Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Search Of... Stonehenge

I was fascinated by Stonehenge as a kid.  (How was it built?  And why? Were aliens involved?)  I fulfilled a childhood dream by making it there in the winter of 2003. What struck me most was something that's not shown on television: two major roadways run right by it on either side.  Big trucks and other traffic rush by constantly, really breaking the mood.

I liked the TV show In Search of... a lot as a kid in the 1970's. I've enjoyed re-watching some of the old episodes and lovingly critiquing, with the benefit of 30 years of hindsight, some of the explanations proffered for the mysteries the show examined. An episode of In Search Of... titled "The Mystery of Stonehenge" first aired in 1977. You can watch a 10 minute segment from this episode by clicking HERE.  "There are a number of theories as to whether there is any reality to the magic power of megaliths," explains a so-called expert, Francis Hitching, interviewed in this clip while standing in front of Stonehenge. "It is known that around some of these sites, underneath tombs, around the standing stones, there are anomalies in the Earth's magnetic field. And here I think may lie the secret to the power of these megaliths. Is it just possible that people in those times somehow knew how to tap the electromagnetic anomalies that were in these stones and used them in their healing? Is it also possible that they used it, as birds do, and dogs seem to, in telepathy?  They could find their way by these stones. They could perhaps communicate from one stone to another.  They were perhaps like a giant psychic grid which could be used for telepathic purposes."

I remember being a little iffy about the 'psychic telephone' theory, even as a kid.  But I wish that In Search Of.... had explained that Hitching was then (and presumably remains) a self-described 'dowser' who had also written a book called Earth Magic that was published the same year as this interview.  That would have given his theories on Stonehenge a little more 'context.'

Last week I watched a National Geographic Channel documentary called Stonehenge Decoded. It re-examined Stonehenge in light of new archaeological discoveries, focussing on the work of British professor Mike Parker Pearson. He has theorized that Stonehenge was linked, more prosaically, only with another site a mile away called Durrington Walls (once the location of a wooden equivalent to Stonehenge). Pearson believes that the area around Durrington Walls Henge was a place of the living, while Stonehenge was a domain of the dead. A journey from Durrington Walls (the site of a large Stone Age settlement) along the nearby River Avon to reach Stonehenge would have been part of a ritual passage from life to death to celebrate past ancestors and the recently deceased.  

This documentary also vividly illustrates some generally accepted current theories about how Stone Age people could have hauled the huge stones from their source 180 miles away in Wales and then built the monument, given the technology of the time 4,500 years ago.  This perhaps answers the open ended note on which narrator Leonard Nimoy ended this episode of In Search of... while standing alongside a 'cosmic' poster of the Milky Way galaxy.  "The question which still eludes us is who erected these working monuments.  Clearly they were the work of people more advanced than we had thought possible for that time.  We can speculate that our ancestors were possessed of knowledge that was somehow lost to succeeding generations.  Or perhaps they had 'help'... "

Not quite.  Here's a 2 minute preview of this new National Geographic Channel documentary that vividly answers these questions and debunks the concluding 'implication.'

1 comment:

  1. Conventional archaeological thinking does not quite resolve the Stonehenge enigma. The builders did not have writing, as far as we know. Then how did they organize the necessary huge labor force? How did they manage & motivate people year upon year? How were information & skills recorded & transmitted to another generation w/out written texts? How were the quite sophisticated maths, geometry & engineering done w/out pen & paper?

    Last mystery, why are there no graphic inscriptions on or within the stones? The Egyptians & Sumerians left carvings &/or wall paintings. With S/henge, no added art, nothing, except the monuments themselves - unique enigma? OGT