The building of Stonehenge – part of a ceremonial celebration. Peacehenge will borrow this!

Today, Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, which manages the Stonehenge site, said they now believe that Neolithic people who built Stonehenge did not want to make “things as easy and quick as possible”.  Building the monument was as important as “its final intended use,” she added.  Many of the builders most likely participated in a kind of celebratory pilgrimage to help construct the monument.  This line of reasoning follows the discovery of a feasting site at the nearby Durrington Walls settlement (standing stones at the Durrington Walls site are pictured below) which appears to have attracted people from all over the country to help build Stonehenge.

durrington walls

Historians think holding ceremonial feasts close to the Stonehenge site to celebrate the build “was potentially a powerful tool in demonstrating the strength of the community.”  This theory gets some support from a photo taken during a monolithic stone-moving ceremony on the island of Nias, Indonesia, in 1915. It shows people in ceremonial dress “revelling in the seemingly arduous task of moving enormous monoliths by hand.”  Festivities and celebrations most likely accompanied these events.

Indonesia 1915 monolith raising

Ms Greaney adds: “As soon as you abandon modern preconceptions which assume Neolithic people would have sought the most efficient way of building Stonehenge, questions like why the bluestones were brought from so far away – 155 miles from the Preseli Hills in Wales – don’t seem quite so perplexing.”

In order to test the celebration theory, English Heritage began moving a replica stone today, using teams of volunteers in an “experiential archeology” project(One thing they don’t mention is how they will build in feasting and dancing!)

The bluestones were probably transported via water networks and hauled over land, using large numbers of people for the long and difficult journey.

The first monument at Stonehenge was, in part, a circular earthwork enclosure with a ring of 56 timber posts, built just over 5,000 years ago.  At the base of the timber posts were cremated human remains, indicating it was, in one sense, a cemetery.  This less than durable structure was replaced 4,500 years ago with the very durable large Sarsen stones and smaller bluestones – many of which we still see today at Stonehenge.

Most archeologists believe the Sarsens – comprising sandstone – were brought from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles away. The Sarsens weigh on average 25 tons, with the largest stone, the Heel Stone, weighing about 30 tons.  The Heel Stone famously casts a shadow on a central part of the monument at dawn on the summer solstice (assuming in sometimes cloudy England, there is sunlight at this critical point!)   

When we build Peacehenge, we will have some design elements that will be “quotes” from the original Stonehenge, meaning trilathons – two large vertical stones, topped by a lintel stone.   For at least one of the trilathons, we will use probable Neolithic techniques and technology to move the stones and erect them at the Peacehenge site.  And, yes, we will have a feast and dancing to encourage participation!  JT

Filing for 501c3 non profit status

Yesterday, after receiving excellent guidance from my friend and colleague, Bob Ornstein, I sent, to the State of California, the application for Peacehenge to be incorporated as a non-profit.  Step-by-step!   JT

Positive peace, and negative peace

Peacehenge is about the intersection of monumental art and peace.  During a recent trip I took to Britain, I visited the acclaimed Peace Studies department at the University of Bradford and met with Neil Cooper, the head of the department.  He talked about the importance of understanding different kinds of peace.  Positive peace is where people live in a community characterized by safety and security, but also justice and the absence of oppression.   Negative peace is where there is safety and security but there is oppression, repression and an absence of basic human rights.   It is also a condition immediately after a cease fire, when peace breaks out, but it is a condition of the absence of violence versus a situation of peace and overall stability.   The ideal goal is to reach and sustain a situation of positive peace.

As a commentary about contemporary America, clearly while many communities are characterized by positive peace, we cannot say positive peace is a general condition in US communities when, for example, high school students feel compelled – in the wake of a mass shooting where more than a dozen of them are mown down at school by an individual with an assault weapon  – to march to demand their schools be safe places to attend.  Cities where the rate of homicide is high, such as Chicago, where in 2017, 560 individuals were murdered, are not peaceful places.  One could argue that the South Side of Chicago, the context for much of the killing, is a war zone.

Achieving peace and maintaining it are simple goals, with complex solutions.  JT

Henges

Adena Henge in England

Henges are traditionally mounds that are produced by digging a circular trench; some are quite small in diameter, some are large.  Stones are added in the interior area at some henges.  Avebury, in England, is an excellent example of a large henge, with stones added to produce an impressive monument.  Underneath the mounds are sometimes burial chambers.  These were developed in the neolithic era, before the bronze age, and before the widespread use of metal, which coincided with more warlike encounters between people.  Peacehenge has deep roots in the tradition of naturalistic architecture designed to engender fellowship and exciting ritual spaces.   JT