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Stonehenge - A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument Paperback – March 25, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The Experiment; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615191933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615191932
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“[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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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this groundbreaking book to everyone interested in the science of Stonehenge.
The investigations were laid out in a beliveable and scientific manner so I have to make the assumption that the evidense is being reported correctly.
Slick Willy
I have very much enjoyed reading Mike Parker Pearson's Stonehenge - A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Neil Wiseman on September 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
406 pages. Simon & Shuster, London. £19.

Coming on the heels of vast amounts of archeological research directed by Dr. Parker-Pearson over seven years, there are many who have waited for this summation since 2010. The book does not disappoint.

As few others have done, Parker-Pearson and his Riverside Project take the reader on a journey through the entire landscape of Stonehenge in order to make sense of this most enigmatic of Statement Monuments. Beginning in the deeps of the Mesolithic Era and working forward to the late Neolithic, he directs our attention to the numerous prequel-structures found within the Salisbury landscape. Through artifacts and finds of the immediate vicinity, we learn that this ever-morphing culture was constantly refining their conception of Sun, Life, Death, and how the myriad subsidiaries of these fit together into the long-lasting traditions we now know must have been observed.

Though standing firmly on the shoulders of his predecessors, Parker-Pearson has nevertheless taken previously interpreted physical information and expanded it to include other themes within this 8,000 years-ago culture. With unprecedented permissions from the numerous English authorities, in seven years over forty new digs were conducted at the Cursus, the Cuckoo Stone, Woodhenge and its environs, Durrington Walls, and many others ― even within the Dike of Stonehenge. Identifying and collating this new information is daunting, and proceeds to the present day.

Stonehenge itself it not immune to serious editorial, and many things that were previously held as truth have now been relegated to the pile of discarded theories.
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8 of 8 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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7 of 7 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel on October 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, I've read several books about Stonehenge and other ancient monuments, been to Stonehenge, heard Mike Parker Pearson speak last spring, and feel moderately well-informed. Yet the book has so much new information on Stonehenge and its immediate area that I was having many "wow!" moments. Pearson's argument combines descriptions of the significant new archaeological discoveries with the logic of science on the topic; he is oriented to evidence and careful inferences. He is quite frank about the work of past archaeologists--some of them did poorly. He also has fascinating excursions into related topics: Ancient units of measurements (the long foot and the short foot), astronomical theories, Druids and ancient religions, when animals were killed and eaten, how to move large heavy stones from western Wales to Wessex, how to raise heavy stones, comparisons to other ancient villages and monuments in Europe, chronologies (archaeologists love accurate dates); and the financing and politics of doing archaeology. It is well illustrated with maps, diagrams of monuments, and artistic pictures of what a monument may have looked like. It is a rich satisfying book. He writes well and has a good narrative sense. A newcomer to the topic can handle the book.
Second, a few minor annoyances: He knows the names of archaeologists and--forgetting that we readers may forget names mentioned in earlier chapters--he mentions names without reminders of who they are. Indexing does not highlight definitions ("portal dolmens" baffled me for awhile). The printing of diagrams includes tiny, light, gray and hard-to-read numbers. Some of his theorizing about the builders' religion and national unity floats a bit free from available evidence.
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