Adventures Life Lessons

Human Universals at Stonehenge

London, April 26, 2024, 7 PM

I enjoyed Stonehenge far more than I expected. When I first glimpsed it from the highway, it didn’t strike me as anything special—just a cluster of old stones set against the vast, open landscape of Salisbury Plain. But as I walked closer, my perspective shifted dramatically. The site wasn’t just a collection of rocks; it was a portal to a deep and ancient world.

Standing in the midst of Stonehenge, I felt a surprising connection to the people who, thousands of years ago, had meticulously placed these massive stones. What drove them? The sheer will and communal effort it must have taken to build such a structure spoke of a deeply human need: the need to bind with something greater than oneself, to remember the dead, and to come together as a community.

The longer I spent at Stonehenge, the more I realized that the motivations of those ancient builders weren’t so different from ours today. We still seek to understand our place in the universe, to honor our forebears, and to connect with each other in meaningful ways.

This visit made me think of Donald Brown’s concept of Human Universals, which argues that certain features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psychology are common across all human cultures. Brown’s research identifies numerous traits that all human societies share, such as the creation of art, the practice of religion, and the formation of complex social structures, all of which are evident in the existence and continued fascination with Stonehenge. The site exemplifies these universal behaviors, suggesting that even in prehistoric times, humans were driven by similar needs and desires as today, underscoring an innate human nature that persists through millennia.

My time at Stonehenge was a wonderful reminder of the human spirit. It showed me that despite the centuries that separate us, the essence of what it means to be human remains unchanged. This is shown even in the way that we all come together to honor this monument in an oddly similar way millennia later.

As I watched crowds of tourists and pilgrims, each absorbed in their own thoughts or shared rites, it was clear that Stonehenge still holds a strong spiritual and cultural weight. Just as our forebears might have come here to watch the stars or partake in holy ceremonies, today’s visitors are pulled by a deep need to link with history and with each other. This steady trek to an old place shows the lasting human search for meaning and belonging in a broad universe.

Thanks to Glen our wonderful tour guide!

ChatGPT Plus helped me out with this a bunch. I wrote this right after the one on the spork. It took me about 45 minutes. I’ve realized that the fun thing here is to figure out which parts really matter, and which parts don’t. The language may be repetitive a bit but that’s not important. The important part is that the ideas are all there for me to edit later. For this piece, I tried to go deeper into Human Universals which I didn’t really use. Also, I needed an ending that was different from what ChatGPT originally proposed. I tried a bunch of different alternatives, but in the end, the first one was good enough. Here’s the chat.