Crop Circles: The Latest Evidence
The Crop Circle Enigma: Grounding the Phenomenon in Science, Culture and Metaphysics
However much they lagged culturally behind the Egyptians, Greeks, and their Roman conquerors of AD 50, the ancient Britons were certainly a busy and ingenious people, whose artifacts have never ceased to amaze, some because of their monumental size, others because their significance remains a mystery. The counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset in southern England are particularly rich in their works. Stonehenge and the smaller stone avenue and circle of nearby Avebury are the most prominent of the scores of stone circles of which remains can be seen in many parts of the British Isles. How the enormous stones of Stonehenge were transported from Wales, where they were quarried, is a never-ending matter for argument.
Carved into the chalk of a hill in Uffington in Berkshire is the figure of a horse that measures 374 feet from nose to tail, and in Cerne Abbas in Dorset, a little less than a hundred miles away, also carved into the chalk, is an 180-foot figure of a rampant man. The largest man-made hill in Europe is at Silbury in Wiltshire; its significance is still a mystery.
Tourists have always been attracted to these prehistoric remains, and in recent years the attraction has been growing so fast that today the police have to be mobilized each year to protect the stones of Stonehenge from being damaged by the crowds that forgather, as if to participate in some mysterious rite, at the rising of the sun at the time of the summer solstice—for the stones are so arranged that they form a crude clock of the seasons. Much of the region is one of vast rolling landscapes, patterned by cultivated fields, with few farm-houses or buildings in sight, most of which help form the picturesque villages that lie in the valleys.
About 1980 or thereabouts, circles of flattened corn with diameters of up to hundreds of feet, with the corn pressed down in a clockwise direction, began to appear in the fields of Wiltshire and Hampshire. As interest and comment grew, the story of what was happening became increasingly complicated. There were reports of circles with corn flattened in counter-clockwise swirls, and of circles surrounded by narrow unconnected annular rings of flattened corn. In 1987, as the number of circles increased, ever more elaborate geometric designs appeared, to which the name of pictograms was given. In 1980 only a handful of circles had been reported. By 1990 the number of circles and pictograms approached a thousand. The story was always one of instantaneous appearance. A field of growing corn which a farmer said was undisturbed when he went to bed would next day be graced with one or more circles. They were creations of the dark.
As news of the mystery spread, circle-spotter groups started to form, first in the south, and then in other parts of the country. In the hope of “seeing” one in the process of formation, teams of enthusiasts kept all-night vigils for as long as two to…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.