Great Stone Circles


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Fables, Fictions, Facts

Aubrey Burl

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Thousands of years ago, people in Britain painstakingly arranged huge blocks of stone into careful circles. The most famous of these rings is Stonehenge, but elsewhere in England there are remains of other awe-inspiring prehistoric stone circles as well. For those who are enthralled by these enigmatic rings, this book offers fascinating explanations of their many mysteries. Archaeologist Aubrey Burl, for more than thirty years a specialist in the study of stone circles, selects a dozen attractive and evocative rings to illuminate particular archaeological questions—the purpose of stone circles, their construction, age, design, distribution, art, legends, and relation to astronomy.

Burl investigates the legends that surround the Rollright Stones of Oxfordshire, for example, and finds that stories of girls turning to stone and of stones going for a midnight drink in the river are mainly fables of the eighteenth century or later. At Stanton Drew near Bristol, three rings provide a vivid example of prehistoric landscaping. Burl offers sometimes surprising answers to questions about Stonehenge: how were its bluestones transported from southwest Wales, why was its Slaughter Stone not used for sacrifice, and why is Stonehenge—the most British of stone circles—not a stone circle and not British? Burl concludes by reconstructing the social history of Swinside in the Lake District, describing the builders, their way of life, and the ceremonies they performed inside their lovely ring.

Aubrey Burl was formerly Principal Lecturer in Archaeology, Hull College of Higher Education, East Riding of Yorkshire.

A selection of the Natural Science Book Club

"British archaeologist Burl has produced an academically rigorous book that can still be enjoyed by the lay reader. . . . Lavishly illustrated . . . this is highly recommended for libraries."—Library Journal

"Was Stonehenge really dragged into place by teams of sweating labourers some 4,600 years ago? Archaeologist Aubrey Burl tackles this classic mystery and comes up with an easier mode of transport—glaciation—as part of a beautifully illustrated study of legend and history."—Nature

"Wondrous is the grace of this selective survey. Even the most ardent specialist will find new insights here about famed Stonehenge and about less well known Long Meg and Her Daughters, the Rollright Stones, Stanton Drew, Woodhenge, and a quartet of stone circles in Cornwall."—Choice

"Great Stone Circles will satisfy diverse appetites. It is as entertaining as it is informative, and the author conveys throughout his own enthusiasm for the subject."—Gillian Varndell, British Museum Magazine

“Burl has picked a half a dozen of the biggest, best known and most studied stone circles in Britain and written what must be a definitive account of every significant fact and fable that has been documented about them. . . . Superb.”—Andy Burnham,

ISBN: 9780300076899
Publication Date: April 10, 1999
208 pages, 9 1/4 x 11
30 b/w + 30 color illus.
Stukeley's 'Stonehenge'

An Unpublished Manuscript 1721-1724

Edited by Aubrey Burl and Neil Mortimer

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