Stonehenge: What was it?
(originally published in AArchitecture 27)
22 January 2016
Paffard Keatinge-Clay, architect and AA Alumnus of 1949, attempts to understand Stonehenge.
The pages that follow are extracts from my studies toward solving the so-called ‘Mystery of Stonehenge’.
They are torn from a book in preparation, and so appear un-edited.
This is a study that should not be by one man alone. It could be by a group of dedicated students of architecture. Architecture would be a much better base than the excavations of archaeology. I thank AArchitecture for this opportunity of sharing my work.
[caption id="attachment_5070" align="alignleft" width="360"] Top: The remains of the hydraulic ring Middle: The five high-temperature ovens for bronze Bottom: All masonry completed with stones now recycled[/caption]
Technology is the key to the Bronze Age. So what was bronze? How and where was it made? It was and still is made by blending 90% of copper a soft metal, with 10% of tin, another soft metal, but at a very high temperature, 2,000°F, to make the first man-made metal, extremely hard bronze. Before this flint provided the sharp cutting edges for tools and weapons of war, one by one. With the casting of liquid bronze, cutting edges could now be mass produced from one mould. What a leap forward in technology!
Copper could be mined in many places but tin is rare. The best is under the sea between Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. They came from the extreme east of the Mediterranean to mine it. In 3,000 BC Mesopotamia was leading the world in such technology. It had little to do with superstitions and religions.
So what was Stonehenge? It depends on what is meant by that word. Do you mean those big stones, or do you mean the location to which they were hauled? They were all hauled from Avebury.
[caption id="attachment_5068" align="alignnone" width="348"] The Trilithons and Ramps were crushed in later destroying the Bronze Factory[/caption]
Those are all the Stones of Avebury, twenty-five kilometres to the north, but a very small part of the original Mesopotamian Bronze Factory around that site on Salisbury Plain. Such is the base of my hypothesis.
For this ‘Bronze Factory’, high temperature fire and elevated circulating water were essential.
Both functions evolved over many generations, using different materials, sarsen stone, blue stone, timber, lime-stone, and fire-brick according to location, in Mesopotamia, Cornwall, Wales, Avebury and the ‘Site of Stonehenge’.
It was the Marlborough sarsen stone that lasted longer.
On the death of the Emperor Sargon of Mesopotamia, the barbarians rushed into the capital Akkad from all sides and along the overextended Empire as far as Avebury.
Knowing nothing of technology, they grabbed the trilithons from their designated purpose as ‘water-gates’ in the great Avebury moat, to be religious gates to the central treasury at the ‘Site of Stonehenge’.
Crashing these trilithons stones into place destroyed the ‘Bronze Factory’ and its operation forever.
Well, that is my hypothesis as an architect.
[caption id="attachment_5069" align="alignnone" width="348"] None of these stones belong to the Site of Stonehenge, but come from Avebury[/caption]