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This week’s words are taken from Smithsonian Magazine of this month, reporting on a rare event: an excavation at Stonehenge.
    Remarkably, although Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world, definitive data about it are scarce. In part, this is because of the reluctance of English Heritage, the site's custodian, to permit excavations. [Last spring marked] the first excavation in 44 years of the inner circle of Stonehenge — the best-known and most mysterious megalithic monument in the world.
megalith – a very large stone used in various prehistoric architectures or monumental styles, notably in western Europe during the second millennium B.C.
[Ancient Greek megas great+ lithos stone]
 
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I regret that Shu and I never visited Stonehenge when we were in England. That's a good reason to visit England again!
 
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You can always open a rock door easily if it's mounted on a Stonehenge.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I regret that Shu and I never visited Stonehenge when we were in England. That's a good reason to visit England again!

Although it's a site worth seeing, there are plenty that are more interesting, if less famous. Next time you're over we must arrange some visits to a few ancient sites - Avebury, Grimes Graves, Bath - there are plenty of them.

So, England for Wordcraft 2009?


Richard English
 
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Stonehenge

Henge is related to both hang and hinge. I visited Stonehenge in '76, when you could still walk around among the stones. One of the larger bits of graffiti was Christopher Wrenn's name scraped onto one of the massive (tipped) uprights. There are many single standing stones in the British Isles and parts of France called menhirs. This being one of the few words from Breton I know of in the English language.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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To my mild shame I've never visited Stonehenge. I've seen it from a distance a couple of times when driving past on the A303 main road.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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You know what the famous three-stone arches at Stonehenge look like. But what are they called? Well, just as megalith meant "big stones" (no lewd comments, please!), the name of those three-stone arches means "three stones".

trilithon; trilith – a monument consisting of three stones (esp. one forming a kind of doorway: two uprights supporting a crosspiece)
[Greek tri- three + lithos stone]
lintelarchitecture: a horizontal piece spanning an opening (of a door, window, etc.)
[prob. akin to limit; altered by influence of Latin limen threshold]
    … the retinue approached the outer circle of massive stone trilithons — each made up of two huge pillars capped by a stone lintel — and passed through them to the inner circle.
Bonus word:
retinue
– a group of advisers or assistants accompanying an important person
[from Old French meaning "to keep back, retain"]
 
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"I'm sorry," said Dorothy to her metal friend. "There is just too much rust. We'll have to retinue."


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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henge – a sacred enclosure typically comprising a circular bank and a ditch

In its earliest years Stonehenge was no different from many other sites.
    The first phase, built around 3000 B.C., was a simple circular earthwork enclosure similar to many "henges" (sacred enclosures typically comprising a circular bank and a ditch) found throughout the British Isles. Around 2800 B.C., timber posts were erected within the enclosure. Again, such posts are not unusual—Woodhenge, for example, which once consisted of tall posts arranged in a series of six concentric oval rings, lies only a few miles to the east.
[Originally the word "henge" seemed to refer to a circle of stones (or even hanging stones). Dictionaries tend to define it that way, but in current usage the circle may one without stones, as here.]
 
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The Smithsonian article focuses not on the huge trilithons, but on the smaller-but-still-massive bluestones. With their arrival, Stonehenge was no longer an ordinary henge like any other.

bluestone1. a bluish-gray sandstone used for paving and building (or 2. a similar stone)
    Stonehenge began to take on its modern form when the 80 or so bluestones were arranged in a double circle with an entrance facing northeast. "Their arrival is when Stonehenge was transformed from a quite ordinary and typical monument into something unusual." The importance of the bluestones is underscored by the immense effort involved in moving them a long distance—some were as long as ten feet and weighed four tons. They came from southwest Wales, 140 miles from Stonehenge. The immensity of the undertaking—requiring thousands of man-hours and sophisticated logistics—has convinced Darvill and Wainwright that the bluestones must have been considered extraordinary. With so many henges across Britain, why was this one chosen to receive the benedictions of the bluestones? [ellipses omitted)
Sidenote: The bluestones of Stonehenge fall under part 2 of the definition, not part 1 ("sandstone"). Sandstone is a sedimentary rock, but the Stonehenge bluestones are "igneous rocks, such as dolerite and rhyolite—so called because they take on a bluish hue when wet or cut." (emph. added)
 
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Two other stone terms I've always liked: celt (both the stone tool (adze) and the toy rattleback or wobble stone) and acheulean handaxe.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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In the wilds of western Nebraska is Carhenge.
I've been there. I didn't make a special trip for it, though.
 
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Yesterday we "focuse[d] not on the huge trilithons, but on … bluestones." The trilithons are made of a stone whose name preserves a striking image: it is from Saracen – a Muslim, esp. with reference to the Crusades.

sarsen – one of the numerous large boulders or blocks of sandstone found scattered on the surface of the chalk downs
    Stonehenge's sarsens — enormous blocks of hard sandstone used to build the towering trilithons — were quarried and collected from the Marlborough Downs a mere [sic!] 20 miles to the north.
 
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Our final quote from the Stonehenge article is a nice metaphorical use of a medical term.

keyhole surgery – surgery through a very small incision
[minimally invasive; much less traumatic to the patient than traditional open surgery. More technically called endoscopic surgery or laparoscopic surgery.]
    [In view of] the reluctance of English Heritage, the site's custodian, to permit excavations … , Darvill and Wainwright requested official permission for the archaeological equivalent of keyhole surgery in order to study part of the first bluestone setting on the site.
Interestingly, "Wainwright had been English Heritage's chief archaeologist for several years. … Darvill had worked with the organization on a plan … which made the case for small-scale, targeted excavations. " A cynic might suspect that when you want to make "the first excavation in 44 years", it helps to have an "in" with the organization whose permission is required.
 
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