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‘The Modern Antiquarian’: Julian Cope’s guided tour of the megaliths of Britain
06.16.2017
12:07 pm
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Sure, everyone knows about Stonehenge, but it might not be quite as widely known that stone rings and megaliths dating back several thousand years, well before the birth of Christ, are quite common in Europe and especially Great Britain. Julian Cope, formerly of the Teardrop Explodes, set out to remedy that with his stupendously informative books The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain (1998) and The Megalithic European: The 21st Century Traveller in Prehistoric Europe (2004).

One of Cope’s pet tropes is the concept of “moving forward,” an idea strong enough to yoke his original clan in the postpunk movement and his country’s forebears of the Neolithic era (4500-2000 B.C.), as in his opening salvo, which runs, “Rock and roll didn’t start off as an excuse for sloth. It started off because people were forward-thinking mofos.” Amusingly, at one point Cope compares the druids responsible for a given megalith as exhibiting the same mentality as “glam rockers.” This theme would find even deeper expression in Cope’s sprawling 2012 book Copendium.
 

  
Cope’s enthusiasm is undeniably infectious, whether in his survey of Krautrock, his investigation into Japanese rock, or his obsession with megalithic stone circles. In 2000, between the publication of the two books, the BBC aired an hour-long program called The Modern Antiquarian in which Cope drives all around Britain for two weeks in order to visit the many remarkable hill forts, monuments, stone circles, and barrows, especially in the west and far north of Britain.

Stonehenge and Avebury are the two best-known sites, but to his credit Cope does not emphasize them much, opting instead to show off locales such as the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, Scotland, which may well be the oldest henge site in the British Isles; Long Meg and Her Daughters in Cumbria, the sixth-largest stone circle in Britain; and the Callanish Stones in the Outer Hebrides, which was possibly a prehistoric lunar observatory.
 

Section of the Ring of Brodgar, in Orkney, Scotland
 
It’s difficult to look at the meticulously arranged stones and not wonder what it could all have been about. This is far from the often hoax-y realm of crop circles—after all, this may be the earliest tangible evidence of religious or scientific feeling in ancient peoples. Cope penetratingly points out that any of these constructs suggests the existence of “free time,” in that a culture that was scrapping for mere survival could never have undertaken such projects.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.16.2017
12:07 pm
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Julian Cope explores the geography of the mystic

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In addition to being a smashing songwriter, singer and memoirist, Julian Cope has spent the past 20 years exploring and documenting Britain’s megalithic heritage: monuments, stone circles, hill forts and barrows. In this documentary made for the BBC, we follow Cope on his journey into the geography of the mystic, a place of ceremony and magic.

The documentary is a companion piece to Cope’s splendid, sadly out-of-print, 1998 book ‘The Modern Antiquarian’. Fortunately, for those of us interested in sacred places he curates a website and you can find it here.

Since launching in March 2000ce, the site has grown to be a massive resource for news, information, images, folklore & weblinks on the ancient sites across the UK, Ireland and Europe.

 

 
Watch parts 2-6 after the jump…

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Posted by Marc Campbell
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11.11.2010
12:37 am
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