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We were saddened yesterday to hear of the passing of Aubrey Burl, well-known to many afficionados of our megalithic past. Indeed, it is unlikely that any of our readers will be without at least one of his books in their library.

Arguably the leading authority on British stone circles, his work encompassed megalithic structures on the Atlantic seaboard from the Orkneys in the north, to Brittany in the south. Whilst his work focussed on the astronomical aspects of many of the monuments, he assiduously avoided embracing some of the wilder claims of the archaeo-astronomy community.  Eschewing the idea of ‘observatories’, instead he believed that many of the monuments were associated with, and used for, ritual practices concerning death and fertility.

The various versions of his gazetteers will be considered as standard reference works on the subject for many years to come. He will be sorely missed.

A guest post by Heritage Journal reader Paul:

When new discoveries are made, they sometimes show that a previously held view is wrong and history is then rewritten. This is a healthy and normal process, which enables us to fully understand the past.

The same principle applies to science as otherwise, people would still think that the sun revolves around the earth.

Photo credit: University of Buckingham

When the Stonehenge tunnel was first proposed many years ago, nobody knew about Blick Mead’s significance for understanding how hunter-gatherers evolved into the people who built Stonehenge. And Mike Parker Pearson hadn’t constructed his theory about the western burial grounds “dating to before Stonehenge, the long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is” and “may be related to the one or more stages in the construction and use of Stonehenge”. (These quotes are from his written representation dated 3 Jan 2019)

In their own ways, Blick Mead and the western burial grounds are each Rosetta Stones that will unlock many secrets of Stonehenge…..if they get that opportunity.

Now that we know about the profound importance of them both, English Heritage and National Trust should re-evaluate their views and withdraw support for the tunnel. This is their last chance to go down in history as having done the decent thing…..unless of course they don’t care about them and have a purely selfish agenda.

(PS. We are reasonably sure that they don’t think the sun revolves around the earth.)


April 2020

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