a distinct lack of respect for the careful and competent geologists (and others) who have pointed out in recent decades that the "accepted wisdom" about the source and the transport of the bluestones is based upon nothing but fantasy.
It's a strange but disturbing fact that in the realm of tourist economics, as in warfare, the first casualty is the truth.
Stonehenge has taken more than £30m in tourism income in the past five years, tourism minister John Penrose has said.
The prehistoric Wiltshire monument took an average of £6m a year, while costing taxpayers just under £2.4m to run.
Earlier this month the government said new cash for the attraction would be provided by private donations, lottery money and sponsorship.
The Department of Transport has said £3.5m of taxpayers' money will be spent improving roads around the site.
Stonehenge is run by English Heritage, the historical preservation body, which charges adult visitors £7.50. It attracts about 800,000 visitors a year.


Tony Hinchliffe said...

The peculiar thing is that, when you pass by the strange ENTRANCE sign, the person taking your tickets always says, entrancingly: "look into my eyes, look into my eyes....".

Strangely, I've never been able to recall what happened next - except that, having left the Stones tour, I've always had this uncanny CERTAINTY that Prehistoric Man (or Men) DID transport the bluestones all the way from South-West Wales, regardless of what geological science has also revealed. How can this be???

Tony Hinchliffe said...

I certainly hope and trust that English Heritage WILL completely re-edit its Stonehenge Guidebook, written in 2005 by Julian Richards. The findings of the Stonehenge Riverside Project should be revealed fully in the next year or so. Overseas Visitors especially deserve to be able to purchase a much more up-to-date Guidebook, encompassing our improved knowledge gained from excavations all over The World Heritage Site, and also from laboratory analysis including that undertaken by the geologists who form an integral part of the Team led by Mike Parker Pearson.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

When I visited Stonehenge in July 2010, for an Evening Walk amongst the Stones led by the Director of Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society, David Dawson, I was at once admonished for referring to the English Heritage Guidebook 2005, as it was out of date.What else could I refer to in convenient size and form? Nothing.

I recall similar words being used by Tony Robinson (whilst waving the 2005 Guidebook) in the most recent Timeteam Special on Stonehenge.

Please can we have a New Edition, sooner rather than later? Even an Interim Edition would benefit all the tourists who will otherwise remain in blithe general ignorance of recent discoveries.
It has now become fashionable to criticise Professor Richard Atkinson for failing to publish his excavation findings in the past. English Heritage is failing NOW to update visitors to the findings that have been made since the start of the Twenty-First Century, which is quite lamentable.

We have a Tourist Industry, but we are treating our visitors to Stonehenge casually and disrespectfully. The monument may be prehistoric: the information must not be.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Amen to that, Tony. And there is a lot of new information to be taken into account -- in addition to the new geology, Darvill and Wainwright have all the info from their latest dig, which is (even when you take away all the fantasy about healing stones and Neolithic hospitals) rather interesting. And there is the info from MPP as well.... which again needs to have the fantasies filtered out.