The first-ever scale model of Stonehenge that lets researchers explore how the monument would have sounded in its heyday has been created by UK researchers.

12 07 2019

Scientists turn to ‘laser accurate’ model to test Stonehenge acoustics

A diminutive model of Stonehenge could help crack the acoustic secrets of the ancient site, according to scientists who have built a version of the megaliths at a 12th of their size.

sonic

The team say the 1:12 model, with a stone circle spanning 2.6 metres, has an edge over other replicas of Stonhenge, such as the full-scale one near Maryhill,Washington, for being based on laser scan data. The data collected by Historic England allowed the team to produce a highly accurate representation.

Academics worked with English Heritage using laser scans of the stones and architectural research to create the shape and position of the stones in an acoustic chamber.

In 2012, a team of academics carried out acoustic experiments using a full-sized concrete reconstruction of the monument in Maryhill in the United States.

RELATIVE LINKS: 
Scientists turn to ‘laser accurate’ model to test Stonehenge acoustics.  THE GUARDIAN
Stonehenge mini model reveals sound of monument.  BBC NEWS

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The Quarter Festivals and the Druids

9 07 2019

Public access to Stonehenge currently takes place on four of the so-called ‘quarter festivals’. What exactly are the quarter festivals? And why are these occasions so celebrated by the Druids?

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

Quarter festivals are sets of four dates that divide the year into four equal quarters. The dates when Stonehenge has open access to the public are the solar quarter festivals, defined by the movements of the sun. The summer and winter solstices (usually 21 June and 21 December) are the days when the noontime sun is, respectively, highest and lowest in the sky and so the hours of daylight are, respectively, their longest and their shortest. The spring and autumn equinoxes (usually 21 March and 21 September) are the dates when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west and so the night and day are of equal length. These observable facts about the sun in the sky have made these points in the calendar sacred times in cultures all over the world – including at Stonehenge, whose axis is aligned to the directions of summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset.

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

Druids: Stonehenge Summer Solstice

But there’s another set of quarter festivals – fitting in between the solar festivals – that were celebrated by the ancient Celts. They’re known as ‘lunar festivals’ because they were determined by the full moon. They didn’t fall on regular calendar dates like the solar festivals, since the cycles of the moon don’t match exactly with the calendar of the year defined by the sun’s movements (in reality the earth’s orbit around the sun). However, in modern usage these four originally lunar festivals have gained fixed calendar dates. Using the Irish terminology, the two most important are Samhain (31 October) and Beltane (1 May), which divide the year into summer and winter halves. The other two are Imbolc (1 February) and Lughnasa (1 August).

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The fixing of their dates links these four festivals to the corresponding Christian festivals and names by which they’re best known in English. Imbolc has become St Brigid’s Day, and the following day, 2 February, is Candlemas. Lughnasa corresponds to the harvest festival of Lammas. Samhain has become Halloween, the eve of All Saints’ Day, also known as Hallowmas. Of the four festivals, Beltane – May Day in English – has perhaps best preserved its pagan origins in the perennial customs of maypoles and may queens, although in modern times it has gained a new significance as Labour Day, the holy day of socialism.

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The lunar festivals were also called ‘fire festivals’ because the ancient Celts celebrated

them with bonfires. The establishment of Bonfire Night on 5 November shifted the fires of Halloween by a few days and attached to them a new political significance. In my view, it’s high time that British custom got over its symbolic need to demonise Roman Catholics (as represented by Guy Fawkes) and moved the bonfires back to Halloween where they belong. In Celtic – especially Irish – tradition there are many stories associated with the lunar festivals, especially with Samhain, when the veil between this world and the otherworld is very thin – a great opportunity for adventures back forth between the worlds.

 

Modern Druids conduct ceremonies on the four lunar festivals in the tradition of the ancient Celts. They also conduct ceremonies on the four, more universal, solar festivals. This makes a total of eight quarter festivals that provide the backbone of the Druids’ sacred calendar. It is thanks to modern Druids’ custom of doing ceremony at Stonehenge on the solar festivals that public access has been negotiated on those days. I understand that the Druids are also conducting ceremonies near Stonehenge on the lunar festivals too, in order to establish a custom of religious usage in this location which they hope in time will enable public access on these four dates as well.

Article by guest blogger and author/storyteller Anthony Nanson.  Sponsored by Stonehenge Guide Tours

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View the sky above Stonehenge LIVE now with Skyscape. See how this ancient monument relates to the skies above it.

24 06 2019

A new website has been created by English Heritage to enable people around the world to experience the skies above the iconic stone circle, to learn about movements of the sun, moon and planets and to see the solar alignment at Stonehenge.

sky

The visuals are a representation of the view from within Stonehenge, a composite from various sources, not the literal view. Visit the skyscape website here

Day view
The view of the daytime sky is accurate to within a window of approximately five minutes, with the position of the sun accurate to a similar margin. You can use the highlighted squares at the top to view the last sunrise and sunset. Weather conditions are accurate – you may sometimes see raindrops on the camera!

Night view
After dark we switch from a photographic depiction to a computer generated one, which accurately displays the live location of the stars and the five visible planets. Neptune, Uranus and Pluto (as a dwarf planet) are consciously not included, as, being invisible to the naked eye, they remained undiscovered until the 18th century or later, and were consequently unknown to the builders of Stonehenge. As the night sky is a computer model it does not reflect weather conditions at the site.

Enjoy the experience!
Aside from the technical and informational aspects of Skyscape it’s also our hope that you’ll enjoy it from a more human perspective. We’ve created a webpage which offers a small escape, a pleasant place to visit, to which you can return frequently, even within a single day, and connect with the land, the stones and the skies above.

To capture the sky, a custom Raspberry Pi based, solar powered camera equipped with a 220° Fish Eye lens was built. You can see the status of the camera at freeboard.io .

How to use the site
Skyscape makes use of many modern web standards, so performs best with a modern browser and operating system. Older software, such as Internet Explorer, cannot always provide a good experience. Latest versions of browsers such as FirefoxChrome, Edge and Safari will perform best.

Visit the Skyscape website  here

If you are experiencing issues, try updating your system and graphics drivers to the latest version.

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Thousands of people gathered to greet the sun as it rose over Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

23 06 2019

About 10,000 people gathered at the Stonehenge to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police. The celebrations at Stonehenge came as people descended on sites across the UK to celebrate the first day of summer.

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Kate Logan, from English Heritage, said: “There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”  For the first time, people from around the world were also able to join in from the comfort of their homes as English Heritage launched a live feed from a camera set up close to the stones.

The crowds encountered a chilly morning accompanied by clear skies as the sun rose at 4.52am. 

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

Summer solstice takes place as one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun and the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, ensuring the longest period of daylight in the year.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

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RELEVANT LINKS:
Evening Standard
BBC
TIME MAGAZINE
MSN





Merlin and the Making of Stonehenge

8 06 2019

The archaeologists have their ideas about how and why Stonehenge was built. The annals of legend have another story, one that involves Merlin the magician plus the uncle and father of King Arthur.

The story begins not in Neolithic times but in the troubled years of the fifth century, after

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21st Century Merlin at Stonehenge

the Roman legions had withdrawn from Britain. The Saxons had invaded and were advancing rapidly across the land. The native British sought to resist them and to sustain the remnants of Romano-British civilisation. So there was terrible fighting between Saxon and Briton. So much bloodshed that their respective leaders agreed to meet at a spot on Salisbury Plain to try to negotiate a peace treaty.

The thing is, some people take a more hardball approach to ‘negotiation’ than others do. It had been agreed that the leaders should meet together unarmed, but the Saxon chieftains treacherously smuggled in their knives. The leaders stood in a circle in which Saxon and Briton alternated. They began to parlay. But not for long. At a signal, all the Saxon chieftains drew out their knives and each stabbed the Briton standing immediately to his left.

So the Saxons had the upper hand for some time. Till a British prince in exile in France, Aurelius Ambrosius, returned to Britain with his brother Uther Pendragon. Ambrosius won a major victory against the Saxons. Having done so, he desired to honour the British chiefs who’d been murdered on Salisbury Plain, by building a monument in the exact spot where the atrocity had occurred.

He called for advice from a wise man of prodigious repute, Merlin, who told him of a fabulous stone circle that had been built by giants – hence its name ‘the Giants’ Dance’ – on a mountain in Ireland. Ambrosius sent Merlin with Uther Pendragon to lead an expedition to Ireland to steal the Giants’ Dance. There was fighting of course, because the Irish quite understandably wanted to keep the structure in Ireland. But Uther’s warriors prevailed.

There was then the problem of how to transport this huge stone circle. Merlin applied his esoteric knowledge to uproot the stones, transport them on ships, and then re-erect the monument on Salisbury Plain – at the very spot where the Saxon chieftains had so treacherously slain the British leaders.

When, in due course, Aurelius Ambrosius died, he was buried in the Giants’ Dance – or Stonehenge, as it became known. So too was Uther Pendragon. Uther was the father of the future King Arthur. According to the legend, Arthur was expected to be buried there too. But Arthur never dies and is instead transported, badly wounded, to the Isle of Avalon, there to sleep and dream, waiting to return in his country’s hour of need. That being so, perhaps we ought to hope he might return quite soon!

We have this story from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain, written in Oxford in the 12th century. You can find a fuller telling of the tale in Kirsty Hartsiotis’s Wiltshire Folk Tales.

One doesn’t want to pull the rug out from beneath a lovely, enchanting legend, but of course there’s no easy way to match up this story with the archaeological knowledge that Stonehenge was built in Neolithic times. But there are elements that do fit. For one thing, the use of Stonehenge as a burial ground. For another, the likely transportation of the bluestones on watercraft from what is now Pembrokeshire in West Wales. An intriguing observation is that sea communications between Ireland and West Wales throughout antiquity mean that this western extremity of Wales could have been colonised by people from Ireland and therefore might, in a cultural rather than narrowly geographical sense, have been regarded as part of ‘Ireland’. Finally, although legend presents Merlin as a magician, the esoteric skills he demonstrates in the story in uprooting, transporting, and erecting the megaliths invite us to view him as symbolic of the engineering experience that some individuals must have possessed in the age of Stonehenge’s construction.

Article by guest blogger and author/storyteller Anthony Nanson

Recent Blog: Druid Leader King Arthur Uther Pendragon, Head of the Loyal Arthurian Warband.

English Heritage: The King Arthur Story and links to Arthurian locations

BBC HistoryKing Arthur, ‘Once and Future King’

Stonehenge Guided Tours offer King Arthur Tours including Stonehenge and associated sites in the South West of England.

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Stonehenge Summer Solstice Open Access 2019

20 05 2019

Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric world heritage site which has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice for thousands of years. Stonehenge is a world renowned historic Monument and part of a World Heritage Site. It is seen by many who attend as a sacred place.  

Summer Solstice Sunrise Celebrations at Stonehenge

Summer Solstice Sunrise Celebrations at Stonehenge

Please note that last normal admissions to Stonehenge is on Thursday 20th June at 13:00 and the site will close at 15:00 in preparation for Summer Solstice Managed Open Access. Stonehenge will re-open for normal admissions on the afternoon of Friday 21et June. Please check our social media channels for the exact time.

English Heritage is pleased to provide free Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for Summer Solstice. We ask that if you are planning to join us for this peaceful and special occasion that you read the Conditions of Entry and the information provided on the following pages before deciding whether to come.

Stonehenge is a significant World Heritage Site and to many it is sacred – please respect the stones and all those who are attending.

Admission to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is free of charge.  We hope the weather will be kind and wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice.

THURSDAY 20th JUNE 2019  
SOLSTICE CAR PARK OPENS 19.00 hours
ACCESS TO STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD 19.00 hours
SUNSET 21.26 hours
FRIDAY 21st JUNE 2019  
SUNRISE 04.52 hours
LAST ADMISSION TO SOLSTICE CAR PARK 06.00 hours (or when full)
STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD CLOSES

SOLSTICE CAR PARK TO BE VACATED

08.00 hours

12.00 hours (Noon)

For further information about Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, please call English Heriage Customer Services Solstice Information Hotline on 0370 333 1181.

RELEVANT LINKS:
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. From Past to Present. Stonehenge New Blog
Why Thousands Of Pagans Gather At Stonehenge For The Solstice Stonehenge News Blog
Respect the Stones: Stonehenge News Blog

The Stonehenge News Blog
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Audit Office says Stonehenge tunnel benefits ‘uncertain’

20 05 2019

There are “risks and uncertainty” over a road tunnel near Stonehenge and its benefits are “inherently uncertain”, a scrutiny body said. (BBC NEWS)

a303

The government wants to build a tunnel past the monument as part of a £1.6bn plan to upgrade the A303.

However, the National Audit Office (NAO) estimates the likely cost as £1.9bn, and says it “must deliver value for taxpayers”.

Highways England says the route will cut congestion and boost the economy

Work is due to begin in 2021 with an expected opening date of 2026.

The NAO estimates the project will only deliver £1.15 in benefits for every £1 spent.

Auditor General Amyas Morse said: “The tunnel at Stonehenge is currently only just value for money by the department’s own business case.

“Based on experience, project costs tend to grow rather than fall, at least in the early years.

“It will take a very special effort by the department to protect public value up to completion.”

The NAO also warned the project poses “geological and archaeological risks”, and said Highways England must ensure it can “support the project throughout its life”.

The government wants to build the tunnel to hide the busy A303, but opponents claim it could destroy archaeological treasures and scar the landscape.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) described the plans as “severely flawed” while The Stonehenge Alliance – a campaign group which includes archaeologists and environmental campaigners – said the work threatened the area’s “fragile archaeology”.

Highways England said the “vital route” would cut congestion and boost the economy, and would “restore the tranquil environment and setting of the monument”.

The Department for Transport said the road upgrade would “improve connections” with the rest of the country.

“Stonehenge is a site of significant historical value – we have worked closely with heritage groups, including English Heritage and Historic England, to ensure it is protected both during the upgrade of the A303 and in the long-term.

“Across the South West, we are investing £2 billion to improve roads, on top of £133 million for Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucester to introduce the MetroBus rapid public transport.”

A public consultation into the scheme ended in April 2018.

Highways England submitted a development consent order to the Planning Inspectorate in November.

The agency has set a six-month timetable in order to examine the proposals.

RELEVANT LINKS:
Stonehenge tunnel benefits ‘uncertain’ says Audit Office BBC NEWS
National Audit Office questions value of Stonehenge tunnel  THE GUARDIAN
Benefits of Stonehenge road tunnel scheme `uncertain´DAILY MAIL
DfT’s cost benefit methodology puts Stonehenge tunnel at risk SCIENCE TELLS
National Audit Office reports on the A303 and Stonehenge Tunnel HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

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