A few days from the Summer Solstice, it seems the right time of year to consider Stonehenge again. I was ranting on 24 March about the heritage industry and the cavalier treatment of even English Heritage’s major cash cow, Stonehenge, in the name of improving the “visitor’s experience”. (http://www.whydontyou.org.uk/blog/2006/03/) I was also a bit disturbed to find out that Avebury is about to undergo “preservation.”
I was going to have a laugh at the expense of the people who will believe anything about these sites as long as they get to wear silly clothes and invent ceremonies. I was also going to rant about those “proper” archaeologists - especially those of the televisually- rewarded persuasion - who destroy sites at will, with no concern for future generations. They pontificate on theories as ludicrous as some of the most abstract neo-pagan tosh. They will happily help to convert living historic landscapes into frozen heritage “experiences” with convenient fast food facilities and any missing bits of monuments rebuilt in concrete and plastics.
I could even have given another airing to my standard argument that pre-Roman human beings were just like human beings now - mainly concerned with making a living and not necessarily more credulous than the standard 21st century person. So why do we always have to look at their relics on the basis that everything in their lives was devoted to ritual?
Instead I am going to air my own crackpot theory. I can probably argue the toss convinvingly on this, if pushed to it. I could even assemble some evidence to support or falsify it, were I strong-willed enough to get off my butt and go to the library. However, I’m not. So I am just going to present the theory in the hope that someone else will falsify it by proxy.
The theory is - Sefton Park in Liverpool contains the relics of a huge prehistoric site.
There, I’ve said it. It’s batty, I know.
I think that there was probably a prehistoric quarry in the area. I believe that there are also signs of largescale prehistoric construction.
Sefton Park is a large shabby park in the southend of Liverpool. A more or less continuous line of parks goes from Princes Park onwards, ending up in Calderstones Park and CampHill (Both attested megalithic sites. The Calderstones were on what is now called Druids’ Cross Road and have novel markings. Sadly they were dug up in the 19th century (?) and the remaining ones are housed in a Calderstones Park greenhouse) Near the parks are objects such as “Robin Hood’s Stone,” also a megalithic standing stone, moved from its original location. A fair quantity of pre-Roman and Romano-British artefacts has been dug up in the course of building and demolishing Liverpool. A megalithic settlement has been excavated in Wavertree, a mile or two from Sefton Park . There is a hillfort still in existence and cared for by English Heritage on the opposite bank of the Mersey (at Helsby Point)
(Devil’s Advocate : This is a sort of misdirection - setting the scene to make you believe it is reasonable to expect to find megalithic or pre-Roman sites in Liverpool . Which it is, but Liverpool has been so frequently built and rebuilt that even 12th century relics can’t be found in reasonable condition.)
The main basis of my evidence is:
- A fenced off cave on Croxteth Road which is at least partly man-made. Some of the stones were obviously put there when the park was built, some bits of the cave are 20th century attempts to shore up the dangerous bits of the structure and some of the stones fit together in a much more ancient way. The layout is on the same sort of plan as West Kennet or Wayland Smithy, except that the chambers are large enough for habitation rather than sticking corpses.
- There is a line of almost buried stone lintels (or vaguely arch-shaped constructions) on one side of the raised earth mound on which the Palm House stands. This bit looks exactly like the entrance to Stoney Littleton or West Kennet except for being buried up to its neck and being on a much greater scale. (Three apparent entrances)
This bit is my strongest argument. Any of the other stone arches or constrcutions or caves in the park can be attributed to Victorians following their fashion for buiding fake megalithic monuments. However, it seems insane to fake authenticity to the point of building the buggars and then burying them.
- The mound of earth that this is buried in is decorated with a few (3 or 5, I didn’t keep notes sorry) huge stone “thrones” set at intervals. They are obviously arranged as part of the landscaping process but they are ludicrously big for garden ornaments and are made of a heavy, more solid stone (i.e like the sort of stone you find durable megalithic creations built from) rather than the standard pink sandstone of the rest of the park.
- Being a bit of a sandstone wall afficionado, I can roughly judge the era in which sandstone blocks were cut by the markings. There are blocks of sandstone throughout the park, some of which were quarried long before the park was built and some of which are on a monstrous scale.
- (The least convincing argument, granted, but one that may encourage the obligatory megalithic nutters to support the idea.) Intuition. I’ve been to loads of megalithic sites, (only thanks to the kindness of Tas, Sarah, the Megster and the Newb) and feel like I can almost smell one. In my only argument in support of this ludicrous argument, I can say that I once detected that we were on a hillfort while walking with colleagues near Snowdon, in Wales. There was mild sarcasm from my co-hillwalkers. Then we came across a metal sign that said it was indeed the site of a Celtic hillfort, so score 1 for the intuition capacity. :-p)
There’s more but I’ve already put in enough to introduce the idea. I don’t want to throw away all my aces although I have already thrown out my strongest cards. I will get photographs and post them. I may even do the research to find the original plans of the area when they built the park….
There are two alternative explanations. I suspect that they both might have some truth. In fact, I’m hoping they both have some truth, rather than just the one that would falsify this idea. One possibility is that there was a major megalithic site in the area, almost on an Avebury scale. (Devils’ advocate rears its head again:) The other (sadly more likely) possibility is that every seemingly megalithic thing in the whole park is a Victorian lawn ornament. My hope is that the park was built on the relics of prehistoric habitation and that the architects made use of the bits and pieces of stone that were lying around, partly to build interesting megalithic style constructions for bridges.
(Devil’s advocate has the last word.) I know the most far-fetched thing about this crackpot theory is that noone - however expert or unskilled - has ever argued it before, as far as I can see. Liverpool has a University with an Archaeology department and a pretty good Museum. The failure of anyone who knows what they are talking about to have suggested it before does argue for the theory being rubbish.
I will place my faith in the concept of falsifiability. Can anyone please come up with any evidence about the area before the park was built or about original park plans? Otherwise I may be forced to go to the local research part of a library ….. Don’t make me do that.
(I am totally aware of the mind’s pattern-making skills, so don’t bother going there when you try to refute it. I’m way ahead of you.)