OK – so what are stone circles for?
I don’t necessarily feel reverential every time I approach one, but often have felt some spiritual connection, which certainly doesn't happen on approaching Spaghetti Junction or the M25. The authors of this book, however, would have us believe that many megaliths were the direction-finding devices of their day. Not only this, but other ancient sites - the kind often used to mark out ley lines, could also be used as part of a larger package.
I can't help but wonder, though, if any useful navigational help, even if it is found to work in practice, is simply an unintended by-product of the astronomical alignments of many megaliths?
Harper and Vered begin by asking how copper and tin (the basic ingredients of bronze) could arrive at a foundry discovered on the outskirts of Birmingham (and dated to about 1,500 BCE) from North Wales and Cornwall respectively.
Being a bit of a geography geek, I decided we should take an imaginary load of tin from Cornwall to this foundry, using Google Maps - which of course does give us the huge advantage of a satellite view of the UK, albeit undermined by the equally huge disadvantage of knowing nothing about any well-trodden trackways existing at this date. Mind you, if someone were making it their business to get tin from Cornwall to the Midlands, I think they would make some effort to discover and memorise the correct route. I assume that as skilled navigators/Bronze Age delivery drivers they would also have sufficient knowledge of the sun, moon and stars to assist.
Now, there was at least one tin mine on the north coast of Cornwall so all we'd have to do is load the tin onto a boat and head out north-east, keeping land in sight (but carefully, this coastline is treacherous!). Eventually we would reach the Bristol Channel, from where we can follow the Severn upstream all the way to Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire; there joining the tributary river Stour and heading through Kidderminster up to Stourbridge.
Here things become a little hazy, as the authors don't give a location for the foundry, (they don't supply much in the way of footnotes or any bibliography at all) but from Stourbridge it is less than fifteen miles from the centre of Birmingham. We don't know exactly where we are going from here, so will have to assume either a smaller tributary river or portage from this point.
The authors dismiss transport by water in a couple of sentences, stating that Britain is not well-favoured with navigable rivers, but in fact the Severn is navigable until a few miles short of Stourbridge and the Stour may well have been so at this time. Plus, of course, the boats would have been quite small and if portage of boat, tin and all was necessary in some sections this doesn't seem an insurmountable problem for the descendents of the megalith builders, whatever the stones were erected for.
So - we made it, without consulting a single megalith along the way. Now all we have to do is figure out how to get the copper here - at least it is mostly "downhill" from North Wales, so we wouldn't need to row so much - and actually make the bronze!
The book has many new ideas, some breathtaking in their ingenuity, others for their hilarity. It is suggested, for example, that Carnac was a central depot where obelisks were stored until needed, which unfortunately just makes me imagine Asterix and his companions in charge of the yard.
Or is this so unfortunate? As I read on, increasingly suspicious that this is in fact a spoof, almost a pastiche of, on the one hand, worthy tomes on megaliths , and on the other some of the more excitable theories out there. Perhaps the whole area is in need of a shake-up and this book hopes to provoke outraged debate among those who take it all terribly seriously. Which may be no bad thing.
I read somewhere, back in the 1970s, that every generation gets the Stonehenge it deserves. Maybe "Megalithia, Inc." gives us the ironic, postmodern Stonehenge of the coming generation. I look forward to enjoying the debates!
"The Megalithic Empire" is published by Nathan Carmody and can be obtained from Amazon - direct, or via the book's website .