The Curious Case of Achill Henge: Investigating the Strange Desire to Replicate a Wiltshire Landmark

The Curious Case of Achill Henge: Investigating the Strange Desire to Replicate a Wiltshire Landmark

In this talk, Stuart Rathbone, former Director of Field Work for the Achill Archaeological Field School, tells the story of how the island gained an illegal replica of Stonehenge, explores the wider phenomenon of making reconstructions of Stonehenge, and asks if there is anything we can learn from the whole debacle.

Achill Island in County Mayo in Western Ireland features a wide range of archaeological sites, including Neolithic Tombs, Bronze Age Houses and field systems, Iron Age Promontory Forts, Early Medieval Ringforts and Kilns, a fine Tower House, post-medieval rural settlements, and several 19th and 20th century naval facilities. In November 2011 these existing sites were joined by a full size, and illegally constructed, concrete-built replica of the outer sarsen ring of Stonehenge.

The then director of fieldwork at the Achill Archaeological Field school felt rather obliged to do something about the newly appeared structure, but it was unclear what an appropriate response would be. Traditional recording of the site proved entertaining but far from enlightening. Less traditional techniques provided useful insights into how archaeologists respond to genuine Neolithic sites, and raised serious questions about how archaeologically informed the creator of the replica may have been. These investigations led to a wider review of the phenomenon of replicating Stonehenge, and a wide range of motivations were identified.

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