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]

Trilithon flat 2.jpg

trilithon flat 1.jpeg

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

Stonehengineers

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?)
1024px-Stone_Plan
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!

Happy Birthday to Clonehenge: Some Favourite Small Henges

cupcakes and photo by tokyopop, with permission

Clonehenge is one year old today. Happy birthday to us! To celebrate we will list a few of our favourite smaller and/or temporary henges, starting with the celebratory cupcakes above, which we posted back in March. Have one, gentle reader!

Another henge we liked was this cell phonehenge, a creation of the great henging enthusiast Simon W. Burrow. We would have to check, but this may be the only small henge that got 8½ druids. Unfortunately it seems that his photos and brilliant captions for this are no longer on Flickr.

Next we have to put a mention in for the smallest henge, a nanohenge made in Singapore by scientists testing a silicon micromachining process. They made a Stonehenge replica–what else?!

That was one of the first ones we posted–November 24, 2008. Seems like eons ago. It was only a few months ago, in August, that we posted the mosaic fruit jelly henge on the occasion of our 200th post. Made by The Cookie Shop, a blogger in Brazil, it has to be the most colourful and attractive to the eye of all the mini-Stonehenges we posted. Yes, it’s just trilithons, but it’s candy for the eye.

Foodhenges have been among our favourites all along. Certainly baconhenge has been popular with readers. Carol Squires, its creator, and Carin Huber, who first blogged it have made a contribution to the visibility of henging, especially home food henging, on the web. It is among the best known of online henges.

And we can’t forget the Lego Doctor Who! What a great, strange, and twisted concept! The good Doctor encounters the Secret of Stonehenge, courtesy of thegreattotemaster, up there in chilly Iceland.

There are many other great and odd henges to choose from– tamponhenge, packing foamhenge, the charming fairy Stonehenge, and the well-sculpted butterhenge. But our number one temporary homemade henge is Clark Perks amazing full-size Stonehenge replica made of wooden frames covered with plastic garbage bags, built in just a few days at Bennington College in Vermont. The page he wrote about it is worth a click and read. In a way it embodies the spirit of Clonehenge!

And sadly we’ve found many excellent Stonehenge replicas that we haven’t been able to bring to you because we didn’t get photo permissions. Some, like Clotheshenge, were so good that we posted links, but for the most part we just let them lurk on the web for you to stumble upon one day and think of us.

For now, we’re thinking that a year is enough to dedicate to something like this. We will still post when something comes up and we certainly plan to judge and post the Clonehenge contest entries, but we plan to take a break from the long hours of searching for new things to post. We think we’ve made our point–people everywhere are making Stonehenge replicas out of everything.

Why? Maybe someday someone will do a graduate thesis on that and use Clonehenge as a resource. We hope so. People just laugh and shrug it off, but we think there’s something going on here that bears examining.

That said, we’ll part with links to a few nice replicas. First one of the best of the virtual 3-D Stonehenges, a small replica at a small school (scroll down), a toothpaste henge with ghost table cloth, and a smallish Australian gardenhenge that is great and somehow very funny at the same time. It’s the pansies that do it!

There are loads more out there. We’ll still post when someone send a good one in or when we hear of one we think bears mentioning, for example if Ross Smith in Australia ever releases photos of the one he was threatening to make. So let’s toast to a year of Stonehenge replicas. How about some Dom Perignon, Clonehenge-style? Cheers!

Share

Clone Henge / CloneHenge / Clonehenge

We have been considering this for some time and now, at the suggestion of henging expert and advocate Simon Burrow, we have repaired our broken name to match that of Stonehenge. We do not, however, agree that “if there is  a space it is not a henge”. We are inclined to yield to the creative henger full freedom to name his or her creation. When the International Henging Olympics are formed, no doubt the committee will rule on such crucial matters!

Our daily henge will be posted later.