Something momentous was in the air in the south of Britain about 4,500 years ago during the dying days of the Neolithic era, the final chapter of the Stone Age. Whatever it was cast a spell over the inhabitants and stirred them into a frenzy of monument building.
In an astonishingly brief span of time, people who lacked metal tools, horsepower, and the wheel erected many of Britain’s huge stone circles, wooden palisades, and grand avenues of standing stones.
The most famous relic of that long-ago building boom is Stonehenge, drawing millions of visitors to England’s Salisbury Plain. For centuries, the ancient megalith has intrigued and mystified all who’ve seen it.
Yet the truth is the most inscrutable of all, for it was built by a vanished people who left only a scatter of bones, stone and antler tools—and an array of equally mysterious monuments, some of which appear to have eclipsed Stonehenge in scale and grandeur.
Antiquarians and archaeologists have been picking over England’s ancient monuments since the 17th century. Yet it wasn’t until recent years that anyone realized many of these mega-monuments had been built at roughly the same time, and in a mad rush.
Now a burst of cutting-edge technologies has thrown open new windows into the past, allowing archaeologists to piece together the world of the great Stone Age monuments of southern Britain and the people who built them with a vividness that would have been inconceivable a few decades ago.
Reuben Wu is a multidisciplinary artist who uses technology and the concept of time and space to help tell compelling stories about the world we inhabit.
His work has been commissioned by National Geographic magazine, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, and he is a global brand ambassador for Phase One.
A leading artist in the photography NFT space, his work also belongs in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Alice Zoo is a photographer and writer based in London. She is interested in the ways that people create meaning for themselves—often in the forms of ritual, celebration, and recounted memory—and she is always seeking a visual address that is honest and nuanced.
Her work has been commissioned by publications including National Geographic, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, and has been exhibited internationally: in the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward 2016, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition in 2018, the Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition in 2018 and 2019, and the PhotoVogue Festival in 2020. She writes about art and photography for publications including the British Journal of Photography and for Magnum Photos, and she publishes a monthly photography newsletter called INTERLOPER.
Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic, the most popular brand on Instagram, has more than 215 million followers.
Britain’s Stone Age Building Boom
Featuring: Reuben Wu Alice Zoo
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