More Jolly Fun with Google Maps

Stupid to explore Britain with Google Maps when I’m, like, in Britain, but Dave in Texas reminded me of Stonehenge and I got to Googling. First time I saw Stonehenge, I didn’t know that was where we were going. I had no idea where we were. We topped a rise or came around a corner or something, and I was like, “fucking hell! It’s…it’s Stonehenge.” From the photos, you’d think Salisbury Plain is a solitary, windswept field somewhere, but — see photo above — it’s actually at the confluence of three busy roads. The heelstone is right on the shoulder of the road.

What with the stones roped off and the trucks rattling by carrying meat pies to supermarkets and everything, the magic was kind of sucked out of it for me. Stonehedge is like a big prehistoric Texaco station, squatting on the highway. Check this out, though: if you open the Google map and pan around, the whole area is pocked with dozens of little mounds and rings. (Look a little NW and a little SW of the henge, for example). You can also see the remnants of, presumably, old roads and paths and earthworks. Much of this stuff has never been excavated, but the mounds are assumed to be Stone Age burials. This whole area is very, very ancient and very deeply cool.

avebury.jpg

Eight miles due North of Stonehenge is the huge Avebury circle (above). You can walk up to the stones on this one. They’re big and irregular and weird, but naturally shaped. The ancients apparently got a kick out of funny stones — enough to haul they heavy asses overland with ropes. Even though the ring is very incomplete and runs through the village, I thought this one was really special. Maybe it was all the sheep. Or maybe it’s the proximity to this amazing object:

silburyhill.jpg

A couple thousand feet South is Silbury Hill. The largest man-made structure in Europe, built nearly 5,000 years ago. Sucker is big — over 5 acres at the base and 420 feet high. They estimate it took 18 million man hours to pile 8 and three quarter million cubic feet of dirt into this giant green tit rising from the plains. If every man, woman and child in modern Britain dumped a bucket of earth in a pile, it would make another Silbury Hill (is that true? Certainly. I read it just now on the Internet).

So what is it? The official explanation is, “fucked if we know.” Several holes have been drilled right through it without finding any trace of a burial or any significant artifacts. The leading explanation is that it is, in fact, a giant green tit rising from the plains.

Nearby is the beginning of the Ridgeway. I’d hoped to use Google Earth to sightsee along the whole length of it, but most of the path is in one of those mystery areas where the Google maps go all furry and retarded. That’s a damn shame, because it’s one long ribbon of astonishing stuff. The Ridgeway proper is eighty some miles of public footpath that has been called (and may, in fact, be) the oldest road in the world. You can make that a walk of several hundred miles by continuing up several other ancient foothpaths, and it’s burial mound after chalk horse all the way up.

I’d love to walk the whole thing some day, but I’ve only been up a little ways, as far as Wayland’s Smithy. This thing may even be older than Silbury Hill. It’s a small burial mound right off the path. Uh huh. It’s an open door in the side of an ancient tomb in the middle of nowhere.

You can walk in a little way, but I sure as shit wasn’t going in any maze of twisty passage without red dragon scale mail and a +3 Mace of Undead Limey Smiting.

You know, the Brits had a pretty snazzy society going for themselves, like, a millenium before the Egyptians and that whole pyramid thing. Cradle of Civilization, my ass.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted December 21, 2006 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Its possible the big mound was, you know, where they put all that dirt that the dug up elsewhere.

    • Onj Beaker
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be silly.

  2. nbpundit
    Posted December 21, 2006 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Great photos.
    Looking forward to seeing more
    weasely photos of britain.

  3. Posted December 22, 2006 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Stonehenge was cool.

    Until we visited I did not know there were others like it.

    Anecdote: both my daughters were teens when we went, both fairly picky eaters. They were not keen on Brit cuisine. We were walking in Saulsbury, and they saw a place called “Cactus Jack’s Mexican Food” and begged me to take them there.

    I tried to warn them. Hell, I won’t eat Tex Mex north of the Red River or east of Texarkana. “This isn’t going to be what you expect”.

    I relented. Youngest ordered a burrito, that looked like it was stuffed with some gray beef stew. Eldest ordered nachos, which looked like a plate full of chips that somebody barfed on.

    They did not finish their meal.

  4. alice
    Posted December 23, 2006 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    You know, I wish the Brits would remember what a great society they had and be proud of it and want to continue it. It seems many of ya’ll lost your compass.

    • Onj Beaker
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Please don’t be so patronising. We are fully aware we are the motherland.

  5. Posted February 5, 2007 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Well, I’ll be. I was going to grouse about the illiteracy of my readership, as a really startling number of people found this blog doing a word search for “stoneheDge” — but, as it turns out, I spelled it that way in the second paragraph. D’oh!

    I’m leaving it. It’s a new strategy for driving up search engine hits — misspelling stuff!

  6. Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Members of the WordPress community who are interested in Stonehenge may like to see: http://sarsen56.wordpress.com


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