Historian: Stonehenge Builders Botched the Job

Ronald Hutton says they were careless 'cowboys'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2014 4:13 PM CDT
The sun rises as thousands of revelers gather at Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England, to celebrate the summer solstice on June 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

(Newser) – Stonehenge: Monumental human achievement, or total screwup? It's pretty much both, professor Ronald Hutton argued this week at a Daily Mail history festival, saying the structure was built by incompetent builders and left unfinished. For example, he said, one of the stones had clearly broken in half. "If you were a decent bunch of builders what you’d do then is, after a great deal of screaming and complaining, chuck the two broken bits away and bring another one intact and do it properly," he said. "They didn't. They put one broken bit on top of another broken bit, jammed a lintel on top and hoped they'd stay together. They didn't, they fell over quite soon after."

The path leading into Stonehenge is famously aligned so that the stones will frame the midsummer sunrise. Hutton argues that it was supposed to do something similar for the mid-winter sunset, but the builders screwed it up, and the stone tumbled down "and still lies where it fell. They never tried to fix it." His conclusion: "Stonehenge was built by cowboys. It is on the one hand one of the greatest building successes in the story of the human race and from another point of view one of the greatest catastrophes." Hutton is an expert on ancient paganism, and famous for writing about it—as in his latest, Pagan Britain—in unromantic tones. (Click to read about Stonehenge's "sonic secret.")

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