• Ellen E. Sutherland

Merlin did it!


Stonehenge is the subject of many theories about its origin. As with other ancient architectural wonders, people might assume that ancient civilizations were simple, uneducated.

Then comes places like the pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge and we scratch our heads wondering, “How did they do it?”

These places are so old that the original architects are often forgotten. As a consequence, legends and impossible stories abound. Even in recent times, the idea that Merlin built Stonehenge was a theory that was openly debated as plausible. These theories were inspired by supernatural folktales although it is doubtful that those professing them would admit to falling for considering superstition as fact.

The legend goes that Merlin had a giant build the structure in Mount Killaranus in Ireland. He then transported it from Ireland to where it stands in Wiltshire, England. The question became, how did he do it? The first writer to speak of the monument was Henry of Huntingdon around 1130. Another writer took up the pen and continued the story: Geoffrey (Historia Regum Britanniae).

People looked at the pyramids, scratched their chins, and adopted one theory based on how they thought the pyramid stones were moved. First, Merlin would have had to put the stones on a ship and sail them from Ireland to England. To get them cross country, once they arrived on England’s shores? A method of dragging the stones along a wooden ramp. Soldiers and oxen would have been used for the labor.

Others simplified the theory. Magic. How could anyone really know? Merlin was a wizard after all.

But why would Merlin move this structure? Another topic that drew a lot of debate. They based the fact the Stonehenge was an older monument from Ireland based on the fact, according to those who believed it, that a stone quarry near Mount Killaranus matched the type of bluestone for Stonehenge. The big question is how they got from there to here.

Not so fast. Merlin isn’t real. Well, he might be. The idea he’s the wizard famous in the King Arthur legends isn’t accurate. Merlin might be a druid. He might be any number of individuals. Or, he’s a completely made up person. The stuff of a good story.

So if Merlin didn’t move Stonehenge from Ireland, who did? More theories were tossed out, debated, dismissed, and rediscussed.

Sometimes the answer is right under your nose.

Aliens!

Prehistoric man wasn’t smart enough to build something so complex, something that could accurately mark seasons, something so….big… Had to be aliens. Aliens built the pyramids and other places too, right? They used these places as markers to land their ships. Mixes with the idea of crop circles.

Some still cling to this theory today.

Another popular theory: The Devil made me do it. The Devil may have helped Merlin. Or he just put it there. Why? Well, it’s pagan, right? Why wouldn’t he? Thought sprang out of an early Christian mindset that didn’t fully appreciate Stonehenge. If you don’t understand it, or it’s not obviously Christian, it most be devilish.

They certainly had a devil of a time with the stones. Where the heck did the stones come from?

If not Ireland, why not Wales? In proximity, Wales is closer to England. And there was a quarry there of bluestone. This theory was believed for about 90 years that the bluestone came from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokshire, Wales. This theory initiated with geologist Herbert Henry Thomas in 1923. He was the first to identify the spotted dolerite bluestones based on distinctive markings as a result of elements within the bluestones cooling at different rates after an underwater volcano ejected the stones. A National Geographic edition released 10 or so years ago described with lovely pictures the quarry and offered this solution. Finally, an answer we could all be happy with. The same idea of dragging the stones cross-country was maintained. A system of pulleys could be used to put the stones in place. Everyone celebrated.

Only it was also wrong.

The truth becomes mundane after such sensational theories. The bluestones came from mere kilometers from the present location of Stonehenge. It hasn’t been built elsewhere and shipped to England. Aliens had nothing to do with it (even if current fictional television programs, movies, and books might argue).

Based on laser mass spectrometry techniques analyzing chemical composition and microbiology in the rock, scientists from Aberystwyth University, University College London, and the National Museum of Wales, a new location was found in 2011. The stones were local. The task to drag them those few kilometers would be plausible with theories that had been kicked around for decades.

Likely their discovery won’t end the debate on how the stones arrived where they stand. And who doesn’t like a mystery. Or aliens? Or a bit of wizardry?

#merlin #aliens #stonehenge #legend

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Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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