Clonehenge, the Interview

We found ourselves wishing there were a good interview of us out there. So we figured, why not just write one. Here it is.

People everywhere are building Stonehenge replicas, models, and sculptures. From a grand sculpture based on Stonehenge in Spain built to commemorate those killed by pro-Franko forces to a Dubhenge, trilithons of Volkswagens at a festival; from crystal henges that light up from within to Stonehenge minigolf; from Icehenge in Alaska to little private Stonehenges made for love; and from cheesehenge to chocolatehenge to baconhenge, everybody’s doing it with anything they can get their hands on. And the Clonehenge blog is trying to keep track.

Interviewer: How long have you been doing the Clonehenge blog?

Clonehenge: I started about 10 months ago, thinking it would last a month or at most a month and a half, at the rate of one or two replicas a day.

I: When do you think you’ll run out of Stonehenge replicas to post?

C: Never. This past week was a great example. Two of the henges I posted, the strawhenge and the styrofoamhenge, were made new this week. These things are actually being created too fast for me to keep up.

I: Why is that?

C: Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Why are people building Stonehenge replicas in such numbers? What is it about the form that has gotten into people’s heads? This is such a persistent form in people’s minds that at one point I realised that anything that exists in a roughly rectangular 3D form will already have been made into a Stonehenge replica or at least a trilithon and–and here’s the important annex to the phenomenon–posted on the internet.

I: Really?

C: For example, while we’ve been talking, I googled fish henge, and not only did I fnd a photoshopped image of Stonehenge with fish for lintels but I also found a small stone trilithon in a fish tank.

I: But fish aren’t rectangular.

C: Hence the small number of results. But try googling boxhenge or butterhenge, or for that matter cakehenge or candyhenge, then hit image search and see what you get. On second thought, don’t search candyhenge. Because of a quirk of the blog and the search engine, you may just get pages of images from Clonehenge.

I: Replica building is that common?

C: Yes. But the interesting thing is that it doesn’t seem to be due to imitation on most people’s parts, and by that I mean not imitation of other people building replicas, although of course Spinal Tap figures into a few. The impulse arises spontaneously. They seem to have no idea that so many other people are building similar things.

I. At least they didn’t until you came along.

C: Right. For many people, their first inkling that it’s a more common phenomenon than they knew is when they get that email from Clonehenge asking permission to post their photos. Often they’re very surprised.

I: What do you look for in a postable replica?

C: Well, I like to post a variety. I try not to post too many museum replicas or foodhenges in a week, for example, or too many small or large ones together, although it has happened when things were tight, in other words, when I don’t have a lot of henges lined up. I also like to post examples from all over the world. I’ve posted replicas from every continent, although I still don’t have permanent ones in Antarctica or South America. I still hope someday to have one from the International Space Station.

I: You seem to use the words replica and henge interchangeably.

C: It’s a trade-off. Replica is more accurate, but henge is shorter and just sounds cooler. They aren’t really henges, though, and I like people to know that I know that. I started using it because that’s what people call them when they build them. It’s nearly always snowhenge or carhenge or tamponhenge. It’s the obvious way to go. The fellow who did the fridge one in New Mexico tried to get people to call it stonefridge, but mostly people referred to it as fridgehenge.

I: So how did you get started with this, anyway?

C: It was through the megalith website The Megalithic Portal. I’d been involved there and shared the owner’s combination of humour and frustration about gratuitous references to Stonehenge in the media. Every time an ancient site is discovered anywhere it’s likely to be called the Stonehenge of Brazil or the Stonehenge of Russia, etc., even though there are hundreds of other stone circles in Great Britain alone. And the thing is, no other stone circle resembles Stonehenge, because of the lintels. It’s unique. But for some reason the idea of Stonehenge is burned into the Zeitgeist. It’s as if it hired the greatest PR firm of all time. A firm that otherwise only worked for the female naked body, Jesus, the pyramids and the Easter Island heads.

I: That’s a pretty impressive line-up.

C: Oh, and cats. They definitely did cats, too. Anyway, as a joke, I started looking up thing-henges and posting links to them on the Portal. But once I started searching, it was like falling down a rabbit hole. I expected to find maybe five or ten and instead it just seemed to go on and on.

At first I said, there should be a blog about this. Then, there has to already be a blog about this. But there wasn’t, and then in one of those moments like when someone opens a secret door in a fantasy story and decides to go in and close it behind them, I said, I guess I’ll have to do a blog about this.

I: Have you considered stopping?

C: About 5 months into it I nearly did. I thought I had pretty much done them all. By that point I’d realised that I wasn’t going to post all the ones I found, just examples of each kind. There’s no point in posting every beach stone-henge, for example, or every blockhenge a parent makes. I’m sure most of them aren’t online anyway. So I slowed down, thinking I would go on to other things.

I: What brought you back?

C: At about that time my friend the ancient-sites photographer Pete Glastonbury in Wiltshire thought that Clonehenge would be a good way to document Stonehenge and Avebury replicas and models that could be found in museums and private collections there. He began to take pictures and send them to me. Meanwhile, links to Clonehenge were posted in a few places and I didn’t want first-time visitors to think it was just about museums after all the fun we’d had at the beginning, so I began searching again. Plus, slowly people started sending in links and pictures.

I: People making henges especially for Clonehenge?

C: You would be surprised. That’s still very rare. I thought it would be more like that when I started. I saw how I Can Has Cheezburger and Cute Overload are supplied with photos by their readers and that’s what I envisioned. They were actually what I tried to model the site on, trying to make it entertaining in order to get regular readers other than those who are close to the topic of ancient sites.

But Stonehenge replicas still don’t have the allure of cute cats. I’d like to make a statement about that if I may.

I: Go ahead.

C: Friends, Stonehenge replicas do not require expensive food, do not shed hair all over your furniture, irritate your allergies, walk on your keyboard, require a litter box, or vomit on your rug. There. I’ve said it. As a cat owner, I might add.

I: You talk about cats, but if anything there seems to be a dog bias on your site.

C: It does seem that way. From the start I happened to find more dog and puppy-related replicas. I honestly don’t know why. Except Bonehenge, of course. That was a truly gifted labrador.

I: Well, time is almost up on this interview and I would like to get back to the topic of why people build these things in such numbers. Do you care to speculate?

C: I wonder about it, but it’s hard to say really, beyond the obvious speculation that it’s a Close Encounters of the Third Kind sort of phenomenon and the aliens are going to meet us in Wiltshire. Which would surprise no one, by the way.

But it’s interesting to note that scientists are among the most common builders of Stonehenges. And little Stonehenge replica kits are popular among computer people. The most prominent collector of Stonehenge collectables is also a web guy. I’m a bit of a geek myself, having spent my younger years obsessed with Star Trek and Lord of the Rings.

To be serious for a moment, I think it’s psychological and these kinds of fascinations go together. As we see our culture become fixated on crop circles and aliens and Templar Knights and all kinds of mysteries, Stonehenge is bound to get attention. I understand that there’s a TV movie coming out called Stonehenge Apocalypse, which fills me with total horror and at the same time a sort of ironic joy. It must horrify archaeologists, but this is part of what I love about people.

I: What’s that?

C: Their insistence on believing that there’s more to the world than they’re told and that no system of religion or science is adequate to explain how things really work in their lives. I think they’re right, there’s a mystery at the heart of everything.

I: You agree with conspiracy theorists?

C: Not the negative stuff, no. But to believe that the world is greater and more mysterious than you’ve been told–greater and more mysterious even than we’re capable of understanding–and that we should always be watching for clues to discover new corners and possibilities, that to me is the basis for a happy life, even under mundane circumstances. And that’s what more people need. If building Stonehenge replicas helps to bring a reminder of that mystery into their lives, then I’ll be glad to keep blogging on Clonehenge forever.

I: Thank you and Good luck.

C: Happy henging!

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