Archaeologists uncover Pagan skeletons at housing development near Stonehenge

21 05 2013

Archaeologists have discovered six Pagan Saxon skeletons dating back over 1,000 years on a housing development site just a few miles from Stonehenge.

Wessex Archaeology

Wessex Archaeology

The discoveries, which also include round barrows dating back to the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago, were unearthed at a redundant brownfield development site in Amesbury, Wiltshire, which is also famous for the Amesbury Archer – an early Bronze Age man found buried among arrowheads.

The remains are thought to be those of adolescent to mature males and females. Five skeletons were arrayed around a small circular ditch, with the grave of a sixth skeleton in the centre. Two lots of beads, a shale bracelet and other grave goods were also found, which suggest the findings are Pagan.

The site is now being excavated for other artefacts by Wessex Archaeology, led by Phil Harding, known for his work on Channel 4’s Time Team, while colleagues back at the unit’s laboratory examine the remains and jewellery, which have already been removed.

Phil said: “Given that the Stonehenge area is a well-known prehistoric burial site, it was always very likely some interesting discoveries would be made here. The fact that these round barrows were previously unknown makes this particularly exciting.

“Finding the skeletons also helps us to get a clearer picture of the history of this area. To my knowledge these are the first Pagan Saxon burials to be excavated scientifically in Amesbury. “

Landowner Aster Group is building 14 affordable homes at the redundant brownfield site, which will be available to rent from 2014.

Anna Kear, Aster’s regional development director for Hampshire and Wiltshire, said: “Wiltshire is a treasure trove of archaeology, drawing people from across the world.

“Discovering a burial site in this beautiful county is always a possibility when building affordable homes. We’re working with everyone involved to ensure Phil and his team can investigate this exciting find while the build continues.”

Contractor Mansell, a Balfour Beatty brand, was preparing the site for the build when it made the discovery.

Site manager Brian Whitchurch-Bennett, of Mansell, said: “When we’re working in an area of historical importance we always undertake archaeological investigations to make sure that our construction works don’t damage hidden remains or artefacts. The findings within this particular site really are a one off, we’ve been amazed by the number of discoveries and the level of preservation. It’s certainly a project to remember.”

The archaeologists are expected to be on site for six weeks in total. Footage from the site may also be included in an archaeological production for ITV’s History Channel, due to be aired in January 2014.

Source: Published by Jon Land for

Merlin @ Stonehenege
The Stonehenge News Blog

A visit to Stonehenge is bound to make you ask: who built it?

16 05 2013

Who built Stonehenge?
A visit to Stonehenge is bound to make you ask: who built it?  It is a question nearly as old as the stones themselves.  And what do we know about the people who achieved this prehistoric marvel? Words Susan Greaney

Wizard Ideas 

In the early medieval period, writers thought they knew who had built Stonehenge—Merlin. But by the early 17th century, scholars were looking for a more plausible answer. In 1620, architect Inigo Jones thought it was based on classical geometry and constructed by the Romans. Antiquary John Aubrey thought that the native Britons, in particular the Druids, were the builders of Stonehenge. Antiquary William Stukeley’s 1740 book firmly established the idea that it was a Druid temple.

Towards the end of the 19th century, archaeologists began to realise that Stonehenge could be much older, linking finds to the Bronze Age. William Gowland’s excavations in 1901 showed that Stonehenge was built in Neolithic or early Bronze Age. Today, we think the stones were raised about 2,500 BC by the native inhabitants of late Neolithic Britain.

The Early Theories…


stonehenge-port-JOHN_AUBREYJohn Aubrey Proposed that Stonehenge was a temple built by the Druids, the priests of the pagan Celts, who came to England in the centuries immediately prior to the Christian era.



stonehenge-port-WILLIAM_STUKELEYWilliam Stukeley The first person to recognise the alignment of Stonehenge on the solstices. Like John Aubrey, however, he mistakenly attributed their construction to the Druids.



stonehenge-port-INIGO_JONESInigo Jones Believed the stones were a Roman temple of the Tuscan order built to the sky god Coelus. Later disproved by evidence establishing the period in which the stones were first laid.

Past Lives

Stonehenge was built before metal began to be used in Britain. The most common finds from this period are flint tools required for everyday activities such as hunting, making leather and preparing food. We know from animal bones that the people who constructed Stonehenge had livestock and probably also grew small quantities of crops, but still gathered wild plants and hunted wild animals.


Whether visiting in 1958 or today, children have always been fascinated by Stonehenge.
At the time that Stonehenge was built, people across Britain were using a type of flat-based decorated pottery called Grooved Ware, often found at late Neolithic monuments across Britain. Many of these prehistoric finds can be seen at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and at the new Stonehenge visitor centre later this year.

Neolithic Puzzles

Until a few years ago, experts thought late Neolithic people were largely mobile, moving between seasonal temporary camps. But in 2006, a team led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, discovered several small buildings at Durrington, just over two miles north-east of Stonehenge. These houses appear to have been inhabited on a temporary, seasonal basis about 2,500 BC, the time that Stonehenge was built. Was this where its builders lived?

Among the excavated houses were mounds of rubbish, including cow and pig bones and broken Grooved Ware pottery, showing that large midwinter feasts were held here. Nearby were complex timber monuments, buildings set within special enclosures and other strange wooden structures. This was a place of ritual, probably connected to the ceremonies at Stonehenge.


Stone arrowheads and grooved pottery have helped our understanding of the Neolithic period
After the settlement was abandoned, an enormous henge called Durrington Walls was built, which is still visible today. Part of Durrington Walls and nearby Woodhenge are English Heritage properties you can explore. You can walk from Stonehenge across the fields to Durrington Walls, perhaps the route that its builders took. You’ll see other fragments from the past—the enormous Cursus monument, which pre-dates Stonehenge, and many of the early Bronze Age round barrows that scatter this area.

People Power

There are further clues in the monument itself. Transporting the stones, shaping them and fitting them together took great organisation and hundreds of people in what was a sophisticated and organised society. You can find out more at Stonehenge’s new visitor centre later this year.

Neolithic Life: Round the Houses

stonehenge_2Outside the new Stonehenge visitor centre will be an external gallery, where we’ll be recreating three of the late Neolithic houses excavated at Durrington Walls. Here you’ll be able to see what life was like at the time Stonehenge was built. And at Old Sarum, Wiltshire, volunteers are building some prototype houses to test different ideas about the methods and materials used.

You can follow the progress of our project on our blog at and our Twitter account @NeolithicHouses. If you’d like to get involved with building the houses at the visitor centre next year, or working in the external gallery, keep an eye on our website for volunteering opportunities.

We’ll be holding tours and open days at the Old Sarum houses so you can come and learn more about prehistoric life and experimental archaeology:

All details and booking information can be found on our What’s On page

English Heritage website:

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Dorset history experts turn Stone Age home-makers.

14 05 2013

A team of Dorset archaeologists have been brought in to help with the £27 million project to transform the visitor experience at Stonehenge.

Stone age homes construction smallStaff from Dorset County Council’s Ancient Technology Centre (ATC), at Cranborne, have been commissioned by English Heritage to test build three Neolithic houses and help discover how Stone Age man fashioned his homes.

Working at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury, the ATC team (with the help of English Heritage volunteers) is constructing the houses using the same tools and locally sourced materials as their Stone Age counterparts.

The final constructions will go on permanent display at the new Stonehenge visitor centre early next year.

Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said:

“The reconstructed houses will be an immediate and sensory link to the distant past and will bring visitors as close as they can to appreciate what life was like for the extraordinary individuals who built Stonehenge.”

An excavation at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge revealed evidence of the houses believed to be seasonal homes of the people who built the ancient monument 4500 years ago, uncovering floors and stakeholes where the walls once stood. But above ground, the appearance of the structures is unknown. One of the aims of the project is to test different materials and structures to see which ones work best.

The Ancient Technology Centre (part of Dorset County Council’s Outdoor Education Service)  is an educational facility which provides a unique blend of hands-on ancient skills and crafts activities, long-term construction projects and an opportunity for children of all ages to experience the realities of past life.

The staff’s extensive expertise and experience made them ideal candidates for the Stonehenge project. The team have gathered materials for the huts from Garston Woods in Sixpenny Handley and the Cranborne Estate, and are using traditional Stone Age flint axes and tools to carry out the work.

ATC manager Luke Winter, who is leading the project and guiding the volunteers said:

“The evidence from Durrington Walls brought to light the remains of several types of building. We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground. We’re testing lots of different thatching and walling methods, and new questions about how the Neolithic people lived are appearing every day.”

The experimental Neolithic houses at Old Sarum are open to the public, with a chance to ask questions and view demonstrations, from Saturday, 25 May to Monday 27 May, between 11am and 5pm. For more information please call English Heritage Customer Service on 0800 333 1183.

You can keep up to date with this project via the Ancient Technology Centre  webpage.

For more information, please contact: Dorset County Council

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Stonehenge Visitor Centre and Galleries Preview Tour.

11 05 2013

What happened on the visit ? We met English Heritage; Loranie Knowles (Stonehenge Project Director), Richard Williams (Stonehenge Project Manager) and Lisa Holmes (Stonehenge Community Projects Manager) together with staff from Vinci Construction.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Collectively they shared their experience behind the scenes of how the fantastic new facility is being made possible.  We got a tour around the site and also a chance to ask questions.

We also had an opportunity to make comments after the tour and shared our thoughts about the build, along with ideas and ways we would like to see the centre used by local community in the future

The open day has been organised and hosted by English Heritage with thanks to Vinci Construction and to Heritage Lottery funding which supports local community involvement in the Stonehenge Environmental Improvement programme.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Panoramic view of Stonehenge Visitor Centre Roof

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Panoramic view of Stonehenge Visitor Centre from the new coach park

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Panoramic view from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Souvenir Shop

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Panoramic view of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre from the West

More images of the exterior and interior:

The Stonehenge 360 Cinema

The Stonehenge 360 Cinema

Stonehenge Visitor Centre.  Roof top view

Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Roof top view

Stonehenge Visitor Centre.  Main entrance.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Main entrance.

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge director for English Heritage, said: “It is fantastic to see the building taking shape and to see how well it sits in the landscape. “Progress with the creation of the interior spaces for the museum galleries, education area, shop and cafe is equally exciting because it is now possible to see on the ground how these great new facilities will be experienced by our visitors.

English Heritage’s £27million project to transform the visitor facilities at Stonehenge will see the new centre open in December, with the existing facilities to be demolished and grassed over by next June.

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Topping out ceremony at Stonehenge visitor centre

11 05 2013

A TOPPING out ceremony was held at the new Stonehenge visitor centre on Wednesday as the last piece of steel to support the canopy roof was welded into place.

The zinc and timber roof has been designed to blend into the landscape and to let in more sunlight in the winter while creating shade in the summer.

Stonehenge Visitor centre

Sitting beneath the canopy roof are two pods, with a glass building housing the café, shop and education space and a sweet chestnut-clad pod containing the exhibition galleries, membership area and toilets

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge director for English Heritage, said: “It is fantastic to see the building taking shape and to see how well it sits in the landscape. “Progress with the creation of the interior spaces for the museum galleries, education area, shop and cafe is equally exciting because it is now possible to see on the ground how these great new facilities will be experienced by our visitors.

Steve Quinlan, partner at Denton Corker Marshall, who designed the visitor centre, said: “We are really enjoying this stage of the project with the various pieces of the puzzle coming together and our vision finally starting to come to life. This project has been a great challenge, but a very rewarding one.”

English Heritage’s £27million project to transform the visitor facilities at Stonehenge will see the new centre open in December, with the existing facilities to be demolished and grassed over by next June.

Article Source: Salisbury Journal:

Merlin  at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Stonehenge: a not-so-subtle hint of change?

11 05 2013

The Heritage Journal

It’s inevitable that major changes to the physical environment of Stonehenge will also involve a radical re-think of how it’s managed. Not that you’d realise that from the recent headlines – those seem to suggest managing the place involves only one thing …




Those headlines must be irksome for EH. The new Stonehenge General Manager will have massive responsibilities. (Although if the world thinks a small minority of people are the dominant stakeholders in Britain’s national icon EH have no-one to blame but themselves!). We should stress we’re not anti-Druid though – if they wish to celebrate solstice at Stonehenge good luck to them. But the trouble is the Druids say there are often only a dozen or two actual Druids there together with tens of thousands of others comprising pagans, pagans-of-convenience and party-goers in proportions unknown (but suspected). Again, we’re not anti-solstice-celebrations, but we’re anti-overcrowding, clambering on…

View original post 78 more words

Druid calls for fake human remains to be displayed at Stonehenge

8 05 2013

A druid leader is calling for fake, rather than real, human remains to be put on display at Stonehenge.

English Heritage plans to display the remains at the new Stonehenge visitor centre

English Heritage plans to display the remains at the new Stonehenge visitor centre

In an open letter, King Arthur Pendragon has criticised English Heritage for the “macabre manner” it plans to display “ancestral remains”.

In 2011 he lost a High Court bid to have bones, found in 2008, reburied.

English Heritage said the remains are not from the 2008 excavation and their “presentation, treatment and storage” will follow strict UK guidelines.

The cremated remains of more than 40 bodies, thought to be at least 5,000 years old, were removed from a burial site at the ancient stone circle five years ago.

According to Mr Pendragon, the bones were the remains of members of the “royal line” or “priest caste” who could have been the “founding fathers of this great nation”.

“There are cremated remains and a full skeleton from one of the barrows, which they’re planning to put on display,” he said.

“This is not only out of step with the feelings of many of the peoples and groups that I represent but is surely against the driving cultural principles of a Unesco World Heritage Site.”

The £27m scheme to build a new visitor centre and close the road alongside the ancient monument, is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Mr Pendragon said visitors would be “appalled” and unless “models and replicas” were used he could “not rule out non-violent direct action against the proposals”.

‘Visitors expect remains’

But a spokeswoman for English Heritage said visitor research showed the “vast majority of museum visitors are comfortable with, and often expect to see, human remains”.

“The remains of three human burials found in the landscape will be displayed with ample explanation along with archaeological objects, providing visitors with a direct connection to the people who lived and worked there,” she said.

“As such, we believe they have a rightful place in the exhibition and their presentation, treatment and storage will follow strict guidelines set out by the UK government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.”

Article source:

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Is this the greatest Stonehenge film ever made?

6 05 2013

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Perhaps not (though no obvious other candidates spring to mind) but it’s worth asking. What it certainly is, is quite different from any Stonehenge film you will see made today. In fact it’s so different, the very comparison is an object lesson in thinking and communicating about the past, and in broadcasting history.

I’ve just watched Paul Johnstone’s 30-minute 1954 film for the BBC TV series Buried Treasure, called, simply, Stonehenge. It’s in black and white, of course, and it mixes studio talk with outdoor film sequences. It’s powerfully different from a modern film.

Now, we get ordered to believe – to the accompaniment of dramatic but stale film sequences and lots of noise, as if someone had opened the Stonehenge cupboard and everything had fallen out on us – that a new film will change the way we think about Stonehenge; that it shows a new explanation that…

View original post 718 more words

Neolithic Houses at Old Sarum: Behind-the-Scenes May 4th 2013

4 05 2013

Go behind-the-scenes and enjoy an exclusive talk and ‘first-look’ tour of the Neolithic House project, under construction, at Old Sarum. Watch the construction work as it happens and learn about the building techniques used by the volunteers leading the project.

178_neo-houseTime: Tours at 10am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm (May 4th 2013)

How to Book

Purchase your tickets today using our online system below or by calling our dedicated Ticket Sales Team on 0870 333 1183 (Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30 Sat 9am – 5pm).  Please note: Booking tickets for this event is essential as places are limited

Neolithic Houses Project

One of the most exciting features of the new visitor centre at Stonehenge will be an external gallery, which will include three reconstructed Neolithic houses. Using archaeological evidence and authentic materials, these buildings will provide a real and tangible link for visitors to the distant past. People will be able to walk into these houses and see how people may have lived 4,500 years ago.


Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

%d bloggers like this: