21 November 2017
Author: Francis Pryor
Publisher: Pegasus Books
ISBN number: 978-1681776408
Perched solidly on the chalk uplands of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, the megaliths of Stonehenge have become both an icon of prehistoric Britain and a contemporary tourist attraction. In this book, prominent archaeologist Francis Pryor examines the possible motivations behind the creation of this ancient structure. His central argument is that we need to examine Stonehenge within its ritual landscape setting. As such, Pryor's book is a rigorous account of the nature and history of Stonehenge that explores how archaeologists, historians, writers, artists, heritage organisations and even neopagans have interpreted the site over the centuries.
What distinguishes this work from other studies, however, is that Pryor also draws on findings from some of the latest research undertaken on Stonehenge, such as the Stonehenge Riverside Project (organised by Mike Parker Pearson from University College London). Although Stonehenge is not usually thought of as a 'riverside' site, Pearson's project hypothesised that its link to the River Avon via the Avenue, together with the presence upstream of the monument complex of Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, highlighted a stretch of river that could have had significance as a funerary and processional route in the Later Neolithic Era.
These new interpretations of the monument were developed by analysing Stonehenge's chronological and spatial relationships with other monuments and features within the surrounding landscape. The resulting integrated programme of landscape study and excavation explored the local and regional context, dating key phases, and providing new perspectives on prehistoric Britain. As such Pryor takes the reader on an exciting, detailed and fascinating journey of the history of this famous monument whilst also focusing on the story of the Wiltshire landscape itself.
Whilst Pryor is not an expert on Stonehenge itself, his specialism in ritualistic sites from the Bronze and Iron Ages means that he has a real gift for seeing the landscape as Neolithic societies would have done. He explores the age-old question as to why Stonehenge was built through a wider examination of Neolithic peoples and their social and religious motivations. The author does not offer any simplistic or definitive answers, but does invite the reader to think more deeply about Stonehenge's creation and purpose, not merely as a monument in isolation but as part of a greater complex of monuments within a wider landscape of human activities.
It's a fascinating idea that means it is easy to become invested in this informative, succinct and well-illustrated book. I'd recommend it to readers with a general interest in prehistoric archaeology and also those with a particular interest in latest research and new perspectives on Stonehenge and its meaning. Robyn Stephens