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Stonehenge in Punch Cartoons 1860-1999: A Leaky Pipeline from Experts to the Public



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Michaelson, Gregory 


Popular accounts of prehistory usually reflect prevailing archaeological understanding. However, cartoons about prehistory are based on a small number of well-established tropes, that seem resistant to new evidence and changing interpretations. In an ongoing study, over 850 cartoons about prehistory, published in Punch between 1841 and 2002, are being interrogated. Of these, 96 concern Stonehenge, an internationally renowned monument, whose origins, purposes, and symbolic status are regularly contested. From expert publication, public dissemination, and educational and popular accounts, it might be expected that Stonehenge cartoons would expose Druid, Bronze Age or Neolithic origins, astronomical, mortuary, religious or ritual use, and wider British exceptionalism. However, while timelessness is a pervasive theme, origins and use are jumbled, and explicit nationalism is rare. Rather, the cartoons offer multiple readings, reflecting recurrent concerns and whims. The cartoons suggest a longstanding disjunction between humour about Stonehenge, and expert debates. This offers opportunities for informed, yet entertaining, interventions.



Public Archaeology, Punch Cartoons, Stonehenge, Cultural Heritage, English Archaeology

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Archaeology and the Publics

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Cartoons [Morrow 1919.156.481B, Beauchamp 1932.183.447, Morrow 1946.210.466, Miller 1965.249.387, Hobart 1984.] are subject to copyright, and shown under licence from Topham Partners LLP (https:// www.Topham Partners I’m pleased to thank: • my supervisors Jeff Oliver and Elisabeth Niklasson, for stimulating discussion about the approach in this paper; • the anonymous referees, and the editors, as well as my supervisors, for sage suggestions for improving the paper; • the staff of the University of Aberdeen Library, University of Edinburgh Library and the National Library of Scotland, for access to bound volumes of Punch, and the University of California and the University of Michigan, for online access via the Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive.