Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Extract: The Mysteries of Stonehenge

Here is a short extract from the introduction of a new book called The Mysteries of Stonehenge by Nikolai Tolstoy. I have been sent a review copy, but when I explained that I might not have time to read it for a while, the publisher kindly gave me permission to put an extract on my blog to give people an idea of what the book is about - and I must say it does look interesting:
This book is only tangentially concerned with the archaeology of Stonehenge, a perennially fascinating topic of universal interest, which has of late undergone extensive reinterpretation in light of continuing fresh discoveries. These have largely resulted from excavations at the site and its vicinity, conducted over the years 2003 to 2009 by the Stonehenge Riverside Project, under the supervision of Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, now at the University College of London Institute of Archaeology. In Chapter Two, I summarize the state of archaeological knowledge as it stands at the time of writing.
My exploration of the essential meaning of Stonehenge follows a distinct path from that of the archaeologists, and if nothing else possesses the quality of being almost entirely novel. Over long years of study, I have become increasingly persuaded that an extensive body of knowledge relevant to understanding of the numinous purpose and functions of the monument, traces of which I shall argue being chiefly preserved in mediaeval Welsh and Irish texts, has been largely overlooked in the context. These records in turn are illuminated by explorations in comparative mythology, folklore studies, and the lore of early cultures analogous in varying degree to those of early Britain and Ireland.
My intention is to demonstrate that discoveries may be effected through the medium of early literatures and comparative religion, which may prove as revealing in their way as those grounded in analysis of artefacts. At the same time, the present work is emphatically not intended to compete with archaeological researches, which constitute the fundamental basis for understanding the great monument on Salisbury Plain. Rather, I hope to complement and extend them in hitherto unexplored directions.
The Mysteries of Stonehenge is published by Amberley and can be ordered via Amazon.

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