A few notable interruptions notwithstanding, I’ve spent the last decade or so writing about Stonehenge and judging from the amount of traffic my Eternal Idol site received, as well as from some of the kind words that have been sent my way over the years, many people seem to have derived a lot of pleasure from what I’ve written. Writing original and meaningful material about Stonehenge that appeals to and engages others isn’t an exact science and I’d be the first to admit that some of my posts were wanting to some degree, but regardless of the reception my work’s received, I can honestly say I’ve never been short of things to write about as far as Stonehenge and the people who built it are concerned.
My writing’s been informed by the time I spent living on Salisbury Plain, by my time as an archaeologist, by my countless visits to the ruins and by many other factors that were surely apparent in my posts, but if there’s one single aspect of Stonehenge that’s at the heart of my studies, it is the absolute certainty that the men and women who built it and who conducted their ceremonies there were human beings, just like you and me.
As such, I find it mildly irksome when I read others speaking of “the Mesolithic peoples” or “the Neolithic peoples” with little attempt to think of them as individuals, although I appreciate that this is a difficult undertaking when we consider how little we know of them as a group, let alone as separate human beings with their own identities. Nonetheless, it’s something I always try to bear in mind, so I’ve always found it helpful to read material that examines our humanity, one notable example being the works of William Shakespeare.
The Bard was an unsurpassed master at looking into our faults, our weaknesses, our loves, our ambitions and just about every other aspect of our lives, something that surely goes without saying. However, he was not the only person to possess a profound insight into the lives of ordinary mortals and to be able to convey the fruits of his insight, as I learned long ago when I started to read the works of John Le Carre. A few days ago, while hunting through the depths of my study in an otherwise futile search for a misplaced reference book, I came upon what’s regarded as one of le Carre’s greatest works in the form of the 1986 novel A Perfect Spy, a book I’d read many years ago and enjoyed enormously.
The second time around, I’m once more lost in the 606 pages that are a literary paradise in and of themselves, but they possess the added benefit of reminding me what complex and animated creatures we all are, regardless of the precise nature of whatever face our personalities dictate that we habitually present to the world about us.