Stonehenge as a woodland site

The stones at Stonehenge may have been placed in a woodland glade, as in the above photomontage

The stones at Stonehenge may have been placed in a woodland glade, as in the above photomontage

If Stonehenge was built in a woodland clearing, this photomontage gives an impression of how it might have looked, more like Japan’s sacred rocks (iwakura) in a sacred place ( niwa) in a forest  than like the ‘English Acropolis’ Stonehenge was once conceived to have been.

Stonehenge was made at the height of the Neolithic forest clearance which converted England from a forest land to a partly-agricultural land. Clearings symbolized the presence and the work of man. There are no records of Neolithic vegetation cover on Salisbury Plain but it ‘must’ (as bad historians say) have been part-open and part-woodland. The photomontage shows that the Stones in the Henge would have looked beautiful  in a woodland clearing, as would the Cursus and the Avenues. The Stonehenge Riverside Landscape Project, led by Mike Parker Pearson, has emphasised the fact that the henge was not an isolated  ‘monument’ in the sense that war memorials are isolated monuments. Stonehenge was a complex feature in one of the earliest man-made landscapes in North Europe. It was, one might say, a context-sensitive design!

6 thoughts on “Stonehenge as a woodland site

  1. Christine

    Yes. The Japanese do ‘minor’ stonehenge’s well! []

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    The visual comparison is interesting but the Japanese stones were probably symbolic mountains and the Stonehenge stones, in Mike Parker Pearson’s view, were more likely to have been stone memorials.

  3. Christine

    Interesting thought.

    Here are some old gravestones at Ichijoji Temple (the 26th pilgrimage temple)on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.[]See also the tombs at Kegon-ji is the 33rd and final temple.

    Japan traces it Zen Buddhist tradition back to an Indian monk who introduced Zenn Buddhism into China.(See Katsuo-ji the 23rd temple and the 25th temple Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Hyogo).

    Nariaiji Temple (the 27th pilgrimage temple)has a an incredible land bridge…

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    The Buddha said that he did not want a tomb but that his followers could put a mound over the place where he was buried – which was an old Asian tradition. This is the origin of the stupa. But the Japanese developed the idea of using statues of the Buddha much as angels are used in Christian burial grounds.

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    Mike Parker Pearson’s comment on the photomontage is ‘It’s a nice idea but our pollen and snails evidence show that Stonehenge was built in a treeless Salisbury Plain (whose higher ground had probably never re-forested since the Ice Age)’. I thank him.
    [See also: Mike Parker Pearson, ‘Materializing Stonehenge’ Journal of Material Culture, Vol. 11, No. 1-2, 227-261 (2006)]

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    I obviously can’t take issue with Mike Parker Pearson on the archaeological evidence but there are several landscape considerations which make me reluctant to delete the above photomontage: (1) the soils around Stonehenge would have been much more fertile if they had been cleared of woodland before being cultivated (2) Parker Pearson presents the evidence for large numbers of pigs having been killed in the Stonehenge area – and the pig is a woodland animal (3) the henge, the cursus and the avenues would have worked much better visually in a woodland setting.
    So I will have to wait for contrary archaeological evidence to be discovered. This is a common pattern in landscape archaeology!


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