Sunday, May 31, 2015

"The Magic of Stonehenge" Season 1 Episode 24

The episode "The Magic of Stonehenge" first aired on September 10, 1977 . It was written by Deborah Blum and produced by Alan Landsburg and J. Francis Hitching.

Well I've been waiting for this episode ever since the earlier episode about "America's Stonehenge" and here we have it!

Nimoy teases us with the magic and mystery of Stonehenge. How was this created and for what purpose? This immense circle of stones on the Salisbury Plain in England has been known about and wondered about for centuries. Stonehenge, as it is known, continues to provoke interest.

Nimoy says that recent evidence suggests that Stonehenge is a complex machine with a simple purpose. Some theories were that it was a temple of the dead, or sacred site for sacrifice.
In the mid-1960's Astronomer Gerald Hawkins offered a new theory. He wrote a book called Beyond Stonehenge that outlined his ideas. Hawkins examination of the structures led to his belief that the structure has more to do with the placement of heavenly bodies and seeing those bodies in the sky at certain time so fthe year. In a sense, he believes it is a type of calendar.

Now for some history. Nimoy takes us back to the world of 2500 BC, roughly the time Stonehenge is believed to have been built. Most people in this part of Europe lived in caves and had crude weapons and tools. The Great Pyramids were being built in Egypt and the Sumerians were just inventing writing in modern day Iraq. He does a nice job of giving us context for the people of England in 2500 BC.

Stonehenge was built at this time, but no one knows why. Hawkins indicates the stones were quarried and explains how we know this. So how did they get from the quarry to this spot? Further, Nimoy tells us the stones can only be found place in the world, the Preseli mountains. The mountains are not that close to Salisbury Plain, so how did they get there? Next we are introduced to investigator Francis Hitching.

Hitching believes that for the ancient inhabitants of Britain, the countryside was alive with spirits. They believed the rocks themselves were alive magical powers. Legends of the "Devil's Heel" abound in the area. Locals believe the devil left his footprint on a massive stone. This is not unique to England. Locals in Maine now the story of the Witch's Foot which is very similar.

(Witch's Foot in Bucksport, ME)
 Nimoy says another local legend near Stonehenge tells of 9 maidens who were frozen into stone. To this day 9 oddly placed very large stones are still visible. Legends to explain the random placement of theses rocks or spirits at work? Nimoy tells several other stories including the one of the Stanton Drew circles, stones which could supposedly cure children of the pox. Hitching seems to believe these stories are true and the secret to that power was known to the ancient people and those secrets have since been lost. How else could the stones have been moved? Those powers may be the answer. An experiment was conducted to move a stone 1/50 of the stones at Stonehenge, and it was extremely difficult. Legend also contends the magician Merlin cast a spell to make the stones light for movement. Back to Hawkins who believes it took millions of manpower hours to move the stones.

Nimoy now introduces us to the Druids. They claim a religious connection to the site. However, they have no knowledge of the history of the stones. So they are not helpful in determining the origins of the stones. But do their beliefs about the stones gives clues?

Hitching points us that some 300 similar circles exist throughout Britain. Professor Alexander Thom has spent time studying these circles. Thom was convinced that these stones have a design that is purposeful. He was the first to discover a connection to the alignment of planes and other heavenly bodies in the night's sky. Hitching explains that some theorize the power of the stones may be connected to the theory that Britain is criss-crossed with ley lines. These lines supposedly link all ancient sites and locations were chose because of the power. This implies a knowledge and ability to communicate among the ancients that would be difficult to imagine. Hitching says we can use tools to measure anomalies in the Earth's magnetic field in these locations. Did these people truly possess magic, or did they have an advanced knowledge of magnetic powers and electromagnetic energy?

Hawkins and a computer, were able to prove that Stonehenge is a type of calendar. The heel stone points at the rising sun at dawn in the middle of summer. Is this the only purpose? And still, who put up these stones? Throughout history, Caesar and others assumed it was the ancient Druids who built the stones. Hitching tells us that the Druids who exist today are a 19th century invention. The ancient Druids are not really closely connected. Hitching concludes the druids are not the architects of Stonehenge. But then, who did it? Someone with an interest in astronomy and a knowledge 500 years ahead of its time. Hawkins speculates that these people may have been worshipping time when they built Stonehenge.

"Stonehenge is not alone as a riddle of ancient design. In the thick jungles of the Yucatan peninsula, an ancient observatory called the Caracol charted the phases of Venus as accurately as 20th century telescopes. Buried deep within the same jungle a Mayan pyramid was aligned to the mid-summer's sun. Six thousand miles away Egyptian pyramids mapped the rising and the setting sun on the same day. And in the distant past of India Holy men gathered to watch the sky. For what were they waiting?"

I really liked this episode. There was a bit more creepiness than the previous episode, and just as much history and mystery. anytime you see people in white sheets walking slowly around massive stones, its just creepy. There was the right amount of evidence and speculation so as not to get too weird.

"We can speculate that our ancestors were possessed of knowledge that was somehow lost to succeeding generations. Or, perhaps... they had help." That was the closer I was waiting for! Way to imply that maybe aliens gave them help right at the end! This sets up the later TV series Ancient Aliens nicely. Good quality way to end the first series of "In Search Of... ". I suspect and I hope season two will be even better!

You can watch this episode "The Magic of Stonehenge" below.

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