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Bronze medal of William Stukeley and Stonehenge

 

Diameter: 8.800 cm

CM M6569

Enlightenment: Archaeology

    Bronze medal of William Stukeley and Stonehenge

    England, around 1775

    The Revd Dr William Stukeley (1687-1765), a keen antiquary, developed a particular interest in Stonehenge after reading an account by John Aubrey (1626-97). He spent years surveying Stonehenge and Avebury and mapping the burials and earthworks around them.

    Stukeley believed that these pre-Roman sites had been built by 'Celts', led by their priests, the Druids. Mixing speculation with evidence from ancient texts, he concluded that the Celts were originally Phoenician colonists, who had 'civilized' Britain long before the Romans arrived. Stukeley painted a romantic but fictitious vision of the Druids worshipping at Stonehenge that has lasted to the present day.

    The medal is unusual for this period, both in its size and because it was cast rather than struck from a die, which was how most British medals were made at this time. Stukeley's antiquarian interests may have played a part in this, since the earliest medals, made in fifteenth-century Italy, were cast.

    The letters after Stukeley's name record that he was a doctor of medicine and fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries, of which he became the first secretary. The inscription below the bust indicates that the portrait shows him aged fifty-four. But his age at death, given beneath the view of Stonehenge as eighty-four, is miscalculated.

    K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

    L. Brown, A catalogue of British histori, 3 vols (London, Seaby, 1980-95)

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