Stonehenge has fascinated mankind for centuries, enveloping generation after generation in its haunting mystery. But while much has been learned about this ancient monument, the fundamental questions remain: Who built it? What was its purpose? How was it used? Drawing on more than 15 years of research, John North has at last succeeded where others have failed. He comprehensively examines Stonehenge from all available angles -- archeological, astronomical, and spiritual -- and considers relevant research from other prehistoric remains in Britain and Northern Europe. He shows, for the first time, that the stones were not so much sighting devices as maps of the heavens and that the design of the monument evolved over thousands of years rather than conforming to a single original blueprint. Such observations form the basis of deductions about prehistoric life and religion that will profoundly affect our understanding of who we are and where we came from.
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Mysterious Stonehenge has been a magnet for theorists of every stripe for centuries. This new interpretation, by a historian of science (Groningen Univ., the Netherlands), argues that it was both an astronomical observatory and a map of the heavens. Actually, North's net is spread much wider than the title suggests. He begins with a discussion of the structure and orientation of long barrows (or mounds) and ends up examining almost every class of prehistoric megalithic monument on the British Isles as well as some in Western Europe. North has little patience with the idea that the megalith-builders were crude workmen, citing some of the better-preserved monuments that have precise alignments of various points with certain fixed stars. He finds a historical progression from the early long barrows to the later stone avenues and rows, with henges (circular enclosures first made of wood, then stone) the culmination of the tradition. Stonehenge itself evolved over some 2,000 years, and North provides a complete inventory of its components and reconstructs the various stages of its growth. The sight lines through the stone rings are carefully diagrammed, and various astronomical relationships spelled out. Finally, the author brings together his various themes in a discussion of the astronomically based rituals and beliefs he feels we can deduce from the evidence he has compiled. The wealth of detail here, combined with copious diagrams and calculations, is likely to overwhelm the reader who is not familiar (at least through other books) with the monuments under consideration. And while North pays due homage to folklore and other colorful accretions to the subject, his highly technical approach makes this a book many casual antiquarians are more likely to skim than read. An important contribution to the literature of this fascinating subject, then, but more for the specialist than for the common reader. (212 line drawings, 29 photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
North (history and philosophy of science, Gronigen Univ., Netherlands; The Norton History of Astronomy and Cosmology, LJ 7/94) brings his distinguished background in astronomy to this study of Neolithic monuments. His aim is "to discover certain patterns of intellectual and religious behavior through a study of archaeological remains that seem to have been deliberately directed in some way towards phenomena in the heavens." Most of this book is a painstakingly detailed on-site investigation. Judging from the scale of Stonehenge and other monuments that incorporated astronomical alignments, North argues that the heavens played a central place in Neolithic and Bronze Age religion. While this major achievement belongs in all collections on Stonehenge, only the most tenacious general reader will persevere to the end.?Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 2558505