Testimonials > Paul Frodsham

“I first visited Long Meg as an undergraduate student in the mid 1980s, and have been under her spell ever since. On my first visit, I recall asking myself how on earth could we study such a place: how would we know what questions to ask, never mind how to answer them? I waited decades for someone to do an excavation here, but no-one did. So when the opportunity came for me to lead a small fieldwork campaign, for the Altogether Archaeology project in partnership with Durham University, I of course grabbed it. The results of what was a very small-scale investigation are extraordinarily useful, providing some tentative answers but, inevitably, also raising many more questions.

The ultimate ‘meaning’ behind the building of a stone circle is probably irrecoverably lost to us. Certainly, the people who built Long Meg lived in what was to them a very different universe than ours seems to us today. But are we really that much further on in terms of our understanding of what life is all about? Possibly not. Yes, we have telescopes that can see the edge of the universe, the ability to create and occupy digital worlds, technology that can extend our lives by decades (or blow us to smithereens), complex religions that command obedience and sometimes offer solace (yet are ultimately based, it seems to me, on dubious foundations), and even the ability to understand aspects of Neolithic Britain that Neolithic people alive at the time were unaware of. But do these things make us ‘superior’ to the people who built Long Meg? In my opinion, they do not. Neolithic people made sense of their world and lived in harmony with it in ways that our modern western world seems incapable of comprehending. Studying aspects of the traditional spiritual lives of Native Americans surely offers clues. The complex yet essentially simple concept of the sacred circle could be particularly relevant. Whatever the details of the beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors, as a reformed atheist who is now proud to have progressed to agnosticism, and who no longer worries about the meaning of anything, I don’t think we have made very much progress over the past 5,000 years with regard to ultimate questions. I have huge respect for the people who built Long Meg as an expression of their cosmos, and, despite my access to modern scientific knowledge and the internet, I genuinely doubt that I have (or am capable of having) a more factually accurate understanding than them of the ultimate source of consciousness. Such thoughts cross divisions between philosophy and religion, which is what makes them so fascinating!

Over the past 40 years I have learned to experience Long Meg in two very different but complimentary ways. First, it is a place that makes me feel happy. I don’t know why, and it doesn’t really matter, but just wandering around the stones generates feelings of contentment, even serenity, that can be hard to find in the modern world. I know lots of other people feel the same way. Second, I see it as a vast archaeological puzzle; a place that can be studied scientifically within the context of Neolithic Britain, a time when people were driven, for reasons we can’t really comprehend today, to build vast monuments of earth, stone and timber, in many cases relating these to the movements of the sun and other heavenly bodies. Perhaps the real value of the place lies somewhere in the overlap between these two spheres of experience. There is certainly much more fieldwork and thinking to be done here, but my advice to anyone visiting the site is not to get too hung up on the ‘facts’, and to take some time just to enjoy it!”

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