thousand years ago there was an Iron Age Celtic culture throughout the
British Isles. It seems that the Cells , who had been arriving from
Europe from the eighth century BC onwards, intermingled with the peoples
who were already there. We know that religious sites that had been
built long before the arrival of the Celts continued to be used in the
Celtic period .
For people in Britain today, the chief significance
of the prehistoric period (for which no written records exist) is its
sense of mystery.
This sense find s its focus most easily in the
astonishing monumental architecture of this period, the remains of which
exist throughout the country. Willshire, in south-western England, has
two spectacular examples: Silbury Hill , the large stburial mound in
Europe , and Stonehenge (c- Stonehenge) . Such places have a special
importance for anyone interested in the cultural and religious practices
of prehistoric Britain. We know very little about these practices, but
there are some organizations today (for example, the Order of Bards,
Ovates and Druids - a small group of eccentric intellectuals and
mystics) who base their beliefs on them. Stonehenge
was built on Salisbury Plain some time between 3050and 2300 BC . It is
one or the most famous and mysterious archaeological sites in the world .
One of its mysteries is how it was ever built at all with the
technology of the time (the stones come from over 200 miles away in
Wales). Another is its purpose. It appears to function as a kind of
astronomical clock and we know it was used by the Druids for ceremonies
marking the passing of the seasons. It has alwa ys exerted a fascination
on the British imagination. and appears in a number of novels, such as
Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles. These days Stonehenge is not
only of interest to tourists, but is also a gathering point for certain
minority groups such as hippies and New Age Travellers . It is now
fenced off to protect it from damage.