Since the topic for this weeks lectures are Stonehenge, it’s relevant I think to discuss recent news around the monuments, such as vandalism done to Stonehenge earlier this March on the Winter Solstice. The incident is described in this article, but to make a long story short it details recent vandalism done to Stonehenge, including graffiti and gum being found on the stones during the Winter Solstice celebration held by neo-pagans and others who came. The description of what was done there is heartbreaking to anyone with a care about the preservation of the past, as one worker describes, “I have witnessed first-hand the heartbreak that the staff feel when they reclaim the area within the circle the morning after. The majority seems to have little care for an ancient monument, and utterly disrespect it.” The descriptions of the vandalism are horrid, including vomit, feces, and other fluids being found around the site, looking as if a rave happened there instead of what was supposed to be a Solstice celebration.
Despite all the effort put in by workers and the British government to care for the site, vandalism like this seems common on every day the site is open to the public. Outrage from this has raised calls from conservationists in Britain to shut down the inside of the structure; along with that, a theory posited by the article is that the vandalism is because visitors are crowded inside the monument instead of just viewing it from outside, as the structure of Stonehenge suggests it was made for instead of holding a mass amount of people. I would agree with this, as it is madness to me that a large amount of people are allowed directly inside such a precious structure without much supervision apparently.
The reason that it is open to the public as is only due to the efforts of Neo-Druidic leader ‘Arthur Pendragon’ who claims himself as the descendant of the mythical figure, who wanted it open just for Pagan solstice events. While religious ceremony I know is important for people with rituals and beliefs to practice, I think it is not worth allowing such free access to Stonehenge when it is clear it mostly results in damage to the structure. At most Solstice events should be held a decent distance outside the structure, with proper supervision from a few site guards to make sure vandalism does not occur. While I do not wish to be rude to people of genuine pagan beliefs, I think events such as this are prone to having people who have no religious interest in the structure at all, and are only there to screw around and touch something famous before leaving some asinine ‘mark’ of their presence on it.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always make your own fake model of Stonehenge and enjoy it as you please. It worked for one of the greatest bands of all time after all.
One thought on “Stonehenge Vandalism”
Your post regarding vandalism of Stonehenge peaked my interest while also disgusting me. The formation is one of great archaeological significance, and we must already protect the stones against weathering from natural elements, let alone the acts of ignorant visitors. I did a little research on the topic (check out http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/education/conservation-research.pdf for more information), and came to find that this is a highly discussed topic. (**As an aside, I choose to avoid pulling religion into my response, as it can be a hotly debated topic.)
English Heritage is a collaboration of staff and volunteers in the United Kingdom that cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments, and sites. While looking into some of the public outreach that they have published regarding Stonehenge Heritage Management, I found that in addition to graffiti and vandalism, addition current threats to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site includes: the ploughing of archaeological sites, burrowing animals, roads and motorized traffic, weathering, and visitor erosion. Current protection of the site includes partnership with the Wiltshire Police, Wiltshire Council, Amesbury Town Council, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence, Natural England, local police and security, English Heritage, and peace stewards to monitor the site and manage open access. Conservation and precautionary measures taken to protect the site include, but are not limited to, controlling visitor flow, limiting public access to the stones (i.e., not being able to touch them), putting up ropes/barriers, and intensively managing the grass surface. However, it seems that all of these precautionary measures are ignored during the Winter Solstice. I agree with you and do not believe such free access should be provided for this occasion, whether for ‘religious ceremony’ or not.
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