The Face of Stonehenge

stonehenge

MS Paint FTW! Original is here.

Here’s a bit of internet archaeology – an online story from ten years ago. That’s a long time in internet years, even more so if you’re a dog. This story, which I had to check was not an April Fool, was sent in by a friend of mine, and is hilarious on two counts;

1) The “faces” are textbook Pareidolia – in fact, in this case, I don’t think I’d even have noticed the “faces” if I hadn’t had it pointed out to me.

2) It’s a shockingly poor piece of journalism that wouldn’t pass muster if posted today.

I mean, honestly. This was written by a science editor??? Not only is the tone entirely uncritical – “It is the first face ever seen on the Neolithic monument and one of the oldest works of art ever found in Britain” – but it’s not even at a GCSE standard of English – “Stonehenge was built about 2450 BC but why does Dr Meaden believe the carving was made at the time and was not done much later.”

How about some punctuation first? The lurid pseudoscience could have waited. I wondered whether perhaps this was a rush job. Then I hoped that the sentence “It is amazing that it has never been recognised before.” was meant to be sarcastic. But considering the author’s CV, and hasty typing aside, the author was wholly sincere. The same guy staunchly defended (on TV and in print) a natural theory of crop circle formation earlier on in the 1990s, with the hoaxers and their planks more fun than they could have dreamed of. According to the postscript to this article by the sceptics that proved “natural” crop circles could be (and therefore probably were) formed by hoaxers, the man in question quite soon adapted his position in light of the evidence – an admirable trait, despite an unfortunate prior attitude best illustrated by this quote from the same article;

“…all truly open-minded, unbiased people who have properly studied the facts accept that this is so.”

You would think that someone so monumentally wrong might apply a little more critical thinking in future – for example – if someone claimed to have found carved faces in one of the most studied monuments in the entire world. In any case, as with the crop circle debacle, the final test of the Stonehenge faces is whether or not their existence has been verified or more evidence been built in the intervening ten years. Has it?

Has it bollocks. You’ll find it only on fringe websites or those having a bit of fun. I wonder what the author’s position is now – if it’s changed, he might like to submit a correction to the BBC News website, whose administrators really ought to have vetted their “science” articles a little more thoroughly. But hey – the BBC has come on in its science and heritage reporting since the turn of the last millennium. And if they do it again, there are many more pairs of eyes ready to catch any embarrassing claims like this.

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