Stonehenge presents us with one of the greatest archaeological mysteries from prehistory. With each new breakthrough in field research and technological innovation, the full scale and significance of the ancient site only deepens. In this new magisterial study by Nikolai Tolstoy, an essentially historical approach is used to try and explain the human story behind the implacable stones, and to enliven our understanding of Stonehenge through the fragments of myth and ritual that survive through Britain's oral tradition. With years of patient study and an acquired fluency with the island's many ancient languages, Tolstoy excavates a new theory from the layers of cultural sediment.
Whilst admitting the latest archaeological evidence and research, Tolstoy aims to reconstruct the significant aspects of British pagan ideology and thinking from the pre-Roman era. By exploring the myths and rituals passed down alongside the material remnants of this lost civilisation, Stonehenge becomes illumined as the `sacred centre' of Britain, the holy site at which the ancient peoples' most profound beliefs - in the birth, destruction and eventual rebirth of their island itself - were celebrated.
Count Nikolai Tolstoy is the author of several books on Celtic mythology, including bestseller 'The Quest for Merlin' (Hamish Hamilton, 1985; Little, Brown, 1986). A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin in Modern History & Political Theory, he also pursued a course in Celtic languages & culture. His book, 'The Oldest British Prose Literature', was Wales Book of the Year runner-up 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Associate Member of St Anthony's College, Oxford. John Waddell is the former Professor of Archaeology and Head of the Department at NUI, Galway. He studied at the University of Glasgow and worked in the National Museum of Ireland before returning to Galway in 1970. Appointed Professor of Archaeology in 1998, he is a member of the Royal Irish Academy. His research interests lie mainly in the archaeology of prehistoric Ireland and in the prehistoric relationships between the island and Britain and Continental Europe.