Amesbury to Stonehenge Solstice Lantern Parade 2016

30 11 2016

The annual lantern parade is back again this year on the 20th December 2016 starting at the Amesbury History Centre 4:45pm.

As usual the route will take the procession through the beautiful grounds of the Amesbury Abbey where we will stop for mince pies and mulled wine before making our way to the ancient spring where the solstice lantern will be waiting for us and our resident druid Frank Somners will perform a service.

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Amesbury Lantern Procession along the original “Avenue”

The fading solstice light at Stonehenge is taken and put into the solstice lantern which is kept alight all night to light the darkest night and then taken back to the stones the next morning to extinguish. This is a tradition that started a few years ago and has grown in popularity year on year.

Come and join us and our ancestors in celebrating the solstice. Lanterns are available from the History Centre for £3.50 each and there will be an afternoon of lantern decorating in the centre on the 20th until 3:30pm

Visit their website for more details

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New discoveries rewrite Stonehenge landscape

29 11 2016

Archaeologists have found new evidence that rewrites the history of the Stonehenge landscape.  One of the newly-discovered sites even predates the construction of the world famous monument itself.

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FASCINATING FINDS: Flint arrow heads give a secure early Neolithic date

The remains, found at Larkhill and Bulford, were unearthed during excavations being carried out before the building of a series of brand new Army houses.

At Larkhill, the discovery of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure – a major ceremonial gathering place some 200 meters in diameter – dating from around 3650 BC radically changes our view of the Stonehenge landscape. About 70 enclosures of this type are known across the UK, although this is only the second discovery in the Stonehenge landscape, with the other further to the northwest at Robin Hood’s Ball on the Salisbury Plain Training Area. In the Wessex region they occur on hilltops and, along with long barrows, are some of the earliest built structures in the British landscape.

FASCINATING FINDS – 700 yrs older than Stonehenge:

The Larkhill enclosure has produced pottery, worked flint, a saddle quern, animal bone and human skull fragments, all placed in the ditches which define the enclosure. Sites of this type were used for temporary settlement, to exchange animals and other goods, for feasting and other ritual activity, including the disposal of the dead. The objects found in the ditches reflect these ceremonial practices. The Larkhill causewayed enclosure is around 700 years older than Stonehenge and is part of a landscape that included other large earth and timber structures such as long barrows and cursus monuments. Its builders shaped the landscape into which the stone circle at Stonehenge was placed, which was already special long before Stonehenge was constructed. The causewayed enclosure at Larkhill shows that they had the social organisation necessary to come together to create significant earthworks, and the resources to support the work, as well as the people to carry it out.

Dr Matt Leivers of Wessex Archaeology told Spire FM

“This is an exciting new find and one that transforms our understanding of this important monumental landscape.”

While part of the site has been investigated, the majority of it lies within the Larkhill Garrison, where it remains unaffected by the current works.

LOOK – PHOTOS: There are more pictures of the finds in the mini gallery below…

UNIQUE DOUBLE HENGE:

At nearby Bulford, archaeologists have found a unique double henge, the only example known in Britain. The earliest phases were created around 2900 BC with circular enclosures formed by ditches dug in segments with openings to the north. In the Early Bronze Age (around 2000 BC) both henges were enclosed within continuous ditches, and perhaps buried beneath barrow mounds. From one of the Bulford henges a skull from a large dog or wolf, perhaps a working companion, a trophy from the hunt, or even a totemic symbol, was recovered.

Martin Brown, Principal Archaeologist for WYG told Spire FM:

“These discoveries are changing the way we think about prehistoric Wiltshire and about the Stonehenge landscape in particular. The Neolithic people whose monuments we are exploring shaped the world we inhabit: They were the first farmers and the first people who settled down in this landscape, setting us on the path to the modern world. It is an enormous privilege to hold their tools and investigate their lives.”

ARMY HOUSING WORKS CONTINUE:

Archaeological work on both sites is being managed and directed by WYG on behalf of Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), with fieldwork undertaken by Wessex Archaeology.

The sites’ development is part of wider plans to accommodate the 4000 additional Service personnel plus their families who will be based on and around Salisbury Plain by 2019 under the Army Basing Programme. In total, the MOD is planning to invest more than £1 billion in the area which will provide more than 900 new homes for Service families, over 2,600 new bed spaces for single soldiers and the construction, conversion or refurbishment of 250 other buildings within bases, such as offices, garages, workshops and Mess facilities.

Find out more about WYG and the work at Bulford and Larkhill here: www.wyg.com

Read the full story (source) on the SPIRE FM website

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Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2016: Travel Trade News

26 11 2016

Arrangements for Groups on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st December

Stonehenge closes to visitors at the usual time of 5pm on Tuesday 20th December ahead of the annual Winter Solstice celebrations on the morning of Wednesday 21st December.

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The last timed-ticket admission for pre-booked groups is the usual time of 3pm, providing a 2-hour window for groups arriving at this time to view the monument and enjoy the exhibition and other facilities in the visitor centre.

All coaches and minibuses and their passengers must be off-site by 5pm as usual.

Stonehenge re-opens to visitors from 11.30am on Wednesday 21 December.

Coach Parking for Winter Solstice 2016

Parking for coaches and minibuses bringing visitors for the Winter Solstice will cost £50 per vehicle and is provided from 6am until 10am in the Stonehenge Coach Park.

Coach and minibus parking for Winter Solstice is limited and tour operators and group travel organisers should contact the Stonehenge Bookings Team from today to book coach or minibus parking. Booking is essential.

There will be a number of temporary road closures in the local area. There will be no access to Byway 12 throughout the Winter Solstice access period.

Further Information for Winter Solstice

Access to Stonehenge for solstice is subject to the Conditions of Entry which we would ask tour operators, group leaders and drivers to ensure their group members are aware of and adhere to.

Stonehenge is in a field in the middle of Salisbury Plain and the weather in December will be cold and wet. Even if it isn’t raining, the ground will be wet from the dew. There may also be frost. Sensible footwear and warm, waterproof clothing are essential.

There is at least a 30 minute walk (in low light or darkness), from the coach park to the monument. Visitors are therefore strongly advised to wear strong, waterproof footwear and bring a torch with you.

Toilets at the monument field will only be available once the access period begins. There are no catering facilities in the monument field, however the café at the visitor centre is open for hot drinks and breakfast rolls from 6am.

On Wednesday 21 December, sunrise is at 8.09am.

The monument field will open at approximately 7.45am, depending on light levels and will close at 10am.

Stonehenge re-opens to day visitors from 11.30am on Wednesday 21st December.

Please visit the official English Heritage website for more details

Solstice Events are offering their usual small group Winter Solstice guided tour from London and Bath, ideal if you do not have your own transport. Visit their website

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Stonehenge: Up close. English Heritage Members Event. February 2017

26 11 2016

Gain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts.

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Start the tour with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge accompanied by our expert. Followed by a light breakfast we will then visit key archaeology sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus and learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigative work that has taken place in recent years.

A light breakfast is included. This event has been graded as moderate as there will be plenty of walking over uneven ground. Please dress for the weather as there is no shelter on site. Sturdy footwear is a must, as is a torch.

15th February 2017 (7.30am – 12.30pm) £45 per person

This is an English Heritage ‘Members only’ event.  Please visit their website for more details

HOW TO BOOK
Tickets are available now by calling English Heritage direct on 0370 333 1183.

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Vast 5,600-year-old religious centre discovered near Stonehenge

21 11 2016

A huge, prehistoric religious and ceremonial complex has been discovered near Britain’s most famous prehistoric temple Stonehenge.

Its discovery is likely to transform our understanding of the early development of tumblrStonehenge’s ancient landscape.

Built about 5,650 years ago – more than 1,000 years before the great stones of Stonehenge were erected – the 200m-diameter complex is the first major early Neolithic monument to be discovered in the Stonehenge area for more than a century.

The newly discovered complex, just over a mile and a half north-east of Stonehenge, appears to have consisted of around 950m of segmented ditches – and potentially palisaded earthen banks – arranged in two great concentric circles.

So far, archaeologists have located and excavated around 100 metres worth of the outer ditch. It is not yet known how much, if any, of the rest of the monument has survived.

More

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Stonehenge celebrates 30 years of ‘World Heritage’

19 11 2016

English Heritage is celebrating 30 years of World Heritage Site status for Stonehenge this weekend.

To launch the 30th Anniversary celebrations, students from local Stonehenge School and Avon Valley College are today unveiling a special plaque highlighting the World Heritage Site status of the iconic Wiltshire monument.

whsstream

Thousands flock to the site for summer solstice every year. Photo: ITV West Country

n 1986 Stonehenge and Avebury were among the first seven sites in the UK to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

World Heritage Site status gives Stonehenge and Avebury international recognition alongside sites such the Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Galapagos Islands as a place of exceptional importance to all humanity.

I am really pleased to be asked to help unveil the plaque at Stonehenge. World Heritage status is important because it means that a place is valuable to everyone, from all over the world and we must all look after it well so that everyone in the future can enjoy and understand it too.

– ERIN GALLAGHER,YEAR 9 STUDENT FROM AVON VALLEY COLLEGE

On 19th and 20th November, 30 Goody Bags will be given out at random; 30 Golden Tickets will be hidden around the site and every visitor will receive a special souvenir postcard.

Kate Davies, English Heritage General Manager of Stonehenge, said:

“This year we are celebrating thirty years of World Heritage status and we are excited to be joined by local schools as part of the Kids Takeover day, as we unveil a World Heritage Site plaque and launch our special 30th Anniversary weekend.

” Young people are the future guardians of our heritage, and it is fantastic to see that our local young community are so interested in learning about Stonehenge and what it means to have a World Heritage Site, one of 30 in the UK, on their doorstep.”

Visit the English Heritage Website for more information

Article source (ITV NEWS)

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Ordnance Survey Benchmarks at Stonehenge

18 11 2016

Amongst all the various carvings on the stones at Stonehenge, from the modern graffiti of the 17th to the 20th century and the ancient axe heads and daggers from about 1700BC, there are three that are not often noticed.

These are the Ordnance Survey (OS) benchmarks.

The OS website says: “Bench marks are the visible manifestation of Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN), which is the national height system for mainland Great Britain and forms the reference frame for heights above mean sea level.”

The original reference datum levelling survey was begun in Liverpool in 1840 using a benchmark on St. John’s Church, and in 1844 it was changed to the tidal pole in Victoria Dock. The reference Mean Sea Level (MSL) for the datum was established over a nine day period of tidal observations.

A second levelling survey was carried out in 1912-21 and the datum was changed to MSL at Newlyn in Cornwall. In the 1950s a third survey was performed, still making use of the Newlyn datum.

The OS benchmarks at Stonehenge are in the traditional form of three lines / | \ beneath a horizontal bar which is the indicator of the reference height above the datum’s MSL at that spot.

stone-16-annotatedCoincidentally, this is a similar form to that of the Druidic “Awen” emblem which also uses three lines / | \  but positioned below three dots rather than a horizontal bar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awen for the history and an explanation of this symbol.

At Stonehenge two of the benchmarks are on the Heel Stone and one is on Stone 16.

Stone 16 is the tooth-like stone at the southwest side of the monument directly behind the tallest stone on the site, and the benchmark is low down on the left of the southeast face.

 

This references the Newlyn datum, is 103.114m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

The Heel Stone is the massive leaning stone some 80m northeast of the stone circle which famously (but only roughly) indicates the position where the sun appears on the horizon at the summer solstice as seen from the centre of the stone circle.

Its benchmarks are low down on the right hand side of the northeast faceheelstone-annotated

The upper one references the original Liverpool datum, is 101.346m above MSL and was last verified in 1900.

The lower one references the Newlyn datum, is 100.7m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

From the Newlyn benchmarks, you can work out that there’s a drop of 2.414m from the one on Stone 16 to the one on the Heel Stone.

None of these benchmarks are visible from any of the visitor paths around the monument, although if the light is right (early morning or evening in summer) the upper one on the Heel Stone can just be made out from the National Trust field.

To see them properly you’ll need to come to one of the Managed Open Accesses at the solstices or equinoxes.

Alternatively, you can book a private Stone Circle Access visit which take place most days of the year before and after regular opening times.

STONE CIRCLE ACCESS

Stone Circle Access visits, give you a unique opportunity to experience up close this world famous monument. The visits take place outside of our normal general admission opening hours and are subject to very limited availability. Please note that this is not a guided tour, and touching of the stones is not permitted.  You can try Stonehenge Guided Tours for these special access tours

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Biggest full moon for 60 years! At Stonehenge and in the UK #Supermoon

14 11 2016

STARGAZERS at Stonehenge and around the world are looking forward to catching a glimpse of the biggest supermoon in nearly 70 years.

Tonight’s supermoon will be particularly large because it is the first time that the full img_4552moon has come this close to Earth since 1948.

Make sure you look up to the night’s sky this evening because there will not be another supermoon as big and bright as this one until 2034.

The best time to see Monday’s supermoon in the UK will be at around 4.45pm – but a sighting will depend on the weather.

But the moon will actually be at its closest – 356,509km away – at 11.21am this morning.

NASA said that the biggest and brightest moon for American stargazers will be on Monday morning just before dawn.

A Met Office spokesman said: “Monday evening and overnight Monday night is the best chance to spot it in Europe.”

Although the sky may be cloudy in Wiltshire, he said that there are likely to be cloud breaks.

What is a supermoon?

Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon so close you could almost touch it? Well done, you’ve spotted a supermoon.

The impressive sight happens when a full moon is closest to Earth. It orbits our planet in an oval shape so sometimes it comes closer to us than at other times. To us Earth-lings, the moon appears 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger.

By the way, supermoon is not an astrological term. It’s scientific name is perigee-syzygy, but supermoon is more catchy, and is used by the media to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astrologer Richard Nolle first came up with the term and he defined it as “… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit”, according to earthsky.org.

How can I see it? 

The best time to view it in the UK will be when the sun is setting in the late afternoon. The closer to the horizon it is, the bigger it will appear.

Pick a place with the least light pollution. Paul Thomsett, chairman of the South East Kent Astronomical Society said: “As long as the skies are clear and you have a good view to the south you will have no trouble seeing our nearest celestial neighbour blazing in the night sky.”

The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company offer Stonehenge ‘Full Moon’ walking tours with a local astronomer and Stonehenge expert

Full Moon (SuperMoon) Links Links:
What is a supermoon, when can I see the largest moon in 69 years and will it be cloudy where I live? (Telegraph)
Watch the Moon rise at Stonehenge with local astronomer tour guide (The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company)
‘Supermoon’ viewers to get closest glimpse since 1948 (BBC)
Catch a glimpse of the biggest supermoon for 70 years in the UK TONIGHT (Express)Full Moon Rise at Stonehenge:  (Silent Earth Blog)

“Weather permitting it will be visible without the need for a telescope in Wilsthire.”

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Celebrating 30 Years of World Heritage at Stonehenge and Avebury on 19th November 2016 #WHS30

12 11 2016

This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986.  A number of events are taking place throughout this year.

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The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.

On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes, a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.

CONFERENCE FINAL PROGRAMME

There will be a panel discussion to think about what advances in our knowledge there might be in the next 30 years as well as opportunities to find out about the work of the key partners in helping to manage the World Heritage Site.

On Sunday 20 November there will be limited opportunities for delegates to attend exclusive expert led tours to both Stonehenge and Avebury and to The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum to explore their related collections.

Tickets are open to all and must be booked in advance through Eventbrite.

This event is supported by Historic England and Wiltshire Council

There’s still time to book your tickets for the conference on 19th November.

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The Stonehenge Bluestones.

7 11 2016

The bluestones at Stonehenge are the smaller rocks you can see standing inside the huge sarsens that form the outer circle and the inner trilithons.

Stone 62.jpgThey range in size from stumps barely visible in the turf through to slender pillars standing nearly 2.5m tall (plus another metre or more below gound) with the largest weighing between 2 and 3 tonnes.

These rocks definitely come from the Preseli Mountains in southwest Wales, 150 miles from Stonehenge as the crow flies. Their place of origin was first established in 1923 by the geologist H. H. Thomas and has been confirmed by modern geochemical analysis. They used to be known as the “foreign stones” because it was recognised that they weren’t local to the Stonehenge area.

The name bluestone is a collective term and there are two main types – spotted dolerite and rhyolite.

It’s not obvious why they’re called bluestones to most people since at first glance, and especially from a distance, they look more greyish green in colour. But a freshly broken piece of the dolerite type reveals that the unweathered interior is a striking blue-green colour with white spots.

How and – more importantly – when and why they were brought to Stonehenge is a matter of lively debate.raw-bluestone

Being comparatively lightweight, the transportation from Preseli to Stonehenge may have been accomplished fairly simply despite the distance involved. In the 1950s a team of a few dozen teenage schoolchildren was easily able to drag a replica bluestone using rollers and a sledge, and half a dozen were able to pilot one on a raft up and down a small river with no trouble.

One theory of when they arrived at Stonehenge suggests that it was around 3000BC and that they were placed in a circle just inside the earthwork bank in the 56 sockets that are known as the Aubrey Holes. This was 500 years before the large sarsens were put up. Subsequently, this theory says, they were moved to within the sarsen monument and re-arranged at least twice.

carn-goedogThe question of why anyone would go to the bother of transporting up to 80 rocks from Wales to Wiltshire is unanswerable. It may be that they formed an existing monument that was dismantled as the spoils of war, they might represent the ancestors of a group of people who migrated eastwards or they may even have been a gift from one population to another.

They clearly had some great significance, perhaps because of their striking position in easily quarried outcrops on the top of the Preseli Mountains.

Curiously, a number of the Stonehenge bluestones were once the components of two bluestone trilithons that must have stood about 2.5m tall. The evidence is in the form of two half-buried bluestone lintels that have mortise holes worked into them and several other standing bluestones that have the remains of tenons on their tops.

These individual components are now placed remotely from each other at Stonehenge but perhaps these small trilithons were the inspiration for the enormous sarsen versions that still stand at the monument.

There are only about 30 visible bluestones remaining at Stonehenge and it is likely that the others have been chipped to pieces for souvenirs and talismen or stolen away for use elsewhere in the last 5000 years. Local rumours of bluestone doorsteps, bridge footings and magnificent fireplaces crop up every so often and fragments have been found in many of the nearby Bronze Age burial mounds.  Stonehenge special access tours allow you to enter the inner circle of Stonehenge and get close to the blusestones.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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