by Michael Pitts

Paperback, 2001



Call number




Arrow (2001), Paperback


In November 1997 English Heritage announced the discovery of a vast prehistoric temple in Somerset. The extraordinary wooden rings at Stanton Drew are the most recent and biggest of a series of remarkable discoveries that have transformed the way archaeologists think of the great monuments in the region including Stonehenge and Avebury. The results of these discoveries have not been published outside academic journals and no one has considered the wider implications of these finds. Here Mike Pitts who has worked as an archaeologist at Avebury, and has access to the unpublished English Heritage files, asks what sort of people designed and built these extraordinary structures - the biggest in Britain until the arrival of medieval cathedrals. Using computer reconstructions he shows what they looked like - and asks what they are for. This is the story of the discovery of a lost civilisation that spanned five centuries, a civilisation that now lies mostly beneath the fields of Southern England.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member setnahkt
One of the cover blurbs is "Reads like a ... whodunit." This is not necessarily a good thing. I understand the author is a minor television personality, and it shows. Book chapters have cute titles ("Badly Broken in Transit"; "Some Bits Have Gone Walkabout"; "The Lintels Are All Wonky") and many
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end with "teasers" as if the author was expecting a commercial break.

Still, Hengeworld is not a bad book about Stonehenge and other henge monuments; it's just not a really great one. Stonehenge suffers from same sort of fringe to pseudoscience that afflicts the Great Pyramid; people focus on the details of the monument itself without considering it in the context of the landscape, similar structures, and what's known about the culture(s) that constructed it. Hengeworld partially addresses that problem. There's the ubiquitous plan view that delights the ley-liners and astronomical aligners, but there's also a map of Salisbury Plain that shows just how rich the area was in Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age sites. Stonehenge is just one (admittedly the most impressive one, but still just one) of many henges, barrows, artificial hills, earth embankments, etc. that speckle the area. Hengeworld does a pretty good job of illustrating this. It also provides some titillating gossip about recent (meaning 20th Century) archeology in the area; Pitts does not have a lot of patience with some of the previous excavators and isn't afraid to let us know how he feels. What the book lacks is a discussion of what's known of the daily lives people of the time. The author engages in some unsubstantiated speculation of how Stonehenge might have fit in with eschatology and funerary customs of the time; I would have liked a little more discussion of the way the average Joe and Jane spent their days when they weren't hauling sarsens and bluestones around the countryside.

This book probably would be most useful if coupled with some others: A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland, and Brittany to give you a feel for just how many henge-type monuments exist and where they area; Stonehenge Complete to focus on Stonehenge in particular; and The Age of Stonehenge to get a better feel for life in the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age.
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LibraryThing member dylkit
A little outdated, science has moved on, it even moved on between the first and second edition of the book. But a very good history of archaeology and a synthesis of ideas of Stonehenge and Avebury and other Hengeworld sites


Physical description

368 p.; 7.6 inches


0099278758 / 9780099278757
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