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”.