Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood

Dr A and I recently got our hands on an episode of the Stones of Blood – part of the Keys to Time series of Doctor Who featuring Tom Baker (broadcast 1978).

This has a cracking archaeology-themed storyline, which proves beyond doubt the animacy of archaeological remains.

The first two episodes are especially enjoyable. Filmed on location at the Rollright Stones, they feature a Druidic cult, a Celtic goddess, menacing corvids and two female prehistorians. What’s not to like?

I hate to give away a whole plotline, but it doesn’t take long to guess from their tendency to glow in the dark and their thirst for human blood, that there’s more to these standing stones than simple calcium carbonate.

While there’s a good deal of silliness in the episodes, there’s a good dose of atmosphere and horror too. The outfits and rituals are pretty effective and the sequence where two campers encounter the stones would have given me nightmares for days if I’d seen it when I was a child. Archaeologists – think twice before you pitch your tent too close to that stone circle…

The episodes draw on folklore relating to standing stones, name drops several genuine archaeologists and presumably draws inspiration from the pinnacle of archaeological TV drama Children of the Stones, which aired in 1977 and was filmed on location at Avebury.

Animism and animacy are topics archaeologists (including Dr A) have explored in recent years. The stones and rocks in the landscape around you now may not be randomly glowing or craving your blood, but people have recently been bombarded by beach pebbles, flung at their streets and houses by stormy seas. As the storms in SW England have demonstrated, the world around us is far from passive.

Dr H

Read more about archaeology and science fiction on the blog here.

Lines in a Landscape: Philip Hughes

Hughes

Philip Hughes exhibition is just drawing to an end at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

I first came across his work several years ago, and was especially taken with his observation of field systems and archaeological features in the Wiltshire landscape. The exhibition looked at major sites – Avebury, Stonehenge and Uffington. Hughes is notable for the clean lines and colours in his artwork, but what I enjoyed in this exhibition is the feeling of movement. Hughes shows the world we see as we walk through the landscape – a wall seen from above, as you would when crossing a stile, a stone circle seen from odd angles, stones crowding one another.

Standing in front of one of his paintings you can feel the dip and rise of the landscape beneath your feet.

If you can’t make it to one of his exhibitions, then get your hands on his new book which includes more archaeological sites in Wessex and Orkney.

Dr H