Saturday, 20 June 2009

Bernard Cornwell: Stonehenge

What is it? So many people visit Stonehenge and come away asking just that question. Was it built by the ancient Greeks? By little green men visiting Wiltshire in UFO's? Was it a Druid temple? (No, no and no). But it was a temple, and it was built by the folk who lived on what is now Salisbury Plain four or five thousand years ago. Very often history can't give us the answers to our questions - we simply do not know who built Stonehenge, or why, or what religion was practised there. We will probably never know because there were no written records, so we can only make what we hope are intelligent guesses, and historical novelists are as well placed to do that as historians. So this book is my guess, and a story of love, rivalry, treachery and a great mysterious temple.

Suggestions for Further Reading.
A note from the author: There is a vast literature on Stonehenge, much of it lunatic, but these few books are eminently sane. So, no Druids, no little green men, no ancient Greeks and, alas, no Red Indians (yes, there was an 'enthusiast' who proposed that Native Americans had crossed the Atlantic to build Stonehenge and I really regret that his theory is false, otherwise we could have built a first rate casino on the site). These are all good books, none goes wildly beyond the evidence and all are worth reading

Book Title: THE STONEHENGE PEOPLE, Life and Death at the World's Greatest Stone Cirle
Author: Aubrey Burl
Aubrey Burl is the great expert on prehistoric monuments and any of his books are worth reading. This book, as its title suggests, looks at the people who erected the stones and explores their lives

Book Title: THE STONEHENGE PEOPLE, An Exploration of Life in Neolithic Britain, 4700-2000BC
Author: Rodney Castledon
This book covers much of the same area as Burl's book of the same name, but I've included it because Rodney Castledon is one of the few people who writes sanely about Stonehenge, and this book, like his The Making of Stonehenge , is well worth reading. I found both books very useful.

Book Title: STONEHENGE, Neolithic Man and the Cosmos
Author: John North
This was one of my main sources for the novel and it is thought-provoking, comprehensive and sometimes quite difficult - especially if, like me, you are not a natural mathematician. Professor North reconstructs a whole religious belief system from the monuments of the neolithic age and offers a credible answer to Stonehenge's oldest question - what is it?

Book Title: STONEHENGE, Mysteries of the Stones and Landscape
Author: David Souden
This is by far the best general book on the monument - beautifully illustrated and tackling just about all the major questions; how it was raised, when it was built, what it was. If you have to possess just one book on Stonehenge (other than my novel), this is the one

Author: Christopher Chippindale
Almost everything you ever wanted to know about Stonehenge. This is an entertaining romp through the history of how folk have interpreted Stonehenge. All the nutcases are here, but marshalled very sensibly by a sympathetic interpreter. A lovely book.

Author: Julian Richards
This book is part of an impressive series published by English Heritage that looks at the major archaeological and architectural sites in England. It is beautifully illustrated

Author: Aubrey Burl
Avebury is only twenty-three miles from Stonehenge and, for some people, is an even more astonishing monument. In the novel Avebury is called Cathallo and this well-illustrated book is a comprehensive and very accessible account of the extraordinary stones, ditch and bank that comprises Avebury. It also has some exceedingly sensible things to say about the why and how of such monuments.

Book Title: AVEBURY
Author: Caroline Malone
This is part of the same series published by English Heritage and is also beautifully illustrated.

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