Tunnel truths

29 10 2015

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

ICOMOS and UNESCO are visiting Stonehenge this week, to ponder the current set of road tunnel proposals. A lot has changed since we were last thinking about such a tunnel. Despite stories in the press, these changes add up to a much better proposition than the one that had, in principle, been accepted a decade ago.

The government has apparently promised funding for an unprecedented 2.9km-long bored tunnel and further beneficial works. After so many years of failed projects, I still find that promise difficult to believe, welcome as it is. However, I was assured it really is true by National Trust and Historic England representatives on a helpful tour put on for Council for British Archaeology trustees (who kindly invited me along) a couple of weeks ago.

HE-NT mapA 2.9km-long tunnel is (in my opinion) the best of three options, none of which has been examined in detail and for none…

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Heritage experts visit Stonehenge to scrutinise tunnel plans

29 10 2015

PLANS for a 2.9km tunnel under the Stonehenge world heritage site will scrutinised by experts today when they visit the monument.

Heritage experts visit Stonehenge to scrutinise tunnel plans

Heritage experts visit Stonehenge to scrutinise tunnel plans

The government unveiled the proposal last year as part of a £2billion project to dual the A303 from Amesbury to Honiton, Devon.

Heritage officials from Unesco and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) were invited to visit the site by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. They will meet with stakeholders including English Heritage and Wiltshire Council.

Ian Wilson from the National Trust said: “They will be spending several days here getting to know the landscape and the outline proposals.

“At the top of our list is agreeing how we can best work together to ensure that any scheme to tackle the blight of the road that dominates the Stonehenge Landscape is located in the right place and designed and built to the specification befitting a world heritage site.”

It is expected further trips will be made to Stonehenge as the plans become finalised.

Kate Davies, general manager of Stonehenge, said: “We’re looking forward to showing the advisors the recent improvements to Stonehenge, especially the removal of the old visitor centre and the grassing over of the A344, and highlighting how removing the A303 from the landscape would improve people’s understanding and enjoyment of the ancient stones and their setting.”

Full Article in the Salisbury Journal
Alex Rennie, Reporter /

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Visit Stonehenge for half term fun.

23 10 2015

This half term Stonehenge is hosting an interactive, theatrical performance which will take families back 100 years to the dramatic auction of 1915 where Stonehenge was put up for sale!~

stoneman2Last month English Heritage marked the 100th anniversary of Stonehenge – the most iconic prehistoric monument in Europe – being sold at auction to local Wiltshire man Cecil Chubb. The auction marked a turning point in the care of the ancient monument. A series of major restorations and excavations began a few years later and Stonehenge went from isolated ruin to national treasure. Today it is cared for by English Heritage, and thanks to extensive work now sits within a restored landscape that gives a sense of its original setting.

Bring the family this half term and play a part in bringing a monumental historical moment to life in this centenary year, with this fun theatrical performance – specially developed for English Heritage by historical theatre compan Time Will Tell.The play is in two parts and will take place outside the visitor centre by the Neolithic Houses, every day of half term from Monday 26th October to Sunday 1st November, between 10am and 4pm

What better way for kids to step into England’s story than exploring a World Heritage Site and its prehistoric monuments? The Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre will entertain the most inquisitive of minds and there is plenty of outdoor space to work off extra energy, run and picnic. Pick up a family audio tour, explore our reconstructed Neolithic Houses and imagine what life would have been like for a Neolithic family four and a half thousand years ago!

Article by jspiteri  – Blackmore Vale Magazine

Entrance to Stonehenge is now managed through timed tickets and advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day and time of your choice. By booking in advance you will also benefit from an advanced booking discount.
Click here for opening hours:

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Barbeque-style roasting. The culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders

15 10 2015

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls — a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

A reconstruction drawing of how the prehistoric village of Durrington Walls  might have looked in 2500BC [Credit: English Heritage]

A reconstruction drawing of how the prehistoric village of Durrington Walls might have looked in 2500BC [Credit: English Heritage]

Together with researchers at the University of Sheffield, detailed analysis of pottery and animal bones has uncovered evidence of organised feasts featuring barbeque-style roasting, and an unexpected pattern in how foods were distributed and shared across the site.

Chemically analysing food residues remaining on several hundred fragments of pottery, the York team found differences in the way pots were used. Pots deposited in residential areas were found to be used for cooking animal products including pork, beef and dairy, whereas pottery from the ceremonial spaces was used predominantly for dairy.

Such spatial patterning could mean that milk, yoghurts and cheeses were perceived as fairly exclusive foods only consumed by a select few, or that milk products — today often regarded as a symbol of purity — were used in public ceremonies.

Unusually, there was very little evidence of plant food preparation at any part of the site. The main evidence points to mass animal consumption, particularly of pigs. Further analysis of animal bones, conducted at the University of Sheffield, found that many pigs were killed before reaching their maximum weight. This is strong evidence of planned autumn and winter slaughtering and feasting-like consumption.

The main methods of cooking meat are thought to be boiling and roasting in pots probably around indoor hearths, and larger barbeque-style roasting outdoors — the latter evidenced by distinctive burn patterns on animal bones.

Bones from all parts of the animal skeleton were found, indicating that livestock was walked to the site rather than introduced as joints of meat. Isotopic analysis indicates that cattle originated from many different locations, some far away from the site. This is significant as it would require orchestration of a large number of volunteers likely drawn from far and wide. The observed patterns of feasting do not fit with a slave-based society where labour was forced and coerced, as some have suggested.

Dr Oliver Craig, Reader in Archaeological Science at the University of York and lead author on the paper, said: “Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organisation than was expected for this period of British prehistory. The inhabitants and many visitors to this site possessed a shared understanding of how foods should be prepared, consumed and disposed. This, together with evidence of feasting, suggests Durrington Walls was a well-organised working community.”

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, Professor at University College London and Director of the Feeding Stonehenge project who also led the excavations at Durrington Walls, said: “This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organisation of large-scale feasting among the people who built Stonehenge. Animals were brought from all over Britain to be barbecued and cooked in open-air mass gatherings and also to be eaten in more privately organized meals within the many houses at Durrington Walls.

“The special placing of milk pots at the larger ceremonial buildings reveals that certain products had a ritual significance beyond that of nutrition alone. The sharing of food had religious as well as social connotations for promoting unity among Britain’s scattered farming communities in prehistory. ”

Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito, who analysed the pottery samples and recently joined Newcastle University, added: “The combination of pottery analysis with the study of animal bones is really effective, and shows how these different types of evidence can be brought together to provide a detailed picture of food and cuisine in the past.”

The study has been published in the Antiquity Journal.
Source: University of York [October 12, 2015]

The Stonehenge News Blog





LECTURE: Old Stones, New ideas: Sourcing the Stonehenge Bluestones

10 10 2015

A Saturday afternoon lecture by Richard Bevins at the Wiltshire Museum. 21st November 2015

Stonehenge is arguably one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the World. It is renowned for the Stonehenge Lectureenormous size of the sarsen monoliths used in its construction which comprise the Outer Circle and Outer Horseshoe. It is generally agreed that these stones were sourced from the Marlborough Downs area, some 30 km to the north of Stonehenge. However, a set of smaller stones, comprising the Inner Circle, the Inner Horseshoe and the Altar Stone, are exotic to the Salisbury Plain area; these are the so-called bluestones, and have been the subject of investigations since the latter part of the 19th Century. Early petrographical studies recognised that the bluestones largely comprise a range of altered volcanic, intrusive and tuffaceous rocks with rarer sandstones but could not provide a definitive source.

However, it was the seminal paper by H.H. Thomas in 1923 that persuasively demonstrated that the spotted dolerite component of the bluestones could be sourced to outcrops exposed towards the eastern margin of Mynydd Preseli in southwest Wales, citing the tors Carn Meini and Cerrigmarchogion as the most likely sources. Thomas also argued that other lithologies in the bluestone assemblage, notably the rhyolites and the ‘calcareous ash’, could be sourced in the same locale, in particuar from Carn Alw and the northern slopes of Foel Drygarn respectively.

The first major investigation of the geochemistry of bluestone assemblage was by Richard Thorpe and team who compared whole rock wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry analyses from both orthostats and debitage at Stonehenge with whole rock analyses from Mynydd Preseli
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Using petrography, mineral chemistry and whole rock geochemistry Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer have re-examined the proposed source of the bluestone rhyolites and determined that Carn Alw, as proposed by Thomas, is not the source of bluestone rhyolite; instead they argued that the majority of the rhyolite debitage from the Stonehenge Landscape (but not the four rhyolitic/dacitic standing or recumbent orthostats) comes instead from a prominent outcrop called Craig Rhos y felin, located on low ground to the north of the Mynydd Preseli range in the vicinity of Brynberian. More recently they have re-examined the spotted and non-spotted dolerites and concluded that a large % of the dolerite fragments and cored samples from Stonehenge come from Carn Goedog rather than Carn Meini.

Biography
Dr Richard Bevins as Keeper and Head of the Department of Natural Sciences at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff is responsible for Strategic leadership for collections and research related activities within the Department.

Qualifications, memberships and relevant positions:
BSc (Hons) Geology (Aberystwyth University), PhD (Keele), Fellow (Geological Society of London), Chartered Geologist (CGeol), Fellow (Society of Antiquaries of London), Honorary Lecturer (School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University), Chair, Geological Society of London’s Geoconservation Committee, Member of the Geological Society of London’s External Relations Committee, Chair of the British Geological Survey’s National Geological Repository Advisory Committee.

References
Primary research area is centred on the the Caledonian igneous history of Wales and related areas, as well as on their low-grade metamorphism. More recent work has focussed on extending the petrology and geochemistry of altered igneous rocks from Pembrokeshire into a re-examination of the source of the Stonehenge bluestones.

Links:
http://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/events/index.php?Action=2&thID=1029&prev=1
www.researchgate.net/profile/Richard_Bevins2

Saturday afternoon lectures start at 2.30pm and last approx. one hour.

Our Lecture Hall is accessible via a lift if required, has a hearing loop and air conditioning.
Booking Options
Book online using Paypal
Telephone – 01380 727369
Email – hello@wiltshiremuseum.org.uk

The Stonehenge News Blog





7 New Discoveries about Stonehenge

8 10 2015

Heritage Calling

Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape have seen an unprecedented amount of research in the last decade. One of the most significant strands of this has been Historic England’s survey of the stones, the surrounding earthworks and the hidden

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