Monumental Geometry

Johnson argues that the builders of Stonehenge had an understanding of the geometry of squares and circles that allowed them to lay out the different elements of the stone monument with impressively regular proportionality.

Alasdair Whittle reviews Solving Stonehenge: The New Key to an Ancient Enigma by Anthony Johnson, in American Scientist:

ScreenHunter_05 Jan. 22 15.29 Although many people might straightforwardly conclude that an undertaking on the scale of Stonehenge must have been an expression of concentrated power within Neolithic society, the claim cannot be conceded without thinking about the long processes of inspiration, discussion, mobilization of labor and periodic reenergizing of all those involved that must have accompanied such enterprises and indeed made them possible. The challenge for archaeologists can slide from simple detection of the presence of power to analysis of the ways in which social preeminence could be asserted and maintained for what was all too often just a brief interval.

So research into the ways in which monuments “worked” is crucial. How did people approach and move around these great assemblies of earth, timber and stone? Did they do so freely, or were they directed? What did interventions in nature on this scale signify, and what meanings could be projected by the materials used in their construction? How were tradition and innovation respectively regarded? Leaders or would-be leaders must have had tricky paths to negotiate.

More here.