Stonehenge expert awarded OBE

29 10 2010

ONE of the world’s leading experts on Stonehenge discovered his passion for archaeology as a child in his Cheltenham back garden.
Professor Timothy Darvill has been awarded an OBE, in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to archaeology. He is a leading expert on prehistoric Britain.

He said it was a “great privilege” to receive the honour from the Queen earlier this month at Windsor Castle and thanked his colleagues, friends and family.

“I have always been passionate about archaeology and feel fortunate to have contributed to so many amazing projects that have revealed such a great deal about our nation’s history and heritage,” he said.

Born and bred in Cheltenham, Prof Darvill has been passionate about archaeology since he was a child, according to his mother Win Darvill.

“He has always been interested from when he was a small boy. He used to dig holes in the garden all the time,” she said.

“His father, who was a civil engineer, was interested in fossils and passed it all on to Timothy and it went from there.”

The family lived in the Battledown area and Mrs Darvill now lives in Pittville.

Timothy Darvill is now a professor at Bournemouth University.

Mrs Darvill said: “When he was in his teens he was always either involved in archaeology in Cirencester or on field walks. It has always been his passion. I could not believe it when he was awarded the OBE but I am so proud.”

She said her son grew up in the right area to find all kinds of interesting landscapes.

But he developed an interest in Stonehenge from a young age too.

“He has done a lot of work on it and written many books about it. I read them but I wouldn’t like to write an essay on them,” she said.

The author of more than 20 books and 200 papers and articles, Mr Darvill famously co-directed the first excavations within the stone circle at Stonehenge for more than 40 years in April 2008.

His work featured in a BBC Timewatch programme, which examined the theory that Stonehenge was a prehistoric centre of healing.

After completing a PhD at Southampton University on the Neolithic of Wales and the west of England, he worked with the Western Archaeological Trust and the Council for British Archaeology before establishing a private practice offering consultancy services in the field of archaeological resource management.

In October 1991, he was appointed to the chair of archaeology in the newly-established archaeology group at Bournemouth University and led the Monuments at Risk survey commissioned by English Heritage in the mid 1990s and has worked in Russia, Malta, Greece, and Germany. He is chairman of the board of directors of Cotswold Archaeology, one of the top archaeological companies in the UK, and vice-president of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Silbury Hill – David Attenborough’s big dig

26 10 2010

Silbury Hill is as ancient and enigmatic as Stonehenge. David Attenborough tells us why he set out to crack it

Tomb or temple? ... Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

Tomb or temple? ... Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

 

The past,” says David Attenborough, “is a haunting and fascinating place.” The great naturalist is revealing a little-known side of himself: his love of archaeology – and his fascination with Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. The tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe, Silbury Hill rises to a height of 37 metres, making it comparable with the Egyptian pyramids and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia.

In a new English Heritage book about the hill, Attenborough tells how, in 1968 as controller of BBC2, he commissioned a programme that involved tunnelling into its depths to discover why it was there. At the time, the programme was judged a flop, since it found no treasure, no tomb, no real answers at all.

The-Story-of-Silbury-Hill

The-Story-of-Silbury-Hill

Attenborough is now seeking to set the record straight. He argues that, far from failing, TV’s first live dig triggered an unlikely chain of events that recently led to the tunnel being reopened and re-examined, using modern techniques. “They did not unearth any material treasure either,” he writes, but instead “added more details to our knowledge and understanding.” And this, you could say, is the true purpose of archaeology. In fact, the reopening of the tunnel vindicated the project Attenborough is so proud of: it revealed perhaps as much as will ever be known about this most mysterious of ancient monuments.

Silbury Hill is near Avebury, a quaint English village set inside a prehistoric stone circle. The village is part of a world heritage site that takes in Stonehenge and Silbury Hill. Raised in the same era as the mighty Stonehenge, and just as much of an enigma, the hill boasts chalk sides covered with grass. Construction of the vast, flat-topped cone would have required hundreds of workers and taken an age, but the people who built it left no records as to why.

BBC2 was a new channel in the 60s, with a brief to experiment. “We were going to do new television,” says Attenborough. “Everything we did would be in some way identifiable as new. With archaeology we thought, ‘Why can’t we do a live excavation?’ We would have cameras there so, if necessary, we could interrupt other programmes.”

The plan was to dig a tunnel into the heart of the hill. Professor Richard Atkinson, who led the dig, had interesting ideas about what might be in there. “Richard was the first to notice Mycenean daggers on Stonehenge,” says Attenborough. These made Atkinson believe Stonehenge was built by a culture in contact with ancient Greece, whose chief wanted a dramatic tomb.

This was TV as real adventure, and it captured the public imagination. Some saw it as a treasure hunt; others as a mix of horror and science-fiction. “Atkinson,” says Attenborough, “didn’t necessarily think there was going to be a burial [site]. The press said, ‘This is a treasure hunt, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘No, it’s about little bits of mud.'”

As the tunnel took shape, with news reported continually, nothing much emerged. “People kept saying, ‘It’s a failure,'” says Attenborough. “But we did discover how it was made.” Some people maintained the dig was actually harmful. “Since then, if there have been slumps in the top, people have said, ‘Ah ha, it’s the BBC’s tunnel.’ ”

In 2000, not just a slump but a hole appeared. Was the tunnel collapsing? No: this was caused by an 18th-century shaft, but archaeologists were still worried. They decided to reopen the BBC tunnel, deploying the latest tools and tests, and then seal it forever.

The new dig suggested that the hill was not a tomb, but a temple – perhaps the greatest in Europe 4,000 years ago. It also showed the hill started as a sacred site, where people came bearing stones; they may have believed they possessed healing powers. Certainly, stones are embedded in the structure and are thought to be highly meaningful by archaeologists. It is like Britain’s later cathedrals, which rose up over shrines. Sun worship flourished in prehistoric Britain, so perhaps this was – like those ancient ziggurats – a stairway to heaven to let priests get closer to the sun.

Atkinson’s tunnel is now sealed, but its creation marked a time when TV set out to bring drama and glamour to archaeology. As Attenborough says: “Anybody would be thrilled to find a Roman coin in their garden. I know I would.”

Visit Silbury Hill, Stonehenge and Avebury in a small group day tour – The Stonehenge Tour Company are the only operators who offer such a trip.  Histouries UK based in nearby Salisbury and Bath also bespoke private guided tours of the region.  You can look at more discounted tour operators here

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





STONEHENGE AND PHOTOGRAPHY – ENGLISH HERITAGE RESPONSE

22 10 2010

English Heritage looks after Stonehenge on behalf of the nation. But we do not control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge. And we have never tried to do so.

Stonehenge image

We have no problem with photographers sharing images of Stonehenge on Flickr and similar not-for-profit image websites. We encourage visitors to the monument to take their own photographs. If a commercial photographer enters the land within our care with the intention of taking a photograph of the monument for financial gain, we ask that they pay a fee and abide by certain conditions. English Heritage is a non-profit making organisation and this fee helps preserve and protect Stonehenge for the benefit of future generations. The majority of commercial photographers respect this position and normally request permission in advance of visiting. We regret the confusion caused by a recent email sent to a picture library.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





The man who bought Stonehenge

22 10 2010

It was 95 years ago, this week, that a man walked into a property auction in Salisbury and came out £6,600 poorer and the owner of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge had never been put up for auction before and never would again.
Sir Cecil Chubb, a wealthy Shrewton resident, was the new owner of Stonehenge.  He was also the last man to own it.

Bought ‘on a whim’

Stonehenge had been in private hands since the middle ages and been in the Antrobus family since the early 1800s.

But when the heir to the Antrobus baronetcy was killed in the Great War the estate was put up for sale.

Restoration of Stonehenge in 1950

Stonehenge undergoes restoration work in 1950

In the hands of Messrs Knight, Franck and Rutley, on the 21st September 1915, the historic site went under the hammer.

And Lot 15: Stonehenge with 30 acres of adjoining down land was sold at the Palace Theatre in Salisbury to the highest bidder.

Sir Cecil Chubb, who’d had no intention of bidding at the sale, bought it ‘on a whim’ as a gift for his wife who, it’s claimed, was none too pleased.

For the price of £6,600, the equivalent of £392,00 in today’s money, Sir Cecil Chubb’s intention that a “Salisbury man ought to buy it” was realised.

Stonehenge worth £51m

Just 95 years on and, according to a survey of 500 estate agents invited to put a price on national monuments across the UK, Stonehenge is now worth a monumental £51m.

Whilst the recommended estate agent’s blurb, suggested in the same survey carried out by findaproperty.com, could read:

Stonehenge “Airy property with bags of potential. Comes with land but needs serious renovation, including new roof and double-glazing.”

We would still advise our client to sell it at auction
Andrew Rome, Knight and Franck

But how would Messrs Knight, Franck and Rutley, the estate agents who originally handled the sale, sell Stonehenge today?

“We would still advise our client to sell it at auction,” says Andrew Rome from Knight and Franck.

“And to sell it as a going concern as a business based on the income it generates.”

With Stonehenge attracting around 900,000 visitors a year, paying an average of £5 per head, a £51m valuation starts to sound like a good investment.

Free admission

For Sir Cecil, however, Stonehenge belonged to the nation, and in 1918 after owning it for just three years he formerly handed it over to the country with a number of conditions.

His conditions were that the entrance fee should never be more then a shilling (5p) and that local residents should have free access.

“The 1918 deed of gift didn’t actually specify free access for local residents,” says Joy Kaarnijoki at English Heritage, “it was an agreement with the Parish Council.

“The road passed very close to the stones. The Council agreed that the rights of way could be diverted further from the stone circle on condition that local residents would be granted free access.”

Whether it was stipulated by Sir Cecil Chubb himself, or not, it’s an agreement that has continued to the present day.

According to English Heritage, the 30,000 local residents living in and around Stonehenge can still take up the offer of free access to one of England’s most famous monuments

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

In 1915 Stonehenge was bought for just £6,600, its current valuation is estimated at £51m

In 1915 Stonehenge was bought for just £6,600, its current valuation is estimated at £51m





Delight for Druids says Avebury priest

18 10 2010

It has taken more than 11,000 years but finally the Druids, who lead the seasonal celebrations at Avebury and Stonehenge, can say they belong to an officially recognised religion.

No one is more delighted at this recognition than Druid priest Terry Dobney, who lives at West Kennett, and styles himself as the Archdruid of Avebury and Keeper of the Stones.

Every Midsummer’s Day Mr Dobney, 62, can be seen wearing his ceremonial robe, carrying his staff and with a pheasant feather in his flat cap leading the Summer Solstice celebrations in the stone circle at Avebury.

This week the Charity Commissioners revealed they were granting the Druid Network, the umbrella organisation for Druid groups across the UK, charitable status for the first time.

That decision establishes Druidry as a recognised religion under UK charity law for the first time giving it the same status as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

The ruling recognised that the Druid Network served “to advance religion for the public benefit” although in practice, said Phil Ryder, chairman of the Druid Network trustees, it means very little financial benefit for the Druids but established an important principle giving them official recognition.

Mr Ryder said: “It has been a long and frustrating process, exacerbated by the fact that the Charity Commissioners had no understanding of our beliefs and practices and examined us on every aspect of them.”

As well as regulating secular charities the Charity Commissioners decide what qualifies as a legitimate and genuine faith.

Mr Dobney, a practising Druid for more than 40 years, said: “It is high time that the Druids were recognised not only as a religion but as being one of the oldest religions in the world.

“Druidism dates back to more than 11,500 years ago and pre-dates Judaism.

“The early Druids were the priestly cast who ran societies and provided the leaders.”

To become a recognised Druid, he said, entrants had to serve an apprenticeship for seven years under a senior Druid and could not call themselves a Druid until completing 21 years of training.

As well as leading the summer solstice and other seasonal celebrations at Avebury, Mr Dobney also conducts Druid handfastings (marriages) and other religious ceremonies throughout the year.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Celtic festivals – Samhain. October 31st

16 10 2010
Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and Samhain on November 1st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night. For it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically potent time of this festival is November Eve, the night of October 31st, known today of course, as Halloween. 

 

Samhain (Scots Gaelic: Samhuinn) literally means “summer’s end.” In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as O�che Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan Gaeaf, the eve of the winter’s calend, or first. With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.

 

In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in — barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples — for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal. 

In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year.   The greatest assembly was the ‘Feast of Tara,’ focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year — not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age. 

 

At at all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire,  and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come. 

The Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries.  In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards, ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months — and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!”

Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winter’s dark.

Divination at Halloween  

 

Samhain was a significant time for divination, perhaps even more so than May or Midsummer’s Eve, because this was the chief of the three Spirit Nights. Divination customs and games frequently featured apples and nuts from the recent harvest, and candles played an important part in adding atmosphere to the mysteries. In Scotland, a child born at Samhain was said to be gifted with an d� shealladh, “The Two Sights” commonly known as “second sight,” or clairvoyance. 

Apple Magic
At the heart of the Celtic Otherworld grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain, Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, reflect the journey across water to obtain the magic apple.
 

Dookin’ for Apples
Place a large tub, preferably wooden, on the floor, and half fill it with water. Tumble in plenty of apples, and have one person stir them around vigorously with a long wooden spoon or rod of hazel, ash or any other sacred tree. 

Each player takes their turn kneeling on the floor, trying to capture the apples with their teeth as they go bobbing around. Each gets three tries before the next person has a go. Best to wear old clothes for this one, and have a roaring fire nearby so you can dry off while eating your prize!
If you do manage to capture an apple, you might want to keep it for a divination ritual, such as this one: 

The Apple and the Mirror
Before the stroke of midnight, sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence, and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see and in image or symbol in the mirror that will tell you your answer.

(When you look in the mirror, let your focus go “soft,” and allow the patterns made by the moon or candlelight and shadows to suggest forms, symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition.) 

Dreaming Stones
Go to a boundary stream and with closed eyes, take from the water three stones between middle finger and thumb, saying these words as each is gathered:                        

         I will lift the stone
           As Mary lifted it for her Son,
           For substance, virtue, and strength;
           May this stone be in my hand
           Till I reach my journey’s end.
 

(Scots Gaelic)
          
Togaidh mise chlach,
          Mar a thog Moire da Mac,
          Air bhr�gh, air bhuaidh, ‘s air neart;

          Gun robh a chlachsa am dh�rn,
          Gus an ruig mi mo cheann uidhe.

Carry them home carefully and place them under your pillow. That night, ask for a dream that will give you guidance or a solution to a problem, and the stones will bring it for you.

See you at Avebury Stone Circle on the 31st
Merlin @ Stonehenge
Stonehenge Stone Circle





Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site- Defining its Outstanding Universal Value

12 10 2010

Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is one of Wiltshire and the UK’s greatest assets. It is internationally recognised as one of the top ranking places in the world alongside cultural marvels such as the Pyramids and natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef.

 World Heritage Sites need very careful management and protection. A new consultation has just been launched on a document that should help us to provide this.

The consultation gives the public a chance to comment on a document that summarises exactly what it is that makes Stonehenge and Avebury internationally important. The document will provide a crucial reference for those making decisions on how best to manage the World Heritage Site and look after the very special features which qualify it to appear on the World Heritage List. A clear definition in one document should help us protect the World Heritage Site for this and future generations.

Since 2007 UNESCO has asked new World Heritage Sites to provide a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value as part of the nomination process. Stonehenge and Avebury became a World Heritage Site back in 1986 and along with a large number of other sites across the world we now need to produce a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.

 Stonehenge and Avebury are important to very many people for a wide range of different reasons that are taken into account in their respective Management Plans. The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value sets out to define only the values related to its impressive prehistoric monuments which got Stonehenge and Avebury onto the World Heritage Site list in 1986. If you would like to be part of the process of protecting the World Heritage Site you can look at the draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value on line and leave your comments. The consultation is open until the end of October. You can find it by visiting the Wiltshire Council website.
The consultation closes on 31 October 2010.

For further information please contact: Sarah Simmonds, Avebury World Heritage Site Officer
Email: sarah.simmonds@wiltshire.gov.uk
Tel: 01225  718470
Mobile: 07966 900324

Statement of Significance

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage property is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments.

It comprises two areas of chalkland in Southern Britain within which complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and associated sites were built. Each area contains a focal stone circle and henge and many other major monuments. At Stonehenge these include the Avenue, the Cursuses, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and the densest concentration of burial mounds in Britain. At Avebury, they include Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, and important barrows.

The World Heritage property is of Outstanding Universal Value for the following qualities:

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world on account of the sheer size of its megaliths, the sophistication of its concentric plan and architectural design, the shaping of the stones, uniquely using both Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and Pembroke Bluestone, and the precision with which it was built.

At Avebury, the massive Henge, containing the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, and Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, demonstrate the outstanding engineering skills which were used to create masterpieces of earthen and megalithic architecture.

There is an exceptional survival of prehistoric monuments and sites within the World Heritage site including settlements, burial grounds, and large constructions of earth and stone. Today, together with their settings, they form landscapes without parallel. These complexes would have been of major significance to those who created them, as is apparent by the huge investment of time and effort they represent. They provide an insight into the mortuary and ceremonial practices of the period, and are evidence of prehistoric technology, architecture, and astronomy. The careful siting of monuments in relation to the landscape helps us to further understand the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Criterion (i): The monuments of the Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage Site demonstrate outstanding creative and technological achievements in prehistoric times.

Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. It is unrivalled in its design and unique engineering, featuring huge horizontal stone lintels capping the outer circle and the trilithons, locked together by carefully shaped joints. It is distinguished by the unique use of two different kinds of stones (Bluestones and Sarsens), their size (the largest weighing over 40t), and the distance they were transported (up to 240km). The sheer scale of some of the surrounding monuments is also remarkable: the Stonehenge Cursus and the Avenue are both about 3km long, while Durrington Walls is the largest known henge in Britain, around 500m in diameter, demonstrating the ability of prehistoric peoples to conceive, design and construct features of great size and complexity.

Avebury prehistoric stone circle is the largest in the world. The encircling henge consists of a huge bank and ditch 1.3km in circumference, within which 180 local, unshaped standing stones formed the large outer and two smaller inner circles. Leading from two of its four entrances, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues of parallel standing stones still connect it with other monuments in the landscape. Another outstanding monument, Silbury Hill, is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe. Built around 2400 BC, it stands 39.5m high and comprises half a million tonnes of chalk. The purpose of this imposing, skilfully engineered monument remains obscure.

Criterion (ii): The World Heritage Site provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction and of the continual use and shaping of the landscape over more than 2000 years, from the early Neolithic to the Bronze Age. The monuments and landscape have had an unwavering influence on architects, artists, historians, and archaeologists, and still retain a huge potential for future research.

The megalithic and earthen monuments of the World Heritage Site demonstrate the shaping of the landscape through monument building for around 2000 years from c 3700 BC, reflecting the importance and wide influence of both areas.

Since the 12th century when Stonehenge was considered one of the wonders of the world by the chroniclers Henry de Huntington and Geoffrey de Monmouth, the Stonehenge and Avebury sites have excited curiosity and been the subject of study and speculation. Since early investigations by John Aubrey, Inigo Jones, and William Stukeley, they have had an unwavering influence on architects, archaeologists, artists, and historians. The two parts of the World Heritage Site provide an excellent opportunity for further research.

Today, the Site has spiritual associations for some.

Criterion (iii): The complexes of monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.

The design, position, and inter-relationship of the monuments and sites are evidence of a wealthy and highly organised prehistoric society able to impose its concepts on the environment. An outstanding example is the alignment of the Stonehenge Avenue (probably a processional route) and Stonehenge stone circle on the axis of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, indicating their ceremonial and astronomical character. At Avebury the length and size of some of the features such as the West Kennet Avenue, which connects the Henge to the Sanctuary over 2km away, are further evidence of this.

A profound insight into the changing mortuary culture of the periods is provided by the use of Stonehenge as a cremation cemetery, by the West Kennet Long Barrow, the largest known Neolithic stone-chambered collective tomb in southern England, and by the hundreds of other burial sites illustrating evolving funerary rites.

The State Party also proposes the revision of the brief description as follows:

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage Site is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments. Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest in the world. Together with inter-related monuments and their associated landscapes, they help us to understand Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and mortuary practices. They demonstrate around 2000 years of continuous use and monument building between c. 3700 and 1600 BC. As such they represent a unique embodiment of our collective heritage.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Stonehenge Tour. Excavation at Durrington, Wiltshire open day – October 13th

8 10 2010

The village of Durrington is well known for its early archaeological heritage, including the largest Neolithic henge in Britain at Durrington Walls and nearby Woodhenge, both over 4500 years old. However, excavations by Wessex Archaeology in advance of the construction of new housing by Persimmon Homes South Coast on the former Ministry of Defence estate offices have started to uncover the remains of a late Iron Age/ Romano-British settlement.

Aerial view of the late Iron Age/ Romano-British settlement at Durrington, WiltshireAerial view of the late Iron Age/ Romano-British settlement at Durrington, Wiltshire

This settlement lies within the north-west corner of the modern village of Durrington and at one time appears to have been surrounded by an enormous ditch over 6m in width and up to 4m in depth. The full extent of the enclosed settlement has yet to been determined, although it is possible- and further work will confirm this- that the enclosed settlement may be of a very substantial size.

The 6m wide enclosure ditch at DurringtonThe 6m wide enclosure ditch at Durrington

The excavations appear to be located at the southern edge of the settlement. Although the excavations are at an early stage, a wealth of archaeological features have been found including part of the enclosure ditch, possible granaries, large storage and quarry pits, cremation burials and a corn-drying kiln, as well as traces of earlier prehistoric activity within the site. The excavation is due to continue over the next year and will investigate the nature of this previously unknown settlement, which continued in the later Romano-British period and into the fifth century AD and may have been the first steps in the formation of the medieval estates at Durrington and the origin of the present village.

Come and see what they have found and find out more about the heritage of Avon Fields

Visit the Big Dig!
Wednesday October 13th 2010
Where: Avon Fields: Former MoD Headquarters  
Netheravon Road
Durrington
Free site tours Wednesday October 13th 2010 at 3.00pm and 5.00pm.
No booking required.

Please wear boots or sturdy shoes.

For more information please contact Andrew Manning or Margaret Bunyard 01722 326867 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              01722 326867      end_of_the_skype_highlighting a.manning@wessexarch.co.uk

Histouries UK Tours and Salisbury Guided Tours in Salisbury offer independent tours of Stonehenge and the Durrington Walls.
Search this blog for more information on Durrington

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Stonehenge archaeologists reveal global warming theory behind crashed UFO remains

8 10 2010

Stonehenge, Wiltshire – (TinFoilHat Mess): Archaeologists excavating Stonehenge have found the remains of a pre-Atlanis era UFO which may have crashed during a flight from the Lunar base discovered by the moon-walking astronuts of the Apollo mission.

Stonehenge Quarantined

Stonehenge Quarantined

Much of the craft is believed to be intact with little corrosion to the mystery amalgam which makes up 90% of its structure.

Professor Tim Darvill of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) team that made the discovery said today that the next stage of the tricky operation would be entering the ancient craft and locating its cryogenic freezer units. ”

At this stage we don’t know if anything actually works inside,” Darvill commented, “but fingers crossed – we might be able to do a bit of thawing. “Without this intervention we’d have to wait for the natural phenomenon known as Global Warming to dictate the delicate process of unfreezing these alien remains.

 “Unfortunately we can’t wait that long. So our plan is to gently resurrect some of this advanced species – no blowtorches, microwaves or thermic lances, please chaps! – as well as any embryos and/or frozen infant offspring who clearly came here to seed our planet.” If the operation is successful the next stage will involve specialist scientists who are familiar with alien parenting techniques.

Professor Geoff Wainwright of the Yearling Extraterrestrial Intelligence (YETI) team in London’s Royal Freak Hospital will then take over while the Stonehenge site is quarantined.
Operation Homo erectus is being hailed as a triumph.

Now thats a story……………
Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle





Stonehenge was not made from Preseli bluestones

6 10 2010

In the third of a series of Western Mail articles by speakers at this year’s Do Lectures, geologist and author Brian John debunks the ‘bluestone myth’ – the idea that prehistoric people travelled hundreds of miles in order to drag gigantic stones toSalisbury Plain 

THIS story is about the heroic neolithic tribesmen carrying scores of giant stones from the Preseli Hills to Stonehenge has now entered into British mythology. It has become gradually clearer, over the last decade or two, that there is no evidence to support this story. I want to inspire people to think very carefully about some of the myths that we as a community sign up for. 

A whole story has been developed over the years about this heroic human venture of tribesmen coming all the way to the Preselis to pick up the bluestones from a quarry – and then to carry those 80 stones all the way back to Stonehenge where they were going to be used as part of this amazing new monument. That has become a part of British mythology but is widely accepted as fact. It has become an immensely valuable story commercially for British tourism – a million people visit Stonehenge each year and nearly all of them are familiar with this heroic tale. That tale is used quite cynically, quite deliberately, by English Heritage and almost every other organisation that has anything to do with tourism in the promotion of Stonehenge, as a means of attracting even more visitors there 

The Questions? 

What I am trying to do is stand back from all that and question: what exactly is the evidence in support of this wonderful story?  When you start to dig a little bit you find that actually there is no evidence at all.  It is entirely a myth which was invented in 1922, immediately after the First World War. The myth received instant acceptance on the part of the British public because there was a desperate need for a feel-good factor after the war – national pride had been dented, the economy was in tatters and everybody needed a good news story. 

The story was invented by a Welsh geologist, Herbert Thomas. He gave a lecture which had purported to demonstrate that a lot of the bluestones had come from the Preselis. His geology was reasonably accurate. He was intent on telling this story of human transport.
His theory, once he had propounded it, was instantly grabbed hold of by everybody. It was a wonderful tale that showed us just how clever our neolithic ancestors were and they were a damn’ sight more clever than those ancestors on the Continent – especially in Germany. There was almost a strong, almost xenophobic element about this propaganda. 

No-one questioned this theory or seriously investigated it. 

It was just blown up from that point on. It has become one of the key beliefs of Britain, in the same way we believe about King Arthur and Glastonbury and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. It is now a part of British mythology. 

There is no evidence that the stones were taken from this so-called neolithic quarry at Carn Meini. In fact, there is no evidence of the quarry at all.  The stones which are supposed to have come from that one source actually came from many other places.  As the geology has advanced, with a lot of work from the Open University and many other geologists, we now know that the stones came from at least 20 other places. They haven’t come from the eastern end of the Preselis at all.  We know that at least two of the stones have come from the Newport area, quite possibly on the North Pembrokeshire coast. Another stone has come from the Brecon Beacons and some stones seem to have come from the Fishguard area. 

What the geologists say 

It was already known by some geologists in 1922 that during the Ice Age there had been an enormous glacier which had flowed across Pembrokeshire and had actually flowed up the Bristol Channel and into the coastlands of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall – we still don’t know how far east that glacier went, but it certainly did cross the Bristol Channel pressed up across the English coasts. A number of these old geologists had demonstrated this pretty clearly, but for reasons that I still don’t fully understand, Thomas in 1922 totally dismissed this theory in favour of his human transport theory. And still nobody has ever found any evidence as to how exactly the stones were moved, although of course there is endless speculation about it. There are literally thousands and thousands of pages on the internet devoted to precisely this question.  We should give more credence to scientific evidence and keep myths in the places they belong, namely mythology, and don’t let’s pretend that myths are telling us anything concrete about what happened in the past. 

The problem for archaeolo- gy is it has become involved in pedalling myths and seems to have lost its respect for evidence on the ground. People are so obsessed with making blockbuster TV programmes, for example, with support from National Geographic magazine and the Smithsonian Institute, that actually the archaeologists seem to be trying to out do each other on how spectacular their stories are. It has all become a little bit absurd. 

When we look at the hard science behind the bluestones story, there is quite a lot of evidence to support the idea that the bluestones at Stonehenge are no more than glacial erratics that were transported by the ice, maybe 450,000 years ago and then picked up somewhere in the Salisbury Plain in the East Somerset area – probably within easy striking distance of Stonehenge and that is where they were picked up from. 

The whole of the Stone- henge story is a complete fabrication. 

I have just put up a YouTube video called StoneHenge Unhinged in which I show that Stonehenge was probably never even finished. We have these wonderful reconstructions of Stonehenge, showing this incredible geometric arrangement of stones, and all the archaeologists and astronomers say this was a highly sophisticated astronomical observatory etc, but actually there is no evidence that it was ever finished. 

I think it was just an experiment. They tried to build something that was really rather ambitious but they really didn’t have enough stones to finish it. On the ground about half of the monument has never been excavated and 67 of the stones are totally missing, but people have just imagined that they were there without having any evidence to support that idea. 

Stonehenge has become a national icon and a key part of mythology with immense commercial value attached to it. Over and over again, people talk about the magical serenity of Stonehenge and the great feeling of power it gives you – which is wonderful, but I think people have been brought up to have this reverence for Stonehenge because it is such an iconic structure and that in itself creates a feeling of religious esteem or spirituality. 

I’m not saying Stonehenge is not wonderful. It is quite inspirational in the sense that it was a brave enterprise. The stones that are there are not very accurately placed and a lot of them are pretty rough and I think were just placed there as part of an ambitious building project

If you want to here all the theories why not organise a ‘Stonehenge special access’ tour with the English Heritage.  This enables you to go beyiond the fences before or after its open to the public.  The Stonehenge Tour Company and Histouries UK, based in Salisbury and Bath offer a ‘Rent a guide’ service. Salisbury guided Tours also offer specail access tours from Salisbury

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website 








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