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Those of us living in Britain inhabit 'an old house packed with memories', as the novelist Peter Vansittart once put it. 

Towns, the countryside, even our mountains, which were once covered with trees later demolished by stone­age tribesmen, have all been shaped by men and women over the aeons. 

And perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing aspect of this legacy arc tiur standing stones, the enigmatic detritus of our neolithic forebears. These monuments still pepper the British landscape.

Erected between 4000 and 1500 BC, about 140 to 240 generations ago, our ancient stone circles, ellipses and rings have an encluring fascination (except for Dr Johnson who thought 'seeing one is quite enough'). 

Yet their purpose is still unfathomable, though theories abound. Observatories, temples, communication centre􀁟, even giant computers, have been suggested as the reasons for their construction, hut none have ever been satisfactorily proved. Indeed, in the case of some of the largest edifices, such as Stonehenge, no sing􀁰le purpose was probably ever involved, given that they were used over several millenia by different civilisations. 

Such mysteries have made stone circles a popular subject with publishers, but most books have verged on the potty, with authors arguing that our neolithic heritage is the work of aliens, magicians or other equally unlikely characters. 

Fortunately the most recent addition to this genre, 'The Stones Remain', is free of such notions. Indeed, the book - the work of photographer Andrew Rafferty and writer Kevin Crossley-Holland - has much to commend it. In particular, Raffcrty's stark black-and-white photos arc often strikingly beautiful, and catch the peculiar bleakness so distinctive of standing stones. 

Crossley-Holland's words tend too much to the poetic for my liking, but his text is nevertheless informative. Certainly, the overall effect of their collaboration is instructive and eye-catching. 


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