Stonehenge has of course been flagged up for many years as one of the key prehistoric sites in the world, on a par with the pyramids and Carnac and Gobeki Tepe -- hailed for the technical genius of its builders and as a masterpiece of social organization. I have always thought that in its landscape setting it is not that impressive -- on a gentle downland slope and not even visible from a great distance away. It's part of a landscape full of prehistoric features of many ages and types -- and it is often represented as being the centrepiece of that landscape and as the culmination or pinnacle of Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic building.
But ....... as many have noted, it might well never have been completed, and the idea of the "immaculate Stonehenge" is not just being questioned by people like me, but also by mainstream archaeologists who know Salisbury Plain and its prehistoric features very well indeed. The myth of the miraculous and wondrous Stonehenge is maintained by those who make a business out of it, like English Heritage and certain senior archaeologists, and those who like to think that it has some great scientific or spiritual purpose. Prof MPP even promotes the idea that it is the ultimate symbol of political unification -- and much of his work in recent years has been devoted to trying to prove that hypothesis.
And of course the old ruin has been accorded a vast "artificial significance" because there has been so much digging there. If you think about it for a moment, it is quite possible that other sites which have never been excavated at all may actually be of much greater significance in the development of prehistoric culture,
When I started, the other day, to calculate the amount of work that went into the construction of Foel Drygarn (rather a small fortified site), I was struck immediately by the sheer scale of that operation (14,000 tonnes of stone shifted) as compared with the amount shifted at Stonehenge. There, even if there were 80 sarsen stones and 80 bluestones, the total weight of stone built into the monument was not in excess of 2,000 tonnes. Small fry indeed, and when we look at the scale of some of the larger hillfort sites like Maiden Castle or Oswestry, or even Silbury Hill. (The main reason why it is famous and deemed to be significant is that for the last 100 years or so people have been gobsmacked by the wonderful story of the human transport of the stones from the Vale of Pewsey and North Pembrokeshire. But if we place that myth to one side, what are we left with?)
I reckon that if we look at evidence rather than hype, we can well conclude that Stonehenge was just a small local aberration. Far from attracting people from all over the British Isles, who travelled hundreds of miles bearing with them the stones of their ancestors, it was probably just one of those places that people passed occasionally and where they had a good time if there was a BBQ going on at Durrington Walls. They probably asked the locals, while they were still sober enough to be interested, what was going on down the road. "Oh, that weird collection of stones!" might well have come that reply. "That's just Uncle George's mad fantasy. He just started building it so that he could use up all those stones that were lying around. Now that he's dead, the family'll soon run out of enthusiasm and energy, or forget what it was meant for, and get back to building nice round burial mounds like the rest of us.........."