Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Not sure I’d use the word “monument.”

Stonehenge: Neolithic monument found near sacred site

 A ring of large shafts discovered near Stonehenge form the largest prehistoric monument ever discovered in Britain, archaeologists believe.

Tests carried out on the pits suggest they were excavated by Neolithic people more than 4,500 years ago….

The 1.2 mile-wide (2km) circle of large shafts measuring more than 10m (30ft) in diameter and 5m (15ft) in depth are significantly larger than any comparable prehistoric monument in Britain.

As far as we can tell they are nearly vertical sided; that is we can’t see any narrowing that might imply some sort of shaft. Some of the silts suggest relatively slow filling of the pits. In other words they were cut and left open,” added Prof Gaffney.

This is pretty neat! But is it a “monument”?

Monument, noun

  1. a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event.
    • a statue or other structure placed by or over a grave in memory of the dead.
    • a building, structure, or site that is of historical importance or interest.

I vote NO. No matter how old or impressive, a series of deep pits is not a monument.

What is a better term for giant pits dug by people 4500 years ago? Obviously the author of the linked article just gave up, because that article uses the term “monument” over and over and does not (as far as a quick skim revealed) try to come up with any other term to describe this … thing. This nonunitary series of giant holes. I’m certain it’s possible to do better.

How about this?

 A ring of large shafts discovered near Stonehenge form the largest series of prehistoric excavations ever discovered in Britain, archaeologists believe.

Tests carried out on the excavations suggest they were created by Neolithic people more than 4,500 years ago….

Regardless of the language used to describe them today, I wonder what beliefs drove the creation of such labor-intensive excavations at the time. Not as much work as the Cahokian mounds, I guess, but not remotely easy to create.

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3 Comments Not sure I’d use the word “monument.”

  1. Hanneke

    Well, it fits the last part of your quoted definition: “a building, structure, or *site* that is of historical importance or interest”.

  2. Rachel

    Well … I can’t argue with “site.” Fine, I guess the term is kind of okay. But I still feel “monument” is a word that strongly connotes a physical thing that has been created rather than holes in the ground, no matter how impressive those holes may be.

  3. Kathryn McConaughy

    I think calling it “monumental architecture” would be okay, since we use that for the creation of any kind of stuff which requires significant resources/planning/numbers of people, but I agree that “monument” seems off…

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