Friday, July 24, 2015
Robert Silverberg: The Desecration of Stonehenge
"The Aliens! Pulling down Stonehenge, taking it apart!"
In Robert Silverberg's novel The Alien Years, a young girl Yasmeena hears the men shout while hiding from her parents. A part of her wonders why the Entities who rule the Earth would do that, but the rest of her is consumed with the pain of childbirth. The next day, a crowd gathers around the ancient stone circle.
Three of the towering alien creatures had supervised while a human work crew, using hand-held pistol-like devices that emitted a bright violet glow, had uprooted every single one of the ancient stone slabs of the celebrated megalithic monument on windswept Salisbury Plain as though they were so many jackdaws. And had rearranged them so that what had been the outer circle of immense sandstone blocks had now become two parallel rows running north to south; the lesser inner ring of blue slabs had been moved about to form an equilateral triangle; and the sixteen-foot-long block of sandstone at the center of the formation that people called the altar stone had been moved to an upright position at the center.
Her parents will find her too late to save her life, so Yasmeena will never learn the meaning behind the Entities' rearrangement of Stonehenge. Perhaps her son Khalid, if he lives to manhood, will learn the reasoning of Earth's new Alien masters.
The audio guide provided by English Heritage suggests that, at some point in the past, the above section of Stonehenge was pulled down, and some slabs taken away, perhaps for use by nearby farmers. But wikipedia details a long series of changes that the ancient stone circle, and the long barrow tombs underwent over thousands of years. Clearly what was once holy and sacred to Humans changes with time. We lose interest in what was, and repurpose the past to serve present needs. Whether we decry such changes desecration, or celebrate their reinvigoration, is for each of us to decide.