My mortifying slip-and-fall near Stonehenge and the stoking of curiosity

College chums helping to fuel the eventual roping off of Stonehenge from tourists (Photo: DY, 1981)

College chums helping to accelerate the eventual roping off of Stonehenge from tourists (Photo: DY, 1981)

I can thank a British sheep or two from 1981 for stoking my interest in this story:

In a piece for the Huffington Post, science writer Macrina Cooper-White reports on a potentially significant discovery near Stonehenge in Britain:

Archaeologists studying Stonehenge and its environs say they’ve unearthed the remnants of an untouched, ancient encampment that dates back 6,000 years–a find that could rewrite British prehistory.

“This is the most important discovery at Stonehenge in over 60 years,” Professor Tim Darvill, a Bournemouth University archaeologist and a Stonehenge expert who was not involved in the new discovery, told the Telegraph. And as he told The Huffington Post in an email, the discovery overturns previous theories that “Stonehenge was built in a landscape that was not heavily used before about 3000 B.C.”

It’s pretty cool stuff, yes? But I might’ve passed on the story had Stonehenge not made its own indelible mark on my life decades ago.

During my 1981 semester abroad in England via Valparaiso University, one of our weekend group trips included a visit to Stonehenge. (As the photograph above indicates, we were ultra-serious about these mini-sojourns, giving new meaning to the term “visiting scholars.”)

You see the comely lass waving to me in the photo below? That’s my long-time friend Hilda, now an English teacher and novelist in Northwest Indiana. You can visit her book sites here (Kingdom of the Birds) and here (Plank Road Stories).

Near Stonehenge (Photo: DY, 1981)

Near Stonehenge (Photo: DY, 1981)

Anyway, if memory serves me well, just a few minutes after snapping that picture of Hilda, I would take a short slide down a hill. Although it was damp and cold that day, it wasn’t precipitation that precipitated my fall. No, I had slipped and scooted down on a big pile of sheep droppings.

Yup, really, really gross. And kind of mortifying.

I won’t dwell too much on the odoriferous aftermath, but suffice it to say (1) thank God our bags were packed in the bus nearby, so I could change; and (2) although my wardrobe was sparse — most of us did our best to pack light for our semester abroad — I removed those trousers and quickly threw them away.

Now, you rightly may be asking yourself what the heck this has to do with a potentially significant archeological discovery near Stonehenge, and I agree the connection seems weak.

But here’s one thing I’ve learned about travel and education: Simply being there plants a lot of seeds. (No jokes about fertilizer, please.) I was not anything close to being an Anglophile when I opted to spend my final undergraduate semester abroad. But I got sooo much out of that experience, despite my remarkable immaturity at the time. In fact, I’ve returned to England at least a half dozen times since that collegiate semester, and each visit has been rewarding.

So when I read about this exciting discovery near Stonehenge, I thought to myself, cool, I’ve been there!, and then checked out the article with great interest.

Of course, it’s not necessary to have visited a country in order to appreciate it. I’m fascinated by ancient Greece, for example, but have never visited there. In my case, however, it does help to have walked around a place.

And who knows, maybe that location is close to where I did my slide down the hill!? Talk about deep-seated connections….

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