The Double Standards of Petra and Stonehenge

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For around a decade, I regularly wrote lengthy, detailed essays about Stonehenge, but I’m not disposed to do so these days because I’m in the process of recuperating from my recent month-long stay in hospital. All the same, there are still aspects of Stonehenge that regularly catch my eye and there are some occasions where I feel I must at least pass comment, even if I don’t write a long essay that covers every detail of what I’ve seen.

Earlier today, the BBC (among other media outlets) carried a story about an archaeological discovery in the ancient city of Petra, in Jordan. As you’ll see, the headline of the BBC article speaks of a huge monument found “hiding in plain sight”, something I’ll return to shortly, but for now, I’m most interested in something said by Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.

He was quoted as saying that in the course of decades of excavation and study at Petra, someone must have known of the existence of this huge, intricate structure, yet it had not been written up. There is certainly something very strange here, because in all my long experience of archaeology, I’ve learned that archaeologists are falling over themselves to lay credit to any discovery, let alone one of the sheer size, intricacy and exoticism of the structure at Petra, so it’s inevitable that those of us who have learned of this should wonder why no one had previously written up such a stunning discovery.

I suspect that all this will form the basis of mainstream arguments and discussions, because it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder at the reasons for the omission of such a curious monument from the archaeological record. With this in mind, I cannot help being bemused by the apparent lack of interest in an almost identical happening at Stonehenge, which I remarked upon towards the end of my 2009 book The Missing Years of Jesus.

Professor Richard Atkinson started excavating at Stonehenge in 1950 and he was still to be seen digging there as late as 1978 and yet, as Mike Pitts wrote in his superb book Hengeworld, “…over all those years Atkinson analysed and published but a bare fraction of what he dug up.”

Why? What had he seen in the bowels of the most famous and enigmatic prehistoric monument on Earth that he didn’t want to share with others? And why is this subject not of the slightest interest to any of our modern archaeologists, who are so keen so associate themselves with Stonehenge and its mysteries?

Perhaps it’s because there are still innumerable mysteries to be explored and exploited at Stonehenge; despite the fact that the ruins have been so consistently despoiled over the centuries, there are still whole worlds there hiding in plain sight, waiting for the day when someone will point out the obvious to the myriad curious onlookers.

“What I give form to in daylight is only one percent of what I have seen in darkness”.
M.C. Escher.

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5 Responses to The Double Standards of Petra and Stonehenge

  1. Brian says:

    Good to see you writing again, you have regularly been in my thoughts during recent months and I’m sure this very much applies to others too. As for Atkinson, I am not so sure this mystery isn’t more around him than any site in Wiltshire he worked on. He failed to publish on Silbury Hill too, and there was this rather odd departmental distraction he blamed where (I stand to be corrected by his colleagues and students) he got involved with managing the finance of the school and this took up all his time. He had also blamed himself for the BBC pulling out of the Silbury dig, and reading his archive it became evident that he knew (from letters written to him) about the problem with the infill inside the 1776 shaft emptying having been undermined by the 1849 tunnel. His final interview about Stonehenge and Silbury has never been broadcast or published, I have listened to it a couple of times and it seems his life was very complex. I have also heard television professionals and academics that knew him very well defend him passionately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      We can’t turn back the clock, so in a way it’s pointless for me to complain about Atkinson. However, the impression I get from having studied the matter for so long is that a tiny fraction of the public are aware of Atkinson or his rampages at Stonehenge and Silbury Hill. The pagan community and those who support it are roundly derided by the archaeologists and the Establishment for merely wanting the remains of the Ancestors to be returned to Stonehenge and I’m certain there’d be absolute uproar if any pagans and/or metal detectorists were found to be responsible for a tiny fraction of what Atkinson’s guilty of.

      All this aside, Atkinson spent a very long time at Stonehenge, delving into its past, so I don’t buy into the excuses provided for his failure to publish his work and findings, while the tone of contempt – if not hatred – in his voice when he dismissed the builders of Stonehenge so readily as “…practically savages, howling barbarians” is firmly linked to his failure to publish, of that I am certain.

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      • Hope Morrow Glidden says:

        Dear Dennis. I Do Believe what You have to say about Stonehenge, and the Ancients. Like Jesus said many times “those with ears let them hear” If You are open to things of the SPIRIT, You WILL be open to the Wisdom You can receive.I do believe that todays Man has LOST SOOOOOOOOOOOO Very much of Himself, and the world around Him. ( The Celtic Soul)I ‘m sure I have one. Sometimes I feel alone, but perhaps that is what puts Us apart from the world.This is a GOOD thing. Stay Well, Praying for Your complete Wellness. MERRY CHRISTMAS. Hope.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Very good to see you back Dennis.

    Why? What had he seen in the bowels of the most famous and enigmatic prehistoric monument on Earth that he didn’t want to share with others? And why is this subject not of the slightest interest to any of our modern archaeologists, who are so keen so associate themselves with Stonehenge and its mysteries?

    During a lecture on Stonehenge, we were told by a well known archaeologist that he would prefer not to find out what Stonehenge was about on the basis that it would spoil its mystery. He was a really nice chap but, for someone who had spent his life studying the place, it seemed an unusual perspective.

    I wondered what he thought the point of academic archaeology is. Perhaps the greater mystery of places like Stonehenge is why anyone would spend their life investigating something to give answers that they believe should not be answered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • eternalidol says:

      I will be back periodically for the time being, Jonathan, because I still have a very long way to go before I’m fully recovered, but thank you for your kind words, which I appreciate.

      Given just how long Stonehenge goes back – and I’m thinking of its many direct Mesolithic roots – given all the people that went to the place over the millennia and given all the many elements involved in its construction, I don’t think any of us need reasonably worry about its mystery being spoiled by any one revelation. As for the point of academic archaeology, your guess is as good as mine.

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