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by Alan S.

Regular readers will know that Heritage Action and the Heritage Journal have their origins in the online community attached to the Modern Antiquarian (TMA). But before TMA there was an earlier site dealing with the ancient monuments left by our remote ancestors – the Megalithic Portal (MP). TMA was born from the book of the same name by Julian Cope, but up until now, the Megalithic Portal has only had an online presence. That has now changed with the publication of “The Old Stones”. We purchased a copy to take a look.

Listing over 1000 sites across Great Britain, it certainly lives up to its strapline “A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland”. Andy Burnham, Founder of the website and Editor of the book, and his team have done a good job of putting this collaborative guide together, using contributions provided by visitors to the website dating back almost 20 years.

Description

There is a glowing foreword by Mike Parker-Pearson, and Introduction by Andy Burnham and a very useful introductory essay by Vicki Cummings which provides a “whistle-stop guide to a range of monuments” found in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain.

Following this beginning section, the bulk of the book takes the form of a gazetteer, interspersed with short articles archaeologists and other well-known contributors to the website. For instance, our own Sandy Gerrard writes about Stone Row monuments, and Joshua Pollard covers the Development of the Avebury Landscape. All of the expected sites are present, along with some surprises along the way. Care has obviously been taken in the selection process.

There is a map for each area of the country with colour coded pages, and each site includes location information with a descriptive paragraph or two. Complex monuments are broken down into their component parts, e.g there is an entry for the Rollright Stones, split into The King Stone, The King’s Men, and the Whispering Knights.

There is a good selection of photographs, all taken from the website and individually credited to the contributors concerned in a comprehensive index section at the back (sadly, none of mine were included).

Conclusions

It’s interesting reading a book where you know or recognise so many of the contributors. The book is extremely colourful and well-compiled, and well worth the money although I have some personal doubts as to its use as a practical ‘field guide’. This is due to its weight and size – I wouldn’t want to be carrying this on an extended walk. The size also brings another potential issue; at 416 pages on good quality full colour paper it is over 1″ thick, and I’m not entirely sure that the binding will stand up to rough usage without pages coming loose. However, a Megalithic Portal smartphone app is also available which can be used ‘on the road’, leaving the heavy tome to be used at home for armchair trip research.

It could have been much heavier! Several categories of monuments included on the website have been deliberately excluded from the book, such as Mesolithic and Iron Age sites, Holy Wells and Springs, Early Christan Crosses etc. Hopefully, this means we’ll be able to look forward to a Volume 2 in the future: “The Old Other Stuff” maybe?

The Old Stones is available direct from the Megalithic Portal Shop now for £27.99+p&p, and will be available from Amazon from September 20th.

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