Building on the theories of cockney palaeontology

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The Independent Online

The great cockney palaeontologist "Cocker" Leakey, often described as the David Attenborough of the bone world, has been off our television screens for a year or two, so younger readers may not be familiar with his pioneering work in the field of human origins. It was "Cocker" Leakey, for instance, who put forward the revolutionary theory that early man was an avid football fan and that all those transcontinental migrations were not caused by advancing ice caps but by travelling to away matches.

It was Cocker's research in prehistoric caves, with their attendant wall paintings and detritus, that revealed these caves to be primitive all-night clubs, and early man to be an inveterate raver.

And it was "Cocker" Leakey who finally solved the mystery of the missing continent of Atlantis by showing that it was a fictional off-shore tax haven invented by early man as a tax write-off against mainland gains, though it is only fair to say that some experts have not accepted this theory, and many others have not even understood it.

"Blimey, mate, lack of acceptance has never bothered me!", said the jovial "Cocker" Leakey, when we met at the palaeontologists' local, the Skull and Trowel, in the East End of London. "Except, let's be honest, lack of acceptance by the BBC. Time was when they couldn't get enough of my mega-series. Now, they don't want to know about knowledge. On the telly these days it's all people decorating each other's living rooms and changing each other's gardens. Strewth, what's new about that? Primitive man was doing that way back!

"Next time you come across a pile of ancient rocks in a field, think to yourself: is this just an accidental pile of rocks - or is it, in fact, primitive man putting down a rockery, probably at the behest of primitive woman?"

"Cocker" Leakey is in a good mood today, because the BBC has at last relented and allowed him back into the programme-making field. In November he is presenting a new series which, in his own eyes at least, finally explains the true function of Stonehenge.

"Can't tell you, mate," he said, when I ask him to give me a hint of his discoveries. "BBC would be furious if they knew I'd blown it to the press... but I'll spill a bit about it if you promise not to tell a soul."

I gave him my sacred oath.

"Well, now, the thing about Stonehenge that everyone gets wrong is about it having fallen down. They look at it as a once-mighty structure of which we now see only the remnants. But what if it's the other way round? What if it is actually unfinished?"


"That's it. Got it in one. Big ambitious building. Halfway there. Funds run out. Lots of stone on site. Not enough cash to follow it through. Remind you of anything?"

Road-building scheme? National sports stadium? Out-of-town shopping centre, maybe?

"Nearly there. Keep going, squire."

Place of further education...?

"Got it! Bang on! University of Stonehenge! That's what it was!"


"Follows the classic pattern of modern universities. Think of Sussex, Kent, Bath... Get the idea? Big new-fangled modernist buildings set on a hillside nearby. Open space. Wind-swept. Faceless blocks. That's Stonehenge to a 'T'.

"Way I see it, it was probably planned as an offshoot to the pre-existing nearby Avebury Polytechnic, but it outgrew its mother college and became the biggest centre for Stone Age culture in the south of England. We've unearthed enough beakers and broken stuff to suggest the usual kind of student life, and we've also found what seems to be the remains of a 4,000-year-old pot of yogurt. That's longer than even the normal student leaves yoghurt, but it all points the same way."