National Geographic : 2008 Oct
LETTERS June 2008 Secrets of Stonehenge I have climbed the ruins of Coba's great pyramid and surveyed Teotihuacan from atop the Pyramid of the Sun, and I have seen up close several of Europe's and America's acclaimed cathe drals. But none can compare, in my eyes, to the grandeur of Stonehenge sitting in the midst of the Salisbury Plain when first viewed from the highway coming out of London. Afar and nearby, Stonehenge is breathtaking and awe inspiring in a way that only natural wonders can approach, not the least because this structure represents an unprecedented use of intellec tual, economic, and physical wherewithal by a minimal, out-of-the-way population. The essence of humanity our strivings and aspirations, perhaps even our fears-lies manifest in those stones. CHRISTOPHER C. TEW Greensboro, North Carolina I believe that anybody involved in heavy construction before the 20th century would have recognized Stonehenge's "avenue" as an ice road. Before the advent of heavy trucks, it NATIONAL GEOGF I PHIC SECRETS OF Stonehen e 4 was common practice when something really heavy had to be moved. Workers prepared a level, banked road or even a canal, built a sled under the item to be moved, waited for cold weather, flooded the road and let it freeze, and dragged the sled on the ice. It was a lot of preparation and waiting, but well worth it when you consider the lack of options. JACK ARMSTRONG West Chester, Pennsylvania It's unlikely that the Stonehenge avenue could have been used as an ice road, since the rolling terrain between Stonehenge and the river would prevent any water flooding the area from freezing flat. In my mind's eye, I see Stone henge as a roofed structure with beams resting between the lower, outer sarsens and the taller ones within, creating a flattened conical roof. The inner sarsen horseshoe shape would leave an open skylight facing the avenue that marks the pathway of the rising sun of the summer solstice. I can imagine a beam of light cast through this opening into the darkness of the enclosed area to strike some sacred image at the first light of summer. JOHN E.RIESKE Ostrander, Ohio It has always troubled me how little, if any, attention is given to the possibility that Stonehenge might be a sports complex. Throughout history man has dedicated time and resources to at least three types of construction. Man will build edifices for the purposes of religion. He will build defensive structures. But he will also put 8 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * OCTOBER 2008 his efforts into sports arenas: witness the Colosseum in Rome, the various hippo dromes, the Maya ball courts, and today's monstrous stadi ums and ball parks. There are stone circles throughout Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Could it be possible that these are the local arenas for whatever game might have been played at Stonehenge? Could Stonehenge be the site of a prehistoric World Series, and the dozens of other prehistoric stone circles the arenas of local teams in a prehistoric bush league? P.O.ABBOTT Pueblo, Colorado My wife and I have bicycled to Stonehenge twice. Seeing it as you cycle up over the surrounding hills is, to me, the most impressive view. The morning light hitting it makes Stonehenge seem to float above the plain. But I wanted to share an epiphany I had the last time we visited. We were camping just east of Avebury and its large series of standing stones. The idea stems from my respect for evolutionary psychology and my observation of human behavior-including my own. Stonehenge, if understood more obliquely, was ultimately built to impress the girls. GIL McFARLANE Ventura, California Contact Us Email firstname.lastname@example.org Write National Geographic Magazine, PO Box 98199, Washington, DC 20090-8199. Include name, address, and daytime telephone. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.