Great News for Tour Operators as New Stonehenge Coach Park Plans are Approved.

12 04 2015

Originally posted on Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours:

 26-space coach park is set to be built at Stonehenge and will operate for two years, councillors in Wiltshire have agreed.

A temporary coach park will be built near to Stonehenge, Wiltshire Council has agreed A temporary coach park will be built near to Stonehenge, Wiltshire Council has agreed

English Heritage will convert farmland next to the existing coach park and will include walkways for pedestrians.

Concerns had been raised over increased traffic, landscape impact and what would happen after the two-year period.

Wiltshire Council’s conditions include ensuring the land can easily be returned to its original state.

Last month, the council rejected plans to resurface an overflow car park on the grounds of visual impact on the landscape.

More than 1.3 million people have visited the prehistoric monument since the opening of a new visitor centre in December 2013.

Seven councillors approved the vote, with three against and one abstaining

Full story on the BBC news website

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End of the line for the Stonehenge land trains?

8 04 2015

Originally posted on The Heritage Trust:

 
 
One of the five Stonehenge land trains
©
The Heritage Trust
 
All five of the so called land trains that convey sightseers from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre to the monument itself were withdrawn last week just days before thousands of people were expected to visit the monument over the Easter break. Each train carries about 45 people and is pulled along by a single Land Rover. There have been concerns expressed in the past that there was not enough turning room at the Visitor Centre for the land trains to easily manoeuvre in and also that they would be unable to cope with thousands of sightseers during peak periods. Sightseers are now being transported to the monument by a fleet of buses.
 
According to Historic England (formerly English Heritage), “They [the land trains] have all gone for the moment. They went about a week ago. We do not know when…

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Stone circles dating from the Bronze Age discovered in China’s Gobi Desert

30 03 2015

Originally posted on The Heritage Trust:

 
 
Stone circles in the Gobi Desert. The largest circle in this image is known as the Sun Circle
 
Sarah Griffiths, for the MailOnline, reports on the stone structures discovered in China’s Gobi Desert in 2003 –
 
Known as the ‘strange stone circles’ by locals in Turpan, the formations vary in size and shape with one intricate example resembling the sun. The circles are located in the Flaming Mountain in Turpan, north west China and cover more than two-and-a-half square miles (6.6 square km).
 
Dr Volker Heyd, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, believes …the first of these Gobi stone structures might date back as early as the Bronze Age. This could make them up to 4,500 years old. Although the more complex formations are likely ‘younger and could have been constructed until the Medieval period.’
 
Full article here.
 

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First Day of spring: Stonehenge crowd gathers for Equinox sunrise

22 03 2015

The first day of spring has been marked by more than 800 revellers who gathered at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise.

Stonehenge-Spring-Equinox-2015 (54)

Despite a cloudy forecast, @St0nehenge tweeted the gathering had been “blessed with a perfect sunrise”

Druids and pagans were joined by a mass of revellers at the ancient monument to celebrate the spring or vernal equinox.

Open access to the stones was given from first light, 05:45 GMT, by English Heritage which manages the site.

Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon, who performed the sunrise ceremony, said: “We’re lucky, we used to get 200 people but now it’s up to nearly 1,000.”

Despite a cloudy forecast, @St0nehenge tweeted that the gathering had been “blessed with a perfect sunrise”.

“A lot of people are coming out to sacred places to celebrate the turning of the wheel, which is what paganism is about,” said Mr Pendragon.

“We don’t worship nature, we worship the divine through nature and so we worship at the times of the year when it’s auspicious – spring, summer, autumn and winter.”

English Heritage opens the ancient stone circle for the spring equinox as well as the winter and summer solstice

Full article (source) and more images at the BBC website: (Nice to see the BBC’s reference to our twitter account)

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There are many some fantastic images on the Stonehenge Stone Circle Flickr page

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Happy Spring Equinox to all our readers

20 03 2015

Originally posted on The Heritage Trust:

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Friday will see a rare cosmic coincidence. Was Stonehenge used to predict eclipses?

19 03 2015

As the eclipse plunges Wiltshire and other places into darkness this Friday (March 20th), two other rare if less spectacular celestial events will be taking place, too: the Spring equinox and a Supermoon. Friday will see three rare celestial events and this will be the first time in living memory that the Spring equinox, a solar eclipse, and a supermoon are all taking place on the same day in the UK.

One of the most intriguing mysteries in the world is the Stonehenge. Nobody knows who built the mysterious Stone Circle in Wiltshire, or what its purpose was exactly. There are many theories associated with Stonehenge and archaeologists have been debating for ages to determine why it was built. Most experts believe that Stonehenge is actually an ancient astronomical calculator.

Eclipses have long been feared as bad omens, but the equinox is celebrated as a time of renewal

Eclipses have long been feared as bad omens, but the equinox is celebrated as a time of renewal

Eclipse Cycles

Now, it’s widely accepted that Stonehenge was used to predict eclipses. The inner “horseshoe” of 19 stones at the very heart of Stonehenge actually acted as a long-term calculator that could predict lunar eclipses. By moving one of Stonehenge’s markers along the 30 markers of the outer circle, it’s discovered that the cycle of the moon can be predicted. Moving this marker one lunar month at a time – as opposed to one lunar day the others were moved – made it possible for them to mark when a lunar eclipse was going to occur in the typical 47-month lunar eclipse cycle. The marker would go around the circle 38 times and halfway through its next circle, on the 47th full moon, a lunar eclipse would occur.

Aubrey Holes
Stonehenge has a ring of 56 pits that are now known as Aubrey holes, after antiquarian John Aubrey. They date back to the late fourth and early fifth millennium. These holes were not really noticed until the 1920s. It’s believed that the only standing feature at Stonehenge at the time these holes were dug was the Heel Stone – the marker of the midsummer sunrise – but this is now proven false. Some experts believe they were meant to hold timbers or more stones, but the astronomical interpretations of these holes are very interesting. It’s also believed that the holes helped to predict astronomical events. Complicated math theories back this up to some degree, as some lunar eclipses can be predicted by using numbers associated with Stonehenge. It’s even believed that Stonehenge was used to keep track of lunar cycles by moving marker stones two holes per day, ending with 56 holes.

Hawkins
Meanwhile, Gerald Hawkins studied Stonehenge much later, in 1965, using computer programs. He found multiple solar and lunar alignments that correlated with the location

of Stonehenge. He set his data so that the positions of the stars and planets would match where they were in 1500 B.C., when he believed it was built, and found that 13 solar correlations and 11 lunar correlations matched up with the megalithic stages. In other words, he believed Stonehenge was used to predict astronomical events. He also believed that it was built to align with the position of the summer and winter solstices.

What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, hiding the sun from view and blocking out the sunlight that usually reaches us.

The eclipse, which will be partial, not total, will begin here at around 8.45am on Friday and peak at around 9.30am before ending at 10.30am. It will be the biggest eclipse since August 1999.

Spring equinox

The equinox will also happen on March 20th. While it won’t have any discernable, direct impact on how the solar eclipse looks, it will contribute to a rare collision of three unusual celestial events.

On March 20th, the Earth’s axis will be perpindecular to the sun’s rays — which only happens twice a year, at the two equinoxes. After that, it will start tipping over, making the days longer in the northern hemisphere.

As such, the equinox has long been celebrated as a time of beginning and renewal, by a number of historic cultures, and is linked to Easter and Passover.

The equinox will happen at the same time as a solar eclipse in 2053 and 2072, though it doesn’t always appear as close together as that.

English Heritage will welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Spring (Vernal) Equinox on Saturday 21st March. Expect a short period of access, from first light (approximately 05:45am) until 08:30am. Click here for more info

Supermoon

A very rare supermoon eclipse of the sun is happening this week that won’t take place again until 2034.  A supermoon is when a full, or new moon coincides with the night when the earth and moon’s orbits move them slightly closer together, making the moon look about 14% bigger, and 30% brighter than normal. This generally happens roughly once every 14 months, but can happen more often; in January 2014, there were actually two supermoons in a single month.

In the past, groups have argued that the supermoon could cause natural disasters, madness, or even throw the earth off its axis. Experts agree that the worst thing that might happen is the tide comes in another inch that night.  As well as a supermoon, there is also an event when a full moon is as far away from earth as possible; this is called a micromoon, for obvious reasons.

Some useful Links:

Solar eclipse, Supermoon, Spring equinox:

Solar Eclipse, Supermoon, Spring Equinox: 3 Rare Celestial Events Align March 20th

Solar Eclipse 2015: How to watch a solar eclipse safely

Stonehenge: An Astronomical Calculator

Astro-Archaeology at Stonehenge

Remember that no one should look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse without proper equipment, as it can damage the eyes.

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Was #Stonehenge a ‘Mecca on stilts’?

18 03 2015

Structure supported a wooden platform to get ‘closer to the heavens’, claims expert 

  • Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge
  • He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform
  • This would have had people of importance upon it, with others below
  • A ramp or stairs would have led to the top of the platform
  • But the wood has long since rotted away, leaving only the stones behind 
Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge. He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform during ceremonies. As shown in this illustration, steps or a ramp would have led to the top of the platform, where figures of importance would have stood, perhaps addressing a crowd below.  Copyright @Daily Mail

Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge. He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform during ceremonies. As shown in this illustration, steps or a ramp would have led to the top of the platform, where figures of importance would have stood, perhaps addressing a crowd below. Copyright @Daily Mail

Whether it was a Druid temple, an astronomical calendar or a centre for healing, the mystery of Stonehenge has sparked endless debate over the centuries.

Now a dramatic new theory suggests that the prehistoric stone circle monument was in fact ‘an ancient Mecca on stilts’.

The megaliths would not have been used for ceremonies at ground level, but would instead have supported a circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens, according to new research.

Julian Spalding, former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, argues that the stones were foundations for a vast platform, long since lost – ‘a great altar’ raised up high towards the heavens and able to take the weight of hundreds of worshippers.

‘It’s a totally different theory which has never been put forward before,’ he said.

‘All the interpretations to date could be mistaken. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way, from the earth, which is very much a 20th-century viewpoint. We haven’t been thinking about what they were thinking about.’

Part of his evidence lies in ancient civilisations worldwide. As far afield as China, Peru and Turkey, such sacred monuments were built high up, whether on manmade or natural sites, and with circular patterns possibly linked to celestial movements.

‘In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground,’ said Mr Spalding.

The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be… The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.

‘All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth… That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.’

However, he says the wood that would have been used for the platform has long since rotted away, leaving only the stone pillars that support it behind.

Mr Spalding’s museum directorships include Glasgow, which boasts world-class archaeological collections within a complex of institutions that exceed the British Museum in size.

Today, he published his theories in a new book, titled Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding – The Origins of Art, published by Wilmington Square Books.

It explores our ancestors’ understanding of the world, offering new explanations of iconic works of art and monuments.

Stonehenge, built in stages between 3000 and 2000 BC, is England’s most famous prehistoric monument, a Unesco World Heritage site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire that draws more than one million annual visitors.

It began as a timber circle, later made permanent with massive blocks of stone, many somehow dragged from dolerite rock in the Welsh mountains.

Dolerite has a bluish tinge and is dappled with white spots that look like stars, according to Mr Spalding.

‘These megaliths, weighing between two and four tons each, were transported 250 miles [400km], an extraordinary achievement in those times, which indicates that building Stonehenge was a massive communal enterprise,’ he said.

He believes that ancient worshippers would have reached the giant altar by climbing curved wooden ramps or staircases, moving in the direction of the slowly circulating stars for ceremonies dedicated to, for example, a dead king’s soul or midsummer and solstice celebrations.

His theories have been shaped by visits to ancient sites like the stone circles of Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, reminiscent of Stonehenge but predating it by around 6,000 years.

Only a fraction of the site has been excavated, and the purpose of its T-shaped pillars is a mystery, Spalding said: ‘These must have supported some sort of raised platform.’

He also points to the Nazca Lines in Peru, vast drawings apparently etched into Earth’s surface more than 2,000 years ago on to a high natural plateau above the villages where they lived: ‘They went up to the sacred place. These lines were a processional way, which followed the movement and shape of the stars.

‘The great mystery of early man was that we all thought the world was flat. Everyone did until very recent times. All the major religious ceremonies, as the Haj still does in Mecca, always ends in a circular motion, going round and round, which imitates the stars.’

Professor Vincent Gaffney, principal investigator on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project at Bradford University, responded with ‘a fair degree of scepticism.’

He said: ‘At Stonehenge, there are other structures which are clearly designed to be viewed from the ground, along astronomic alignments, and you can see the sky from pretty much anywhere.’

Sir Barry Cunliffe, a prehistorian and Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, Oxford University, said: ‘He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it… There are a large number of stone circles around the country which clearly didn’t have a platform on top. So why should Stonehenge?’

But Aubrey Burl, an authority on prehistoric stone circles, said: ‘There could be something in it. There is a possibility, of course. Anything new and worthwhile about Stonehenge is well worth looking into, but with care and consideration.’

Mr Spalding is fully expecting resistance from fellow academics. He draws parallels with the 1868 discovery of magnificent prehistoric ceiling paintings in the Altamira Cave in Spain, by a geologist and archaeologist.

‘He went in there and looked on the ground – because he assumed all the evidence for early man would be on the ground,’ he said.

‘It never occurred to him to look up. It was his young daughter who said, papa look on the ceiling.’

Experts at the time denounced those paintings as forgeries. It was not until the end of the 19th century that they were accepted as genuine.

Read the full article (source) in the Daily Mail

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