Coach Tours to Stonehenge at Christmas 2010

30 09 2010

December 2010 Stonehenge ‘Special Access’ Tours
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 UNESCO World Heritage Listed monument. Enjoy the peace, away from the crowds, as you experience Stonehenge at its atmospheric best at sunrise or sunset. Availability is strictly limited so book early, as private viewings regularly sell out and operate on selected days in 2010 only.  CLICK HERE

Stonehenge Christmas Coach Tours – departing from London
Some London tour operators are offering guided coach tours to Stonehenge on Christmas Day.  There are all sorts of tours available including Windsor Castle, Bath, Oxford, Canterbury, Avebury, Salisbury Cathedral, Christms markets and much more.  Click for discount tickets

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Stonehenge boy ‘was from the Mediterranean’

29 09 2010

Chemical tests on teeth from an ancient burial near Stonehenge indicate that the person in the grave grew up around the Mediterranean Sea.

 

The bones belong to a teenager who died 3,550 years ago and was buried with a distinctive amber necklace.

 “The position of his burial, the fact he’s near Stonehenge, and the necklace all suggest he’s of significant status”

End Quote Professor Jane Evans British Geological Survey

The conclusions come from analysis of different forms of the elements oxygen and strontium in his tooth enamel.

 

Analysis on a previous skeleton found near Stonehenge showed that that person was also a migrant to the area.

 The findings will be discussed at a science symposium in London to mark the 175th anniversary of the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The “Boy with the Amber Necklace”, as he is known to archaeologists, was found in 2005, about 5km south-east of Stonehenge on Boscombe Down.

 The remains of the teenager were discovered next to a Bronze Age burial mound, during roadworks for military housing.

“He’s around 14 or 15 years old and he’s buried with this beautiful necklace,” said Professor Jane Evans, head of archaeological science for the BGS.

 “The position of his burial, the fact he’s near Stonehenge, and the necklace all suggest he’s of significant status.”

 Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, backed this interpretation: “Amber necklaces are not common finds,” he told BBC News.

“Most archaeologists would say that when you find burials like this… people who can get these rare and exotic materials are people of some importance.”

 Chemical record

Professor Evans likened Stonehenge in the Bronze Age to Westminster Abbey today – a place where the “great and the good” were buried.

 Tooth enamel forms in a child’s first few years, so it stores a chemical record of the environment in which the individual grew up.

Amber beads (BGS) The amber to make the beads almost certainly came from the Baltic Sea

Two chemical elements found in enamel – oxygen and strontium – exist in different forms, or isotopes. The ratios of these isotopes found in enamel are particularly informative to archaeologists.

Most oxygen in teeth and bone comes from drinking water – which is itself derived from rain or snow.

In warm climates, drinking water contains a higher ratio of heavy oxygen (O-18) to light oxygen (O-16) than in cold climates. So comparing the oxygen isotope ratio in teeth with that of drinking water from different regions can provide information about the climate in which a person was raised.

Most rocks carry a small amount of the element strontium (Sr), and the ratio of strontium 87 and strontium 86 isotopes varies according to local geology.

The isotope ratio of strontium in a person’s teeth can provide information on the geological setting where that individual lived in childhood.

By combining the techniques, archaeologists can gather data pointing to regions where a person may have been raised.

Tests carried out several years ago on another burial known as the “Amesbury Archer” show that he was raised in a colder climate than that found in Britain.

Analysis of the strontium and oxygen isotopes in his teeth showed that his most likely childhood origin was in the Alpine foothills of Germany.

Stonehenge People were visiting Stonehenge from afar during the Bronze Age

“Isotope analysis of tooth enamel from both these people shows that the two individuals provide a contrast in origin, which highlights the diversity of people who came to Stonehenge from across Europe,” said Professor Evans.

 The Amesbury Archer was discovered around 5km from Stonehenge. His is a rich Copper Age or early Bronze Age burial, and contains some of the earliest gold and copper objects found in Britain. He lived about 4,300 years ago, some 800 years earlier than the Boscombe Down boy.

 The archer arrived at a time when metallurgy was becoming established in Britain; he was a metal worker, which meant he possessed rare skills.

 “We see the beginning of the Bronze Age as a period of great mobility across Europe. People, ideas, objects are all moving very fast for a century or two,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.

 “At the time when the boy with the amber necklace was buried, there are really no new technologies coming in [to Britain]… We need to turn to look at why groups of people – because this is a youngster – are making long journeys.”

 He speculated: “They may be travelling within family groups… They may be coming to visit Stonehenge because it was an incredibly famous and important place, as it is today. But we don’t know the answer.”

 Other people who visited Stonehenge from afar were the Boscombe Bowmen, individuals from a collective Bronze Age grave. Isotope analysis suggests these people could have come from Wales or Brittany, if not further afield.

 Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Solving Stonehenge – The experts gather……….

23 09 2010

LEADING experts on Stonehenge will be gathering in Salisbury to debate the monument’s purpose next weekend.

The event, called Solving Stonehenge, is part of Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum’s 150th anniversary conference on October 2 and 3, 2010

The main speakers will be Professor Tim Darvill, Professor Mike Parker Pearson, Mike Pitts and Julian Richards.

The debate will be chaired by Andrew Lawson.

Museum director Adrian Green said: “This is the first time that all the leading Stonehenge archaeologists have been gathered together for a public debate in recent times.

“With all their conflicting opinions about the role of the monument, and the opportunity for the public to quiz the archaeologists, this promises to be a thought-provoking event.”

There will also be a paper about recent survey work at Stonehenge by English Heritage archaeologist David Field on Saturday afternoon and a tour of the Stonehenge landscape on Sunday afternoon.

Stonehenge has been a vital part of the history of Salisbury Museum. The first official guidebook to the stones was written by former curator and director Frank Stevens in 1916.

The museum’s collections contain finds from every major excavation at the site, and since Victorian times it has had permanent displays about the monument.

Tickets for the whole conference, including a buffet, are £60 for members and £75 for non-members. Separate tickets for the Stonehenge debate are £15.
Tickets on 01722 332151          museum@salisburymuseum.org.uk // <![CDATA[
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For media enquiries speak to Administration and Marketing Officer Sara Willis.

See you there………

 Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Autumn Equinox 2010 – Stonehenge Celebrations

23 09 2010

Stonehenge Autumn Equinox 2010

 The Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon) is celebrated when day and night are of equal duration before the descent into increasing darkness and is the final festival of the season of harvest.  For many pagans, this is the time to reflect on the past season, and to recognize the balance of the year has changed.

Although the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge attrackts a large crowd, you may expect the Autumn Equinox celebrations to be less attended, with fewer than 1,000 people showing up.

The 2010 Autumnal Equinox takes place on September 23th, at 4.03am UK time (3.03 UTC), but when ‘open access’ to Stonehenge starts is decided by English Heritage and depends on visibility. The sunrise is at 6.48am, and it is expected access to the stones will be allowed from approximately 6.30 to 8.30am.

Public access to Stonehenge is denied after dark, so if you want to see the sunset on September 22th (18.59pm), you’ll have to stand on either the Avenue or on the side of the A344

The Autumnal Equinox

In September is the Fall Equinox, which has come to be called Mabon by many contemporary Neo-Pagans. Occuring approximately on September 21st, this is the day when the hours of daylight and nighttime are once again balanced. Calender days from now until the Winter Solstice will slowly get shorter and shorter in their daylight hours.

Agriculturally, this time of year the harvest is now in full swing, with late summer and fall fruits, vegetables and grains being gathered up before winter. This is the time of year a lot of canning or preserving of garden foods takes place. Hunting season also starts around this time, and this was when farmers would slaughter animals and preserve meat for the coming months as well.

This holiday is the last of the harvest holidays which began with the summer solstice and continued with Lammas.

  

21st/23rd September Harvest time!
The Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home is also called Mabon, pronounced ‘MAY-bon’, after the Welsh god Mabon ap Modron, which means literally ‘son of mother’. Mabon appears in ‘The Mabinogion’ tale. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honour The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to the trees. The Welsh know this time as ‘Alban Elfed’, meaning ‘light of autumn’. This is the point of the year when once again day and night are equal – 12 hours, as at Ostara, the Spring Equinox. The Latin word for Equinox means ‘time of equal days and nights’. After this celebration the descent into winter brings hours of increasing darkness and chiller temperatures. It is the time of the year when night conquers day. After the Autumn Equinox the days shorten and nights lengthen. To astrologers this is the date on which the sun enters the sign of Libra, the scales, reflecting appropriately the balanced day and night of the equinox. This was also the time when the farmers brought in their harvested goods to be weighed and sold.
Harvest festival This is the second festival of the season of harvest – at the beginning of the harvest, at Lammas, winter retreated to his underworld, now at the Autumn equinox he comes back to earth. For our Celtic ancestors this was time to reflect on the past season and celebrate nature’s bounty and accept that summer is now over. Harvest Home marks a time of rest after hard work, and a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of nature. This is the time to look back on the past year and what you have achieved and learnt, and to plan for the future. The full moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox is called the Harvest Moon and farmers would harvest their crops by then, as part of the second harvest celebration. Mabon was when livestock would be slaughtered and preserved (salted and smoked) to provide enough food for the winter. At the South Pole they will be celebrating the first appearance of the sun in six months. However, at the North Pole they will be preparing for six months of darkness. During Medieval times, the Christian Church replaced Pagan solstices and equinox celebrations with Christianized occasions. The Autumn equinox celebration was Michaelmas, the feast of the Archangel Michael.

The triple Goddess – worshipped by the Ancient Britons, is now in her aspect of the ageing Goddess and now passes from Mother to Crone, until she is reborn as a youthful virgin as the wheel of nature turns. At the Autumn equinox the goddess offers wisdom, healing and rest. Mabon Traditions The Wicker man There was a Celtic ritual of dressing the last sheaf of corn to be harvested in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. It was believed the sun or the corn spirit was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. This effigy was usually burned in celebration of the harvest and the ashes would be spread on the fields. This annual sacrifice of a large wicker man (representing the corn spirit) is thought by many to have been the origin of the misconception that Druids made human sacrifices. ‘The reaping is over and the harvest is in, Summer is finished, another cycle begins’ In some areas of the country the last sheaf was kept inside until the following spring, when it would be ploughed back into the land. In Scotland, the last sheaf of harvest is called ‘the Maiden’, and must be cut by the youngest female in attendance.
To Autumn O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit Beneath my shady roof, there thou may’st rest, And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe; And all the daughters of the year shall dance, Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers. William Blake Mabon is a time to reflect, as we reap the harvest of experience from the past year – the completion of another turn of the Great Wheel. Corn Dollies Corn dollies were also made from the last sheaf and kept in the house to protect the inhabitants from bad spirits during the long winter. Apples To honour the dead, it was also traditional at Mabon to place apples on burial cairns, as symbolism of rebirth and thanks. This also symbolizes the wish for the living to one day be reunited with their loved ones. Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, deriving from the meaning of Avalon being, ‘the land of the apples’.

Merlin @ Stonehenge – A good time by all…….
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





New Avebury to Stonehenge walk could rival Hadrian’s Wall

23 09 2010

The Great Stones Walk
A new long-distance footpath from Avebury Stone Circle to Stonehenge could topple Hadrian’s Wall as the UK’s most popular walking attraction.

The pathway is being planned by the Friends of the Ridgeway, who want to widen their focus beyond the National Trail.

Ian Ritchie, chairman of the Friends, told members of the Marlborough Area Board last week that the walk could pump an estimated £6 million into the local economy.

Mr Ritchie, who lives at Ramsbury, explained that the 29 mile Great Stones Walk connecting the two World Heritage Sites would pass through some of the best archaeological and historic sites in Britain.

He said: “This route has real historical integrity and goes by and through a wealth of archaeological and historic sites.

“It could become the première historical walking route in England held by Hadrian’s Wall at the moment.”

As well as being an international attraction for walkers, it would bring a welcome boost to the ailing rural economy.

Mr Ritchie said: “It will bring something like £6 million into the local economy, supported by the experience of the Hadrian’s Wall path, and create about 100 full-time or part-time jobs.”

The Friends estimate the walk would attract between 200,000 to 400,000 extra visitors a year and say consultations are taking place with landowners and parish councils along the route.

Later Mr Ritchie told the Gazette that the new path would link existing footpaths, bridleways and rights of way.

The cost of improving the route to National Trail standards has been estimated at about £105,000 and Mr Ritchie said it was hoped that much of the funding would come from the Salisbury Plain and North Wessex Downs AONB groups.

The area board meeting gave the new walk proposal its unanimous backing.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Stonehenge Winter Solstice – 22nd December 2010

22 09 2010

Last year saw a large number of people (including Druids) turn up at Stonehenge on the wrong day in 2009?  I thought I would clarify the correct ‘Winter Solstice’ day for 2010 to save any embaresment.  The summer solstice is always on the 21st, however the winter solstice can fall on the 21st or the 22nd.  The celebration does not always fall on the same date as the solstice because the modern year does not correspond precisely to the solar one.

The exact time for the Winter Solstice is December 21st, 11.39pm (UK time). The sunset on the 21st is at 3.53pm and the sunrise on the 22nd of December at 8.04am. Exceptionally, you can also expect a full moon on December 21th.

English Heritage did not confirm the date for Open Access for Stonehenge for the Winter Solstice yet, but most likely this will be dawn on the 22nd of December. (The sunrise on the 22nd is closer to the actual solstice than that on the 21th of December.) Expect a short period of access, from approximately 7.30 to 9.00am

Stonehenge is carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset (opposed to New Grange, which points to the winter solstice sunrise, and the Goseck circle, which is aligned to both the sunset and sunrise). It is thought that the Winter Solstice was actually more important to the people who constructed Stonehenge than the Summer Solstice. The Winter Solstice was a time when most cattle were slaughtered (so they would not have to be fed during the winter) and the majority of wine and beer was finally fermented.

Gerald Hawkins’ work

Gerald Hawkins’ work on Stonehenge was first published in Nature in 1963 following analyses he had carried out using the Harvard-Smithsonian IBM computer. Hawkins found not one or two alignments but dozens. He had studied 165 significant features at the monument and used the computer to check every alignment between them against every rising and setting point for the sun, moon, planets, and bright stars in the positions they would have been in 1500 BC. Thirteen solar and eleven lunar correlations were very precise against the early features at the site with precision falling during the megalithic stages. Hawkins also proposed a method for using the Aubrey holes to predict lunar eclipses by moving markers from hole to hole. In 1965 Hawkins wrote (with J. B. White) Stonehenge Decoded, which detailed his findings and proposed that the monument was a ‘Neolithic computer’.

Stonehenge – An Asronimical Calandar

Stonehenge features an opening in the henge earthwork facing northeast, and suggestions that particular significance was placed by its builders on the solstice and equinox points have followed. For example, the summer solstice sun rose close to the Heel Stone, and the sun’s first rays shone into the centre of the monument between the horseshoe arrangement. While it is possible that such an alignment can be coincidental, this astronomical orientation had been acknowledged since William Stukeley drew the site and first identified its axis along the midsummer sunrise in 1720.

Stukeley noticed that the Heel Stone was not precisely aligned on the sunrise. Year to year, the movement of the sun across the sky appears regular. However, due to temporal changes in obliquity of the ecliptic, illumination declinations change with time. The purported Heel Stone alignment with summer solstice sunrise would have been less accurate four to five thousand years ago. The Heel Stone, in fact, is located at 1/7th of circumference from due North, as noted by archaeologist James Q. Jacobs.[3] Stukeley and the renowned astronomer Edmund Halley were to attempt what amounted to the first scientific attempt to date a prehistoric monument. Stukeley concluded the Stonehenge had been set up “by the use of a magnetic compass to lay out the works, the needle varying so much, at that time, from true north.” He attempted to calculate the change in magnetic variation between the observed and theoretical (ideal) Stonehenge sunrise, which he imagined would relate to the date of construction. Their calculations returned three dates, the earliest of which, 460 BC, was accepted by Stukeley. That was incorrect, but this early exercise in dating is a landmark in field archaeology [4]. .

Early efforts to date Stonehenge exploited tiny changes in astronomical alignments and led to efforts such as H Broome’s 1864 theory that the monument was built in 977 BC, when the star Sirius would have risen over Stonehenge’s Avenue. Sir Norman Lockyer proposed a date of 1680 BC based entirely on an incorrect sunrise azimuth for the Avenue, aligning it on a nearby Ordnance Survey trig point, a modern feature. Petrie preferred a later date of AD 730. The necessary stones were leaning considerably during his survey, and it was not considered accurate.

Neolithic Computer

An archaeoastronomy debate was triggered by the 1963 publication of Stonehenge Decoded, by British-born astronomer Gerald Hawkins. Hawkins claimed to observe numerous alignments, both lunar and solar. He argued that Stonehenge could have been used to predict eclipses. Hawkins’ book received wide publicity, in part because he used a computer in his calculations, then a rarity. Archaeologists were suspicious in the face of further contributions to the debate coming from British astronomer C. A. ‘Peter’ Newham and Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous Cambridge cosmologist, as well as by Alexander Thom, a retired professor of engineering, who had been studying stone circles for more than 20 years. Their theories have faced criticism in recent decades from Richard J. C. Atkinson and others who have suggested impracticalities in the ‘Stone Age calculator’ interpretive approach.

There are a few tour companies offering Stonehenge Tours during the Solstice period.  Try the Stonehenge Tour Company, Best Value Tours, Salisbury Guided Tours and Premium Tours 

See you all at the Winter Sostice

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Web site





Megalithic Poems – The stones are great

22 09 2010

The stones are great
And magic power they have
Men that are sick
Fare to that stone
And they wash that stone
And with that water bathe away their sickness

 

Indeed the stones are great, and certainly have had the power to capture the imagination of poets and artists through the centuries.

On the 21 September 2005, the heritage journal  started the anthology of Megalithic Poems, a colleague warned that we’d be hard pressed to find even half a dozen on the theme of the megalithic structures and prehistoric sites of Britain, Ireland and the European continent. Five years on and there are now some 300 poems on the blog, and an equal number of drawings, paintings, prints or photographs to accompany them.

The poems stretch over a period of some eight hundred years; from Laymon’s poem, Brut (above), of 1215 describing Stonehenge, to poems written only a few months ago. What does this tell us? Well, perhaps that not only have these structures inspired poets like Blake and Wordsworth (as well as artists such as Constable and Turner) down through the ages but also that this marvellous, mysterious megalithic heritage of ours continues to inspire us even today.

At a time when so much of our heritage is at risk through development and mismanagement (Tara in Ireland for example, even Stonehenge and Avebury) perhaps these poems, and the images that accompany them, will continue to inspire those who would take time out from busy lives to visit and ponder upon this often overlooked aspect of our heritage. Not only that, hopefully this anthology will also act as a warning that these places, built by our forefathers millennia ago, are in constant need of our care and attention lest, after thousands of years having, “…brav’d the continual assaults of weather…” (William Stukeley) they are finally lost for all time through the greed, ignorance and insensitivity of the 21st century.

Since September 2005 we’ve added many more poems and images on the megalithic theme in the hope that they’ll become a useful resource for those interested in the poetry, art and the history of our megalithic past – none of which would appear on the blog without the remarkable efforts and creativity of those who have written about megaliths or portrayed them in their work – not forgetting of course those who originally conceived and built these amazing structures!  To everyone, a very big thank you. We hope you will find as much pleasure browsing through the anthology as we have taken in compiling it.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website








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