posted on Sep, 2 2004 @ 09:15 PM
Most people do not realize that Stonehenge has been "remolded"
FOR decades the official Stonehenge guidebooks have been full of fascinating facts and figures and theories surrounding the world's greatest
What the glossy brochures do not mention, however, is the systematic rebuilding of the 4,000 year old stone circle throughout the 20th Century.
A million visitors a year are awe-struck as they look back in time into another age and marvel at the primitive technology and muscle-power which must
have been employed transporting the huge monoliths and raising them on Salisbury Plain.
They gasp as they are told about this strangely spiritual site . . . . mankind's first computer, its standing stones and precise lintels, lining up
magically and mysteriously with the heavens above and the solstice suns.
But now, as if to head off a potential great archaeological controversy - and following interest displayed by historical researcher Brian Edwards and
the Western Daily Press - the brochures will be rewritten, to include the "forgotten years."
The years when teams of navvies sat aboard the greatest cranes in the British Empire to hoist stones upright; drag leaning trilithons into position,
replace fallen lintels which once sat atop the huge sarsens.
As Mr Edwards - the erstwhile enfant terrible of British archaeology following his revelations that nearby Avebury was a total 20s and 30s rebuild by
marmalade millionaire Alexander Keiller - says:
"What we have been looking at is a 20th Century landscape, which is reminiscent of what Stonehenge MIGHT have been like thousands of years ago.
"It has been created by the heritage industry and is NOT the creation of prehistoric peoples.
"What we saw at the Millennium is less than 50 years old."
In archaeological terms the re-writing of the guidebooks is dynamite.
English Heritage run Stonehenge on behalf of the nation, and an English Heritage insider revealed: "Dark forces were at work in the 70s , when a
decision was taken to drop the information about the restorations. Now that is about to change."
Mr Edwards said: "Let's face it, Stonehenge was historically cleansed. And the true history was hidden away.
"There should be no shame about the series of restorations.
That's what happened . . . and is a fascinating part of the Stonehenge story which should be told.
"I think it is absolutely brilliant that the guidebook is going to be re-drawn. It is a remarkable achievement, and I believe the Western Daily Press
is central to the rethink."
The first restoration of Stonehenge was launched 100 years ago this year.And, in 1901, as the builders went to work, The Times letters column was full
of bucolic missives of complaint.
But the first stage of "restoration" thundered ahead regardless and the style guru of the day, John Ruskin, released the maxim which was to outlive
him . . . ."Restoration is a lie, " he stormed.
Nevertheless the Stonehenge makeover was to gather momentum and more work was carried out in 1919, 1920,1958, 1959 and 1964.
Christopher Chippindale, curator at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and author of Stonehenge Complete, admits:
"Nearly all the stones have been moved in some way and are standing in concrete."
The guide book Stonehenge and Neighbouring Monuments, and the audio tour of the Henge omit any comprehensive mention of the rebuilding in the 20th
Only on page 18 is there a slight reference . . . . "A number of the leaning and fallen stones have been straightened and re-erected."
But even that official guide book does contain clues to the large scale restoration, which was not deemed worth a full entry.
Why does John Constable's 1835 painting of the Henge on pages 18 and 19 look so vastly different from the latter-day pristine photograph across pages
28 and 29?
Reason: A lot of restoration work had taken place in between the two images being recorded.
And, during long hot summers it would be possible - if one could get near to the stones - to see the turf peeling back to reveal the concrete boots
into which the majority of the stones are now set. A dead give-away, but difficult to spot now as proximity to the henge is limited.
During one of the phases of work a Bostonian professor had the temerity to ask a senior member of the restoration team how they knew exactly where to
place the fallen stones. He was sent swiftly on his way with a flea in his ear.
But the siting of the restored stones remains a haunting question.
Our pictures clearly show the rebuilding in progress. Some were discovered by Mr Chippindale and were used in a revised edition of his book. Many of
those have since been lost.
Others were found by Mr Edwards who unearthed guide books from the time when Stonehenge was not ashamed of its past and featured photographs and
stories of the restorations.
But the historic dark ages are over for Stonehenge, said English Heritage's Senior Archaeologist Dave Batchelor, who said the guidebook was to be
revised - and he was the person tasked to do it.
"I first became involved with Stonehenge in 1993. The decision not to cover the work in any detail was taken before my time, " he said.
"The work is a very important part of the history of Stonehenge and when people are told about it they are fascinated. The information was dropped in
the 1970s, but we are moving to remedy that."
"The news is sensational, " said Mr Edwards a doctorate student at the University of the West of England. "Once I realised how much work had been
carried out, I was amazed to discover that practically no-one outside of the henge knew of its reconstruction in the last 100 years. I have always
thought that if people are bothering to make a trip to Stonehenge, from home or abroad, then the least they should expect is a true story."
When we visited the site recently hundreds of visitors from all over the world were pouring into Stonehenge. Some 700,000 visit the world heritage
site every year. Millions more see it from the adjoining roads.
On the Stonehenge bus returning to Salisbury, laden with international tourists, none of the several questioned had any idea that what they had seen
had undergone a complete facelift. They thought it had been standing like that for 4,000 years.
There was another clue to be found in the recently released text book, Seeing History: Public History in Britain Now, which asks:
"And what of the not-so-ancient place Stonehenge? It has not escaped the attentions of the heritage industry: A stone was straightened and set in
concrete in 1901, six further stones in 1919 and 1920, three more in 1959 and four in 1964.
"There was also the excavation of the Altar stone and re-erection of the Trilithon in 1958."
Now English Heritage has a "masterplan" to build a tunnel and put the landscape back to 'how it was'.
The author, Mr Edwards, continues: " Such has been the impact on the landscape that the monuments at Avebury and Stonehenge which future generations
will inherit are neither the creation of prehistoric peoples nor of the communities who have occupied these lands during history.
"The future will instead inherit something constructed by the heritage industry.
"The instigators of the English heritage landscape were essentially amateurs, working by trial and error.
"Yet their landscape is endorsed and promoted as our collective cultural heritage by the custodians of our past who omit the extent of modern
interference and reconstruction from their guides and museum displays."
Elspeth Henderson, spokesperson for English Heritage and Stonehenge, agreed much work had been carried out on the monument which the public was not
But she said English Heritage had been involved in telling the full story in an academic book, Stonehenge: A Monument In Its Landscape. It was also
covered in a more popular publication, Stonehenge - Mysteries of the Stones and Landscape.
"We are fully aware of what is being claimed and you will find it dealt with in the larger books on Stonehenge, " she said. " You are right that
quite a lot of people don't know what went on in the 20th Century.
"I don't think we have deliberately sought not to talk about the reconstruction. It depends what you focus on, and we think most people are
interested in why it was built and the different elements of its development." ]/i]