Beware. Keep out. If you try to get inside, you will get hurt. We will see your blood, and throw you out because you have not adhered to our rules......Many thanks to Charlene for sending this rather powerful image, taken from a moving vehicle while passing along the road near Stonehenge. The image is packed with symbolism. Over there is an old ruin loaded with artificial virtue and value by generations of historians, mystics, archaeologists and even politicians. Owned, in theory, by all of us, but in fact possessed or occupied by an organisation called English Heritage and only accessible to those who can afford to shell out rather a lot of money, in exchange for which we are "allowed" to visit bits of the site that are deemed by others to be worthy of access, and excluded from other bits of what is referred to as "our common heritage." It's called visitor management. How ironic is all of that?
Then there is the arrogance and the exclusivity. That fence speaks of them and us. If you are on the inside, you can claim ownership and -- you hope -- get away with trying to keep others out. The outsiders are by definition less worthy than those on the inside, so you can not only control their physical access to the site but also tell them patronisingly what to believe and what not to believe. You, after all, are a "guardian of our heritage" who has studied Stonehenge for much of your life, and devoted your career to understanding it. You may have dug it up in rain and shine, measured the stones, set it in its landscape context, fought for research funding, written papers galore about it and devoted hundreds of hours of your time to explaining things in simple terms for those who live on the other side of the fence. You, in short, are the EXPERT and the rest of us should show you respect and reverence, and believe what you say. You should have rights that the rest of us do not have, and your opinions should be delivered with unshakeable conviction and certainty, and accepted by the rest of us.
I wonder if the barbed wire mindset underpins the words and the actions of the quarrymen and lost circle hunters who are currently hoofing around in North Pembrokeshire, after a decade of developing their extraordinary Neolithic narrative? How else to explain their blunt refusal to engage with any ideas that may differ from their own? How else to explain their refusal to admit that anything they say is disputed by others? How else to explain their refusal, in their published output, to cite any other peer-reviewed papers that do not conveniently support their ruling hypothesis? How else to explain the abandonment of the scientific process and its replacement by an exercise in ruling hypothesis confirmation?
We know that the object of the ongoing research exercise is the invention of a brand new "bluestone mythology" dressed up, through the use of assorted pseudo-scientific methods and though astute media manipulation, as "the truth". The diggers and the circle hunters are on the inside, protecting their terrain with a ring of barbed wire, and we, the barbarian hordes, threaten them from outside with our free thinking, our specialist knowledge, our evidence and our scepticism. They are the ones who are trapped by their ring of barbed wire, and the real tragedy is that they know it.
There is another irony, of course. It is now deemed appropriate that Stonehenge should be "protected" from over-use by the "hippies and Druids" who deem it to be a powerful and sacred site and who simply wish to be left in peace to worship the stones and the sanctity of the earth in their own way. One might say that they have their mythologies, and they are sticking to them. Stonehenge is a place that generates mythologies. MPP and his colleagues are currently simply adding another mythology to the list, carefully hidden beneath a cloak or respectability........