Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
406 pages. Simon & Shuster, London. £19.
Coming on the heels of vast amounts of archeological research directed by Dr. Parker-Pearson over seven years, there are many who have waited for this summation since 2010. The book does not disappoint.
As few others have done, Parker-Pearson and his Riverside Project take the reader on a journey through the entire landscape of Stonehenge in order to make sense of this most enigmatic of Statement Monuments. Beginning in the deeps of the Mesolithic Era and working forward to the late Neolithic, he directs our attention to the numerous prequel-structures found within the Salisbury landscape. Through artifacts and finds of the immediate vicinity, we learn that this ever-morphing culture was constantly refining their conception of Sun, Life, Death, and how the myriad subsidiaries of these fit together into the long-lasting traditions we now know must have been observed.
Though standing firmly on the shoulders of his predecessors, Parker-Pearson has nevertheless taken previously interpreted physical information and expanded it to include other themes within this 8,000 years-ago culture. With unprecedented permissions from the numerous English authorities, in seven years over forty new digs were conducted at the Cursus, the Cuckoo Stone, Woodhenge and its environs, Durrington Walls, and many others ― even within the Dike of Stonehenge. Identifying and collating this new information is daunting, and proceeds to the present day.
Stonehenge itself it not immune to serious editorial, and many things that were previously held as truth have now been relegated to the pile of discarded theories. The controversial periglacial striations, coincidentally aligning to the summer solstice sunrise, are now established as a rationale for placing the monument in its otherwise mundane location. The age and time-frame of the Monument is firmly established by reviewing many of the artifacts found in the 20th century. The order of postholes in the initial Phase has been explained. The arrival of the Bluestones has been pushed back almost 200 years, and the Arcs, Ovals and Circles made with these are put in proper sequence, throwing the previously misunderstood timing of the Sarsen erection into welcome disarray. Additionally, the order of erection is definitively solved, that is: yes ― the Trilithons went up first.
The book is very readable; to the inclusion of many anecdotal tales of various adventures corresponding to digs, past and present. One of these is Geoff Wainwright's 3-month quick-dig at Durrington in 1967, with his raucous band of archeological merry-making jokesters. It is a hilarious, eye-opening read. The consumption of great quantities of beer while experiencing `Eureka Moments', is also a featured theme. This keeps the detailed information within reach of those who might otherwise shrink from reading it.
He does not preach. With this book, one might be sitting at the local pub discussing these issues in a round-robin atmosphere, and is not presented as an opportunity to pontificate. He mentions `Future Findings' many times, as well as a conscious dismay at having to disturb the ground at all, while noting that the same curses levied at previous archeologists will no doubt be directed at him with the next generation.
The downside of this book is mechanical ― not with the contents. The reproduction of profuse black & white photographs is not the best, though the folio of color plates come through nicely on 90# gloss. Also, the illustrations are understandably small, and I urge the aging hand to reach for a magnifier.
Though well edited, I did find one error. This occurs on page 41 and concerns the caption of a photo on that page. It shows Drs. Piggott and Atkinson peering at the bottom of a Trilithon upright as it's being lowered into a newly fabricated reinforced concrete slot. The caption details the orthostat as Stone 53. In fact, it is Stone 57 from the collapsed West Trilithon, re-erected in 1958. Seen behind the many onlookers are Stones 21, 22, & 23. Stone 53 was, along with 54, excavated and righted in 1964, but never pulled. Also, Dr Piggott was not associated with the later work.
It is a small thing among many noteworthy revelations, and I recommend this book to armchair researchers and professionals alike.
Four out of Five Stars.