Is Stonehenge dead?

There’s been some discussion recently about whether Stonehenge is dead, not to mention abandoned, and whether it’s worth visiting.

IIRC most scholars currently believe Stonehenge was abandoned as a result of climate change altering population distributions. This might imply that whatever was powerful there once might still be so. I’d be interested in being put right on this point if anyone is more engaged with the archaeology literature than I am.

I am not so sure that there isn’t some purpose behind the authorities’ treatment of Stonehenge. Certainly it’s a political flash-point and a place where different visions of what British life could be come into conflict. It’s undeniable that the British state deployed a great deal of power there in the 80s — a policy that has been dramatically and over-archingly reversed. John Michell’s pamphlet on Stonehenge makes a good backgrounder on the political and spiritual issues at work. I’d also recommend the chapter on Stonehenge in CJ Stone’s Fierce Dancing.

I’ve heard a lot of pagans over the years say Stonehenge is dead. However, it didn’t feel that way to me in 1988 when I along with thousands of others had to run 12 miles from the stones pursued by police horses and helicopters after the solstitial sunrise. It felt pretty lively at the time.

Nevertheless I’d have to agree that the Avebury complex feels more engaging and is arguably more important. I don’t agree that the impact of roads on Avebury and Stonehenge are equivalent. Avebury’s do bisect the circle complex(es) it’s true, but they are mediaeval or older — a bit different from an A-road destroying vast swathes of ritual landscape.

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