chapter  8
41 Pages

THE MEANING OF STONEHENGE

So very little is known for certain about the place that what I say is mainly conjecture, and it is to be hoped that future excavations will be able to throw more light upon it than I have done.

Colonel Hawley’s final report on his Stonehenge excavations, 1928

Coming to the end of the most extensive excavations ever undertaken at Stonehenge, William Hawley gave vent to the despairing words which head this chapter.1 All archaeological evidence is incomplete and there has of necessity to be some uncertainty about its interpretation, but in most people’s minds an unnecessary amount of mystery surrounds Stonehenge. This is partly because much of the popular literature emphasizes Stonehenge’s uniqueness; sometimes this unique status is accorded out of enthusiasmone of the best of motives-but it tends to isolate it from rational explanation.2 If we can see Stonehenge as part of a regional tradition, we stand a better chance of understanding it, simply because we can apply knowledge and insights acquired at other comparable sites: then it may be possible to make better sense of the monument’s peculiarities-and deduce its meaning.