What exactly is a henge anyway? (and special guest star!)

This past weekend I had the chance to see one of Britain’s most famous landmarks! The beautiful and mysterious Stonehenge! We got up early so that we could make it to Wiltshire in good time. The mysterious monument has been there for over 3000 years, and most of its origins remain unknown. I was probably built in stages over a period of centuries, all supposedly predating the invention of the wheel. They are also set up to align with evens like the summer solstice, which today makes it a pilgrimage site for many. This year alone thousands of people attended solstice at Stonehenge. Today, visitors are not able to go directly up to the stones, but in the past you could, so there are photographs of the centuries old graffiti left on the stones.
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The day we went if was a glorious morning, and it wasn’t very crowded. I was able to sample the world famous “rock cakes” at the sites cafe. (Totally tasted way better then they sound) It is located in a very nice country area, with lots of prehistoric “mound” burial sites in the surrounding fields. Right next to the car park was a field filled with sheep, and birds flew over head. Practically a perfect day to visit!
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Later on that day we paid a visit to the town of Salisbury. It has a very nice cathedral, and market. And it is the home to a copy of the Magna Carta.
The cathedral tower was added later, years after the church was originally built. When it was added it was too heavy and buckled the walls, and had to be modified in the 1400s to prevent collapse. To this day it is 2 ft off center.
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Inside the church there are many memorials and effigy’s of famous people in he town’s history.
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According to the guide in the chapel. The gentleman was the illegitimate son of Henry the II and the half-brother of King John (Magna Carta guy). He was married to a very rich local lady, and when he appearance went missing in the crusades, other men were eager to marry her. The most powerful of these men arranged to have him declared dead, and planned a huge wedding. The day of the wedding her real husband showed up, and everyone agreed to change the celebration to a “welcome home” shingdig. Rather unfortunately for him, the day after his welcome home, this man got sick and died. Everyone at the time thought he was poisoned. Fast-forward to the Victorian era. In the 19th century when they re-opened this tomb a rat was found with the body. They removed it and tested it. It appeared the rat nibbled on this guy and got poisoned and died too. You can buy a postcard with a photo of the rat…(I had to pass on that).
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And now to the special guest! This week I went to a wonderful museum, called the John Soane Musem, with Puget Sound’s own (and my advisor) David Smith.
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He was doing research in London, (at the Metropolitan archives!) so we arragned to have a museum visit and then ice cream. The John Soane Museum is simply one of the most extraordinary places I have ever been. Quite literally it is a couple of houses packed with stuff. But Soane, an architect, had some amazing stuff! It is like the Georgian version of “Hoarders Buried Alive” except the things in the house are ancient statues, models of Roman temples, empty sarcophagi, and Hogarth paintings! It was so cool.

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