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1.4. A Historical Interlude and Standing Stones

Throughout this book, we intersperse examples on relevant topics under discussion. In order to ensure that the examples do not confuse you any more than you may already be confused, let's discuss in advance the data we'll be storing and manipulating in the examples.

Primarily within the UK, but also within other countries around the world, there are many sites of standing stones or megaliths.[2] The stones are arranged into rings, rows, or single or paired stones. No one is exactly sure what the purpose or purposes of these monuments are, but there are certainly a plethora of theories ranging from the noncommittal ``ritual'' use to the more definitive alien landing-pad theory. The most famous and visited of these monuments is Stonehenge, located on Salisbury Plain in the south of England. However, Stonehenge is a unique and atypical megalithic monument.

[2]From the Greek, meaning ``big stone.'' This can be a misnomer in the case of many sites as the stones comprising the circle might be no larger than one or two feet tall. However, in many extreme cases, such as Stonehenge and Avebury, the "mega" prefix is more than justified.

Part of the lack of understanding about megaliths stems from the fact that these monuments can be up to 5,000 years old. There are simply no records available to us that describe the monuments' purposes or the ritual or rationale behind their erection. However, there are lots of web sites that explore various theories.

The example code shown within this book, and the sample web application we'll also be providing, uses a database containing information on these sites.

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