Stonehenge Architect Linked With Welsh Burial Cairn?

8 09 2011

An impressive tomb discovered in Wales is believed to belong to an important figure involved with the construction of Stonehenge.

The burial chamber is located in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and sits on top of a ceremonial monument.

Nearby, a pair of standing stones embedded in a bank bear a strong resemblance to the pair-arrangement of the stones at Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, southern England.

Stonehenge features earthworks encompassing a circular arrangement of large standing stones. These are mainly two types of rock—the large sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), and a variety of smaller igneous rocks called bluestones (natural columns of while-spotted dolerite).

The excavation of the tomb in the Carn Menyn region of west Wales was led by Tim Darvill from Bournemouth University, and Geoffrey Wainwright from the Society of Antiquaries.

The archeologists believe the 80 bluestones at Stonehenge originated from the same area as the tomb and were transported around 160 miles (nearly 260 kilometers) to the Wiltshire plains about 4,500 years ago (around 2,300BC).

Uncovering the reason for this epic journey will unlock the mystery behind Stonehenge’s existence

Darvill and Wainwright first suggested in 2008 that Stonehenge may have been built as a major healing center, rather like a prehistoric version of Lourdes or Santiago de Compostela. They think the bluestones, not the sarsen, were believed to convey healing powers.

The Preseli area has many springs linked with ritual healing in prehistory, and this could explain why the bluestones were quarried for Stonehenge, despite being so far away.

“We went back to the Preselis and started doing excavations up there,” says Wainright, according to The Guardian. “The first site we explored was a big burial cairn in the shadow of Carn Menyn, where the Stonehenge bluestones come from.”

The excavation team discovered a stone circle underneath the cairn, built of bluestone, and organic material is being carbon dated.

“Then this stone circle was covered with the huge burial cairn with a chamber in the middle,” Wainright added. “The space turned from a public ceremonial space defined by the stone circle into the burial spot of a very important person.”

“We have obviously got a very important person who may have been responsible for the impetus for these stones to be transported,” Wainwright BBC News.

“It can be compared directly with the first Stonehenge, so for the first time we have a direct link between Carn Menyn—where the bluestones came from—and Stonehenge, in the form of this ceremonial monument.”

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The Stonehenge Landscape

8 09 2011

Stonehenge is the best known of all the prehistoric monuments in the British Isles and probably also in Europe. Along with the Neolithic monuments around Avebury situated 28km to the north, it forms a UNESCO recognised World Heritage Site (WHS), the parts of which are separated by the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs, Pewsey Vale and the Salisbury Plain military training area.

Much of the Avebury portion of the WHS, along with the military ranges, has been investigated from an archaeological landscape perspective during recent decades, as has the area to the south and west of the WHS, but ironically the Stonehenge area has not been treated in this way and it lacks the solid base of landscape surveys on which to build interpretations and understanding. The fresh Government-led imperative to ensure that new visitor facilities are in place by 2012 demands the provision of modern archaeological site plans, interpretations and other data which can feed into educational and presentational programmes as well as serving academic, management and conservation needs. 
Stonehenge Landscape

English Heritage are therefore undertaking an analytical landscape investigation of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This draws upon the considerable existing work provided by excavation, aerial, metric and geophysical survey but it fills a gap in this suite because there has been no modern detailed survey of the earthworks and other upstanding historicphysical remains within the Site – the barrow cemeteries, field systems and linear ditches, but also the tracks, ponds and military remains of more recent date.

Consequently there are no adequate plans of most of the upstanding archaeological remains within the WHS and no synthesis of the landscape history, especially in regard to its medieval and post-medieval phases. Analytical earthwork survey and analysis,supported by aerial survey and lidar data, is the key to understanding landscape change and will provide the framework in which individual small-scale site specific interventions can rest. Recommendations for other work, eg geophysical survey or coring to explore the extent of buried land surfaces, may arise from this.

The knowledge gained from this project is needed to inform displays in the new Visitor Centre, but also to inform various ongoing management issues, such as visitor pressure, and animal burrowing. The requirements of the new Visitor Centre include the best possible visualisation of the stones and their environs; digital terrain modelling of the surrounding land surface will provide the latter while it is hoped that laser scanning of the former will complete the package
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