Scientists locate exact source of Stonehenge stone but how did they get there?

19 12 2011

Scientists have located the exact source of the rock believed to have been used to create some of Stonehenge’s first stone circle.

Researchers have been able to match fragments of stone from around the 5,000 year old monument with an outcrop of rock in south-west Wales.

Stonehenge Bluestone

Photo: ALAMY

The work – carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales – has identified the source as a site called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire.

It is the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

The discovery has re-invigorated a long running debate as to whether the smaller standing stones of Stonehenge were quarried and brought from Pembrokeshire by prehistoric humans or whether they were carried all or part of the way to Wiltshire by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

Archaeologists tend to subscribe to the ‘human transport’ theory, while geomorphologists often favour the glacial one.

The debate is solely about Stonehenge’s smaller standing stones which are sometimes known collectively as bluestones. The larger stones, or sarsens, are accepted to have been incorporated into the monument several centuries later.

The remarkable find has been reported in the journal Archaeology in Wales and opens up the possibility of finding archaeological evidence of quarrying activity at Craig Rhos-y-Felin which would indicate humans rather than glaciers were responsible for transporting the stone.

Research over recent years by Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University and Geoffrey Wainwright, a former chief archaeologist at English Heritage, suggests that the Pembrokeshire stones may have had a particular ideological significance.

The outcrops where some of the stones come from are thought to have been associated with sacred springs and local Welsh stone circles.

By bringing those particular rocks the 160 miles from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire, the builders of Stonehenge may have thought they were obtaining more than just plain rock.

Experts have suggested they may have regarded the stone as having supernatural powers.

By DailTelegraph Reporter – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/8964899/Scientists-locate-exact-source-of-Stonehenge-stone.html

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says: “Surely experts can establish if they were moved by glaciers or man power?”

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Hidden dimension of Stonehenge revealed

8 12 2011

A project directed by academics at the University of Sheffield has made the archaeology of the world-famous Stonehenge site more accessible than ever before.

StonehengeGoogle Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge is the first application of its kind to transport users around a virtual prehistoric landscape, exploring the magnificent and internationally important monument, Stonehenge.

The application used data gathered from the University of Sheffield´s Stonehenge Riverside Project in conjunction with colleagues from the universities of Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and London. The application was developed by Bournemouth University archaeologists, adding layers of archaeological information to Google Earth to create Google Under-the-Earth.

The unique visual experience lets users interact with the past like never before. Highlights include taking a visit to the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls and a trip inside a prehistoric house. Users also have the opportunity to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and the great timber monument called the Southern Circle, as they would have looked more than 4,000 years ago.

The project is funded through Google Research Awards, a program which fosters relationships between Google and the academic world as part of Google’s ambition to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Professor Mike Parker-Pearson from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “Google Under Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge is part of a much wider project led by myself and colleagues at other universities – the Stonehenge Riverside Project – which began in 2003. This new Google application is exciting because it will allow people around the world to explore some of the fascinating discoveries we’ve made in and around Stonehenge over the past few years.”

Archaeological scientist Dr Kate Welham, project leader at Bournemouth University, explained that the project could also be the start of something much bigger:

“It is envisaged that Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge could be the start of a new layer in Google Earth. Many of the world’s great archaeological sites could be added, incorporating details of centuries’ worth of excavations as well as technical data from geophysical and remote sensing surveys in the last 20 years.” she said.

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist at Stonehenge said: “The National Trust cares for over 2,000 acres of the Stonehenge Landscape. Seeing Beneath Stonehenge offers exciting and innovative ways for people to explore that landscape. It will allow people across the globe, many of whom may never otherwise have the chance to visit the sites, to share in the thrill of the discoveries made by the Stonehenge Riverside team and to appreciate the remarkable achievements of the people who built and used the monuments.”

You can download the application from the Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge site. The tool is easy to use and requires Google Earth to be installed on your computer.

Notes for Editors:
Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge was created at Bournemouth University by Dr Kate Welham, Mark Dover, Harry Manley and Lawrence Shaw. It is jointly directed by Dr Kate Welham and Professor Mike Parker Pearson at the University of Sheffield.

To find out more about the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, visit: Department of Archaeology

The Stonehenge Riverside Project was a joint collaboration between Universities of Bournemouth, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and University College London. It was led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, University of Sheffield, and co-directed by Professor Julian Thomas, University of Manchester, Dr Joshua Pollard, University of Southampton (formally University of Bristol), Dr Colin Richards, University of Manchester, Dr Chris Tilley, University College London and Dr Kate Welham, Bournemouth University.

This project has been supported by: The Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Society of Antiquaries, the Prehistoric Society, the McDonald Institute, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Andante Travel, University of Sheffield Enterprise Scheme, the British Academy, the National Geographic Society, with financial support from English Heritage and the National Trust for outreach. The project was awarded the Bob Smith Prize in 2004 and the Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year award for Bluestonehenge in 2010.
Links: www.shef.ac.uk/

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merln says: The tool is easy to use and requires Google Earth to be installed on your computer.

Melin @ Stonehenge Stone Cirle
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Archaeological discovery provides evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

27 11 2011
BIRMINGHAM.- Archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge. Shedding new light on the significant association of the monument with the sun, these pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark its rising and setting and could have defined a processional route used by agriculturalists to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.

 photograph showing Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.

photograph showing Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.

Positioned within the Cursus pathway, the pits are on alignment towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, the enigmatic stone standing just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. For the first time, this discovery may directly link the rituals and celestial phenomena at Stonehenge to activities within the Cursus.

The international archaeological survey team, led by the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna (LBI ArchPro) have also discovered a previously unknown gap in the middle of the northern side of the Cursus, which may have provided the main entrance and exit point for processions that took place within the pathway. Stretching from west to east, the Cursus is an immense linear enclosure, 100 metres wide and two and a half kilometres across, north of Stonehenge.

Professor Vince Gaffney, archaeologist and project leader from the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre at the University of Birmingham, explains: “This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape. These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important, ritual focus and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date.

“Other activities were carried out at other ceremonial sites only a short distance away. The results from this new survey help us to appreciate just how complex these activities were and how intimate these societies were with the natural world. The perimeter of the Cursus may well have defined a route guiding ceremonial processions which took place on the longest day of the year.”

Archaeologists have understood for a long time that Stonehenge was designed to mark astronomical events, built by farming societies whose everyday concerns with growing crops linked their daily lives to the passage of the seasons and in particular the sun, on which their livelihoods depended. This new evidence raises exciting questions about how complex rituals within the Stonehenge landscape were conducted and how processions along or around the Cursus were organised at the time Stonehenge was in use.

Professor Gaffney adds: “It now seems likely that other ceremonial monuments in the surrounding landscape were directly articulated with rituals at Stonehenge. It is possible that processions within the Cursus moved from the eastern pit at sunrise, continuing eastwards along the Cursus and, following the path of the sun overhead, and perhaps back to the west, reaching the western pit at sunset to mark the longest day of the year. Observers of the ceremony would have been positioned at the Heel Stone, of which the two pits are aligned.”

Dr Henry Chapman, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Visualisation observes: “If you measure the walking distance between the two pits, the procession would reach exactly half-way at midday, when the sun would be directly on top of Stonehenge. This is more than just a coincidence, indicating that the exact length of the Cursus and the positioning of the pits are of significance.”

Stonehenge, while certainly the most important monument in the later Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape, was surrounded by a dense concentration of other sacred sites, some of which were already ancient when Stonehenge itself was built. The team has also revealed a new horseshoe arrangement of large pits north-east of Stonehenge which may have also contained posts and, together with the henge-like monument discovered last year and a number of other small monuments, may have functioned as minor shrines, perhaps serving specific communities visiting the ceremonial centre.

Paul Garwood, Lecturer in Prehistory at the University of Birmingham, comments: “Our knowledge of the ancient landscapes that once existed around Stonehenge is growing dramatically as we examine the new geophysical survey results. We can see in rich detail not only new monuments, but entire landscapes of past human activity, over thousands of years, preserved in sub-surface features such as pits and ditches. This project is establishing a completely new framework for studying the Stonehenge landscape.”

These new discoveries have come to light as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, which began in summer 2010 as the world’s biggest-ever virtual excavation using the latest geophysical imaging techniques to reveal and visually recreate the extraordinary prehistoric landscape surrounding Stonehenge.

Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, adds: “The LBI provides the best academics, technicians and young researchers in a team of 20 people and uses multiple systems designed for use on projects where the scale of work was previously unachievable. The use of non-invasive technologies provides information for virtual archaeologies that can be disseminated to the public via the web, iPad or mobile phone.”

Dr Christopher Gaffney, lecturer in Archaeological Geophysics at the University of Bradford, concludes:

“Building on our work from last year we have added even more techniques and instruments to study this remarkable landscape. It is clear that one technique is not adequate to study the complexity of the monuments and landscape surrounding our most important archaeological monument and the battery of techniques used here has significantly increased the certainty of our interpretation.”

Link: http://www.artdaily.org

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tourv Company’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Secret history of Stonehenge revealed

26 11 2011

 Ancient site may have been place of worship 500 years before the first stone was erected

Extraordinary new discoveries are shedding new light on why Britain’s most famous ancient site, Stonehenge, was built – and when.

Current research is now suggesting that Stonehenge may already have been an important sacred site at least 500 years before the first Stone circle was erected – and that the sanctity of its location may have determined the layout of key aspects of the surrounding sacred landscape.

What’s more, the new investigation – being carried out by archaeologists from the universities’ of Birmingham, Bradford  and Vienna – massively increases the evidence linking Stonehenge to pre-historic solar religious beliefs. It increases the likelihood that the site was originally and primarily associated with sun worship

The investigations have also enabled archaeologists  to putatively reconstruct the detailed route of a possible religious procession or other ritual event which they suspect may have taken place annually to the north of Stonehenge.

That putative pre-historic religious ‘procession’ (or, more specifically, the evidence suggesting its route) has implications for understanding Stonehenge’s prehistoric religious function – and suggests that the significance of the site Stonehenge now occupies emerged earlier than has previously been appreciated.

The crucial new archaeological evidence was discovered during on-going survey work around Stonehenge in which archaeologists have been ‘x-raying’ the ground, using ground-penetrating radar and other geophysical investigative techniques. As the archaeological team from Birmingham and Vienna were using these high-tech systems to map the interior of a major prehistoric enclosure (the so-called ‘Cursus’) near Stonehenge, they discovered two great pits, one towards the enclosure’s eastern end, the other nearer its western end.

When they modelled the relationship between these newly-discovered Cursus pits and Stonehenge on their computer system, they realised that, viewed from the so-called ‘Heel Stone’ at Stonehenge, the pits were aligned with sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year – the summer solstice (midsummer’s day). The chances of those two alignments being purely coincidental are extremely low.

The archaeologists then began to speculate as to what sort of ritual or ceremonial activity might have been carried out at and between the two pits. In many areas of the world, ancient religious and other ceremonies sometimes involved ceremonially processing round the perimeters of monuments. The archaeologists therefore thought it possible that the prehistoric celebrants at the Cursus might have perambulated between the two pits by processing around the perimeter of the Cursus.

Initially this was pure speculation – but then it was realized that there was, potentially a way of trying to test the idea. On midsummer’s day there are in fact three key alignments – not just sunrise and sunset, but also midday (the highest point the sun reaches in its annual cycle). For at noon the key alignment should be due south.

One way to test the ‘procession’ theory (or at least its route) was for the archaeologists  to demonstrate that the midway point on that route had indeed a special relationship with Stonehenge (just as the two pits – the start and end point of the route – had).  The ‘eureka moment’ came when the computer calculations revealed that the midway point (the noon point) on the route aligned directly with the centre of Stonehenge, which was precisely due south.

This realization that the sun hovering over the site of  Stonehenge at its highest point in the year appears to have been of great importance to prehistoric people, is itself of potential significance. For it suggests that the site’s association with the veneration of the sun was perhaps even greater than previously realized.

But the discovery of the Cursus pits, the discovery of the solar alignments and of the putative ‘processional’ route, reveals something else as well – something that could potentially turn the accepted chronology of the Stonehenge landscape on its head.

For decades, modern archaeology has held that Stonehenge was a relative latecomer to the area – and that the other large monument in that landscape – the Cursus – pre-dated it by up to 500 years.

However, the implication of the new evidence is that, in a sense, the story may have been the other way round, i.e. that the site of Stonehenge was sacred before the Cursus was built, says Birmingham archaeologist, Dr. Henry Chapman, who has been modelling the alignments on the computerized reconstructions of the Stonehenge landscape

The argument for this is simple, yet persuasive. Because the ‘due south’ noon alignment of the ‘procession’ route’s mid-point could not occur if the Cursus itself had different dimensions, the design of that monument has to have been conceived specifically to attain that mid-point alignment with the centre of Stonehenge.

What’s more, if that is so, the Stonehenge Heel Stone location had to have been of ritual significance before the Cursus pits were dug (because their alignments are as perceived specifically from the Heel Stone).

Those two facts, when taken together, therefore imply that the site, later occupied by the stones of Stonehenge, was already sacred before construction work began on the Cursus. Unless the midday alignment is a pure coincidence (which is unlikely), it  would imply  that the Stonehenge site’s sacred status is at least 500 years older than previously thought – a fact which raises an intriguing possibility.

For 45 years ago, archaeologists found an 8000 BC Mesolithic (‘Middle’ Stone Age) ritual site in what is now Stonehenge’s car park. The five thousand year gap between that Mesolithic sacred site and Stonehenge itself meant that most archaeologists thought that ‘sacred’ continuity between the two was inherently unlikely. But, with the new discoveries, the time gap has potentially narrowed. Indeed, it’s not known for how long the site of Stonehenge was sacred prior to the construction of the Cursus. So, very long term traditions of geographical sanctity in relation to Britain’s and the world’s best known ancient monument, may now need to be considered.

The University of Birmingham  Stonehenge area survey – the largest of its type ever carried out anywhere in the world – will take a further two years to complete, says Professor Vince Gaffney, the director the project.

Virtually every square meter in a five square mile area surrounding the world most famous pre-historic monument will be examined geophysically to a depth of  up to two metres, he says.

It’s anticipated that dozens, potentially hundreds of previously unknown sites will be discovered as a result of the operation.

The ongoing discoveries in Stonehenge’s sacred prehistoric landscape – being made by Birmingham’s archaeologists and colleagues from the University of Vienna’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institute – are expected to transform scholars’ understanding of the famous monument’s origins, history and meaning.

Full Article: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/secret-history-of-stonehenge-revealed-6268237.html

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website








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