Monday, August 16, 2010

Canada's Stonehenge

I thought I'd mention here the name of a book I've just read by a Canadian scholar, Gordon Freeman. He is a retired professor from the University of Alberta. His book is called Canada's Stonehenge: Astounding Archaeological Discoveries in Canada, England, and Wales. You can read about it at
The Canadian Stonehenge he describes is a cairn of rocks in southern Alberta. It's larger than the many small circles of stones in many places on the Prairies, circles that are commonly called "medicine wheels." By making many visits to this cairn in all seasons of the year over decades, Freeman has confirmed that it is not merely a mound of rocks surrounded by stones left randomly by the melting glacier, as archaeologists have assumed. The site is an astronomical observatory at least 5,000 years old with sightlines for summer and winter solstice sunrises and sunsets, and many other sightlines.
Freeman has repeatedly asked the provincial government of Alberta to protect the site from digging for oil well development. His requests have been partially successful, protecting the cairn itself but only some of the surrounding area.
I think his book will be of great interest to many people. Freeman also discusses his observations at Stonehenge in England, and the Welsh source of some of the stones installed at Stonehenge. The author is sympathetic to the cultures who built these great stone features. He has made a particular effort to learn about calendars in their various forms. In his text he doesn't shy away from commenting on political decision-making, particularly as it influenced the Gregorian reforms to the modern calendar.
Check out his website, and get your local public library to order a copy of the book. This book is the opposite of the ravings of a wing-nut: it's the sober description of years of quiet observation in the field, and the studies of a scholar who for decades has interacted peaceably with farmers and small-town people as well as government officials and academics. I find it a very Canadian book, and a good one for describing what it's like to be a scholar of books and of the natural world while living in Alberta.