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“Breaking treaties” is in the news. We’re against it, especially at Stonehenge. Here’s one reason.

Back in 2012 we reported laser scans suggested some areas had once been made to show off the solstices by scrubbing their surfaces so they would “gleam in the midwinter sun“. It made us wonder how easily polishing could be done so we tried it on a piece of sarsen using a bit of flint and some salt. Sure enough it produced a glass-like surface that truly “gleams” in the sun, especially after rain.

So yes, the winter solstice spectacle could easily have been enhanced:


Plus, could polishing of other parts have happened in a way that could be seen from a distance? Was a “Stonehenge Gleam” once visible? If it was, then hiding the stones from travelers by burying the road (and breaking our World Heritage Convention pledge to protect and present the sites for this and future generations) would involve an even greater loss than has been thought.

The possibility of such a gleam could be shown by experimental archaeology but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to be allowed. At least, not until English Heritage’s lucrative monopoly on seeing the stones at all is safely established!


September 2020

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