Interview with a Historian: Stonehenge Replicas Through the Ages (and, a most fabulous object!)

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 3.21.15 PMbrilliant Stonehenge replica built by Brian Edwards and described below

We are finally posting our interview with historian Brian Edwards, Visiting Research Fellow at University of the West of England, Bristol. Even if he were connected with Clonehenge in no other way, the fabulous Stonehenge replica above would cement his fame on this blog! We have never seen one with this level of detail: the bus, the Visitor Centre, the ice cream truck (!), little replicas of replica round houses (we always love little metas!), Stonehenge landscape mounds, and much more, including the bustard we saw when we were hosted at Stonehenge by Mr. Edwards three years ago, and, underneath, the much-dreaded tunnel! This Stonehenge replica is absolutely brilliant.

But there is more to this gentleman than this unique and wonderful replica. He is a historian whose broad area of interest contains within it the phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas and their history—perhaps the only such historian in the world! His article called ‘Mr Toagis’s Stonehenge: An exploration of an uncelebrated benchmark in replica henge monuments to mark the tenth anniversary of Clonehenge’, published in an academic journal, actually mentions us, and once he mentioned Clonehenge on the radio during an interview. Truly a friend of the blog!

That said, we found it advisable, due to the academic style of writing, to append a [tl;dr] at the end of his answer to the first question, for those who find it a bit intimidating. After that, the academic language eases up a bit and you’re on your own. The answers  to questions 2 and 5 are particularly good, but if you are interested in Clonehenge and Stonehenge replicas, do read it all. And at the end we’ve posted a link to that Clonehenge mug you’ve all been meaning to buy. Solstice giving time is approaching!

  1. Clonehenge: What do you do, and how does it tie in with Stonehenge replicas?

I am the author of ‘Mr Toagis’s Stonehenge: An exploration of an uncelebrated benchmark in replica henge monuments to mark the tenth anniversary of Clonehenge’ (The Regional Historian, Annual Journal of the Regional History Centre, New Series No 1, 2018, pp. 26-31). Although not central to what I do, Stonehenge replicas offer entertainingly informative examples that illustrate my focus as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Regional History Centre, at the University of the West of England. My field is public history and historiography in relation to monuments. My research involves highlighting and interpreting contemporary and historical impressions of the past in the public domain, in comparison to what academic and professional historians discuss through learned journals and scholarly tomes. Having in excess of a three hundred year history of expressing consciousness of a prehistoric original, Stonehenge replicas highlight that throughout history monuments have been increasingly adopted, interpreted and reproduced in a variety of forms through layer upon layer of lay public interest irrespective of, and sometimes in contrast to, learned analysis and official sanction. Stonehenge replicas are not just fun, they are an important route through which anyone and everyone can join in. Moreover, as ‘Mr Toagis’ illustrates, replicas and their individual and collective histories offer various routes to studying.

[tl;dr: Part of what he studies is the public’s impressions of historic monuments, including Stonehenge. Also, as we said, he mentioned Clonehenge and it’s 10th anniversary in an article he wrote that was published in an academic journal!]

  1. Clonehenge: What and when was the earliest Stonehenge replica you know of?

It is commonly believed that the earliest known Stonehenge replica was produced in 1714 by the great antiquary William Stukeley (1687- 1765): a model of the stones “as is” that he put on display in London in 1751. Between these times a Stonehenge replica in the form of a stage set appeared in a pantomime, and Stukeley advised on a large scale “as was” replica of Stonehenge that was to be erected in nearby Wilton in Wiltshire. However, the earliest replica is potentially an item of very early eighteenth century jewellery, later recorded as being acquired for a royal collection in Europe. If confirmed, it would predate Stukeley’s model by between seven and twelve years. Even that may not be the earliest example in recorded history, and of course for all that is known a replica may have existed in prehistory.

  1. Clonehenge: When did you first get interested in Stonehenge replicas? When and how did you first learn about Clonehenge?

From memory Clonehenge almost immediately started to feature in conversations, it was topically discussed online by Wiltshire based enthusiasts, so I imagine I was aware through archaeological forum chatter quite early on. My personal introduction probably dates to encounters as a child, but I don’t recall any specific examples before the experience of witnessing the original from the A303. This was a typical stimulating encounter as experienced on journeys to and from the West Country for hundreds of years of course. That first time, in my case as a nine or ten year old, stands out because it fosters interest and makes one alert to other potential opportunities. Around the same time, I inherited an old unused sepia postcard of a Stonehenge model ‘in origin’ (early twentieth century San Bride postcard) that had been used as a bookmark inside a 1950s copy of Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Expedition. This was among several books passed on by a friend of my mother, whose sons had reached adulthood and flown the nest. From the same family I received an ostrich egg, a boomerang, and a pair of Indian clubs.

  1. Clonehenge: How many Stonehenge replicas or models do you own?

Anything Stonehenge or Avebury related that I acquire, I tend to donate to a Wiltshire archive or museum sooner rather than later. The only example of a replica still in my possession is a large glass topped coffee table housing a model of Avebury henge, destined for Wiltshire Heritage Museum at some point.

  1. Clonehenge: How many Stonehenge replicas have you made? Would you describe one? We understand English Heritage is in possession of one that was of your making. How did that come about?

Earlier this year I built a replica from cheese puffs in order to photograph easy to follow stages for a competition. This was in connection with the Stonehenge Chubb Centenary Day, a village celebration of Cecil and Mary Chubb donating Stonehenge to the nation and us all one hundred years ago. Obliged to build a further replica for the same competition, but determined to be disqualified, I chose to make a model that was in excess of the size limit of 300 mm diameter. Supplemented by glue and paint, the materials were nearly all from what had been set aside for recycling. The basic idea started to expand as more and more of the contemporary dynamics that surround the original Stonehenge got included, and it grew into a three-tier construction.

The stones, visitors and official coaches formed the top layer, which also included some examples of the homes of some of the residents living on Byway 12, sometimes referred to as ‘The Drove’. A Great Bustard also features, in homage to the actual bird witnessed by the founder of Clonehenge when visiting Stonehenge. Complete with Perspex entrance kiosks and some of the replica huts seen at the actual site, the middle layer was a model of the visitor centre made from medicine boxes and water damaged cocktail sticks. The bottom layer included a replica of the Winterbourne Stoke barrow group, the other flanks featured the visitor centre car and coach parks, and on a corner a Speed-watch volunteer stood amidst road signage of the nearby village of Shrewton, the birthplace of Sir Cecil Chubb.

This section also included the proposed introduction of an A303 road tunnel, posed as a mock battle between skeletons and traffic within the World Heritage site. This idea of a tug-o-war between awakening skellies and the tunnel was prompted in particular by local traffic activists summarising contemporary traffic woes as the ‘living versus the dead’: this was the theme of a paper I presented at a post-medieval archaeology conference earlier in the year (“Slogans coined, songs written, rumours circulated,” … the withdrawal of post-medieval Stonehenge?) and is the basis of a forthcoming publication (The Living and the Dead: Public Engagement with Archaeology and the A303 at Stonehenge).

  1. Clonehenge: Are there any particular things you like to see in a Stonehenge replica? Of those made by others, do you have any favourites?

Outside of competitions and such as predetermined school projects I am not keen on fixed rules, lest any sort of regulation would chicane imagination.  Whilst broadly following a trend a replica doesn’t have to contain anything specific and doesn’t have to resemble the original, it merely requires thought and where possible an original idea or element. In my opinion it is counterproductive to adopt a stiff view about accuracy: to do so even in passing in connection with a painting or a model of Stonehenge, isn’t in the best interests of encouragement and so is not doing our collective experience, and therefore knowledge and understanding, any favours.

Among those of us tending to appreciate anything built in replication and model form, there is always an added element of admiration for anything created by lay individuals, with domestic, mundane and recycled materials, and of course by children. Of those smaller versions I have seen Doe-henge (created for the Stonehenge Chubb Centenary Day) was particularly inspired, but surely we all love the cakes and relate to the food-henges. As regards a full size Stonehenge, my favourite replica is the original, it is not after all a time-honoured ruin but reconstructed with available parts and propped up with concrete.

  1. Clonehenge: What thoughts do you have about the worldwide phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas and the fact that so many people spontaneously make Stonehenges? What do you think it says about public perceptions of Stonehenge?

The worldwide phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas illustrates the extent to which people are not only fascinated by the mysteries posed by the original, but seek to join in and enjoy developing tactile ways of experimenting. What this says to me about public perceptions of Stonehenge, is that those that care for and manage the original have no chance whatsoever of keeping up with public ideas, trends and demands, so expensively fixing on and committing to any given interpretation or presentation will inevitably find it outmoded and frustrating to elements of the wider public by the time it is enacted.

  1. Clonehenge: Are there any further points you would like to make in connection with Stonehenge or the replicas? Do you expect them to become more popular in the future?

There will be replicas as long as there are schools and museums that recognise that every new generation can benefit from a fun way of engaging with the prehistoric original.

******

There you have it, friends—Stonehenge replicas, Clonehenges, if you will, will be always with us, so as long as we at Clonehenge live forever—and we have every reason to believe that we will—there will always be a Clonehenge blog here, mostly not being posted to. We certainly have many new henges to post, and more are appearing all the time. We have at least three more Large Permanent Replicas to do posts about, so we hope to post more soon. To see frequent henges in the meantime, follow us on Twitter and the Facebook Group and/or Page to see more that are popping up everywhere all the time!

As promised, here is the link to where you can buy a Clonehenge mug, a unique gift for your megalith-loving friends!

(If anyone in the UK would prefer the silver-tone rimmed enamel mugs below, much like the ones we gave to friends and people we admire in the UK, leave a message in the comments or email us at nancy@clonehenge.com. They are £10.10 per mug, shipping included. Shipping costs make it impractical to sell that model outside Europe.)

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And so, until next time, Gentle Readers, we wish you happy Halloween*, joyous Samhain, and of course, happy henging!

*Send us your Stonehenge pumpkins!

Clonehenge Mugs! You Gotta Have One!

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Clonehenge mug. Oh yes, Gentle Readers!

It has happened. As you knew it would. You knew that we were luring you in, posting without any attempt to get your money for almost ten years, just to give you a false sense of security. And now that you have taken the bait, we are setting the hook with this unimaginably deluxe item: an ordinary white mug with a poorly-designed Clonehenge-ish logo on it and a tacky clonehenge.com printed along the bottom! Feel you must have one? Click on this.

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Another glorious view!

It isn’t as if we have thought this through. We make so little on each mug that we are actually completely indifferent as to whether or not you buy one. The advert copy reads:

Not only are they overpriced, but once you receive them they turn out to just be more stuff you have to deal with!

Still, you never know. Our original run, which looked a little different, ended up in the hands of luminaries like Simon Banton, Andy Burnham of the Megalithic Portal, Pete Glastonbury, David Dawson of the Wiltshire Museum, Nigel Swift of the Heritage Journal, and Stonehenge scholar Michael Parker Pearson!* Now you, like them, can own a Clonehenge mug! And wonder, as they no doubt have, where on Earth to put it once you have it. Convinced? The mugs, as we said, are available at this link.

So there you go. We have done a post about a thing that has our logo on it and is being sold. Apparently, judging by the sales site, which offers other items with our logo automatically, you can also buy phone skins that, since phones are too narrow for the whole logo, just say ONEHEN! Even Michael Parker Pearson doesn’t have one of those! (Perfect for that person who has only a single chicken! 🐓)
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Buy, buy, buy! Spend, spend, spend! Or don’t. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But until next time, friends, when we will post something more in keeping with our usual nonsense, we wish you happy henging!

*Because we gave them to them for free.

Transatlantic Coalition of Stonehenge Experts Builds Stonehenge with Toy Blocks!

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Simon Banton and Neil Wiseman ponder their remake of Stonehenge. Photo by Andy Burns.

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Actual plan of Stonehenge to compare

We know it for ourselves: these grey blocks are irresistible. Off in one corner of the wonderful Wiltshire Museum which displays, among many wonderful things, a collection called Gold from the Time of Stonehenge, there is a children’s section that includes rectangular grey blocks and a round green base to build on. What possibilities! The very sight of it casts a spell of inevitability on any true henger.

 

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Neil Wiseman admiring his handiwork at the Wiltshire Museum. Photo by Simon Banton.

Enter, from stage left, two Stonehenge experts and over-qualified hengers: Mr. Simon Banton, introduced to our readers a few posts ago and whose blog includes a page for each stone at Stonehenge, and Mr. Neil Wiseman, author of the book Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos: A New Look at the Oldest Mystery in the World. The two gentlemen assert that they did not actually visit the museum solely to make a Stonehenge replica, but the same siren song of the grey blocks that sang to us during our visit three years ago lured them to the children’s section. The result was both extraordinary and, in a way, hilarious—hilarious, we mean, by virtue of the contrast between the simplicity of those grey children’s blocks and the level of expertise Wiseman and Banton brought to bear on them.

You may compare their accomplishment with the aerial view of Stonehenge we have provided for that purpose. Within the limitations of the medium, this is probably the best Stonehenge replica possible. If we were still handing out Druid scores for henges, we would have to give this one 9 Druids. And yes, as the cognoscenti might remind us, Druids had nothing to do with the building of Stonehenge, but it is so much a part of public perceptions of the monument that it amuses us to use it as our metric.

Of course, we hasten to say that we do not expect this kind of precision from the common henger. It is, however, not cheating to actually look at a picture of Stonehenge before you build. You, too, can beat the dreaded Circle of Trilithons Syndrome!

Addendum: pertinent to our previous post about Stonehenge Centenary Day, below is a picture of Mr. Tim Daw (of the first modern long barrow, and the resting concrete trilithon we’ve mentioned here in the past) at that event* and rather dapperly dressed for it, putting together a wooden Stonehenge he made for English Heritage. It is a lovely thing, in the category of replicas that show Stonehenge as it is thought to have looked at its height. Note the diagram at the lower left, being used as a guide.

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Photo by Brian Edwards.

If these people who know Stonehenge so well and have spent time there are compelled to build their own, how then are the rest of us to resist the imperative? Give in. Make henges and be happy!

Until next time, friends, we wish you happy henging!

*We hope to post some pictures of henges from the henging contest at the centenary event at some future date.

 

The Stonehenge Perspective on Henging, Part 2: Simon Banton, Continued

Simon Banton and a rook at an undisclosed location, photo by Wendy Pallesen or perhaps Carol Druce

“…there’s something about the trilithon form that aches with antiquity and latent symbolism.”

Here is the second half of our interview with Stonehenge man Simon Banton.

5) Why do you think so many people continue to make Stonehenges of all sizes and materials all over the world?

The act of creation lies deep within most of us, and creating a clonehenge seems to foster a deep sense of satisfaction. It has the huge advantage of being instantly recognisable, so no special talent is required. I can’t draw for toffee, but you were kind enough to feature my Etch-a-Sketched clonehenge [see previous post] even though it was 2D. There’s also the growing awareness that there’s a community of clonehengers, and I guess a desire to belong to this elite club must factor in somewhere.

[Editor’s note: You, too, can belong to an elite club!]

6) Why do you think Stonehenge models and replicas so often wind up being an assemblage of trilithons rather than being more like Stonehenge? Why is the trilithon such a powerful and memorable symbol?

That is a very significant question. There’s no doubt that “two uprights and one horizontal” is immediately Stonehenge and it’s been a famous icon in the public’s attention for at least 300 years now. From the standalone pylons of Egyptian temples, through the Temple of the Sun at Tiwanaku to the Greek letter PI [Editor’s note: one could add the Japanese Torii gate and Tonga’s Ha’amonga’a Maui Trilithon.] there’s something about the trilithon form that aches with antiquity and latent symbolism.

Perhaps it’s the “doorways upon doorways” meme that Henry of Huntingdon came up with in the early 12th Century AD [Editor’s note: English scholar Henry of Huntington wrote in 1130, describing Stonehenge as a place “where stones of an amazing size are set up in the manner of doorways, so that one door seems to be set upon another. Nor can anyone guess by what means so many stones were raised so high, or why they were built there.”]  that’s the root of it for our culture, or maybe Spinal Tap have had a fundamental impact on humanity that will echo down the ages.

I also think that the idea of a continuous “ring beam” [Editor: Simon is using the term “ring beam” here to refer to the continuous circle of curved lintels that is thought to have topped the upright sarsens of Stonehenge’s outer circle.] doesn’t figure in many people’s consciousness, so they end up doing a ring of separate trilithons instead.

7) Is there anything you would like to say about Stonehenge replicas? Do you have any stories connected with one that you would like to share?

More full size ones please! I realise that’s a big ask, but perhaps it’s something for an ice sculpture festival to tackle. I’ve had a small involvement with one full size trilithon replica with my friends Tim Daw and Julian Richards. Julian’s an archaeologist and Stonehenge obsessive. Back in the 1990s he made a TV documentary called “Secrets of Lost Empires” where he and a team of engineers and volunteers attempted—successfully —to erect two 40 ton concrete uprights and a 10 ton lintel as a replica of the tallest trilithon that ever stood at Stonehenge.

After the programme, the components were dismantled and stored on a nearby military base, in a car park, until a few years ago when the army rang him up and asked if he wanted them back as they were getting in the way of their tanks. Julian asked me if I knew anyone who had some land where they might be moved to, and perhaps re-erected in a new project—and I immediately thought of Tim.

Tim’s a visionary. He built the first new “long barrow”, as a columbarium, in 5,500 years and has spawned an industry of modern barrow-makers as a result. [see Clonehenge’s post on the Long Barrow at All Cannings here] He jumped at the chance and these large lumps of concrete were low-loaded from the military base to Tim’s farm, where they await the attention of an intrepid bunch of Stonehengineers. [see Clonehenge’s post about the rediscovery and moving to Tim’s farm of the pieces of the concrete trilithon here]

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photos of the parts of the concrete trilithon at rest on Cannings Cross Farm

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Stonehengineers, those who helped erect the concrete trilithon the first time

8) Is there anything you think more people should know about Stonehenge itself?

Everyone who’s interested in the astronomy of the site should read Gordon Freeman’s “Hidden Stonehenge”—not least because he is one of the few archaeoastronomer researchers who actually spent considerable time on-site observing and photographing at key points in the year, over many years. He identified a secondary solstitial axis that runs from Winter Sunrise to Summer Sunset and explains why the Altar Stone is (a) flat on the ground and (b) at 80° to the primary axis. I helped Gordon confirm some of his observation data and had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago.

More generally, the most recent research is suggesting that the society responsible for Stonehenge’s construction was almost completely eradicated by an incoming population from the Continent in the early Bronze Age. If this is true, then we have—in Britain—no direct ancestral connection to the builders of it. That’s something of a shock, as Stonehenge is a touchstone of British identity. The argument about the DNA evidence from early Beaker graves that suggests this is likely to get quite heated.

9) Do you have any advice for hengers?

If you’re going for realism, don’t forget the Heel Stone, the Slaughter Stone, the Station Stones and the Altar Stone. Note that the central trilithons increase in height towards the southwest and they’re all taller than the sarsen circle that surrounds them. If you’re going to include figures in the middle, make them archaeologists having a fight and—above all—think BIG and have fun! (Hengers, take heed!)

10) Do you have any advice for Clonehenge itself?

Frankly, I don’t think it could be any better. [!!!] Except, maybe—Clonehenge merchandise? I feel the need to make a Clonehenge out of Clonehenge coffee mugs—or is that too much like meta-henging?

[Editor: Not at all. Plus, meta-henging is a good thing! 😉 We will be working to make Clonehenge mugs and perhaps eventually other merchandise available from print-on-demand sites in both in the UK and the States, so that neither place will have to pay exorbitant postal fees, hopefully some time in the near future.]

Thank you very much, Simon! Thus ends our two-part interview with the illustrious Stonehenge devotee. We hope you have enjoyed it and perhaps learned something! You can find the first part of the interview here. We should note with gratitude that upon the occasion of our visit to Stonehenge in 2015, Simon went out of his way to meet us there and give us a calendar with his own photos of Stonehenge. We were quite honoured!

Gentle Readers: Do you have questions about Stonehenge or about Stonehenge replicas in any form? If you have a question that is in any way connected to our topic, get in touch on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a comment below, and we will answer or get in touch with someone who can answer your questions. We will also consider requests for posts on related topics.

And of course, until next time, friends, happy henging!

The Stonehenge Perspective on Henging, Part 1: Introducing Simon Banton!

Above: Simon Banton at that famous pile of rocks:

You can notice a lot of subtleties about Stonehenge if you spend 6 years looking at it from all angles in all weathers and lighting conditions.”

It may seem to go without saying that the idea of Stonehenge replicas is inextricably tied to Stonehenge, but we’ve been thinking it needs a little more talking about. What do all these Stonehenge replicas look like to people who are actually familiar with Stonehenge?

Well, a peculiar outcome of doing Clonehenge over the years has been the unexpected pleasure of getting to know a number of people who are connected with Stonehenge in one manner or another. Those people have made us aware of aspects of Stonehenge and its landscape that we knew nothing of before we began this blog and our life of folly. That, in turn, has changed what we see and look for in Stonehenge replicas.img_0552

It is in this context we would like to introduce to you Mr. Simon Banton. A few readers may remember him as the fellow who when he found himself at a pub that had children’s toys, made and sent us some Clonehenge art on an Etch-A-Sketch (How do we love this? Let us count the ways!).

But there is a great deal more to him than that, as the photo at the top suggests. He is good natured and deeply knowledgable and has two blogs, The Stones of Stonehenge, with a page devoted to each stone at Stonehenge, and Stonehenge Monument, with information about Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape of the World Heritage Site. We asked him for an interview, and to our delight he agreed. The result is remarkable, if a bit technical in places. We intended to post only a short edit of the interview, but it is so full of information and good thoughts, stories, and ideas that we’ve decided to post most of it, split into two parts, with helpful (we hope) commentary, links, and photos added.

A note to start, because this will come up:

As some will know, there is a commonly agreed-upon numbering system for the stones at Stonehenge. For example, this trilithon, originally part of the outer circle so it would have supported the ends of two more lintels, shows upright stones 4 and 5 plus the lintel, which is 105.
4 5 105(Just ignore the show-off bustard. Apparently bird tourists are permitted inside the circle of the ditch and bank, unlike the rest of us that day. Not fair, but as they say, what is?)
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Stonehenge numbered stone plan by Author ©Anthony Johnson 2008

The plan on the right, showing numbers for each stone, is linked to a larger version. And now, the first part of our interview with Simon:

1) First, for the reader, what has been your involvement with Stonehenge over the years? I understand you worked there. For how long and in what capacity?

I first saw Stonehenge when I went to the very last Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984, before the authorities clamped down on it at the infamous Battle of the Beanfield of 1985 (Google it and watch the YouTube vids). Being in and around the monument had a profound effect on me, at the time I was only 19 years old.

When, in 2000, English Heritage, the Police and Wiltshire Council did away with the 3 mile radius exclusion zone that had been in place at Summer Solstice ever since 1985, I felt compelled to go along to that first “Managed Open Access” event to get back inside the stone circle. That, too, was a transformative experience. It poured with rain all night long and 5000 people were thoroughly soaked by the time dawn arrived, with no sign of the Sunrise.

I’d developed a keen interest in archaeoastronomy in the mid-1990s (I’ve been an amateur astronomer since I was 9 years old) and I was actively researching Egyptian sky-mythology. Stonehenge was the next logical step. By 2010 I’d moved to within 3 miles of Stonehenge and I became an Education Volunteer for English Heritage… Within a couple of months this turned into a job as a member of the Visitor Operations Team, standing on the path next to the stones and getting paid for telling people about the place. I did this for 6 years and loved it – it gave me unprecedented levels of access to the stone circle and allowed me to carry out my own research. You can notice a lot of subtleties about Stonehenge if you spend 6 years looking at it from all angles in all weathers and lighting conditions.

2) How many Stonehenge models or replicas do you own, if any?

I have a bronzed resin cast model of Stones 4, 5 and 105 that is 8″ high and mounted on a plinth that reads “It’s smaller than I imagined”. I helped a local firm with their project to Stonehenge modelcreate these casts as souvenirs to sell in their shop in Amesbury and they gave me a prototype as a thank you. Stone 5 is the one with the large yellow lichen “DI” lettering that’s visible on its eastern face, a remnant of the RADIO CAROLINE graffiti from the 1960s.

I’ve also got a 1′ high x 2′ wide beaten metal and weld sculptural picture of the monument, done by my friend Michelle Topps of Horseshoes4Hounds (https://www.facebook.com/horseshoes4hounds). Both are utterly unique – I don’t go for snowglobes and the like!
Stonehenge weld picture

[Editor’s note: This is Quite a Nice Thing! Also—a reminder to our readers that opinions of  an interviewee are not necessarily the opinions of the interviewer. We love snowglobes and it’s not too late to send us one!]

3) How many ‘clonehenges’ have you made, if any, and what were the materials?

I’ve done one out of bricks (hasn’t everyone?) Teahengebut these bricks were the ones that used to line the edge of the visitor path around the monument, and I acquired them when they were torn up as part of the refurbishing of the path back in 2013. I did once make a trilithon out of snow, which is a whole lot trickier than you’d think, and then there was the 5-minute “boxes-of-herbal-tea-henge”, which was a joint effort with other members of the Stonehenge staff when management somewhat over-ordered one day 🙂

4) What do you find amusing, irritating, or remarkable about Stonehenge models or replicas you’ve seen? Do any in particular stand out, whether as good, bad, funny, or impressive? Do you have a favourite?

I’m always amused by the lengths people will go to to henge things – but I feel vaguely sad when no attempt is made to make something recognisably close to the original in any way. There’s more to a good clonehenge than that.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 9.31.48 AMIt also irritates me when the models that English Heritage sell have glaring errors. Don’t get me started on the large models in the exhibition at the Visitor Centre – the Station Stones are so out of whack that “rectangle” is the last word you’d use to describe their arrangement! They also forgot to include the Altar Stone when the models were first made, and when they did finally add them in, they glued them down at 90° to the primary solstitial axis instead of the correct 80° – that really grinds my gears, because the 80° angle is fundamental to the design of the monument. [Editor’s note: The plan above and to the left shows the rectangle formed by the Station Stones at Stonehenge. The rectangle formed by these stones is considered important by some because, along with the alignments of these and other stones, it may be part of the reason Stonehenge was built where it is.]

29570597_10155564264413022_4968747390063919463_nThe most impressive has got to be Deller’s “Sacrilege” [Editor: the famous inflatable Stonehenge that toured a few years ago. In this we do not disagree!]. Even though it doesn’t have all the stones, it has just enough of them, done accurately enough that it’s unmistakably close to the real thing. And it’s enormous fun to bounce on. [Editor: On the left, or above, depending on the device you’re using to see this, is a photo of Deller’s bouncy Stonehenge with Simon on the right and English Heritage archaeologist Dave Field on the left. Photo by and with permission of the fabulous Pete Glastonbury.]

My favourite is the one at Esperance, Australia. Although I’ve not seen it in person, I love that it’s a close replica made of actual stone and that it’s correctly rotated 180° from the prototype [Editor: because of its location in the Southern Hemisphere]. It’ll last as long as the original and baffle future archaeologists. •

We end the first part of our interview with Simon Banton here. There’s plenty of information to digest. His opinions about why so many people make Stonehenges, what he would like to see in them, and other advice for hengers, as well as a little advice for Clonehenge itself, are ahead in the next part of the interview. Be sure to tune in!

And until next time, of course, happy henging!

Clonehenge Goes to Stonehenge: Investigating the Source of the Plague!

Stonehenge—Warning: NOT A REPLICA!

(Warning: this is NOT A REPLICA !) Stonehenge photo by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission. 

Well, the word is out, so we may as well say it here: the entire staff of Clonehenge.com is headed for the UK and, against the justifiable objections of everyone at English Heritage (probably), will be visiting Stonehenge itself in early June!

Despite the well-known dangers of brain infection that we have documented here on this blog for many years, we have decided that, for the sake of the future of mankind and, indeed, of the entire planet and all of its living things, it is nothing short of our duty to investigate the source of the contagion that is spreading little Stonehenges across the globe. So on an undisclosed day in the next few weeks, we will don our hazmat suits, or possibly a mack and Wellies, and approach the dreaded structure that so many foolish and unsuspecting tourists willingly view in the course of a year.

Thank you. Thank you. Yes, we deserve that thundering applause for our courage and self-sacrifice, but of course we are far too modest to admit it! We are, it is true, still awaiting our funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as our funding from the World Health Organisation, but we’re certain they will come through.

Miniature Stonehenge Model in a Tin, as sold at the Visitor Centre

Miniature Stonehenge Model in a Tin, as sold at the Visitor Centre

While there we hope to investigate stories we’ve heard of numerous Stonehenge replicas, large and small, sold at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, including a particularly close inspection of certain chocolate trilithons of which we have been hearing ominous rumours!

Stonehenge of chocolate trilithons by @SchPrehistory on Twitter

Stonehenge of chocolate trilithons by @SchPrehistory on Twitter

Is it possible that EH or certain shadowy figures associated with the World Heritage Site are complicit in the plot to cover the earth with bad Stonehenge replicas by bringing in millions of tourists to contaminate their minds and then have them take home contagious gifts to families and friends? To find out the truth, we will stop at nothing, even including eating chocolate! It is a tough assignment, but we reluctantly and humbly accept it.

While in the environs, we hope to see other Stonehenge replicas and possibly Avebury and Silbury replicas, too. And the real ones as well. We will report back to our vast but quiet (very very quiet, but we know you’re out there! You are, aren’t you?) fandom.

So wish us luck in our hazardous endeavour. If you never hear from us again, well, you may assume we’re just being as lazy as always!

Until next time, gentle readers, happy henging!

They Nicked Our Name, But It’s Worth It: Achill Henge on the Radio!

Just a picture of their page–but click through for the audio

This week we were alerted to an Irish radio documentary about Achill Henge, one name for an, some say, illegal construction on an island off Ireland, as our regular readers know. We have been yammering on and about Achill (pronounced ACK-il, not AY-chill) Henge since its inception, and while we respect the rights of people to decide what is to be permitted on their common land, we will be a bit sad if and when the builder, one Joe McNamara, has to take it down.

Meanwhile, here is a link to this brilliant radio documentary, brilliantly entitled Clonehenge ! And no, we do not say we like it solely because everything sounds better and smarter when said in an Irish accent (as we were told on our mothers’ knee). Or because anything about a Stonehenge replica is more interesting to us than anything that is not about a Stonehenge replica. Well, maybe a bit. Of each.

Still, how could we not like it when there’s this conversation:

“I’ve been to Stonehenge and it didn’t impress me. But this impressed me.” You’re only saying that ’cause you’re Irish. Absolutely! If Stonehenge was up the road, you’d be sayin’ it’s great. Yes, I would.” Laughter.

It also brings up some points worth mentioning. McNamara was stopped before he ever got to complete Achill Henge. No one knows what was meant to go in the center or if there was more to it. We may never know. *we sigh and make puppy eyes at the planning board*

Also it mentions the archaeo-acoustic research that was done at Maryhill, Washington replica, saying that the Maryhill replica is a bit rough, or something to that effect. We agree and have often thought that archaeo-acoustic research at Maryhill can hardly be relevant to the acoustics at the real Stonehenge–the “stones” at the Washington replica are so differently shaped, proportioned, and textured, and of course of a completely different material. Don’t all of those factors affect acoustics? Did those researchers just want funding to visit the Pacific Northwest?*

But best of all, unlike this post, the radio documentary is quite entertaining and leaves one with a smile. And there is a lovely gallery of pictures to click through, which we would have nicked and posted here if we knew how. Our thanks to its creator, Ronan Kelly. If we could, we would hire him to be on the Clonehenge, the Series, the one where we visit a Stonehenge replica per week, discuss it and interview visitors. No, we don’t have all of the details worked out just yet. Or the funding. But it is real n our minds and that’s what counts!

And, hey, Joe McNamara, we salute you. Don’t stop now! Until next time, friends, happy henging!

* So do we! But free tickets to visit Achill Henge will be even more eagerly accepted!

P.S.: We have relearned how to spell “nicked” after aliens abducted us and removed the spelling from our memory. Someone ought to do something about those pesky things!