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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Review: If Stones Could Speak

While doing research at the library for Bowen's history class, we ran across If Stones Could Speak. I asked Bowen if he remembered visiting Stonehenge, and of course he did, so we checked the book out of the library and it became his bedtime reading for a few days, while he did his own history supplementary reading by himself.

I don't usually expect to learn much from kids non-fiction. But this one is amazing. Not only is it an exposition of Stonehenge, Wood-henge, and the archaeology of the area, it's also an introduction to the scientific process and the importance of getting diverse insights from non-traditional sources! It turns out that Stonehenge is not an ancient Druidic temple the way much of popular media has traditionally depicted it, but was a cemetery. This insight was only arrived at in recent years after someone thought to ask a historian from Madagascar what he thought the significance of the site was. The response was that "It's a house for the dead. Stone for the dead, wood for the living."

The book then goes deeply (but in simple language!) into the search for evidence that would prove (or disprove) the conjecture and how the process goes, set-backs and all. The final results are not stated as a "just so" story, but is instead discussed as a theory that's still undergoing refinement and discussion and how it led to a change in how archaeology is performed at Stonehenge. This is an amazing introduction to the scientific process and how it works.

This is a great book, and the perfect book for a computer scientist to read to his kid. You should do so as well. I certainly wish I'd read it before I visited Stonehenge! Highly recommended.

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