£20m Stonehenge visitor centre criticised by Government design watchdog

10 03 2010

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) believes the centre’s “twee paths” are “more appropriate for an urban garden” and its “delicate roof” is unsuitable for the wind and rain that sweeps across the majestic Wiltshire plains where the stones stand.

Although the plans, by Australian architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall, have been approved by Wiltshire county council planners and are backed by local architects on the Wiltshire Design Forum, CABE said the “architectural approach” was wrong.

“We question whether, in this landscape of scale and huge horizons and with a very robust end point that has stood for centuries and centuries, this is the right design approach?” Diane Haigh, the watchdog’s director of design review, told The Guardian.

“You need to feel you are approaching Stonehenge. You want the sense you are walking over Salisbury Plain towards the stones.”

She said the intended location of the centre, at Airman’s Corner, is appropriate and that CABE was pleased that “something was happening at last” to enhance the appeal of the 5,000-year-old World Heritage site.

She said that she recognised the columns were meant to be “lots of trunks” holding up a “very delicate roof”, but added: “Is this the best approach on what is actually a very exposed site. In particular, if it’s a windy, rainy day, as it is quite often out there, it’s not going to give you shelter.

“We are concerned it’s very stylish nature will make it feel a bit dated in time, unlike the stones which have stood the test of time”.

The comments are the latest setback for long-running plans backed by English Heritage to make the site more suitable for visitors, 800,000 of whom make the journey to Stonehenge each year.

Traffic continues to rumble past the site today after the Government decided, two years ago, to scrap a highly-ambitious £65m scheme to build a tunnel to re-route traffic to protect the site on the grounds of cost.

English Heritage said it recognised that the visitor centre would prove controversial and divisive.

“Innovative architectural designs will always polarise opinion, and often nowhere more so that within the architectural world itself,” it said in a statement.

“The Stonehenge project has to overcome a unique set of challenges,” it said. “This has required a pragmatic approach and, following widespread consultation, we maintain the current plans offer the best solution”.

Stephen Quinlan, partner at Denton Corker Marshall, said the roof was meant to be a “sun canopy” and not meant to entirely keep out the elements since the visitor centre is part of the “an outdoor experience”.

“It’s not an iconic masterpiece. It’s a facility to help you appreciate the Stonehenge landscape. It’s intellectually ­deferential in a big, big way to Stonehenge as a monument,” he said.

“I wouldn’t even mind if you couldn’t remember what the building looked like when you left. The visitor centre is not the destination.”

But he said that his firm did not take criticism from CABE lightly. “We are crawling through their comments to see if there are any improvements we can make,” he said.

Denton Corker Marshall has previously designed the Manchester Civil Justice Centre, the Australian Embassies in Beijing and Tokyo and The Melbourne Museum.





Stonehenge Funny Image of the week

10 03 2010




The Story of Carbon Dating

10 03 2010

Ive had a number of questions recently about ‘Radio carbon dating at Stonehenge’ Here is a comprehensive anwser:
Radio carbon dating determines the age of ancient objects by means of measuring the amount of carbon-14 there is left in an object. A man called Willard F Libby pioneered it at the University of Chicago in the 50’s. In 1960, he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. This is now the most widely used method of age estimation in the field of archaeology.

How it works

Certain chemical elements have more than one type of atom. Different atoms of the same element are called isotopes. Carbon has three main isotopes. They are carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14. Carbon-12 makes up 99% of an atom, carbon-13 makes up 1% and carbon-14 – makes up 1 part per million. Carbon-14 is radioactive and it is this radioactivity which is used to measure age.

Radioactive atoms decay into stable atoms by a simple mathematical process. Half of the available atoms will change in a given period of time, known as the half-life. For instance, if 1000 atoms in the year 2000 had a half-life of ten years, then in 2010 there would be 500 left. In 2020, there would be 250 left, and in 2030 there would be 125 left.

By counting how many carbon-14 atoms in any object with carbon in it, we can work out how old the object is – or how long ago it died. So we only have to know two things, the half-life of carbon-14 and how many carbon-14 atoms the object had before it died. The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730 years. However knowing how many carbon-14 atoms something had before it died can only be guessed at. The assumption is that the proportion of carbon-14 in any living organism is constant. It can be deduced then that today’s readings would be the same as those many years ago. When a particular fossil was alive, it had the same amount of carbon-14 as the same living organism today.

The fact that carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years helps archaeologists date artefacts. Dates derived from carbon samples can be carried back to about 50,000 years. Potassium or uranium isotopes which have much longer half-lives, are used to date very ancient geological events that have to be measured in millions or billions of years.





Stonehenge team wins project of the year

9 03 2010

The team which discovered the site of a second stone circle, 500 years older than the nearby Stonehenge has won a prestigious archaeology award.
The sensational discovery of a 5000 year-old “Blue Stonehenge” was made by a team led by archaeologists from Manchester, Sheffield and Bristol Universities on the West bank of the River Avon last year.
The Stonehenge Riverside Project – as they are known – won the Research Project of the Year award at the Current Archaeology awards held at the British Museum.

The Stonehenge Riverside Project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Royal Archaeological Institute.

The award was given following an online vote by readers of Britain’s biggest archaeology magazine.
The new circle was 10m in diameter and was surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank.

However, the stones were at some point removed, leaving behind nine uncovered holes. The team believe they were probably part of a circle of 25 standing stones.

The outer henge around the stones was built around 2,400 BC, but distinctive chisel-shaped arrowheads found in the stone circle indicate that the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier.
When the newly discovered circle’s stones were removed by Neolithic tribes, they may, according to the team, have been dragged to Stonehenge, to be incorporated within its major rebuilding around 2500 BC.

Archaeologists know that after this date, Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones and 83 local, sarsen stones. Some of the bluestones that once stood at the riverside probably now stand within the centre of Stonehenge.
Professor Julian Thomas, from The University of Manchester and a co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, said: “We are delighted to win this award – and it’s a tribute to the team who have done such a great job.
“We are still coming to terms with this truly sensational discovery: it’s amazing the circle of bluestones were dragged from the Welsh Preseli mountains, 150 miles away around 5,000 years ago.

“It adds weight to the theory that the River Avon linked a ‘domain of the living’ – marked by timber circles and houses upstream at the Neolithic village of ‘Durrington Walls’ – with a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new stone circle.

“The Stonehenge Riverside Project also discovered a Late Neolithic settlement outside the enormous henge at Durrington Walls, upriver from Stonehenge, and a series of contemporary timber buildings and other structures in and around Durrington which may have been ceremonial in character.”
Notes for editors

The Stonehenge Riverside Project is run by a consortium of university teams. It is directed by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University, with co-directors Dr Josh Pollard (Bristol University), Prof. Julian Thomas (The University of Manchester), Dr Kate Welham (Bournemouth University) and Dr Colin Richards (The University of Manchester). The 2009 excavation was funded by the National Geographic Society, Google, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Society of Northern Antiquaries.

Most of the circle remains preserved for future research and the 2009 excavation has been filled back in.

Stoneheneg Stone Circle





Stonehenge Funny Picture – Its not all serious…….

5 03 2010




New Stonehenge Tour

4 03 2010

Evan Evan Tours have just launched a new tour that includes Stonehenge Private access. In my opinion its a little ambitious (see below) but thats my opinion. There is a link below if you want to book
Their itinerary is as follows:

A PRIVATE VIEWING OF THE INNER CIRCLE AT STONEHENGE – an early start gives the opportunity to visit the inner circle of Stonehenge at sunrise, a walking tour of Oxford and visit to the state apartments at Windsor Castle.
Included Highlights
•Private Viewing at Sunrise of the Inner Circle at Stonehenge
•Walking tour of Oxford
•Visit Christ Church college (where Harry Potter was filmed)
•Entrance to Windsor Castle and a tour of the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel
•First-class luxury Motor-coach and the services of a Professional Guide

Private Viewing of Stonehenge
Most visitors to Stonehenge are not allowed direct access to the stones. On this special day trip from London, you’ll be invited to enter the stone circle itself, and stand beside the mysterious rocks towering above you. Your guide will unlock the secrets of this ancient World Heritage site. Enjoy the peace, away from the crowds, as you experience Stonehenge at its atmospheric best at sunrise.

Oxford
The colleges in Oxford date back to the 13th century and among its famous students were Bill Clinton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll. We take you on a fascinating walking tour, which includes visiting the Great Hall in Christ Church, where many scenes from Harry Potter were filmed. We’ll also see the Bodleian Library and the picture perfect college courtyards for which Oxford is famous.

Windsor Castle
Our day continues with a visit to Windsor Castle, the largest and oldest occupied Castle in the world, and home of the Royal Family for 900 years. Its proud, strong walls dominate the delightful town that has grown around the castle over the years. You’ll see the lavishly decorated State Apartments containing priceless furniture in glorious colours and St George’s Chapel, home to the 14th Century Order of the Royal Garter, our senior chivalric order.

Evan Evans Coach Tours – Click Here

The Stonehenge Tour Company

Histouries UK





Syria’s Stonehenge: Neolithic stone circles, alignments and possible tombs discovered

3 03 2010


Just read this in my morning newspaper – wow. I will do some more reserach and update you all.
For Dr. Robert Mason, an archaeologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, it all began with a walk last summer. Mason conducts work at the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery, out in the Syrian Desert. Finds from the monastery, which is still in use today by monks, date mainly to the medieval period and include some beautiful frescoes.

Photo courtesy Dr. Robert Mason. One of the corbelled stone structures found in the Syrian desert. Archaeologists suspect that its an ancient stone tomb. In the front of it are the remains of a stone circle.

Dr. Mason explains that he “went for a walk” into the eastern perimeter of the site – an area that hasn’t been explored by archaeologists. What he discovered is an ancient landscape of stone circles, stone alignments and what appear to be corbelled roof tombs. From stone tools found at the site, it’s likely that the features date to some point in the Middle East’s Neolithic Period – a broad stretch of time between roughly 8500 BC – 4300 BC.

It is thought that in Western Europe megalithic construction involving the use of stone only dates back as far as ca. 4500 BC. This means that the Syrian site could well be older than anything seen in Europe.

At a recent colloquium in Toronto, Canada, Mason described his shock at discovering the apparent tombs, stone circles and stone alignments: “I was standing up there thinking, oh dear me, I’ve wandered onto Salisbury Plain,”

At the southern end of the landscape there are three apparent tombs. They are about eight metres in diameter and each of them “actually has a chamber in the middle”. The roof is corbelled which suggests that beneath them is “something you would want to seal in.” Each of these corbelled structures had a stone circle beside it, which is about two meters in diameter.

Dr. Mason cautioned that the team did not have the chance to do more than survey the area, so it’s still possible that these corbelled structures could have a purpose other than burial. More work also needs to be done to get a precise date of construction.

Dr. Mason set out to look for more stone circles and chambered structures. This time he brought a monk with him, from the monastery:

“Lurking around in the hills above a Syrian military base with a digital camera in one hand and a GPS unit in the other is the sort of thing that makes you want to have a monk in your presence,” he explained.

The two of them went to a rock outcrop – a place that would have been a good source of flint in ancient times – where he found the remains of several corbelled structures. In the valley below they found another corbelled structure with a stone circle right beside it.

The monk who travelled with him sensed that this high outcrop would have been of great importance to the people who lived here. “This is a high place” he told Mason.

As Mason gazed at the landscape, from the height of the outcrop, he saw stone lines, also known as alignments, going off in different directions. Dr. Mason has a strong background in geology, and knew immediately that these could not be natural features.

“I know what rocks look like, where they belong – these rocks don’t belong in that.”

One of stone lines was “very bizarre,” snaking its way up a hill. Mason followed the line and found that it led to the “biggest complex of tombs of all.”

This particular stone structure has three chambers and was probably the burial place for “the most important person.” In the front of the tomb are the remains of a stone circle. Dr. Mason can’t confirm for sure that this was used as a tomb, until further archaeological work takes place.

The lithics the team found in the landscape are also quite unusual – they don’t seem to be made from local material. Mason explained that local flint is white or dark red, but the material they found is “very good quality brown chert.”

The Neolithic period is a time period when people in the Middle East were beginning to grow crops and adopt farming. They didn’t live in settlements larger than a village. There were no cities in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.

Professor Edward Banning is a University of Toronto anthropology professor and Neolithic period expert, and has done extensive fieldwork in the Middle East, including Jordan. He said that we need to be careful about drawing conclusions before more fieldwork is done.

“Virtually all the burials that archaeologists have ever discovered from Neolithic sites in that part of the world come from inside settlements – in fact even below floors and houses,” he said. If the corbelled structures are confirmed as burial structures, then this site will represent something new.

“It’s possible that this landscape that Dr. Mason has identified could be an example of off-site burial practices in the Neolithic which would be very interesting.”

This would help settle a mystery that archaeologists have long faced. Banning said that while burials have been found in Neolithic settlements, “Those burials are not high enough in number to account for the number of people who must have died in those settlements. So a number of us for many years have assumed that there must have been off-site mortuary practices of some kind.”

Dr. Mason goes a step further. He says that this site “sounds like Western Europe” and he wonders if this could be an early example of the stone landscapes seen at places like Stonehenge.

Dr. Julian Siggers of the Royal Ontario Museum, another Neolithic specialist, pointed out that it has been argued that agriculture spread from the Near East to Europe. This find creates a question – could these stone landscapes have travelled with them?

“It’s such an important hypothesis if it’s right that it’s worth telling people about now,” said Mason. “We’ve found something that’s never been found in the Middle East before.”

Professor Banning is sceptical about this idea. He said that stone structures are found throughout the world, pointing to the dolmens found in East Asia. He claims that people in Western Europe could have developed the techniques independently of the people who built the landscape near the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery.

Prof. Banning also said that Mason’s site may not be entirely unique in the Near and Middle East. He said that archaeologists have detected, via satellite photos, what appear to be cairns and stone circles in other areas, including the deserts of Jordan and Israel. However, he admits that most of these things have not received a lot of archaeological investigation.

That situation is about to change. Dr. Mason plans to return to the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi site this summer with a team of Neolithic experts. The results of their investigations may well put Britain’s Stonehenge in the shade.

Tour Guide
Stonehenge Stone Circle








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