Digging up a new look of a famous old site

24 09 2011

Startling new evidence of one of the most famous ancient sites in the world has been uncovered by a mid-Somerset archaeologist – without setting foot on site.

Wells-based digital archaeologist Henry Rothwell has been working on a reconstruction of the entire site of Stonehenge, to show visitors what it would have looked like at various intervals in its long history.

It was when he turned his attention to recently discovered Bluehenge, sited between Stonehenge and the river Avon, that he made the startling discovery – it would not have been a circle at all but an oval.

If correct, Bluehenge would echo the oval circle already known to be at the centre of the famous Stonehenge.

And it raises an intriguing possibility: did the neolithic builders uproot Bluehenge, drag it a mile up the avenue and reconstruct it within Stonehenge itself?

It is certainly a possibility, according to Henry, who is a very modern-day archaeologist.

Any fan of TV archaeology programmes such as Time Team know that archaeologists are usually found in ditches, using trowels to peel back the layers of time to uncover the secrets of the past.

But not Henry Rothwell.

He might have a degree in archaeology but it is a computer mouse that is his chosen tool of trade as he sets about bringing back to life some of the most famous sites in the world from the comfort of his office chair at his base in Wells.

Thanks to his popular website Digital Digging, his reconstructions of wood and stone henges have helped archaeologists and the general public to visualise how such monuments would have once looked.

Using his extensive knowledge of prehistory, pouring over excavation reports and using CAD technology, he tracks where each stone or wooden post would have been and constructs diagrams showing how each monument would have looked set into the ancient landscape.

The latest breakthrough at Bluehenge came as he worked on a new initiative, to make a digital application for people to view Stonehenge via their mobile telephones.

Henry has joined forces with world-renowned photographer Adam Stanford, who uses a camera attached to a 70ft telescopic mast on the top of a 4×4 to take unique perspectives of famous sites, and well-known archaeologist, writer and broadcaster Julian Richards, from TV’s Meet The Ancestors to produce the app.

It was as they were working on The Journey To Stonehenge app – which it is hoped to be ready for iPhones and other smartphones by the mid-winter solstice – that Henry and Adam made the discovery.

“We were using a low-level aerial image taken by Adam that showed the full extent of the Stonehenge Riverside Project excavation of 2009, including the socket holes of Bluehenge, into which the Stonehenge Riverside Project team had placed upturned black buckets,” explained Henry.

“We started constructing the model, but then realised we had missed another bucket on the far right. Initially we tried expanding the circumference to make it fit but it would have been put Bluehenge into the river.

“By going back and tracing each of the socket sites again, it made the overall design of Bluehenge an oval – exactly as the one inside Stonehenge would have looked.”

The new monument was 10m (33ft) in diameter and surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank.

When the Bluehenge’s stones were removed by Neolithic people, it is possible that they were dragged along the route of the Avenue to Stonehenge, to be incorporated within its major rebuilding around 2500 BC.

After posting his findings on archaeological websites last week, Henry’s views soon received the backing of influential archaeologists.

One of the first was renowned Stonehenge expert Mike Pitts, who explained that it matters if it is oval because it strengthens links between Bluehenge, Stonehenge and Woodhenge which also has an oval henge.

“The point is, if Bluehenge was an oval, it matters to how we think about it,” he wrote.

“Which makes finding out what really does happen to the rest of it under the ground important.”

To see the Bluehenge reconstruction and read more see Henry’s http://digitaldigging.co.uk/blog/2011/09/13/bluestone-henge-twin website.
Article: http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehenegTours.com

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website



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