Stonehenge just a lot bigger, and even more interesting

In technical terms, this seems pretty freaking cool:

Researchers uncovered 17 new chapels and hundreds of archaeological features around the neolithic standing stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, including forms of monuments that have never been seen before.

Brought together for the first time in a digital map of the historic site, the discoveries transform how archaeologists view a landscape that was reshaped by generations for hundreds of years after the first stones were erected around 3100BC.

More here from the BBC.

Among the most interesting finds is a large barrow or burial mound and another henge of massive stones that is apparently much larger than the visible Stonehenge. The findings are the culmination of a years long effort using high tech digital mapping and ground penetrating radar. A lot of the new finds seem to share Stonehenge’s connection to the movement of the sun, which I assume suggests that the site had been seen as a sacred place by the people living in the area for while before Stonehenge was erected, though I gather archeologists already knew that. This presumably reinforces the mystery of the site; as far as I know nobody has figured out why Stonehenge itself was erected, let alone why this one site was so important to people over a period of centuries or even millennia.

I have a very personal interest in Stonehenge because it took me two separate visits to London before I got to see it, and because I kind of screwed my future wife over in the process.

We took a trip together to London when we were dating; she was there partly for work but I was tagging along to do some sightseeing. Stonehenge, along with Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, was on the list of places that she absolutely wanted to see while we were there, but she wasn’t going to be able to do any sightseeing until the end of the trip. So I did my own thing for a few days and covered the area pretty well — the British Museum, Dover Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, lots of other old churches, you get the idea. Then when she was free we spent a day seeing stuff in London (Westminster and the Tower, mostly), and planned to visit Stonehenge the day before we were flying out, which by chance happened to be June 20.

Well, newbies like us didn’t realize that every June 20th, Stonehenge closes early to let the pagans get their Summer Solstice worship on; they stay out there overnight and come back the next day. By the time we lolled ourselves out of bed and onto the train to Stonehenge, the site was already filled to capacity and we had to turn around and go back to London, defeated. This stuck in my craw, because I hate to be beaten while I’m traveling. It’s only really happened one other time, in Greece when the national museum in Athens was closed for renovations while we were there, and to this day I’m hell-bent on going back to Greece just to see that damn museum. Anyway, we were leaving the next day, so we were SOL. My future wife and I promised each other that we would come back and see Stonehenge together someday.

Which promise I broke the first chance I got, so I could avenge my defeat. The reason we were able to take this trip in the first place (or the trip to Greece, for that matter) was because we were both working in Qatar at the time. My contract to work there was running out before hers, and I was planning to come back to the states and go to grad school. I decided on my way back to ask my company’s travel folks to route my flight through Europe and spend a couple of weeks hopping around the continent. I was planning to see Rome, Florence, Paris, and then Dublin before flying to London to catch my flight home. I can’t remember where I was when I decided to cut Dublin short a day so that I could fly to London and have a day to see Stonehenge, but anyway I did it, and I felt bad, but not that bad, you know? And we’re married now, so my wife couldn’t have been that mad at me for seeing Stonehenge without her (and, in my defense, she later had another chance to see Stonehenge with me and decided to pass, though in her defense it was because she was sick). Since things all worked out I can say it was definitely worth it, because Stonehenge is awesome. You can really feel the prestige of the place, if that makes any sense. I’ll be very interested to see what comes of these new finds.

Yeah, cool

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