Been traveling quite a bit and doing exciting things lately, so I thought I’d update you on what’s been going on if you aren’t following my adventures on Facebook.
My last lecture for my master’s program was on Thursday the 27th of March! I am now on Easter break, which lasts for a month! I don’t actually have any assignments or exams due after break, so I have been taking full advantage of this free time. To kick off this month of freedom, I first set off on a weekend trip with the Archaeology Society.
The headlining act of this trip was an insider’s look at Stonehenge, but we also took the time to see many other archaeological sites on the way there and around Wiltshire. These included Knowlton Circles, Old Sarum, Danebury, Woodhenge, the Wiltshire museum, West Kennet Long Barrow, and Avebury. It’s crazy how you can just be driving along and there are standing stones and earthworks on the sides of the road like no big deal! I had only seen earthworks once before this, at Mounds State Park in Indiana. Not only are these ones older, but they were not covered by trees and thus stood out sharply. You could see how the people altered the landscape to create a certain atmosphere, marking these as special ceremonial sites. This was especially poignant as medieval castles and churches stood in the center of some of these henges, indicating continuous occupation of the area from Neolithic times and perhaps a recognition that they were building on sacred ground.
Now you may have noticed that I titled this post “Stonehedge,” purposely spelling it wrong. This is what my dad calls it, since he says he knows what a hedge is but not a henge. It made me realize that many people outside of archaeology may not know what a henge is, and therefore I give you this definition from Wikipedia: “the word henge refers to a particular type of earthwork of the Neolithic period, typically consisting of a roughly circular or oval-shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a central flat area of more than 20 m in diameter.” So Stonehenge is actually named for the earthwork, and the stone circle within is a henge monument.
On to the main event! We woke up precisely at 5:15am so that we could be in the cars by 5:30 and at Stonehenge by 6 for our special insiders tour. This trip unfortunately fell on the same weekend as the time change here in the UK, so 5:15 was actually 4:15 and I have to say, if it was anything else, I don’t think we would have gotten up for it! SO tired, and we spent a lot of time standing outside shivering in pitch blackness. You couldn’t even see the stones while we stood and waited for the shuttle. When it finally arrived, we were sternly told not to touch the stones, have any open flames, play acoustic music, or post any pictures from the inside of Stonehenge online (I blame the druids for these ridiculous rules). So unfortunately I cannot post them here, but can email them to you if you’d like to see them. Just let me know below in the comments 🙂
I had heard from people who went inside Stonehenge for the winter solstice that it is not all it’s hyped up to be; just a bunch of big stones. Well I have to say those people are wrong, it was awesome!! I think the difference lies in knowing the archaeology of Stonehenge and understanding the ancient significance of it. Watching the sun rise from within the circle, I imagined the Neolithic people planning this monument just perfectly so that the sun would shine through it at the solstices. I imagined the hard work it took them to carve, transport, and erect the stones without the use of modern tools, and the pride they must have felt in constructing something so magnificent; something that would transcend time, and has.
For those that love history and archaeology, these are not just stones or ruins to be photographed and checked off a travel guide list. They embody the spirits of the people who made them, who lived and worshiped here and were an important part of our past. We still have so much more to learn, and for that I am thankful.
Here’s to the endless pursuit of knowledge,
P.S. I (almost) pet a wild(ish) pony at Danebury. It was awesome.