It’s three years since we featured Clonehenge, the website about replica Stonehenges – see our article here. Since then the site has gone from strength to strength so we asked its founder, American Nancy Wisser to fill us in with a few details. She did better than that. Here is Part 1 of her fascinating account.
Clonehenge all started because of a running joke on the Megalithic Portal. Andy Burnham and some others were always metaphorically–and probably actually–rolling their eyes whenever a site somewhere was called the Stonehenge of the North or the Russian Stonehenge, Brazilian Stonehenge, etc., as if there were no standing stones in the world but Stonehenge and as if, let’s face it, any other site truly resembles Stonehenge.
Somewhere along the line, just for laughs we started posting links to Stonehenge replicas in a chat dialogue box the Portal used to have on the left hand side of its main page. I think Andy took that down now. We were finding the silliest ones we could, made of the most ridiculous materials, but I began to see how many there were, not only the silly ones (well, the more silly ones–to me at some level every Stonehenge replica is a bit silly), but those built by people taking great pains.
It amused me that although they were all imitations of the same thing, they were all so different, depending on who built them and why. Scientists built them as astronomical observatories. Artists built them as sculptures. Curiously, few were made by pagans. Some people tried to make replicas of Stonehenge as it was thought to have been at its height and some tried to capture the modern state of disarray. There were large ones, small ones, in different proportions and with different ideas of how the stones should be shaped. I was dazzled by the sheer numbers of them and the diversity, plus amused by how each person that made one thought his or hers was the only one or one of the few.
I started saying, there must be a blog about this. When I couldn’t find one, I started saying, someone should do a blog about this. Finally I realised it was going to have to be me. At the time, I believe it was November, I thought it would not last past New Year’s day, posting one or two a day. I just didn’t think there were that many.
But of course I just kept finding them, and as I did, I posted them. I couldn’t stand the thought of a major Stonehenge replica being out there and not being listed on the blog. For some reason I kept thinking of a theoretical child who decided to do a report on Stonehenge replicas and who would count on me to have them all. I did find that when it came to small ones, I could not, for example, post all of the Stonehenge replicas made of beach stones or of cheese. There were just too many. I tried to choose the nicest ones or the ones with the nicest pictures. It was always amusing, though, to see how each builder thought he or she was original and alone in the world.
You can imagine, I soon grew tired of Spinal Tap jokes. People continually thought they were the first to think of them.
And, I don’t know–it went on and on. I favoured the stranger and sillier ones, but I tried to post them all. My personal favourite and the funniest may be the one at Taipei in Taiwan, the interactive Stonehenge street sculpture that detects and speaks to visitors, see below. It is small and white and curvy, sort of like Stonehenge in a larval state. I think it is very funny–so far from the original in every way and yet it has one thing in common with it–it was placed by the authorities to impress and get the attention of the common people. Many of the large ones don’t have that quality–they are not for the public.
[photo from the Taipei Public Art section of the Taiwan government site]
Of course one that gets a lot of visits on the blog is the one at the German spa, Therme Erding. That is because it has the words “mandatory nudity” in it. Amazing what that can do for your numbers. You should try it! Wally Wallington gets a lot of attention, as if he solved all of the mysteries of Stonehenge! I don’t think he ever built more than one trilithon. Carhenge is very popular, and for sale right now. Wiltshire Heritage should consider bringing it over. One thing I love at the large replicas is when people say they are better than the original. I think that is missing the point a bit!
In my opinion, the most under-noticed replica is the one in Odessa, Texas. The other big Texas one, often called Stonehenge II, is very inferior but gets a lot of notice. The Odessa replica is very nicely done, beautiful and impressive. I like to think that I am the only person in the world who can identify every large permanent Stonehenge replica standing today from any tiny thumbnail photograph of it, but from the right angles and in the right light, I can still be tricked by the Odessa henge. I would love to actually see it, but I probably never will, because it is the only reason I would want to visit Texas. I don’t like the heat.