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Stonehenge - A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument Hardcover – May 4, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With unprecedented access to the World Historical Site’s 26.6 square kilometers, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, which Parker Pearson headed (2003–2009), opened 45 archaeological excavations and used technologies like carbon dating, thermal imaging, DNA analysis, and GPS to produce breakthroughs in our understanding of the monolithic circle that attracts nearly a million tourists a year. The project’s signal accomplishment may be defining context. It positions Stonehenge as part of a complex of Neolithic sites that served quite different purposes and establishes with greater precision a widely (if not universally) accepted time line of five construction stages (3000–1520 BC). A place for honoring the dead, Stonehenge may also, the book suggests, have been a monument of unification, a place where natives and immigrants from Wales and Europe came together as one community. Stonehenge grew less important to the people of the Salisbury Plain, Parker Pearson suggests, because “labouring for the ancestors gave way to labouring for the living”; and monuments, like Stonehenge, honoring the deaths of the community’s elite were replaced by round barrows where a family could honor its own deceased. --Mary Carroll

Review

“[Stonehenge—A New Understanding] will prove immensely rewarding to any student of the subject”
Publishers Weekly

“Because the author cites dozens of digs and scientific analyses—many of which lead to various interpretations—this is a difficult book to summarize without risking oversimplification. Fortunately, Pearson writes in an accessible, easy-to-follow style and provides an array of helpful diagrams,reconstruction sketches, and photographs.”
Foreword Reviews

“Renowned archaeologist Pearson presents the findings of the most ambitious and scientifically informed investigation of Stonehenge thus far . . . The most authoritative, important book on Stonehenge to date.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred

“A solid, comprehensive introduction to this important World Heritage Site, showing how an immense archaeological project is conducted from beginning to conclusion. Recommended to all interested readers.”
Library Journal

“This is brilliantly written scholarship. The book combines old ideas about the circle with the unexpected revelations of today. It is a triumph.”
Aubrey Burl, author of A Brief History of Stonehenge and seven other books on prehistoric stone circles

“From 2003 to 2009, the archaeologist Mike Pearson led the Stonehenge Riverside Project. . . . His book is a detailed account of that archaeological survey, expressed in a genial style that invigorates the story of the groundwork.”
Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)

“The book describes one of the outstanding archaeological projects of recent years. It is accessible, original, carefully researched and important. But, above all, it is exciting.”
Richard Bradley, Reading University

“Parker Pearson has collated [all the research findings], accessibly, in his book.”
The Guardian
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The Experiment; Reprint edition (May 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615190791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615190799
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Lawrence VINE VOICE on May 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'd recommend reading Chapter 19 ("The New Sequence for Stonehenge") first. The book jumps around a lot and that chapter can function as a guide to keep your bearings.

Second, sit near a computer (or have an iPad/whatever handy) so you can Google unfamiliar archeological/geological terms. Like many an expert, the professor sometimes forgets that his readers don't necessarily see these terms every day.

Other than that, I did enjoy this. I'd seen the BBC documentaries and read about the author's research elsewhere, but all that was superficial - this deep dive was appreciated.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a scholarly rather than a popular work and therefore it's somewhat dry and plodding for the average reader.

Modern archeology has nothing in common with the swashbuckling imagery of mysterious and exciting artifacts in faraway places a la Indiana Jones. It's more about meticulous documentation of tiny contextual details of a site, analysis of soil anomalies and the like.

As this is a thoroughly modern book about excavations in the vicinity of Stonehenge, the reader is treated to all manner of archeological minutiae. For instance we learn how the activity of earthworms impacts the location of rocks in a site, "When we look at a soil profile that has not been disturbed by plowing for many centuries, we can see the effects of worm-sorting because the stones and pebbles lie at the bottom, beneath a layer of fine earth".

Nevertheless, there are some colorful snippets. As an example, here's how the author introduces his colleague John Evans: "I'd know John Evans in his later years, when he was a professor of environmental archeology. He became the leading specialist in land mollusks - "snail Evans" to distinguish him from lots of other archeological Evanses - and was one of those people who's interested in everything. He'd had some difficult years when alcohol almost got the better of him, yet his mind was razor sharp and you never knew what he was going to say next".

OK, maybe a touch of Indiana here.

But in the balance, I found the 350 pages of this book tough going. For the average reader there's just too much arcane musing about the characteristics of various post holes and similar matters.

If you're a scientist - enjoy. Otherwise, you may want to avoid.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lance M. Foster VINE VOICE on July 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you watched the two TV documentaries on Stonehenge called "Stonehenge Decoded" (National Geographic Channel) and "Nova: Secrets of Stonehenge" (NOVA) and were intrigued and want to learn more, then this the book you need to get. It was written by the same archaeologist who was interviewed in both of those documentaries, Mike Parker Pearson.

Although the book has a lot of text, 358 pages plus lots of notes and an index, it is also an engaging read and is profusely illustrated (60 b/w photos and illustrations, and 16 pages of color photographs). Basically, Stonehenge is not made by some alien civilization nor is it a remnant of Atlantis, and it was not some isolated mysterious monument. Built over thousands of years in different stages during the Mesolithic and Neolithic, it was part of not only a larger landscape that surrounded it, it was connected to sites and cultures belonging to mainland Europe. An excellent, landmark work on one of the most famous landmarks in the world! If you only have one book on Stonehenge, this is the one to get.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Mason VINE VOICE on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Readers looking for something fascinating about the ancient mysteries of Stonehenge need to know that archaeologists have a different understanding of the word "mystery" than the average layperson. For them, it is a mystery why a certain layer of sediment or animal bone is found in one place as opposed to another, not whether ancient aliens were involved in the monument's construction. Now I am being a bit unfair when I make that comparison, because I have never entertainted the notion of extraterrestrials being involved. However when I read the title of this book, I was hoping that perhaps something very interesting to the average layperson had been learned by the recent excavations. Alas, that was not the case.

The book is very well researched, footnoted, and makes careful reference to previous excavations, understandings, and how it fits in with the pre-history of the site, ancient Britain, and its relationship to the rest of Europe. The problem I had was that like many academic stories, it's ultimately not very interesting. The site is one of several in the British Isles, noteworthy because of its survival, not because of anything remarkable or special about it in relation to the other henges. I guess that is one thing that I did learn from the text.

Overall it was a rather dry read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Arnold VINE VOICE on July 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really only have one quibble with this book: the subtitle about "Solving the Mysteries". However I guess that's catchier than "Making Enormous Progress towards Understanding the Mysteries". Because that's what this book is about, and it's wonderful. There are really four elements:
(1) Taking a geographically holistic approach, by investigating many sites in the vicinity of Stonehenge (and in Wales, where many of the stones came from), and weaving together a complete account.
(2) Taking the long view, from long before Stonehenge was constructed right up to the present day.
(3) Taking advantage of scientific advances. My knowledge of archaeology was woefully out of date: I thought in terms of digging, sifting, looking for pottery and other artifacts, and maybe finding a few remains that could be carbon dated. Today we can tell what kind of food was being cooked in a pot at what time of year; we can track where people lived over their lives, based on analysis of their teeth; we can tell how long a stone pillar was standing in a hole, and what direction it was tipped when it was removed....
(4) Management and teamwork - in the groups conducting the digs, among academics in many countries, across disciplines.

The whole thing is pulled together as a beautifully structured narrative; the thesis unfolds naturally, and conveys the excitement and perplexity of the whole process.

Of course this book only captures one small slice in time. Science and technology continue to advance, and much of the landscape around Stonehenge remains unexplored. 100 years from now we will probably have a much more detailed and complete understanding, and even that will remain a work in progress. But this is how science advances.

Highly recommended.
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