Thursday, 16 August 2007

The last post

Well - we are all done now, so it is time to say goodbye. Thank you all for watching! In particular:
  • Brian and Lizzie Sanders for increasing the amount of human happiness in the world
  • everyone who has commented on Cardhenge, either on the blog or in person, especially unkle e for commenting beyond the call of duty
  • English Heritage for selling the model to us in the first place and for deciding to put it back on sale again
  • the makers of Copydex glue
  • all those top people who make Lego
  • our unnamed employer for lunchtime goodwill on an epic level
  • neolithic humans for giving us the idea in the first place.
We may come back this way in the future if we get any more Cardhenge related ideas, but in the meantime all that remains is to load up one final photo, and to say bye bye, that's it, the end.

In the quiet of night

Here we see Cardhenge by night. An eerie silence has descended over the ancient site and it will not be long before equinox returns and the stones are cloaked in mist (well, dust actually). The lego men are safely tucked up in their beds but we hope to see them for the final time very soon.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Sunrise over the Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone

Hello! We have now made the Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone, and have positioned them at the correct scale distance from the centre circle. (This meant printing out lots and lots of extra grass and sticking it to the back of an old exhibition display board.) The completed Cardhenge is now almost as impressive as the real shebang.

What has proven to be well tricky is photographing a fake sunrise over the stones... This is the best shot, and even so it's not as good as we had hoped. It has proven impossible with our kit to get the main stones, the Heel Stone and the "sun" all in focus. Ah well.

More to follow!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Nearly finished

Almost there... I'm halfway through making the Heel Stone and Soo has almost completed the Slaughter Stone. These two stones aren't in the normal pack but were sent to us separately by Cardhenge's creators. They have even sent some grass to put them on!

The Slaughter Stone is a fallen sarsen, one of three originally guarding the northwest portal, while the Heel Stone is even further out, by the modern road. At midsummer sunrise the sun casts a beam of light across the top of the Heel Stone, past the Slaughter Stone and into the very centre of the monument. We may try to recreate this next week, before we finally wrap up this project and say our goodbyes.

Monday, 6 August 2007


It was Alan's birthday on Friday and one of our colleagues (another Sue) thought that it would be a great idea if we could make a Stonehenge cake. Also, this seems to have coincided nicely with the completion of the offical Cardboard Stonehenge pack. Here are two pictures: one of me struggling to keep the trilithons upright whilst making Cakehenge and one of the finished edible monument. The cake is a Victoria sponge topped with green butter icing. The stones were also made of sponge. I coated these with icing sugar to which I added a little blueberry juice in an attempt to create a natural grey but the stones seemed to have turned out a kind of purple colour. In fact, the whole cake looks a little psychedelic. I expect it will be interpreted as being symbolic of the effects of 'cake' in the Chris Morris sense of the noun.

Beautiful summer sunshine

Today Soo and I added stones 43 and 31 which are the two last stones in the packet. So officially we have now finished! It is beautifully sunny here in the UK, so we carried Cardhenge out onto the verdant lawn in front of our offices to take the formal photographs. Here's a shot looking across the lawn.

And here's one looking the other way, back towards where we work:

The outdoors summer daylight casts a nice clear light on the stones, which until now had only been photographed indoors, lit by windows or by Soo's studio photographic lamps.

Here's the final shot, with Cardhenge on the lawn between Soo and myself. Can you guess whose shoes are whose?

So that's the end of the official packet, and it has been fantastic. But Cardboard Stonehenge is not yet over! - we have a bit more still to add....

Thursday, 2 August 2007

We'll probably finish it next week!

Inded if it wasn't for work and leave we would probably have finished Cardhenge this week. We only have three of the pack's stones to do (31, 43 and 47) plus our two extra-special additional stones, so unless there's some urgent workload crisis next week, we're on the final run...

Yesterday Soo made stone 62, while I spent the day in Derbyshire looking at some of the real stone circles in the Peak District, including Nine Ladies, Seven Stones Close, Frogatt Edge and Barbrook. These are all on a much more personal and informal scale than Stonehenge - Frogatt Edge was almost hidden under ferns.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Seeing things ...

Two more bluestones get made today, 61 and 68. Analysis of the real stone 68 at the beginning of the 20th century showed that it had been set into the rubble which supports stone 56 in its own hole, thereby proving that the large sarsen trilithons were put in place before the smaller bluestones.

Brian and Lizzie Sanders have explained the answer to the riddles of the antlerless deer and the shielded man. Here I have photoshopped some lines onto the Cardhenge stones, to show how it all works. The deer with no antlers is stone 3:

and the man with the shield on his back is stone 58:

It's possible to see shapes in some of the other stones too. Today we tend to assume that these are happy accidents, but were these shapes visible to neolithic humans too, and were they the reasons why these particular stones were chosen, rather than others?

The caves of Lascaux and elsewhere in France are full of instances of animal-shaped outcrops of rock being painted as the animal itself. The most convincing theory of the creation of paleaolithic cave art (a.k.a. the theory I like best...) is that the ancient cave dwellers believed that real spirit animals lived in the walls of the caves, and that shamans could engage with these animals during their drug-fuelled visions. Whereas today we see cave walls as being seriously solid objects, in the neolithic mind they may have been paper-thin membranes, through which the visible world and the spirit world touched... Could the same be true of the stones in the stone circles of the British Isles?

Here is my impression of how Cardhenge stone 3 may have looked thousands of years ago, when its Lego builders painted it to commemorate the Lego deer god they believed slept within, and which could be freed during terrifying shamanic rituals.

At Cardhenge, of course, the faces of the stones literally are paper-thin. Are there spirit beings living inside, waiting to be freed? The packaging does not say.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Yes! - you can now buy cardboard Stonehenge from the English Heritage shop!

Woooh, this is a genuine result - English Heritage have resumed selling this awesome model from their shop at Stonehenge, and you can buy it online from them too. You really must buy this model... Soo and I both think that Cardhenge is easily the best thing we have bought all year.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Meditations on finished-ness

Our most loyal reader, Unkle E in Australia whom we have never met, has asked some questions which really deserve answering in the main blog, his first one being how close we are to finishing the circle... well we have done about 70-ish stones, and only have six to go from the official packet, although we also have two special additional stones which we are saving to the end - you'll hear more about these soon. In theory we could finish the circle by Friday at this rate, but we're not around for the rest of the week (Soo will be on leave and I have been called out on work trips) so it's not going to be done just yet.

Here's some before-and-after photos of stone 70, which I have done at lunchtime today, to show you just how tiny the remaining stones are.

Of course, this begs the question of whether there actually ever was a 'finished' Stonehenge in the first place. The real Stonehenge is known to have gone through numerous changes of design while it was slowly being built, the bluestones being a good example of this: they were all dragged there with the intention of being erected in a circle, but the circle was never completed, the stones were removed, and their holes were filled in. Some of the bluestones were then re-erected in a horseshoe layout a few centuries later.

This seems quite common with stone circles in Britain. It is accepted by archaeologists that many of the recumbent stone circles in north eastern Scotland were never finished. At Arbor Low in Derbyshire, the stones are lying on their sides; Aubrey Burl in his book thinks they all blew down over the years, but other experts have pointed out that there's no archaeological evidence of any holes ever being dug for them, so perhaps the project was abandoned.

Uncompleted projects are familiar from other ancient cultures too. After Djoser's Step Pyramid was constructed in Old Kingdom Egypt none of his successors - Sekhemkhet, Khaba, perhaps Huni too - managed to get higher than a few courses until Sneferu built one at Dahshur. Djoser's pyramid would have towered above his successors' feeble attempts, a mute indictment of their failure.

Abandoned, half-completed projects are something wholly foreign to the modern western world, of course.

Monday, 23 July 2007

And another three stones...

Soo and I have cut, scored, folded and glued stones 33, 49 and 129 during our lunchtime today... they are all fairly wee stones but in fact these little ones are very atmospheric. The large trilithons form the recognisably iconic part of the structure, but the scattered and broken remnants add to the feelings of remoteness and mystery.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Two more wee little stones

Soo has just finished stone 38 - "ah, sweet" she says - and I have just placed stone 130 onto its uprights. There hasn't been much time this week to do very much as we have had some major deadlines to meet on work projects. Roll on next week!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Meditations on underground access

The renegade firefighter heads underground only to crash in the subway next to the English Heritage souvenir shop. And so the chase comes to an end.

The underground access to the real Stonehenge has received much criticism over the years since it was built in 1968, but in my mind it has a great deal of symbolic significance. The modern entrances to many heritage buildings are too simplistic: they are above ground, with simple linear access to the monuments, thus denying them any sense of mystery. At Stonehenge it is different. There is nothing linear about access at all. Instead, you have to park your car on the wrong side of the road from the monument, then pass through an underground subway, which symbolises your death and rebirth. When you emerge from the ground you are a new being; you are now on the right side of the road, in the sacred space, and you are now allowed to approach the holy place. You then make one full circuit of Stonehenge following the path laid out by English Heritage, in the same manner that thousands of pilgrims before you have done. Then you pass back through the underworld to return to the secular reality from whence you came.

It is interesting how many stone circle sites in England have strange kinks in their modern access routes. At Avebury for instance, the lane from the National Trust car park kinks and meanders it way past houses and gardens before emerging in the village street. At Stanton Drew there is a dog-leg approach from the car park to the circle, seemingly for no reason other than the farmer's whim to make it so, because a straight-line, linear approach would be just as possible, as far as I can tell. Arbor Low and Boscawen Un have strange dog-leg walks too.

Why should this be? Perhaps there is an unconscious need to make access difficult, or to make it special. By forcing the visitor to make turns and twists in order to reach the monument, the paths are forcing the visitor to exert righteous effort. And Stonehenge, by symbolising death and rebirth in its underground subway, has perhaps the best modern access of all.

A masculine stone

Here is stone 58, Alan's favourite stone, as seen from two different angles. It's getting quite tricky to photograph the stones of the inner circle now that the outer circle is more or less complete. This sarsen trilithon had to be hewn from not one or two but three pieces of card. A herculean effort on Alan's part I think you will agree.