Stonehenge Comedy

27 07 2010

I did promise a few laughs along the way…..
Hope you like this classic Eddie Izzard comedy sketch of Stonehenge (18+)

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Stonehenge twin – ‘Timberhenge’ – discovered with radar imaging

27 07 2010

Stonehenge wasn’t the only mammoth circle in southern England 5,000 years ago. Using new radar imaging equipment, scientists have identified what was once a nearby circle of huge timbers.

Stonehenge, the mysterious circle of mammoth stone pillars in the middle of the English countryside, now has a slightly smaller twin.


Chart: Wooden ‘sister’ of Stonehenge discovered

Graphic News



Scientist have discovered a second henge formation that once existed nearby made from huge timbers.

And there could be many more henge-type circles yet to be found in the vicinity, says archeologist Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham, which is leading an expedition of the site along with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Austria.

“We didn’t expect to find another henge. There’s always been some presumption that the stones existed in splendid isolation,” Professor Gaffney says.

On July 16, just two weeks into their four-year project, Gaffney’s team discovered ‘Timberhenge,’ a 25-meter (82-foot) diameter, circular series of holes that were once filled with 24 huge wooden poles. It sits about 900 meters away from Stonehenge in southern England.

“Stonehenge isn’t the only henge monument in the area. There are several in the immediate vicinity,” says Dr. Gaffney, reached by phone today from Stonehenge.

‘Henge’ refers to a circular ditch with an external bank from the Neolithic period.

Archaeology without a shovel

Notably, not a bit of earth was dug up to make the discovery.

Gaffney’s ground-mapping project uses radar-imaging equipment, which is placed a wheels and pulled over the fields surrounding Stonehenge. His team plans to scan a 14-square-kilometer (nearly 9 mile) area at a cost of $500,000 to $1 million.

“We will not dig anything. The technologies we use will allow us to look at volumes of soil,” he says.

The new Timberhenge appears built on the same orientation as Stonehenge, with entrances to the northeast and southwest. Archaeologists say it was a worshipping site and burial ground, but Gaffney says the precise role of the structures remains unclear: Was it for commoners or tribal leaders, worshippers or religious leaders?

The radar-imaging project will provide a map of the area’s structures and a clearer idea of its size and functions.

Scientists have repeatedly unearthed new finds at Stonehenge.

In October 2009, the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered a 10-meter (33-foot) diameter stone circle of bluestones, brought from the Preseli mountains of Wales, 150 miles away, and dubbed ‘Bluestonehenge.’ The stones, now missing, once marked the end of an avenue that leads from the River Avon to Stonehenge, a nearly 2-mile-long processional route constructed at the end of the Stone Age.

Another Woodhenge

Nor is this the first wooden henge found in the area. Two miles northeast of Stonehenge sits the so-called ‘Woodhenge,’ a six-ringed circle of 168 timber holes identified in 1925. Another timber circle nearby was identified in 1966.

But Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, director of The Stonehenge Riverside Project, says it’s premature to describe this latest find as another “Woodhenge.”

“No one has any idea if these were circles of posts, stones or just pits. Nor do we know what date they are other than broadly 3000-1500 BC. They are both great finds but we know too little about them as yet (without excavation) to say how they will change our understanding,” he says via email. “As we found last year with Bluestonehenge, there is still much to be found around Stonehenge.”

Gaffney agrees that much remains unknown.

“Despite the fact that this is probably the most studied landscapes in the world…we know nothing about it,” says Gaffney. “Having said that, we felt we needed to know much more about what was happening between the monuments to know how it’s organized.”

On Thursday, however, southern England’s summer rains had delayed further scans of the area, and sent Gaffney running for shelter in a car.

“It’s raining heavily, so we’re not doing anything at the moment,” he told the Monitor. “It’s a British summer: what do you expect?”

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

How significant is the ‘new henge’?

27 07 2010

Stonehenge (Image: AFP) What does the new finding reveal about the famous world heritage site?

A major survey of the Stonehenge landscape started last week, and today we learn that archaeologists have found another henge.

This is a three-year project, so by 2013 there could be quite a list of new discoveries.

 Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine

I am quite sure something else of at least equal interest will emerge before the three years are up”

Is this real? Do we know as little about the famous world heritage site as this seems to imply? Or is it another hyped science story that will vanish with the dawn?

 Let’s start with the new henge. Yes, it is a significant find, and my archaeological colleagues are already e-mailing each other with tempered excitement.

 The first thing to ask is, is it a henge? It might well be, but without excavation we cannot know – and it all depends what you mean by “henge”.

 Technically, a henge is a roughly circular space enclosed by an earthwork, distinguished by a ditch lying within a bank (rather than the other way around, which would make it a fort).

 However, that definition actually excludes Stonehenge from the class, and the word has come to be used loosely to describe any circular ritual site in Britain dating from the late Neolithic or copper age (3,000-2,000BC).

 A few of these had standing stones, but more common were rings of oak posts, sometimes several inside each other on a very large scale. It is this type of site that Vince Gaffney is claiming to have found.

 He might well be right. The geophysics plot seems to show a circle of some 24 postholes within two arcs of 10 or so large pits.

 These pits might have themselves held large posts. They might indeed have held megaliths (nearby “Bluehenge”, a 10m-diameter circle of 25 stone pits, was unexpectedly discovered by excavation only last year).

 But they might just be very big pits: there is a henge in Dorchester, Dorset, known as Maumbury Rings, that fits that description.

Artist's impression of a structure discovered by archaeologists studying the land surrounding Stonehenge (Image: University of Birmingham) Only detailed excavation will reveal the true importance of the discovery

On the other hand, the site could be something quite different. It was previously known as a ploughed-out burial mound or barrow of probable bronze age date (2,000-1,200BC).

 It may still be that, but with an unusual ditch or pit arrangement around it (in which case, the large pits would be quarries for a mound in the centre rather than a bank on the outside).

 This is after all close to Stonehenge, and the landscape is famous for the large number and unusual qualities of these barrows.

 So perhaps a henge, perhaps not, but an important discovery whose significance will be fully realised only with excavation.

 As to why archaeologists did not know about such a monument so close to Stonehenge, there are two main reasons.

 The landscape is extensive and fieldwork is slow and expensive. Most archaeologists are working with very small budgets – in the past, many were not paid at all.

 So archaeologists focused their attention where they knew there was something to be found. Until recently, there was endless excavation at Stonehenge itself, and almost none beyond. Inevitably, this had the effect of convincing some people that there was nothing else to find elsewhere.

 On the other hand, the science of archaeological fieldwork is advancing fast. Professor Gaffney and his colleagues from the University of Birmingham, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna, are pioneering highly sophisticated survey equipment and software.

It is the extremely high resolution of the survey data that has allowed this “henge” to have been found.

So it is an important discovery that comes about because archaeology is learning new tricks. I am quite sure something else of at least equal interest will emerge before the three years are up. Who knows? As I am typing these words, the team is out there.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

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