What is it? How did it get there? No matter what archaeology uncovers, the iconic lineup of 13-foot-tall, 25-ton blocks of stone called Stonehenge continues to mystify.

They say it was a temple built four or five thousand years ago. But who were the congregants, and how did they haul such tonnage without a forklift in the world?

No one can answer these questions. Prehistory doesn’t come with instructions. But that hasn’t stopped the British Museum from opening an exhibit called “The World of Stonehenge” without the ancient monument.

The Guardian calls this show magical and “a great barrow full of glinting treasure.”

Romancing the stones

It’s hard to think of the museum’s exhibit examples like stone axes and a wooden trident as jewel-like. Romancing these stones seems a bit dolce vita right now as Russian missiles pulverize Ukraine. It has me seeing the still-standing ancient Stonehenge as mocking us for razing a built environment to dust.

Novelist Bernard Cornwell did more than romance the stones. He filled in the blanks of its prehistory with his 2004 fiction called – you guessed it – Stonehenge. Basically, it’s yarn, a made-up drama, complete with what he says is “a story of love, rivalry, treachery, and a great mysterious temple.”

But wait, there’s more to Cornwell’s novel.

There’s also treachery, betrayal, hate, and revenge. In that sense, you might say his novel is about prehistoric Putins. Clearly, Cornwell writes with a 20th-century state of mind because the ancient temple couldn’t have transcended its time if there was as much enmity as he pictures.

That’s why Stonehenge’s very existence feels like a finger-pointing taunt at our warring ways.

Civilization can boast a lot of things, but its inability to stay peaceful is killing it. I’m thinking of cities like the ancient city of Bosra, Syria now no more, devastated by war.

Maybe Stonehenge will keep standing given that it lives apart from humankind on an uninhabited land called Salisbury Plain in England.

Putting a relic at risk

But here’s the thing. While Stonehenge lives alone, a military training group takes up half the plain. Reportedly the area is considered dangerous owing to the live firing ranges. With all that firepower around it, I have to wonder if the days of the ancient monument are numbered.

While I’m on the subject of war games, a related story comes from the Smithsonian about the World Monuments Fund’s “watch list” of 25 at-risk cultural heritage sites identified in Ukraine.

The list cites the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum north of Kyiv ablaze in “a serious fire.” Russia also struck close to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in the capital city.

Then there’s the all-important human cost.

The United Nations human rights office reports 437 civilian casualties (and counting) from Puttin’s Ukraine invasion. Again, man and monuments mowed down in real-time on screen before our eyes.

As we count up bodies and buildings lost to war, Stonehenge keeps staring down at us as moralizers.