Building Stonehenge: A New Timeline Revealed

3 12 2012

Ancient people probably assembled the massive sandstone horseshoe at Stonehenge more than 4,600 years ago, while the smaller bluestones were imported from Wales later, a new study suggests.

ulian Richards in 2008, excavating a previously unsuspected cremation burial close to the edge of Aubrey Hole 7. Carbon dating suggests this burial was almost certainly made before the main ditch circuit was dug

ulian Richards in 2008, excavating a previously unsuspected cremation burial close to the edge of Aubrey Hole 7. Carbon dating suggests this burial was almost certainly made before the main ditch circuit was dug

The conclusion, detailed in the December issue of the journal Antiquity, challenges earlier timelines that proposed the smaller stones were raised first.

“The sequence proposed for the site is really the wrong way around,” said study co-author Timothy Darvill, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University in England. “The original idea that it starts small and gets bigger is wrong. It starts big and stays big. The new scheme puts the big stones at the center at the site as the first stage.”

The new timeline, which relies on statistical methods to tighten the dates when the stones were put into place, overturns the notion that ancient societies spent hundreds of years building each area of Stonehenge. Instead, a few generations likely built each of the major elements of the site, said Robert Ixer, a researcher who discovered the origin of the bluestones, but who was not involved in the study.
“It’s a very timely paper and a very important paper,” Ixer said. “A lot of us have got to go back and rethink when the stones arrived.”

Mysterious monument

The Wiltshire, England, site of Stonehenge is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries. No one knows why prehistoric people built the enigmatic megaliths, although researchers over the years have argued the site was originally a sun calendar, a symbol of unity, or a burial monument.

Though only some of the stones remain, at the center of the site once sat an oval of bluestones, or igneous rocks (those formed from magma) that turn a bluish hue when wet or freshly cut. Surrounding the bluestones are five giant sandstone megaliths called trilithons, or two vertical standing slabs capped by a horizontal stone, arranged in the shape of a horseshoe.

Around the horseshoe, ancient builders erected a circular ring of bluestones. The sandstone boulders, or sarsens, can weigh up to 40 tons (36,287 kilograms), while the much smaller bluestones weigh a mere 4 tons (3,628 kg).

Past researchers believed the bluestone oval and circle were erected earlier than the massive sandstone horseshoe.

But when Darvill and his colleagues began excavations at the site in 2008, they found the previous chronology didn’t add up. The team estimated the age of new artifacts from the site, such as an antler-bone pick stuck within the stones. Combining the new information with dating from past excavations, the team created a new timeline for Stonehenge’s construction.

Like past researchers, the team believes that ancient people first used the site 5,000 years ago, when they dug a circular ditch and mound, or henge, about 361 feet (110 meters) in diameter.

But the new analysis suggests around 2600 B.C. the Neolithic people built the giant sandstone horseshoe, drawing the stone from nearby quarries. Only then did builders arrange the much smaller bluestones, which were probably imported from Wales. Those bluestones were then rearranged at various positions throughout the site over the next millennium, Darvill said.

“They sort out the local stuff first, and then they bring in the stones from Wales to add to the complexity of the structure,” Darvill told LiveScience.

The new dating allows the archaeologists to tie the structure to specific people who lived in the area at the time, Darvill said. The builders of the larger sandstone structures were pig farmers found only in the British Isles. In contrast, the bluestone builders would’ve been the Beaker people, sheep and cow herders who lived throughout Europe and are known for the distinctive, bell-shape pottery they left behind.

The new timeline “connects everything together, it gives us a good sequence of events outside, and it gives us a set of cultural associations with the different stages of construction,” Darvill said.

Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer

http://www.livescience.com/25157-stonehenge-megaliths-timeline-enigma.html

Date: 30 November 2012 Time: 01:23 PM ET

“Stonehenge remodelled”
Timothy Darvill, Peter Marshall, Mike Parker Pearson & Geoff Wainwright
ANTIQUITY 86 (2012): 1021–1040

What did Stonehenge look like? How did it begin?

The new Antiquity features an article by Tim Darvill, Pete Marshall, Mike Parker Pearson & Geoff Wainwright called “Stonehenge remodelled”. It’s designed to be the definitive summary of the current rethinking about the monument’s construction history. You can see an abstract here, though you need to subscribe to read the paper. There is a much fuller study published by English Heritage available online

Link: http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/stonehenge-in-five-easy-stages-or-perhaps-six/

Blog sponsore by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin at Stonehenge





Writer gives his view on how and why Stonehenge was built

30 11 2012

Former building engineer Simon Mallon, of Frome, enjoyed a 40-year career before turning his hand to writing.

His latest novel On the Edge of the Blue gives a fascinating explanation of how and why Stonehenge was built.

stonehenge-bluestonesMr Mallon said: “The sheer effort expended by the constructors of the first Stonehenge suggests Europe’s most iconic ancient structure was created for a magnificent purpose. But what purpose?

“Astrological, mathematical, medical, all laudable ideas based on nothing more than guesswork and hunches and so very wrong.

“Stonehenge is older than it looks, it was built to defeat the greatest threat mankind ever faced, the Ice Age and it succeeded.”

Mr Mallon believes that the henge stood on the side of a massive lake, and that the Preseli stone that was used to build it was brought across the frozen sea from the Pembrokeshire mountains to Bristol and then on across the lake.

Link source: http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk
Relative link: http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/ (The Bluetone Enigma)

Merlin says “There are many varying theories that have and are proposed for “why Stonehenge was built” and we are all entitled to our views. No one will have the complete answer”

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonhenge





New light on Stonehenge. Latest theories about when and why Stonehenge was built

8 11 2012

Tuesday 13 November 2012. A talk by Professor Mike Parker-Pearson, University of Sheffield. This lecture will present new findings by the ‘Feeding Stonehenge’ project about the people who built Stonehenge, and about the sources of its stones in Wales and north Wiltshire. It will examine the latest theories about when and why Stonehenge was built, and will present new discoveries from Wales as well as the Stonehenge area.

image credit : Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam

image credit : Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam

Prof. Mike Parker-Pearson is leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project and author of Stonehenge: exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery, published by Simon & Schuster in June 2012. (see below)

7.00 pm refreshments, 7.30 pm lecture.

 

Please note this lecture is at the Guildhall (Market Square)not the Museum. A lecture in the Salisbury Museum Archaeology Lectures (SMAL) series. SMAL lectures are held on the second Tuesday of each month from September to April. Please note earlier start time for this particular lecture. This particular lecture requires booking. This is a fundraising event.

http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk


Booking:  Booking required. Please contact the Museum to book.

Cost:  In Advance: £8.00; On the Night : £10.00.

Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery

Our knowledge about Stonehenge has changed dramatically as a result of the Stonehenge Riverside Project (2003-2009), led by Mike Parker Pearson, and included not only Stonehenge itself but also the nearby great henge enclosure of Durrington Walls. This book is about the people who built Stonehenge and its relationship to the surrounding landscape. The book explores the theory that the people of Durrington Walls built both Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, and that the choice of stone for constructing Stonehenge has a significance so far undiscovered, namely, that stone was used for monuments to the dead. Through years of thorough and extensive work at the site, Parker Pearson and his team unearthed evidence of the Neolithic inhabitants and builders which connected the settlement at Durrington Walls with the henge, and contextualised Stonehenge within the larger site complex, linked by the River Avon, as well as in terms of its relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Parker Pearson’s book changes the way that we think about Stonehenge; correcting previously erroneous chronology and dating; filling in gaps in our knowledge about its people and how they lived; identifying a previously unknown type of Neolithic building; discovering Bluestonehenge, a circle of 25 blue stones from western Wales; and confirming what started as a hypothesis – that Stonehenge was a place of the dead – through more than 64 cremation burials unearthed there, which span the monument’s use during the third millennium BC. In lively and engaging prose, Parker Pearson brings to life the imposing ancient monument that continues to hold a fascination for everyone

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Improvements to A303 Stonehenge World Heritage Site

1 11 2012

Work which will allow visitors to enjoy an improved experience when visiting the Stonehenge World Heritage Site will start on the A303 in Wiltshire on Monday, 5 November.

Stonehenge road improvementsThe six month scheme will involve improvements to the Longbarrow roundabout at the junction of the A360 and A303. This will allow the closure of the A344, which runs next to the Stonehenge monument.

Highways Agency project sponsor, Mark Arberry, said: “This is an important contribution to the long term management plan for Stonehenge to improve the setting of the monument and ensure its preservation as an iconic World Heritage Site. “The proposed improvements to the northern and eastern approaches to the roundabout will accommodate changes in traffic flows following the A344 closure and the centre of the roundabout itself will be moved.”

New lanes will be added to the roundabout to take the extra traffic caused by the closure of the A344 and the centre of the roundabout itself will be realigned.

English Heritage has been fully consulted during planning for the scheme and an archaeologist will be on site during the excavation work.

Traffic signals will be used for minor advanced works on the A360 north of the roundabout for one week between 9am and 3pm from the 29 October. The main work will require lane closures on the approaches to Longbarrow Roundabout for the duration of the work with a temporary 40mph speed limit in place.. The A360 south of Longbarrow will be closed for up to eight days and nights on dates to be confirmed during either February or March. Clearly signed diversion routes will be in operation using the A345 or the A36 dependant on journey destinations.

The scheme has been planned to cause the least possible disruption but road users are advised to allow extra time for their journeys.

Traffic updates: http://www.fleetdirectory.co.uk/

Stonehenge news blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com
F
ollow us on Twitter for updates: https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin at Stonehenge

 





Visit Wiltshire. New look website aims to boost tourism in Wiltshire

19 10 2012

Discover a county rich in heritage

VisitWiltshire has launched a brand new tourism website, http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk  The redesign of the site has focused on building a portal which showcases the best of Wiltshire tourism to give visitors a user-experience that is inspirational, informative, engaging and welcoming.

VisitWiltshire is forecasting that the new website will increase the number of visitors to http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk by 30 per cent.

The new website will be promoted extensively to VisitWiltshire’s target UK and international markets through a number of digital marketing initiatives launching in October – including, for the first time ever, video advertising on the London Underground.

Fiona Errington, marketing manager for VisitWiltshire, said: “Our aim in developing this site has been to raise awareness of Wiltshire’s fantastic tourism offer, inspiring new visitors, and encouraging repeat visitors to stay longer and explore the whole of the county.

Visit Wiltshire Website Extract
Take some time out and escape to Wiltshire this year. Find out more about this mysterious and beautiful part of the UK, let us be your guide for all the information you will need.

Stonehenge & Avebury

Wiltshire is proud to be the home of Stonehenge and Avebury which form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and our mystical landscape.

Take a tour of Stonehenge and discover more about the neolithic man and the landscape they shaped. At Avebury, walk amongst the stones, visit the Alexander Keiller Museum to find out about the arcaeological excavations Keiller did in the 1930s and visit the Avebury Manor and Garden, nearby West Kennet Long Barrow.

Link: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/stonehenge-and-avebury
Link: http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/news/9993296.New_look_website_aims_to_boost_tourism_in_Wiltshire/

Merlin says “Great to see Visit Wiltshire have launched a new web site, which will  help tourism in the West”

News blog sponsored by “Stonehenge Guided Tours” – www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge News Blog





Lasers at Stonehenge. British Archaelogy

12 10 2012

At last, after all these years, we’ve got the very first comprehensive study of the actual stones at Stonehenge. As part of its research into Stonehenge and its landscape that will feed into displays at the new visitor centre, English Heritage commissioned Greenhatch Group surveyors to produce the first complete, high resolution 3D digital model of Stonehenge and its immediate landscape, using lasers and a bit of photogrammetry. (http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/)

At last, after all these years, we’ve got the very first comprehensive study of the actual stones at Stonehenge

Then Marcus Abbott (ArcHeritage) and Hugo Anderson-Whymark (freelance lithics specialist) analysed the data, created new digital images and news ways of seeing them, added some of their own photos and spent time amongst the real stones.

In one sense the results are not surprising: it was obvious to anyone with eyes that that we could learn a lot about Stonehenge with a proper study of the stones. And yes, we have learnt a lot. But just about all the details are revelatory.

There are four different areas where new things are really going to change the way we think about the monument:

  • how the stones were dressed and what the original monument looked like
  • prehistoric carvings – difficult to see and unknown to visitors: the new discoveries have doubled the number of such carvings known in the whole of Britain
  • damage by tourists: the scale of damage done by souvenir collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries had not been recognised before
  • graffiti: dates range between 1721 and 1866, though most were carved 1800–1850 – and they’re almost everywhere.

And this must be just the beginning. There are more details yet to see (there is still scope for new and higher resolution survey), and new things to think about in the vast data set.

http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/

If you know Stonehenge, from this alone you can see at once how much new information has been revealed. Amongst other things, it seems fair to draw from this (and other new data) that the sarsen circle probably WAS complete; and that the whole thing was designed to be seen from the north-east, approaching up the Avenue – so the implication follows that the setting midwinter sun you’d be facing to the south-west was the key alignment.

British Archaeology also published the pioneering Stonehenge laser study done in 2002.

Please follow Mike Pitts excellent archaelogy Blog: http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/
L
ink: http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba73/index.shtml
L
ink: http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/

 

British Archaeology magazine

 

The Council for British Archaeology’s award-winning bi-monthly magazine is the authoritative, in-depth source of information and comment on what’s new, interesting and important in UK archaeology.
Link: http://new.archaeologyuk.org/british-archaeology-magazine

Blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge – New Evidence for its Solstitial Function and Approach

9 10 2012

Using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, an English Heritage analysis of Stonehenge has found new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators, including that of the midwinter sunset.

Approach and View from North East Important
The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important. To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

Stones in the North East Segment Larger and More Uniform

A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed – that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. By contrast, the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.

These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.

Stones on Solstitial Axis most Carefully Shaped and Dressed

The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge’s builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a north-east/south-west axis.

The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.

Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Solstitial Alignment Currently Severed by Road to be Restored

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Findings Exceed Expectations

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which bring the number of this type of carvings known at Stonehenge to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge. It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in mid winter.

“Analysis of the different techniques used to dress the stones may even help to refine the chronology of the construction. Disappointing to some, the scan has also ruled out many poorly defined lines and hollows previously thought to be possible prehistoric carvings.”

English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/stonehenge-solstitial-function/

Blog sponsored bt ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTour.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog








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