Thousands of books and papers have been written about Stonehenge, beginning in 1620 when Inigo Jones described and explained the monument for the benefit of James I. He thought it must have been a Roman temple. Someone else wrote another book explaining it differently – as a coronation chapel for Danish kings – and a third book then appeared, by the architect John Webb, asserting that his father-in-law, Jones, was right after all. This was the first battle of opinions in the war over Stonehenge that has continued on the same rancorous level up to the present. Already this year two teams of archaeologists have proclaimed their solutions to the mystery: one that it is a ‘prehistoric Lourdes’ for health and healing, the other that ancient royalty was buried there. Other modern guesses have it as a market for axe-trading, a computer for calculating eclipses, a place of Druid enchantments and a landmark for UFOs. The professional archaeologists disapprove of all these notions but have nothing much to offer in their place, and their fruitless excavations over most of Stonehenge have destroyed evidence which later researchers would have valued.
Not another book about Stonehenge! So I mumbled when Rosemary Hill’s book came for review. But then I noticed something unique about it. Hill is the first female Stonehenge author over a period spanning five centuries. This is not just a curiosity but a significant step forward in Stonehenge studies.