Stonehenge’s Better PR
Here’s a nice array of ancient calendar observatories but unfortunately, as usual, for the Hibernian Isles it skips over all the really meaningful stuff and focusses on Stonehenge. I blame Spinal Tap for much of the modern fixation with these stones.
Stonehenge gets all the press but Ireland’s Newgrange (part of the Br na Binne complex) and Scotland’s Stones of Stenness/Maeshowe are older and, IMHO, cooler. Stonehenge’s trilithon arrangement is basically a romantic Victorian anachronism.
It’s humbling to think that hundreds of years before Egypt’s pyramids and a thousand years before the classic Stonehenge, people in the snowy wastes of northern Europe were assembling these huge megaliths. Given the scarce population, limited agricultural technology, and the frigid post-Holocene Climate Optimum conditions, it’s amazing that they both cared so much to invest such resources in their creation and were able to accomplish so much. And we have no really good idea who they were or what they thought. Other than it was critically important to find some way to mark the seasons and to protect that investment. Then again, around 3800 BCE people were building pre-fabricated roads, so there was obviously quite an advanced economy, so I am not surprised that what probably started out as simple wooden devices were eventually elaborated into vast, defensible megaliths and urban complexes.