thinking about archaeology

What’s that hole in Soane’s model?

The centrepiece in Stonehenge: Monumental Journey is a cork model from the Soane Museum, brought out of store. I’d never seen it before. There are some curious things in it that make it worth a look.

Chris Evans has written about the context of Soane’s archaeological models in two similar papers, “Megalithic follies: Soane’s ‘Druidic Remains’ & the display of monuments” (Journal of Material Culture, Nov 2000, 347–66) and “Modelling monuments & excavations” (in eds S de Chadarevian & N Hopwood, 2004, Models: The Third Dimension of Science, 109–37). He tells us that Soane probably bought his Stonehenge model in 1832 from another collection in London. But no one, as far as I am aware, has examined the model for what it may tell us about Stonehenge.

To help make sense of it, I’ve labelled a few stones and included part of John Wood’s plan that was surveyed in 1740. Stone 14 fell soon after 1800, though it’s not immediately clear if the model shows that upright or stone 16, which still stands. It does, however, have the trilithon stones 57/58 and lintel 158 prominently upright. These fell in 1797, so the model must predate that year. The stubby sarsen 11 is missing from the model, but was there, and is perhaps in a drawer somewhere in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

What’s interesting, and I hadn’t expected, is to see that the ground has been modelled as well as the stones. It’s not just a flat board, but a gently rolling, crumpled surface. And what jumps out is what can only be the hollow left by an excavation, apparently by someone in search of buried stones, near the feet of the leaning trilithon stone 56. Did anyone know about that before? And if we didn’t, how many other furtive old hollows might have disturbed what we think of as ancient, pristine ground?

 

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4 responses

  1. Could it be a hollow formed by the space left as the stone leaned? Gowland’s figure 9 in his 1901 report shows a careful cross section of this area which I have put up at http://www.sarsen.org/2012/05/soanes-hole-behind-stone-56.html for your convenience,

    May 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

  2. SImon

    Without wishing to pour too much cold water on an interesting idea, is there any evidence of the shallow mound-on-a-mound within the sarsen circle to the SE of Trilithon 53-54 that Dave Field identified in his landscape survey?

    If that’s not represented (and it’s definitely noticeable, even today), then I’d be cautious of attributing meaning to any other ground features in the model.

    Fig 4. and 5. of EH Research Report 109-2010 are useful diagrams to compare Soane’s model against – I’ve put copies here for reference:

    Fig 4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/akhen3sir/7205750188/in/photostream/lightbox/
    Fig 5. http://www.flickr.com/photos/akhen3sir/7205769204/in/photostream/lightbox/

    (The PDF from which they came is here: http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/109_2010WEB.pdf)

    May 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

  3. Pingback: Stonehenge: Monumental Journey exhibition « The Heritage Trust

  4. nancy wisser

    Do you think this is another of Henry Browne’s models?

    May 18, 2012 at 12:31 am

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