The only stone on Salisbury Plain seems to be chalk. Where Stonehenge came from – once the weight of a dozen blue whales – was one of its enduring mysteries: proposals ranged from Africa, Ireland and Brittany to Dartmoor and Edinburgh. A key breakthrough occurred in the 1920s, when some of the megaliths were traced to Wales. This is so surprising, that the other, much larger stones are often overlooked. New science has confirmed that these sarsens had a closer origin, but getting them to the site was arguably the greatest challenge facing the builders of Stonehenge. Now we have an exact source for at least one megalith, we can try to map the route it took and explain how it was done.
Mike Pitts will be drawing on a lifetime’s study and a decade of new research. His new book - 'How to build Stonehenge' addresses the first question that every visitor asks: how was Stonehenge built?
Icon of the New Stone Age, sculptural and engineering marvel, symbol of national pride: there is nothing quite like Stonehenge. These great sarsen and bluestone slabs, arranged with simple, graphic genius, attract visitors from across the world. The monument stands silent in the face of the questions its unlikely existence raises: who built it? Why? How?
There has been endless speculation about why Stonehenge was built, inspiring theories ranging from the academically credible to the improbable, but far less investigation into how. In the millennia since its creation, pieces of Stonehenge have been knocked over by heavy machinery, found their way to Florida (and back again), and been exposed to radioactive sodium, but the seemingly impossible endeavour of raising the stones with Neolithic technology has remained inexplicable – until now.
In the past decade ground-breaking discoveries, made possible by cutting-edge scientific techniques, have traced the precise provenance of the bluestones in Wales, but can we plot their journeys to the Salisbury Plain? And how might teams of labourers lacking machinery or even pack animals have dragged them 150 miles to the site? How did they carve joints into the sarsen boulders, among the hardest stones in the world, and then raise them into place? Mike Pitts draws on a lifetime’s study to answer these questions, revealing how Stonehenge stood not in austere isolation, as we see it today, but as part of a wider world, the focus of a megalithic cosmology of belief, ritual and creativity.
Tickets: £12 (£10 WANHS members) – booking essential. Includes glass of wine and 'nibbles'.
Ticket sales close at 5pm on the day of the lecture.
Time: Start 7.30pm - doors open from 7pm
Location: Wiltshire Museum.
Please be Covid-aware: do not attend the event if you have any tested positive or have any Covid-symptoms. Face-coverings are recommended when moving about the Museum premises.
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