Woodhenge: Is this one of the greatest discoveries of archaeology…or a simple farmer’s fence?

12 12 2010

The discovery of a wooden version of Stonehenge – a few hundred yards from the famous monument – was hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds for decades.

But now experts are at loggerheads after claims that what was thought to be a Neolithic temple was a rather more humble affair – in fact the remains of a wooden fence.

One leading expert on Stonehenge criticised the announcement of the ‘remarkable’ find in July as ‘hasty’ and warned it could become a ‘PR embarrassment’.

The site, ringed, in a Seventies chart, which experts say shows a fenceMapped: The site, ringed, in a Seventies chart, which experts say shows a fence


The radar image said to reveal the post holes of a Neolithic temple‘Evidence’: The radar image said to reveal the post holes of a Neolithic temple

The discovery of what appeared to be a previously unknown ‘henge’, or earthwork, by a team of archaeologists conducting a multi-million-pound study of Salisbury Plain was widely reported amid great excitement.

The team said they had found evidence of a ring of 24 3ft-wide pits that could have supported timber posts up to 12ft tall, surrounded by an 80ft-wide ditch and bank.

They explained that, just like Stonehenge, the entrances to the site were aligned so that on the summer solstice the sun’s rays would enter the centre of the ring. Holes where the wooden posts once stood were identified below the ground using the latest high-resolution geophysical radar-imaging equipment.

An artist's impression of how Woodhenge may have been 5,000 years agoCircle of confusion: An artist’s impression of how Woodhenge may have been 5,000 years ago

Team leader Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University said the ritual monument had been built about 5,000 years ago, making it roughly the same age as its stone counterpart 980 yards away, and it could have been used for Stone Age feasts or elaborate funerals.

He said the find showed Stonehenge had not existed in ‘splendid isolation’ and he predicted further discoveries during the three-year survey of five square miles of countryside around Stonehenge.

But sceptics have now suggested that the evidence is far from conclusive, especially as it appears from images of the plot produced by the Birmingham team that the ring of post holes was not arranged in a circle but was angular and more like a hexagon.

How a Neolithic visitor may have lookedHow a Neolithic visitor may have looked

Mike Pitts, editor of the magazine British Archaeology and an acknowledged expert on Stonehenge, said he had been prompted to study maps of the area after receiving a letter from an American reader.

In the spot where Prof Gaffney had claimed to have uncovered his post holes, Mr Pitts said he and
colleagues examined a Seventies Ordnance Survey map – and saw a fence marked out.

He thought it probably was an early 20th Century construction, erected by the then Government’s Office of Works or a local farmer to protect what was thought to have been the most important site in a cluster of burial mounds that were ancient but later than Stonehenge.

Mr Pitts said: ‘Vince Gaffney says his discovery encircles a burial mound within its circumference, but unless he has some unpublished material to substantiate his discovery, I am in no doubt that this was a modern fence line.

‘If I’m right then the post holes contained modern fencing stakes and they are actually in a hexagonal shape, not a circle.’

He added: ‘I think that perhaps what has happened is that the professor’s field workers have presented him with the wrong picture and he’s shot from the hip and made an over-hasty announcement. He’s generally known for the high quality of his work and his enthusiasm which, on this occasion, may have let him down.

‘The full publication of his results and small-scale excavations of the site would clinch the matter.’

But Prof Gaffney said: ‘We have mapped numerous fences and we know what they look like. The features appear to be 3ft across and as deep as 3ft. I have never seen a fence line that required holes that are 3ft across and 3ft deep.’

He said that in the fuzzy, black-and-white radar image the post holes appeared angular but that was partly due to the poor resolution of the picture and because such monuments were not perfect circles.

He went on: ‘The poles that would have stood in them would have been more like telegraph poles. You would not use them to build a fence.’

Prof Gaffney added that no metal such as old nails had been found in the holes, which would have
been expected.

‘On balance, we would still suggest this is a ritual monument of the late Neolithic period.’

 I love it when the ‘experts’ use the term ‘ritual‘ – in other words they do not know!
Related artile: New Woodhenge found

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1337890/Woodhenge-Is-greatest-discoveries-archaeology–simple-farmers-fence.html#ixzz1Dj4rwwBM

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Stonehenge Built With Balls?

12 12 2010

New experiment suggests monumental stones could have rolled on rails.

It’s one of Stonehenge‘s greatest mysteries: How did Stone Age Britons move 45-ton slabs across dozens of miles to create the 4,500-year-old stone circle?

U.K. archaeology students attempt to prove a rail-and-ball system could have moved Stonehenge stones

U.K. archaeology students attempt to prove a rail-and-ball system could have moved Stonehenge stones

Now a new theory says that, while the ancient builders didn’t have wheels, they may well have had balls. (See Stonehenge pictures.)

A previous theory suggested that the builders used wooden rollers—carved tree trunks laid side by side on a constructed hard surface. Another imagined huge wooden sleds atop greased wooden rails.

But critics say the rollers’ hard pathway would have left telltale gouges in the landscape, which have never been found. And the sled system, while plausible, would have required huge amounts of manpower—hundreds of men at a time to move one of the largest Stonehenge stones, according to a 1997 study.

Andrew Young, though, says Stonehenge’s slabs, may have been rolled over a series of balls lined up in grooved rails, according to a November 30 statement from Exeter University in the U.K., where Young is a doctoral student in biosciences.

Young first came up with the ball bearings idea when he noticed that carved stone balls were often found near Neolithic stone circles in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (map).

“I measured and weighed a number of these stone balls and realized that they are all precisely the same size—around 70 millimeters [3 inches] in diameter—which made me think they must have been made to be used in unison, rather than alone,” he told National Geographic News.

The balls, Young admitted, have been found near stone circles only in Aberdeenshire and the Orkney Islands (map)—not on Stonehenge’s Salisbury Plain.

But, he speculated, at southern sites, including Stonehenge (map), builders may have preferred wooden balls, which would have rotted away long ago. For one thing, wooden balls are much faster to carve. For another, they’re much lighter to transport.

Proof of Concept

To test his theory, Young first made a small-scale model of the ball-and-rail setup.

“I discovered I could push over a hundred kilograms [220 pounds] of concrete using just one finger,” he said.

With the help of his supervisor, Bruce Bradley, and partial funding from the PBS series Nova, Young recently scaled up his experiment to see if the ball-and-track system could be used to move a Stonehenge-weight stone.

Sure enough, they found that, with just seven people pushing, they could easily move a four-ton load—about as heavy as Stonehenge’s smaller stones.

Using the ball system, Young said, “I estimate it would be possible to cover 20 miles [32 kilometers] in a day” by leapfrogging track segments.

But the inner circle’s “sarsen” stones weigh not 4 tons but up to about 45 tons. Young suspects a Stone Age system could have handled much heavier loads than his experimental one.

For one thing, he thinks oxen, not people, provided the pulling power—an idea supported by the remains of burned ox bones found in ditches around many stone circles.

For another, Britain’s old-growth forests hadn’t yet been razed 4,500 years ago, so the builders would have had easy access to cured oak. This tough wood—which was beyond the modern project’s budget—would have resulted in a stronger, more resilient system than the soft, “greenwood” system the researchers built.
Stonehenge Experiment Needs Scaling Up

Civil engineer Mark Whitby, who’s been involved with other Stonehenge-construction experiments, thinks the ball method could work for smaller stones but isn’t convinced it could shift a sarsen.

“The problem will be when the tip of the ball bears on the timber trough, it will bite” into the trough, possibly splitting the rail, said Whitby, who runs London-based +Whitby Structural Engineers. “When transporting lighter stones, this won’t be a problem. But when they get to 30 and 40 tons, it will be.”

Instead, Whitby prefers the sled theory—and even helped prove a sled could move a 40-ton replica sarsen for a 1997 BBC documentary.

Archaeologist David Batchelor, meanwhile, thinks the ball idea is plausible but isn’t completely convinced.

The ball technique “seems to be a development of the sledge method,” said Batchelor, of the government agency English Heritage. “But the added complexity needed to channel the track runners and then make the ball bearings all of one size seems to me a lot of work, which is probably unnecessary when animal-fat grease does the job.”

Research leader Young counters that the sled system, even with its animal-fat lubrication, still results in a lot of friction.

“Using wooden balls almost removes friction from the system and makes for a really efficient method of moving heavy weights around,” he said.

Even so, Young realizes he needs to prove the new system can be scaled up to handle heavier loads. To that end, Young’s team is seeking funding to repeat the experiment—this time with harder wood, stone balls, and oxen

What a load of old balls……………………………..
Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

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