I’ll admit it: the mock documentary This is Spinal Tap made me want to visit Stonehenge. Specifically the line from the song “Stonehenge,” delivered with deadpan idiocy by Christopher Guest, “The Druids! Nobody knows who they were, or… what they were doing.” Who could resist such an enticing summary?
This is actually somewhat accurate about Stonehenge, although supposedly the Druids didn’t really have much to do with it, since the monument pre-dates them. Speculation about what Stonehenge is and what it means abounds, and to be honest I hadn’t heard much about the other henges in the area that some think mean that Stonehenge was a burial ground or religious monument in a larger community. It makes sense, I suppose: it was (and is) aligned with the setting and rising suns of the shortest and longest days of the year, something that in nearby pre-historic burial sites is supposed to be reflective of life after death and the cyclical nature of things. Or something like that.
On a purely structural note, I hadn’t known before visiting Stonehenge that the rock had actually been carved in such a way that the lintel stone would stay fixed to its uprights by means of protrusions and hollows, much like a “mortise and tenon,” according to the audio guide. I would have had no idea what that meant except that I’d been recently looking into timber framing techniques.