The Wonderful Work of English Heritage at Stonehenge: Looking 8000 years into the past at a truly global culture

I am a hundred percent sure that when Saint Brendan’s mythic stories were told about sailing across the Atlantic into Canada around 512 AD—1000 years before Christopher Columbus—that the trade routes into the New World were already many thousands of years old. Saint Brendan was only one of the more recent visitors and I was able to confirm this by visiting the fabled wonder of the world—Stonehenge.  I’ve read and watched many documentaries about Stonehenge and the extremely mysterious earthworks all over the Salisbury Plain all the way up to Avebury including the famous Uffington White Horse and I’ve had my suspicions.  I knew there were mounds similar to what are in my home town of Ohio which are generally attributed to the Adena and Hopewell Indians—but upon arriving at the vast and newly refurbished Stonehenge Heritage site, it was clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the same culture of people who built the earthworks at Stonehenge were the same who built them in Ohio and the surrounding area within the United States meaning that there was trade and communication between Europe and America many thousands of years before modern times.  The evidence was extremely overwhelming.  As I stood at Stonehenge and looked 360 degrees in every direction I could see mound earthworks which all looked like those found in Fort Ancient, in Ohio.  And 20 miles north in Avebury was the Silbury Hill which was an even larger version of the Miamisburg Mound that I’ve spoken so much about.  At Stonehenge the great novel, Finnegan’s Wake came to life before my eyes as science merged with myth to confirm a reality that was all too distressing for the human race.IMG_3926.JPG

Before continuing, let me report something very positive. As much as my visit to The Louvre in Paris was extremely disappointing, the visit to the new Heritage Vistor’s Center at Stonehenge was completely positive in every way.  I continue to be extremely impressed with the Heritage people within the United Kingdom.  My membership with them is something that I will always treasure.  Everywhere I have gone from the Saint Augustine’s Abby, to Dover Castle, Old Sarum and several other sites, they always have a good staff on hand to promote the Heritage work and the featured site.  Most notably was the Old Sarum location just about 6 or 7 miles South of Stonehenge—which I will talk about in another article extensively because it was actually my target for exploration—not Stonehenge, and was absolutely spectacular.  That site was relatively remote yet the Heritage staff had a very nice acquaintance area with drinks, books, and even restrooms far better than The Louvre.  It was something to step across a long bridge over a deep ravine to come out on the other side and have a cozy little shed with the Heritage staff inside to get you off the windswept plains surrounding the magnificent monument.  But Stonehenge is kind of the capital monument for the Heritage team and the one that has received all the press over the years—so everyone knows it—and what those fine people did there was simply amazing.img_4010

The big improvement is that the road that used to run immediately through Stonehenge had been removed and replaced with an almost amusement park like setting with the visitor’s center over a mile away from the ancient ruins. In year’s past the viewing area for the megaliths were out near the concentric circle which has always surrounded the temple area.  However, not anymore.  Under the English Heritage leadership the viewing area now takes you right up next to the site without destroying the ground under foot.  And by moving the visitor’s center way down the road they have separated the incoming tourist traffic with the sacredness of analysis at the actual site.  I thought it was just brilliant because really for the first time you could stand in the middle of what used to be a modern public road and look out all around at the region and that’s where all the mounds surrounding Stonehenge were extremely obvious—more so than in any documentary that I’ve ever seen on the subject.  There were hundreds of them, all like those at Fort Ancient, Ohio in size and technique.  These two cultures knew of each other and practiced similar mythic rituals—and that was no prehistoric accident.img_3929

I photographed extensively, but all the earthworks around Stonehenge are just too massive to capture properly, only the human eye can put a scale to it properly. Much to my surprise archaeologists are now beginning to relax their apprehension to some of the extreme dates around Stonehenge—going back over 8000 years to some of the features—which is a whole new chapter on understanding human development particularly regarding the Stonehenge Cursus which is a very long runway type of earth feature that is over two miles long and 420 feet wide clearly meant to be seen from the sky at very high altitude.  On the ground it is nearly invisible, but it is so large and vast, that only from very high up can it really be seen.  It is every bit as mysterious as a Nazca line in Peru.  It would have been quite majestic to the ancient world and was a sign that a very ancient people knew how to make very straight lines over many miles from the vantage point of the ground which is not easy to do.  The way that the Heritage group was able to remove the road through the Stonehenge site allowed really for the first time a proper analysis of the entire area under modern scrutiny.  It’s one thing to look at some big rocks on the side of the road back when nearby Amesbury was being built 50 years ago and put all the emphasis on the stones.  But it is the surrounding mounds and earthworks that really tell the story—or begin to—which required someone to take the leadership to protect—which is what the English Heritage, the group, has been able to do over the last 10 years.

On the business side, Stonehenge was making a killing on a Sunday afternoon at the end of February. They had a fabulously large café with many people working the cash registers.  The gift shop was enormous and filled with people.  They had a great museum, not large, but effective.  And they had great bathrooms for an entertainment destination in a remote part of England, out on the edge of the western plains an hour outside of London.  It was cold outside and very wet, and breezy and the various commercial enterprises allowed for people to get out of the cold, which is actually a problem all through the year.  The style of the visitors center itself reminded me of the Space Port in New Mexico—meant to look integrated with the surrounding hillsides and unobtrusive.  From the parking lot my son-in-law thought the whole complex was a shack because it looked like a partially constructed giant barn of some kind with a very flat and waving roof.  But that was on purpose to fuse modern and ancient styles together into a unique work of art which was highly functional—and smart.  The complete opposite of The Louvre which is a place that had a lot more to work with, but lazily passed on the opportunity.  The English Heritage folks had made the most out of almost nothing and what they brought to the exhibit of Stonehenge was something that would have been at home at Disney World’s Epcot Center.  Making money helps preserve and uncover history and it is just so wonderful that at least in England they have the English Heritage people who are merging capitalism with historic preservation and unleashing the discoveries of the past at a record pace.  Put money into science and guess what, you get productivity.

But the most important aspect of Stonehenge which is now undeniable is the story around it—the vast complex of ancient earthworks that obviously migrated into North American and likely many other sites around the world. With all the criticism of western conquests and imperialism which we hear so much about in politics, if not for those attributes of an advanced civilization imposing itself on inferior ones—we wouldn’t have things like Stonehenge, and the British Museum.   If not for William the Conqueror making a mountaintop fortress out of Old Sarum to the south of Stonehenge, likely someone would have farmed up the ground and destroyed many of the earthworks which are still raw on the surface of the land.  But under the civilized guidance of England’s national superiority which expanded into a massive empire of its own eventually, such treasures would not be protected from the Vico cycle of terror that often comes when civilization moves from democracy, anarchy then back to theology.  It was England’s global superiority that has preserved Stonehenge for us all to see today.  Likely there were similar sites in China, Russia, all over the Middle East, and in North and South America—but the chaos of politics and land grabs have prevented adequate archaeology—which continues at Stonehenge.  That makes the English Heritage work to my mind one of the most important on planet earth because there at the site of Stonehenge is a glimpse into mankind’s real past which holds truths we are only beginning to admit to ourselves.  Because the big mystery is not why such an ancient people went to the trouble to move such large rocks from over 200 miles away to arrange them in the fashion they did at Stonehenge—it’s how they came to know how and why to do such things.  Additionally, who did they talk to and what was the real limit of their global influence?  That to me is the big question and the bookmark in history to the mystery of how civilization continues to follow the Vico cycle ever and ever again into the abyss of recreation.  And it is possible that the people of Stonehenge knew a lot of things that we have yet to learn, because they had already seen it many thousands of years before and like many people in search of the everlasting played their part in articulating the mysteries of the universe to put the brakes on human regional self-destruction through art revealed through great effort.

Rich Hoffman


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