John Aubrey & Stone Circles: Britains First Archaeologist from Avebury to Stonehenge

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It served as the basis for Richard Blackburne's Latin biography, Vitae Hobbianae auctarium , published in The life of Hobbes was included in Clark's edition of Brief Lives , but not in Bennett's edition.

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The Monumenta Britannica was Aubrey's principal collection of archaeological material, written over some thirty years between about and It falls into four parts: 1 "Templa Druidum", a discussion of supposed "druidic" temples, notably Avebury and Stonehenge ; 2 "Chorographia Antiquaria", a survey of other early urban and military sites, including Roman towns, "camps" hillforts , and castles; 3 a review of other archaeological remains, including sepulchral monuments, roads, coins and urns; and 4 a series of more analytical pieces, including four exercises attempting to chart the chronological stylistic evolution of handwriting, medieval architecture, costume, and shield-shapes.

An edition of the first three parts reproduced, following unorthodox editing principles, partly in facsimile , and partly in printed transcript was published by John Fowles and Rodney Legg in two volumes in — This edition has, however, been criticised for doing Aubrey "less than justice" on various grounds: for a failure to consolidate what were essentially drafts and working notes into a coherent whole, for silent omissions and rearrangements, for inadequate and occasionally inaccurate annotation, and for the omission of the important fourth part of the work.

Aubrey began work on compiling material for a natural historical and antiquarian study of Wiltshire in Independently, in , a self-appointed committee of Wiltshire gentry determined that a county history should be produced on the model of William Dugdale 's Antiquities of Warwickshire. It was agreed that Aubrey would deal with the northern division of the county. He chose to divide the work into two separate projects, on the antiquities and the natural history of the county respectively. The work on the antiquities which he entitled Hypomnemata Antiquaria was closely modelled on Dugdale, and was largely finished by Aubrey deposited his draft in the Ashmolean Museum in two manuscript volumes.

Unfortunately, one of these was withdrawn by his brother in and subsequently lost. Some of his interim observations were read to the Royal Society in and —6. In Aubrey recast the work, now modelling it on Robert Plot 's Natural History of Oxford-shire published in ; and it was effectively finished by —91, when he transcribed a fair copy.

In Aubrey asked his brother William Aubrey and Thomas Tanner to bring the project to completion, but despite their best intentions they failed to do so. The Royal Society's copy, which includes material mainly on supernatural phenomena that Aubrey afterwards removed from his own manuscript, is now Royal Society MS In , the royal cosmographer and cartographer John Ogilby , planning a national atlas and chorography of Britain, licensed Aubrey to undertake a survey of Surrey.

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John Aubrey & Stone Circles : Britain's First Archaeologist, From Avebury to Stonehenge

Aubrey carried out the work, but in the event Ogilby's project was curtailed, and he did not use the material. Aubrey, however, continued to add to his manuscript until The manuscript is now Bodleian MS Aubrey 4. In a much-revised form with both additions and excisions it was published by Richard Rawlinson as the Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey in five volumes in — The Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme was Aubrey's collection of material on customs, traditions, ceremonies, beliefs, old wives' tales and rhymes—or what today would be termed folklore.

It was compiled over many years, but written up between and The manuscript came into the hands of White Kennett , and as a result it is not with Aubrey's other collections in the Bodleian: it is in the British Library , as Lansdowne MS An edition was published by James Britten for the Folklore Society in It was more satisfactorily re-edited in by John Buchanan-Brown.

Aubrey's Interpretation of Villare Anglicanum its preface dated 31 October was the first attempt to devote a work entirely to the subject of English place-names. It is, however, unfinished or, as Gillian Fellows-Jensen observes, "hardly begun". The manuscript is now Bodleian MS Aubrey 5. The only work published by Aubrey in his lifetime was his Miscellanies ; reprinted with additions in , a collection of 21 short chapters on the theme of "hermetick philosophy" i.

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Its contents mainly comprised documented reports of supernatural manifestations. The work did much to bolster Aubrey's posthumous reputation as a superstitious and credulous eccentric. Aubrey's papers also included "Architectonica Sacra"; and "Erin Is God" notes on ecclesiastical antiquities. His "Adversaria Physica" was a scientific commonplace book, which by amounted to a folio "an inch thick". He wrote two plays, both comedies intended for Thomas Shadwell. The first has not survived; the second, "Countrey Revell", remained unfinished.

Starring Roy Dotrice , it became the most successful one-man production ever seen, with Dotrice giving over performances across forty years on both sides of the Atlantic.

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  8. For many, the play became an essential means of understanding a "vanished time" and one version of it. Aubrey scholars, however, have sometimes seen the production as over-emphasising its subject's eccentricities and lack of organisation, to the detriment of a wider appreciation of his contributions to scholarship.

    The Stone Circles of Avebury, England (subtitled)

    In the Doctor Who serial " The Stones of Blood "—which features a neolithic stone circle—the Doctor quips, "I always thought that Druidism was founded by John Aubrey in the seventeenth century as a joke. He had a great sense of humour, John Aubrey. In , Aubrey's Brief Lives [18] was a five-part drama serial on Radio 4. Writer Nick Warburton intertwined some of Aubrey's biographical sketches with the story of the turbulent friendship between Aubrey and Anthony Wood.

    Abigail le Fleming produced and directed. In , Ruth Scurr published John Aubrey: My Own Life , a semi-fictional "diary" or "autobiography" of Aubrey, which draws heavily on Aubrey's own surviving scattered writings with minor adaptation and modernisation , but is essentially an artificial construction by Scurr. But another advance had been required before this simple two and two could be added together.

    This had been made by Inigo Jones.

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    His conclusions were at last printed in in The most notable Antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, Restored by Inigo Jones Esquire , the first book exclusively about Stonehenge. Self-interest helped him. The admirable in architecture was Roman, Stonehenge from its order and symmetry was admirable, therefore Stonehenge was Roman. If it was Roman—only a little earlier, that is to say, than the fifth century date given it by Geoffrey of Monmouth—then what could it have been?

    Appropriately it stood in the open air, it was never roofed, it was circular. With a knowledge of other stone circles Aubrey adopted this new. Rebutting Inigo Jones, he announced this in Chorea Gigantum, or Restored to the Danes To preface it Dryden composed a fine poem which is worth reading for its excellent statement of the spirit of enquiry abroad in the sixteen-sixties—. The one remarkable dissentient among the antiquaries was Aylett Sammes, who declared in , adapting the speculations of a French scholar about Gaul, that Stonehenge was raised by the Phoenicians when they repeopled Britain after the Flood.

    The rival theorists seemed to him ridiculous—. Nevertheless, Stonehenge was now British and Druid almost immovably. Romance was about to, dispel scepticism and reason once more. William Stukeley became for his own century a new Geoffrey of Monmouth. Again it was a matter of both Zeitgeist and temperament.

    He was a doctor, scientifically trained, a Fellow of the Royal Society and the first secretary of the Society of Antiquaries. His eye was sharp, his curiosity strong, but he was credulous. Fascinated by the past, he was too easily moved to concoct schematizations which explained it.

    Druids attracted him, and Gothic architecture. He made accurate plans of Stonehenge and was the first to detect some of its unnoticed subsidiaries. He was ordained.

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    From a variety of sources including Aylett Sammes he made the Druids, not a barbarous priesthood sacrificing victims in wicker cages, but a patriarchal hierarchy of Phoenician origin who were quasi-Christians before Christianity; and in his two books, Stonehenge, A Temple restored to the British Druids of observe how his title echoes both Jones and Charleton and Abury, A Temple of the British Druids he advanced this theory of Druidism to combat that rational free-thinking in eighteenth century England by which as a cleric he was now so distressed and which was in fact the religious counterpart of classical and rational notions in art.

    All that his feelings prompted, and selected and combined out of the speculative writing of the previous fifty years on Druids, British history and Stonehenge became with him fact beyond question. Inigo Jones had twisted his plans of Stonehenge to fit his Roman attribution. John Wood, on the other hand, who published in his Choir Gaure an account in some details just as lunatic, was one of the great architects of the age, so even more drastically he shows how Reason could be betrayed by her votaries.

    His Druidism was thorough. Stonehenge was also a Druid temple dedicated chiefly to the moon but also to the sun and some of the elements. Mount Killaraus was not in Ireland but on the Marlborough Downs above Avebury, which are so speckled with sarsens.

    Stukeley, following Sammes, had made Hercules from Tyre the leader of the first landing party of Phoenician Druids. Wood, borrowing also from Sammes that Hercules was worshipped as Ogmius, connected this Ogmius with the Wiltshire village of Ogboume near the sarsen stones. Only in Victorian times when geological science and discoveries in caverns at Brixham and elsewhere pushed back the antiquity of man beyond the old date of B. Meanwhile, in imaginative literature Stonehenge found its greatest poet.

    Jerusalem is the poem to read. No other writer so profoundly transforms Druidic Stonehenge. Emerson and Carlyle went to Stonehenge in , Carlyle lighting a cigar among the stones, both of them thinking of mortality and change. It was more by the mystery than by any of the explanations which he reviewed that Emerson was absorbed. From now on, as the concept of prehistory enlarged and clarified, Stonehenge pulled less and less at the imaginative writer. Some of the older specialists fought a romantic rearguard action, but by that time Lord Avebury had long expelled the Druids.

    The ages of iron, bronze and stone had been devised as helpful if inexact divisions; and in , in his Prehistoric Times , Lord Avebury had pushed Stonehenge back from the Celtic Druids into the bosom of the Bronze Age, where by majority vote it remains, on the basis of excavation and analogy. And in , archaeologists suggested that Stonehenge was a center for healing, a prehistoric version of Lourdes that attracted the sick and injured.

    First held in during the summer solstice, the Stonehenge Free Festival started as a counter-culture gathering that grew significantly in size over time. After tens of thousands of people showed up for the festival, authorities, concerned about such issues as open drug use, banned the event for the following year.

    Nevertheless, on June 1, , a long convoy of vehicles filled with would-be festival goers who were part of a movement called the New Age Travellers made its way toward Stonehenge. About seven miles from the ancient site, police stopped the convoy. Accounts of what happened next vary: Law enforcement officers claimed they were attacked by people in the vehicles, while those in the convoy said the police dragged various individuals, unprovoked, from their vehicles and beat them. The Travellers fled to a nearby beanfield, where they were surrounded by police, and more violence ensued.

    Two dozen people were hospitalized, and numerous arrests were made. In the aftermath of the so-called Battle of the Beanfield, summer solstice gatherings at Stonehenge were prohibited until In , naturalist Charles Darwin traveled to Stonehenge to conduct research on a subject that had long fascinated him: earthworms.

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    During his visit, Darwin, who was interested in the impact that worms had on objects in the soil over time, observed how a fallen stone at the ancient monument had sunk deeper into the ground as a result of the activities of the lowly creatures, who continually churn through the soil. While Stonehenge has been referred to as the most architecturally sophisticated ancient stone circle, the largest of them is Avebury, located 25 miles north of Stonehenge.

    Constructed between B. Inside the ditch is an inner stone circle that encloses two smaller stone circles. During the Medieval era, a number of the stones were knocked over and buried by local Christians who believed they were pagan symbols. Later, some of the stones were broken up and used as building materials. In the s, archaeologist Alexander Keiller, heir to a British marmalade fortune, purchased the site.