Building Stonehenge Games and Sets

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henge_5.sizedPhotos from Stonehenge Collectables

For this post we present a couple examples of boxed build-your-own henge sets. The first is called, simply, Henge, and it says it is “a game of sculpture and skill based on prehistoric Stonehenge. The aim is to create a circle or henge of steel blocks using a magnetic wand.

It appears to be a handsome thing and the object, apparently, is to create the equivalent of the complete outer circle of Stonehenge by manipulating those steel bars with that magnetic wand.

The lingering question, of course, is: Then what? But with two sets, of course, you could begin to do something a little more accurate. Please note, it says “Made in England” and then, “Nashville, Tennessee.” This is an intriguing item and we would be curious to see one in the hard copy world.

building stonehenge

The other item here is a more complex educational set made for children. The copy reads, “Create a miniature sunrise with your solar motion compass and chart the stars path with a solar calendar and working sundial.
Materials: Granite clay, printed Stonehenge base plate, solar motion compass, sundial-solar calendar, glue and brush, and an illustrated instruction poster, home oven and flashlight repaired.
” (Perhaps they meant required?)

We don’t know whether this one includes info on the bluestones and the ins and outs of the outer circle, the heel stone, the “altar stone,” the ditch and bank, etc., but a dedicated person could do the research and include all of that (even add some aliens or a Buddha if they wanted!). This seems like a fun thing to play and learn and be creative with. “Chart the sun’s path with a solar calendar.

Either of these could give an adult and a child a fun day thinking about Stonehenge, its form, its possible functions, and who built it. With the first, you could also talk about magnetism. With the other, you could also talk about astronomy. And with either, a creative person could take it further. Score for the first, 4 druids. For the second, 5½ druids.

These are just two examples of hands-on model sets generated by Stonehenge one way or another. That mysterious urge to re-create it comes through in every form and size, with many new conceptions  of the Stonehenge idea yet to emerge. What brings people back to it again and again, recreating the ancient monument in ever newer ways, no two alike? We like to think that this collection we’ve created here at Clonehenge may help to bring us closer to an answer.

If not, at least it brings us to another, equally important question: Aren’t people, well, a little weird? Just sayin’.

Gunma Observatory: Japanese Stonehenge

japanese replica 4photo by Hatsuki NISHIO, with permission

Imagine our chagrin upon visiting The Megalithic Portal to find a replica we’d never heard of gracing its news page! We’d always suspected that Japan must have at least one large permanent replica, but searching in Japanese presented a problem. Well, now we have a Stonehenge from the Land of the Rising Sun, and Mr. Hatsuki Nishio tells us it is not the only one! (How we longed use the title  Samurai Stonehenge! Doesn’t it have a ring to it?)

Gunma Observatory (A Google Translate version of their website can be seen here. We’re thinking the word lithograph in the second part there should be megalith.) appears to be a real observatory with a teaching and a tourist function. It is located near the village of Nakayama in Honshu, Japan.

japanese replica 3The replica itself is interesting, as astronomy-oriented ones often are. The bluestones are missing, and the uprights around the outside vary greatly in width, being very narrow and close together in some sections of the circle, as you can see above, while others are more similar in proportion to those in the original. The curve of the lintels in the inner trilithons is also noteworthy.

Still, we like this replica and its placement at the top of a hill with a view. It doesn’t have the mystical atmosphere thing going for it, but it does say interesting things. As we’ve said before, each replica tells you something about whoever built it–what they see and what they deem worthy of reproducing from the original. Astronomers tend to see a clean, balanced construction meant only to be an observatory when they see Stonehenge.

Score: 8 druids. In this business, size matters. For a look at a different style of Japanese replica, made to be part of a cemetery, scroll down this page.  Not sure when we’ll have the photos we need to do a post on it, but when we do, you’ll be the first to know. Until then, 今はさようなら。 !

A Couple of Museum Replicas

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photo from the website of the Hong Kong Space Museum

We found a couple of partial replicas that should be mentioned, but neither is complete enough, nor do we have good enough pictures, to warrant a full post for each. The one above is in Hong Kong’s Space Museum, part of a demonstration of ancient astronomical history.

The site says it “has a special effects projection of the midsummer sunrise over the Hell [sic] Stone of Stonehenge to gradually recreate the illusion of dawn.” Yes, we know the Hell Stone is a dolmen in Dorset, but who are we to correct such a delicious misspelling?

clock-museumThe second is a trilithon (Yes, we have learnt to spell it properly!) at The National Watch and Clock Museum in Pennsylvania. In this case it is part of their Ancient Timepieces Gallery.  It is rather a handsome thing, from what we can see, but not proportioned accurately to the trilithons at Stonehenge itself.

We’ll give the Hong Kong structure 5 druids for now, and the Pennsylvania trilithon 4. What is interesting is how their juxtaposition underlines the why behind the “surprising” finding archaeologists are always making that this or that ancient or “primitive” culture had a very detailed understanding of the movements of the bodies in the heavens. Astronomy, for millennia, was timekeeping, and every society, even the simplest, had a need for it.

(second photo from the website of the National Watch and Clock Museum)

Circle of Life, Connecticut’s Stonehenge

circle-of-life-sean-kernan

photo by Sean Kernan, reprinted from the NY Times.

Here’s one of the more famous Stonehenge replicas, named The Circle of Life. It even has its own website and a description of its creation process by the man hired to oversee the process.  Conceived by and on the property of Jonathan Rothberg, who hired Darrell Petit to get it done, it is made up of 700 tons of Blue Pearl Fjord granite from Norway and stands in Sachem Head, Connecticut.

The story is that the idea for this Stonehenge replica was born when plans for an astronomical observatory were rejected by the local zoning board. They say this wasn’t revenge exactly . . . *grin* Anyway, it was built very carefully, astronomically correct (costing, of course, a bundle of $$!), and ultimately the fascination with the project itself overtook the  original impulse.

It’s a classic and leaves us in awe, as much at what money and modern technology make possible as of the structure itself. Score: 7½ druids for this one, maybe 8, although there is no inner ring, no great trilithons, no ditch and bank. What really inspires awe in us is the undying impulse to rebuild Stonehenge and the myriad ways it is manifested by the hands of men!

Kansas presents Stonehenge, Jr.: Wichita’s Stonehenge?

wichita-stonehenge

photo by Ingrid Stamatson, with permission [her sweeps site]

Back to the question, What makes a Stonehenge replica? Stonehenge is like the elephant of the old story. One man sees an architectural structure, one sees an ancient temple, one sees megalithic culture, one sees a solar / astronomical calendar, another just sees an emblem of fair England, and each makes his replica according to what he sees, so that one Stonehenge replica may not even resemble another or its parent to outside eyes.

As with Mystical Horizons and the Arctic Henge, this ‘henge’ doesn’t look like Stonehenge: no lintels, no horseshoe, no ditch and bank. Yet, since it has picked up on one aspect of Stonehenge in an original and engaging way and it’s often referred to as Stonehenge, Jr., we think it’s worth a post. Quote from the Roadside America page on it: “On the Equinoxes the rising sun shoots through a large metal eye perched atop one of the stones and illuminates a colored glass stone embedded in the ground.” We understand the solstices are similarly marked. More pix here.

Scoring? Well, we find the complex utterly charming and we would love to have it in our local park. What a great teaching device for children, magical enough to inspire future megaraks*! Still, we can’t ignore its dissimilarities to the real thing. Score: only 5½ druids–but we want one!

* Megarak. A combination of the words megalith and anorak. One who is very interested in megaliths, standing stones, prehistoric stone circles etc.

Mystical Horizons, North Dakota’s Stonehenge

mystical-horizons-3

photo in the public domain

We’ve been working on getting photos of this structure which is named Mystical Horizons and is often billed as a Stonehenge for the 21st century. We have received no answers from the photographers, but finally found this rather nice photo posted on a tourist site and marked clearly “in the public domain.” Thank you, internets! [Sorry, our old links are dead. Here's one given us in a comment by one Gentle Reader.]

The wall by the benches has notches that line up with the standing stones to capture the sun near the horizon on certain crucial days during the year. There is also a star tube for viewing Polaris. This really is a 21st century creation in the sense that it lacks the ponderousness and wonder of Stonehenge and also takes the guesswork out of the viewing process. It seems very user-friendly: stand here, look there. Not in the ancient mysterious style at all!

We’re probably influenced by the beauty of the flat land and the distant horizon, because it isn’t a Stonehenge replica in any real sense–not a lintel in sight!–and yet we’re awarding it a score of 6½ druids. Something about it and its command of the wide horizon musters enough wonder in us to make it seem special. Nicely done!

The Arctic Henge, Iceland

arctichenge

photo from Northsailing News

After a day of holiday family stuff, we finally get to posting the different henge we promised. We sweep almost half way around the world from Antarctica to the Arctic where the nights and not the days are long just now. Let’s talk about a question Clonehenge has been grappling with all along: What makes something a Stonehenge replica?

Is something a Stonehenge replica only if it was meant to be one? Or if people call it one? If it has a trilithon? Or, and this is a type we’ve shied away from so far, if it performs a similar astronomical function, no matter what it looks like? An example of the latter is “Manhattanhenge,” but that one was inadvertent. We’ve found a small genre of structures that do not look like Stonehenge but that were built to do what Stonehenge does, and our post tonight concerns one of those.

arctic-henge5

photos from arctichenge.com

In the far north of Iceland, in an area with a 360 degree open horizon, a unique edifice called the Arctic Henge (see another good page on it here) is being built to mark and catch the sun and other heavenly bodies as they move around the sky. Interweaving science, mythology, geography, and tourism, the project promises to be beautiful, educational, poetic and even transforming, a chance to feel the connection between a point on the surface of our planet and the light-bearing actors in the dramas of the heavens. Will it evoke for moderns what Stonehenge must have evoked for those who visited it at its height?

arctic-henge

There are other structures in this genre–a sunwheel at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst comes to mind, a  grouping in a park in Wichita Kansas, and a project called Kepple Henge that we hope to post later on.

They all look different, but they have purpose in common. Are they Stonehenge replicas? Not in the sense we’ve been using for that term until now, but at winter solstice the resemblance comes to the fore. Like Stonehenge they seem to forge a bond between us as entities of the landscape and the dance of the bodies in the dome above us.

The Arctic Henge doesn’t yet exist, so no druids for it. However, as its builders claim to have 68 dwarfs, they are probably okay with that!

See the beautiful picture of the northern lights over Arctic Henge that NASA posted April 30, 2012.