Early Interpretations

There have been many ideas as to the purpose of the monument and early interest in the henge and its stones set the tone and character for much of the subsequent interest and work. Local man Samuel Pegge (1783) suggested the site as a temple, and this led to a number of variations on this theme with several authors centring their understanding on the monument as a Druidical temple (e.g. Davies 1811). Cox (1884) believed that the henge was clearly a sepulchral site or connected directly with rites for the dead, though it was not, in his view, a temple in the usual sense. Other interpretations have ranged from a holding pen for cattle (Addy, 1911) to a prehistoric ‘theodolite’ (Matthews, 1907; 1911) an aspect that Hill (2007) has recently re-visited. The henge has been thought of as a defensive site – as protection from predators such as wild boar and wolf (Heathcote, 1936:12) and Ward (1932:7) offered the idea that the bank or rampart was an amphitheatre for the use of tribal spectators. The idea that Arbor Low had a defensive nature or purpose of was one that has been relatively short-lived. Heathcote for one stated the henge “is religious not defensive as the ditch is inside the bank” (Heathcote, 1936:7) and was “used for observation of the sun, and perhaps connected with the worship of “nature” or stones (Heathcote, 1936: 16). More recent suggestions have included the use of henges, and by inference Arbor Low, as sites that were “almost certainly sacred enclosures connected with religious rites, sacrifices and observances of these early peoples” (Thompson, 1975: 20). There were of course comparisons with other, more famous henges (e.g. Baker, 1976).

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