Stonehenge Leylines – Alignments of Mystery.

22 02 2021

When commercial traveller, photographic inventor, and amateur antiquarian Alfred Watkins wrote up his lecture expounding his theory about ancient routemarkers in Early British Trackways (1922), delivered to the Woolhope Club of Hereford only five months previously, he started a movement, some would say a craze, which shows no signs of diminishing even in the cold light of the 21st century.

            From his business peregrinations up and down the Welsh Marches Watkins deduced that prehistoric travellers must have created a system of routes and landmarks to aid navigation, and upon realising this  he felt he ‘held in [his] hand the key plan of a long-lost fact’. When he glimpsed in an epiphanic flash ‘the original sighting pegs used by the earliest track makers in marking out their travel ways’, it seemed as though a secret map of Britain had been revealed to him. Such a claim met with ‘violent opposition’, but he fine-tuned his controversial theorem in The Old Straight Track: its mounds, beacons, moats, sites and mark stones, his influential monograph published in 1925. Watkins drew upon archaeological, topographical, and etymological evidence, tested by exhaustive field research. He postulated that alignments had developed over a long period of time – beginning in the Palaeolithic – and that navigational aids were placed along them, starting with simple piles of stones (walkers’ cairns, such as can be found on many summits and popular walking routes across Britain), which were sometimes developed into megalithic monuments, churches, towers, follies, and so forth, through the ages, the initial purpose fading in the mists of time: ‘The straight track became an organised possession of the community for all to use, but mystery and reverence for a superior knowledge grew round its making and its mark-points’. Critically, Watkins did not perceive these ‘leys’, as he called them (from the Anglo-Saxon word for a clearing, and linked to ‘sight’) as in any way supernatural. He emphasised the practical application: ‘Utility was the primary object’. Only later, Watkins suggested, did such sites become co-opted for religious purposes, such as the predominance of churches dedicated to the Michael on hill-tops – the archangel who is commonly depicted as slaying the dragon with his spear, or ‘fixing the point’, focalising the serpent energy of the land in geomantic terms.

Yet Watkins’ revolutionary idea was tantalising enough to inspire generations of ‘ley-hunters’, and it is hard not to be caught up in his vision when he, in a rare moment of lyricism, waxes about his grand vision: ‘imagine a fairy chain stretched from mountain peak to mountain peak, as far as the eye could reach, and paid out until it touched the “high places” of the earth at a number of ridges, banks, and knowls.’ Watkins envisioned ponds and streams being deliberately enhanced to reflect beacon fires lit upon the high places. Anyone who has stood upon Glastonbury Tor on a sunny day would have witnessed this phenomenon, as the sunlight reflects off the dykes that thread the Somerset Levels, creating chains of light across the land.

            And Watkins’ vision was to act like a beacon fire to many who followed. His work was taken up in the late Sixties by antiquarian and occult author John Michel, in The View Over Atlantis (1969), who took Watkins’ ideas, and run with them – reconceptualising his ‘leys’ as ‘leylines’, a matrix of energy stretching across not only Britain, but the world, and connecting ancient sites such as the Pyramids of Giza, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Machu Piccu in Peru, and Stonehenge. These energy lines were seen as the meridians of the planet, to use the analogy from Chinese acupuncture, with sacred sites acting as ‘needles of stone’ (an idea crystallised by Tom Graves in his 1978 book). Leylines had gone viral, a meme that the Counter Culture adopted as their own. Some have tried to adopt a scientific approach to their study, most notably Paul Deveraux, who has undertaken extensive field research at sacred sites, (the Dragon Project of the late Seventies), yet the leyline theory is largely discredited by archaeologists. It is argued that you could draw a random line on a map and the probability is that it will intersect ‘sacred’ or historic sites; also, that the sites offered as evidence of a ley vary so widely over time and usage that no single, coherent purpose can be applied to them. And yet humans, the pattern-making creature, love to see patterns. We are biologically hard-wired to respond to simulacra – from our mother’s face, to human forms in nature. We seek meaning in what is otherwise a random, meaningless universe. It is no wonder we fashion lines of narrative, or song, to guide us – internally and externally – across life’s journey.  It is something we have been doing for at least fifty thousand years, as the complex system of the Aboriginal dreamtime, with its songlines, attests. It seems unlikely that such an intuitive (and useful) way of mapping only developed in a single place on Earth. Enigmatic monuments like the Nazca lines in Peru, and the cursus in England, suggest otherwise. Deveraux suggests these could be ‘spirit roads’, and are a macrocosmic version of the countless ‘corpse paths’ found in many cultures. Certainly, there is more to such routes than the prosaically utilitarian. Some historic routes, such Roman roads, droveways, saltways, the ‘herepaths’ (or military track) of Alfred the Great, General Wade’s roads across Scotland, and so forth, clearly did have a primarily practical purpose – and although sometimes these overlap with other, older routes or usages, there are too many obscurer routes, ‘hidden paths that run towards the moon, or to the sun’ (as Tolkien put it), to be simply ignored. And the fact is (perplexing as it may be to an empirical, rationalist paradigm) that many of them can be dowsed. They are discernible, and anyone with a pendant, rod, or sensitive persuasion, can detect them. Many converge at Stonehenge – the Spaghetti Junction of leylines (or Mother Node, if you prefer) – and cross the land and beyond, as Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst have pointed out. Something is there, and what that signifies – Palaeolithic navigational aids, geomagnetic earth energies, the meridians of Mother Earth, ghost paths, extraterrestrial guidance beacons – who can rightly say?  Perhaps the true nature of such alignments depends on the awareness and paradigm of the one seeking them – we find the road we wish to walk; the evidence to support the theory we wish to believe. It seems ley/lines are to be experienced, more than understood – and they add a little bit of mystery to a world suffering from a dearth of the imagination. They provide a counter-narrative, of other ways of experiencing reality, one that opens up, rather than shuts down possibility. It turns the prose of the everyday into a poem, even a song. They offer another way of being in the landscape. Choosing to follow these invisible paths is an act of faith – like The Fool in the tarot, the seeker steps off the precipice of reason and hopes their vision will sustain them. It certainly sustained Watkins.  So, it feels right and fitting to give the man who started it all the last word: ‘Such alignments are either facts beyond the possibility of accidental coincidence or they are not’.

Guest Blogger: Dr Kevan Manwaring is an author, lecturer, and specialist tour-guide. His books include The Long Woman (a novel which features Stonehenge and Avebury), Lost Islands, Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels, Desiring Dragons, Oxfordshire Folk Tales, Northamptonshire Folk Tales, and Herepath: a Wiltshire songline. He is a keen walker and loves exploring the ancient landscape of the Marlborough Downs (where he lives) and beyond.  www.kevanmanwaring.co.uk

Further Reading:
Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track, London: Abacus, 1974
Deveraux, Paul, Spirit Roads: an exploration of otherworldly routes, London: Collins & Brown
Hippisley-Cox, R. The Green Roads of England, London: Metheun & Co., 1914
Macfarlane, Robert, The Old Ways: a journey on foot, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2012
Rudd-Jones, N., & David Stewart, Pathways: journeys along Britain’s historic byways, from pilgrimage routes to smuggler’s trails, London: Guardian Books

Stonehenge and Ley Line online link resource:
Healing Energies of Stonehenge – Ancient Origins
Stonehenge Ley Lines and Earth Energies – Why Does it Attract ‘New Agers’? – Stonehenge News Blog
Stonehenge New Age Tours – Stonehenge Tour Company
Ley lines and earth energies of Avebury Henge – Visit Avebury
The Lore and Lure of Ley Lines – Live Science
Moonraking: Spooky Stuff: Ley lines – BBC Website
Cross Roads of ‘Power’- Stonehenge – Pagan Potions
The Definition of a Ley-line – Ancient Wisdom
Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Avebury Tours – Stonehenge Guided Tours
Ley Lines and the Earths Magnetic Field – UK Ley Lines Website

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Stonehenge: Did the stone circle originally stand in Wales? Find backs theory that monument was dismantled and dragged over 140 miles to Wiltshire.

12 02 2021

One of Britain’s biggest and oldest stone circles has been found in Wales – and could be the original building blocks of Stonehenge. Stonehenge will be the focus of a new BBC documentary, airing for the first time on Friday (February 12th).

Archaeological investigations as part of the ‘Stones of Stonehenge’ research project, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of University College London, previously excavated two bluestone quarries in the Preseli Hills
  • They believe it was dismantled and rebuilt as the first stage of Stonehenge
  • It has an identical diameter to the ditch surrounding Stonehenge, they found 
  • Waun Mawn is close to the quarries the Stonehenge bluestones were made from
    Archaeologists have unearthed Britain’s third largest stone circle in Wales

Archaeologists uncovered the remains of the Waun Mawn site in Pembrokeshire’s Preseli Hills.

They believe the stones could have been dismantled and rebuilt 150 miles (240 km) away on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

The discovery was made during filming for BBC Two’s Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed.

The Welsh circle, believed to be the third biggest in Britain, has a diameter of 360ft (110m), the same as the ditch that encloses Stonehenge, and both are aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise.

Several of the monoliths at the World Heritage Site are of the same rock type as those that still remain at the Welsh site.

And one of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section which matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn, suggesting the monolith began its life as part of the stone circle in the Preseli Hills before being moved.

What is Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed?

During a one-hour documentary, questions about the stones will be answered including – where the stones probably came from, how they were moved from Wales to England and who dragged them all of the way.

Using cutting-edge research, a dedicated team of archaeologists, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, has been compiling evidence to fill in a 400-year gap in our knowledge of the bluestones, and to show that the original stones of one of Britain’s most iconic monuments had a previous life.

Viewers will be able to watch and learn how researchers discovered these secrets of Stonehenge.

LINKS BETWEEN STONEHENGE AND WAUN MAWN 
There were significant links between the neolithic sites of Stonehenge and Waun Mawn that led researchers to conclude a link between them.
The Welsh site was likely disassembled, moved to Wiltshire and used in the building of Stonehenge. The Welsh circle has a diameter of 360ft (110m), the same as the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.
Both are aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise.
Several of the monoliths at the World Heritage Site on Salisbury Plain are of the same rock type as those that still remain at the Welsh site.
And one of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section which matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn.
This suggests the monolith began its life as part of the stone circle in the Preseli Hills before being moved.

Stonehenge references:
Stonehenge: Did the stone circle originally stand in Wales? – BBC
Stonehenge and Wales connection revealed in BBC2 Lost Circle – Salisbury Journal
Was Stonehenge originally built in Wales? Archaeologists unearth remains of Britain’s third largest stone circle and claim it was ‘dismantled and MOVED to Wiltshire’ – The Daily Mail
Ancient Welsh circle at Waun Mawn is brother of Stonehenge – The Times
How Stonehenge could have evolved from an earlier Welsh stone circle – The Telegraph
Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed – what you need to know – Salisbury Journal
Guided Tours of Stonehenge with megalitic experts – Stonehenge Guided Tours
Dramatic discovery links Stonehenge to its original site – in Wales – The Guardian

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Archaeologists unearth Bronze Age artefacts and Neolithic graves at proposed Stonehenge tunnel site.

7 02 2021

All kinds of ancient artefacts have been found at the A303 site. Recent excavation has uncovered late Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts and human remains

The Guardian reports that archaeologists have examined some 1,800 test pits and more than 400 trial trenches along the path of the proposed controversial two-mile A303 tunnel at Stonehenge. The A303 road, which currently runs close to Stonehenge, will in future enter a 3km long dual-carriageway tunnel that passes through part of the ancient site, removing any vehicles from the view of visitors.

Archaeologists unearth bronze age graves at Stonehenge tunnel site

A Neolithic burial site, a mysterious Bronze Age C-shaped enclosure and ancient tools and pottery have been found by archaeologists carrying out work at the proposed new road tunnel at Stonehenge.

Wessex Archaeology’s investigations uncovered evidence of human activity dating back more than 7,000 years at the planned A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Scheme sites.

Archaeologists have put in a huge amount of work into preliminary investigations, including more than 462 hectares of geophysical survey and 440 evaluation trenches.

One of the two Beaker-period burials found near the site of the proposed Stonehenge road tunnel. (Image: Wessex Archaeology)

One of the most fascinating discoveries is a small shale object – found in the grave of a female in her 20s or early 30s.

The burial dates to the Beaker period, around 4,500 years ago, when new types of pottery and other objects appear in Britain. This period also saw the building of some of the bluestone circles at Stonehenge.

“It’s a unique object: we have never seen one before,” says Dr Matt Leivers, A303 consultant archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology.

“Although not hugely significant, we can only speculate about what it was – it may have been a ceremonial cup purposefully damaged before it was laid in the grave, or it may be the cap off the end of a staff or club.”

Nearby pits from the same period were found to contain other traces of human activity, including fragments of pottery, worked flint for tools, and animal bones.

Archaeologists also discovered tiny ear bones from a young infant in one of the pits, buried alongside a plain Beaker.

Elsewhere, a C-shaped enclosure dating to the late Bronze Age is thought to have been an area for industrial working, due to the density of burned flint contained in the soil around it.

The investigations have informed the main archaeological fieldwork, due to begin on site in late spring this year. The main phase of fieldwork will involve around 100-150 archaeologists and last approximately 18 months ahead of construction starting on site in 2023.

Andy Crockett, A303 Project Director at Wessex Archaeology says:

“We’ve done a huge amount of initial work which has been extremely thorough – more so than any site I’ve worked on in my 40-year career – reflecting the sensitivity of this site. We now have a very clear idea of what we expect to find in the upcoming main fieldworks. Everything we find will be processed, conserved and analysed by the specialists in our Research department. We’ll also be drawing on the expertise of our partners in the archaeological sector, so that we make sure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for the archaeology.”

Ultimately, all finds will be delivered to Salisbury Museum to be displayed to the public.

David Bullock, A303 Project Manager, Highways England, says:

“It is a scheme objective to conserve and enhance the World Heritage Site and this is being achieved through close collaborative working with heritage groups, the independent A303 Scientific Committee, and our archaeology contractors Wessex Archaeology, who have an extensive track record of work in connection with the Stonehenge landscape.

“The route itself has been designed to ensure there are no direct impacts on scheduled monuments and the amount of archaeological survey and mitigation work is unprecedented because, in recognition of the significance of the WHS, the surveys are over and above what would have usually been done at this stage of a highway project.

“As part of the extensive archaeological surveys to date, we have uncovered some interesting but not unexpected finds, and we are now preparing plans with Wessex to start further archaeological excavation work later this year. This will be monitored on site by Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, and members of the independent A303 Scientific Committee and A303 Heritage Monitoring and Advisory Group.”

Stonehenge References:
Archaeologists unearth bronze age graves at Stonehenge tunnel site – The Guardian
A303 Stonehenge evaluation works uncover glimpses of prehistoric life – Wessex Archaeology
Archaeologists unearth Neolithic graves at Stonehenge tunnel site – Somerset Live
Bronze Age graves and Neolithic pottery discovered near proposed new road tunnel could shed light on makers of the stone circle – The Daily Mail
Discoveries at Stonehenge highlight controversial new tunnel’s threat to heritage – The Art Newspaper
Stonehenge tunnel discovery: Ancient civilisation evidence found under A303 – The Express
Bronze Age Graves Uncovered At Stonehenge During Tunnel Excavations – Ancient Origins
Stonehenge Archaeology Guided Tours – Stonehenge Tour Company
Lost Bronze Age graves discovered at Stonehenge tunnel site after 4,000 years – The Sun
Scrap Stonehenge road tunnel plans, say archaeologists after neolithic discovery – The Guardian
Stonehenge Walking Tours – Stonehenge Guided Tours

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