Saturday, 5 December 2009
English Heritage forced to pulp its aptly titled Ghastly Book Of Stonehenge over crass errors
Stonehenge: The guide, meant for children, is riddled with mistakes
The Government body responsible for maintaining the nation's historic monuments has been forced to withdraw a children's guide to Stonehenge because it was littered with factual errors.
The book, called The Ghastly Book Of Stonehenge, has become a laughing stock among archaeologists because of its many blunders.
English Heritage, which receives £129million a year in Government funding, has recalled 4,500 copies of the £3 book and now plans to pulp them.
A spokeswoman said last night that an 'incorrect proof' – an earlier, unedited version of the book – had been sent to the printers.
The schoolboy errors include a passage in which the Bronze Age was mistakenly placed before the Stone Age, and an Ice Age mammoth was used to illustrate a chart showing Iron Age to medieval times.
Mammoths finally became extinct around 1700BC – almost 1,000 years before the Iron Age began in Britain.
An entry about 5th Century king Aurelius Ambrosius – believed to be the historical basis for King Arthur – mistakenly called him Aureole Ambrosias, a spelling error that appears to have been copied from the internet.
One paragraph states that Bronze Age bluestones, which archaeologists believe were transported to the site in Wiltshire from Wales, arrived in around 2550BC, while 'about 200 to 300 years' later, 'New Stone Age people added some much bigger stones'.
Grammatical errors are also rife, including examples such as 'Prehistoric carvings of daggers and axes on the stones is discovered by a photographer'
Distances and directions on maps are often wrong or contradictory with the stone circle at Avebury said to be 'about 20km' from Stonehenge in the text while on the fold-out map it's 46km.
Page references are often wrong and anyone who wanted to find the entry about Merlin and Aurelius Ambrosius would be directed to Page 30, when it's actually six pages later on.
The mistakes in the book, by children's author Tracey Turner, were spotted by a reader of British Archaeology magazine, which lampooned the errors in its latest edition.
Editor Mike Pitts said: 'I couldn't believe it. It was supposed to be written in a style that makes it accessible to children but the result was a catalogue of errors too many to list, so I thought it our duty to publish the story.
'Not only that but the book was written in a style that really pokes fun at the people of the past in a condescending way and I think that devalues and demeans what happened at Stonehenge.
'There's even a silly reference to a site at Robin Hood's Ball near Stonehenge as being "a prehistoric nightclub".
'King Aurelius Ambrosius is a central mythical figure in the story of Stonehenge who is said to have told Merlin to build the Henge on the site of a great and bloody battle but to spell his name wrong so that he becomes King Nipples Rice Pudding just takes the biscuit.'
An English Heritage spokeswoman said last night: 'The Ghastly Book of Stonehenge was withdrawn as soon as it became apparent an incorrect proof containing a number of factual errors had gone to print.
'The Ghastly series was conceived in 2005 as part of a wider strategy to improve family learning at our sites.
'However, over the past couple of years, publishing at English Heritage has undergone quite a radical rethink and we are unlikely to be printing books such as these again.
'We will instead focus on providing free, downloadable resources to support teachers and families visiting our website.
'We have also completely reviewed our editorial procedures to ensure that such a mistake doesn't happen again.'