Stonehenge – new revelations review

Hands up how many of you have been to Stonehenge? Sadly, I’ve never quite made it. It’s on The List (TM), although there’s so much controversy about nearby roads that I’ve often wondered if I’d be disappointed when I got there. Thankfully, there are always plenty of TV programmes about it to fall back on, including one on Channel 5 last night.

This stretched to a marathon one hour and thirty five minutes and I couldn’t manage the whole thing – but the hour-plus I saw contained some amazing new discoveries.

Chief amongst these was a vast array of pits cut into the chalk a short distance from the main circle at Stonehenge. At first archaeologists put these down to sinkholes – a natural feature caused by water washing away the soft chalk rock. But further investigation showed that they were too regular for that, and when they were all plotted they formed a distinct arc, perhaps even a circle, around another nearby prehistoric feature – the henge monument known as Durrington Walls.

Historians already knew that this contained hut circles dating from prehistoric times – and not just a handful, but hundreds. However, the huts didn’t seem to have been lived in full time, but came into their own at the winter solstice, when they appear to have been used for hunting, feasting and general merry-making – and might well have supplied the labour to build the nearby Stonehenge.

This was the point I had to go to bed, which was frustrating as there was another half hour of revelations to go. Although the programme was fascinating, and contained a lot of new evidence that I’d genuinely never seen about before, it was very repetitive, with far too many overblown questions along the lines of ‘but what does it all mean?’. Cut those out and you’d have had a standard hour-long programme that I could easily have watched in one go. The programme’s blurb also made it sound as though the pit circle was around Stonehenge, which was a little misleading.

These gripes aside, it was a fascinating look at the evidence of prehistoric settlement that continues to pour out of the sites on Salisbury Plain.

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