As you might be able to tell from Ancient Wonders, I’ve got a bit of a thing for ancient sites for a wide variety of reasons. From a historical perspective you’ve got all the mystery about who built them and why, what they did with them and what other people did later, and how exactly do you go about lugging bloody great bluestones all the way from the Welsh mountains or cutting so many weirdly shaped blocks and getting them to fit perfectly in a wall? And let’s face it, the finished product, regardless of intent and construction technology, are still very impressive things to see.
But beyond the sensible historical stuff, there’s something about ancient sites that gets the imagination running rampant. When I was a teenager I tended to view them from a burgeoning New Agey Pagan perspective, drinking in the wonder of a living landscape that promised potential magic, though I never could get my head around that whole worship thing - but then, any kind of organised religion makes me twitchy, regardless of whether it’s contained in a church or spread out among stones in a field somewhere.
Then there are the wilder possibilities, the gateways to other realms, the lost cities waiting to rise, legends that could easily manifest from the physical markers left, and those ones, I think, hold an appeal for me that is easily as strong as the archaeological attractions.
In his Age of Misrule series, Mark Chadbourn wrote (among many other things) about a ley-line superhighway, marked by stone monuments, and that was such a perfect concept that somewhere, somewhen, it has to have been true. There are barrow entrances that are so obviously entrances to the underworld or other worlds that it’s a wonder that the National Trust don’t post warning signs up; and any temple that’s managed to stay relatively intact has absolutely got to have at least one secret chamber with the associated booby traps, treasure and guardian beasties.
Which brings me nicely to the Seeing the Sites series – where I’ll be posting about the sites I’ve got a particular fondness for (both real and legendary) and occasionally roping in others to add their two-penneth. So stay tuned for the first post in the series - West Kennet Long Barrow.