University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Great Riddles in Archaeology: Merlin's Magic Circles


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Film Description:December 7, 2011
Timothy Darvill

Stonehenge in central southern England is known the world over as an iconic symbol of Europe's prehistoric past. In this lecture Professor Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University, UK, will show that while Stonehenge's origins as a ceremonial monument were conventional enough its later history was exceptional. Key to the transformation was the arrival of about 80 pillars of Bluestone rock brought a distance of around 250km from the Preseli Hills of southwest Wales to Salisbury Plain. But why were these stones important? And what did they mean to Neolithic people? Using archaeological evidence from Stonehenge itself and from recent work in the Preseli Hills, and folklore and oral tradition dating back to the 13th century AD, a new picture of Stonehenge is emerging in which the stones themselves can be seen to have perceived magical properties connected with healing. Their re-use in later and ever more elaborate structures at Stonehenge show something of their power and significance and illustrate how the landscape of the Preseli Hills is constructed in microcosm at Stonehenge. People were attracted to the area from continental Europe, and what started out as a local focus became a celebrated place for prehistoric pilgrimage.
Video Category:Lecture
Video Date:12/07/2011
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