Stone Circle (“Special”) Access

20 08 2017

Before 1978 you were free to walk around inside the stone circle at Stonehenge once you’d paid your admission fee. The lack of any guards overnight meant people also hopped the fence once the site had closed.

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Stonehenge at dawn.  A special access ‘inner circle’ visit at sunrise.

Finally, in response to the over 800,000 annual visitors, access was restricted. An article entitled “Heritage Under Siege” in New Scientist (Sept 27th, 1979) reports the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings as saying:

“The whole problem of Stonehenge is numbers … all through the year. What menaces Stonehenge are the millions of feet (and hands) of the ordinary visitors.”

… and continues:

“An archaeologist calculated that if each visitor walked around the central area just twice during his or her visit, the effect would be the same as having one man standing on each square foot inside the ring and jumping up and down on that spot 62 times every day throughout the year.”

After March 1978, everyone was banned from inside the circle – including archaeologists and other researchers, much to their annoyance. Department of the Environment officials said that the plans to allow out-of-hours access to “those with a special interest” had to be abandoned because the custodians were unwilling to work overtime. And so it remained for a long time.

Eventually things changed and these days it’s possible to book to go inside the stone circle on what is called a “Stone Circle Access” or “Special Access” visit. These are one-hour long slots before and after the monument is open to the public during the day, and a maximum of 30 people are allowed inside at a time.

You can book as an individual, or via a tour company who may (or may not) provide a well-informed guide to show you some of the hidden features that you might otherwise miss.

Once inside, if the light’s right you can pick out some of the hundreds of examples of wrencarved initials and names on the stones. One of them might even be that of Christopher Wren – a local lad who made good and went on to design the new St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

One thing that a lot of people fail to notice is the sound of the place – there’s a definite sense of entering into an enclosed, peaceful space a soon as you come in through the primary entrance beneath the central lintel of the three on the northeast side of the circle.

It’s only when you’re up really close to the monument that the epic scale of the stones really strikes you – the tallest one is over 7m from grass to top, and there’s a further 2.5m in the ground. Weighing in at over 40 tons it’s a beautifully shaped monolith that was part of the tallest trilithon on the site. Sadly its partner upright fell and broke long ago, leaving the lintel they both supported lying on its side in the southwest part of the central area.

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The bluestones, though much smaller than the sarsens, are still impressive rocks – the tallest one stands leaning in front of the highest sarsen stone and has a wide groove worked all the way down one edge. No-one knows why.

There are a few rules – no standing on the stones, no touching them, no smoking – but apart from that you’re free to wander around and properly appreciate both the enormity of the large sarsen blocks, the elegance of the bluestone pillars and the ingenuity of the builders who created the monument over 4,500 years ago.

If you have the chance, by far the best way to see Stonehenge is through a Stone Circle Access visit.  
Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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‘Incredible’ Neolithic burial mound near Stonehenge to be excavated: Open Day 15th July 2017

13 07 2017

A Neolithic burial mound near Stonehenge could contain human remains more than 5,000 years old, experts say.

The monument in a place known as Cat’s Brain in Pewsey Vale, halfway between Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire, was identified in aerial photographs.

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The site in a farmer’s field was identified in aerial photographs

Archaeologists and students from the University of Reading are due to excavate the site.

It is the first time such an archaeological site in the county has been excavated for 50 years.

The site is made up of two ditches and an apparent central building, which may have been covered by a mound, that has now been flattened due to centuries of ploughing.

The site, in the middle of a farmer’s field, was assessed in a geophysical survey. It is believed it could contain human remains buried there in about 3,600 BC.

‘Incredible discovery’

Dr Jim Leary, director of the university’s archaeology field school, said: “Opportunities to fully investigate long barrows are virtually unknown in recent times and this represents a fantastic chance to carefully excavate one using the very latest techniques and technology.

“Discovering the buried remains of what could be the ancestors of those who built Stonehenge would be the cherry on the cake of an amazing project.”

Dr Leary’s co-director, Amanda Clarke, said: “This incredible discovery of one of the UK’s first monuments offers a rare glimpse into this important period in history.

“We are setting foot inside a significant building that has lain forgotten and hidden for thousands of years.”

Members of the public will be able to visit the site to see the archaeologists at work during an open day on Saturday.  Note: Reading University Field School Open Day, Saturday 15th July 2017

Nearest Town: Pewsey
Map Ref: SU1185057889
Latitude: 51.319986N  Longitude: 1.831342W

Source: BBC

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Drowning in the swamp of bad TV: Unearthed at Stonehenge

10 07 2017

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Skeletons of StonehengeThe Science Channel posted a link to a film clip a couple of days ago, to promote a new film, apparently called Skeletons of Stonehenge. The piece is headed, “Clues found in ancient skeletons buried at Stonehenge reveal a series of murders.” (Hint as to where this is going: the bone above is not from Stonehenge.)

Many readers of this blog will already smell something wrong. We have only two skeletons from Stonehenge. Both men (as they were) died violently, so we might very broadly say they were murdered. But they died 3,000 years apart. Two deaths separated by three millennia suggests a very strange serial killer.

The programme is in a strand called Unearthed. The clip is three minutes long. It’s worth quoting the narrative at length.

“The body of a man dumped in a shallow grave in the middle of Stonehenge

“Could this man’s bones reveal a sinister…

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Stonehenge and other stone monuments were probably used for special moonlit ceremonies.

10 07 2017

In a new study, archeologists have proposed the claim that Stonehenge and other ancient stone monuments were probably used for special moonlit ceremonies which would have taken place deep in the night. These Neolithic structures have always been thought to have been used primarily in the daytime, as the rocks at various stone monuments are meant to align with the sun, one example of which would be Stonehenge lining up in perfect fashion for the yearly Summer Solstice. (Inquisitr)

 

  • An analysis of Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall revealed multiple carvings visible in moonlight or low sunlight – suggesting the stone was viewed at night
  • Archaeologists Dr Andy Jones of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit and Thomas Goskar found a total of 105 engravings on the axe-shaped stone
  • Dr Jones believes many more markings would be found at sites across the country if the monuments were looked at in a different light

 

However, fresh evidence now shows that Stonehenge and other ancient stone

Full Moon Stonehenge

Druids celebrating the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge.

monuments were also very likely to have been used at night for moonlit ceremonies. Dr. Andy Jones, who has been studying the Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall, has found that at this particular site, you can see at least 10 times as many markings on the engraved panel when viewed directly under the moonlight.

Archaeologists have also discovered that at some point, people smashed up many pieces of quartz around the area which would have glowed in the dark and created a very unique effect at night. Dr. Andy Jones has been working in conjunction with the Cornwall Archaeological Unit and believes that this phenomenon is probably not limited to the Hendraburnick Quoit, but can also be found at other ancient stone monuments such as Stonehenge, as The Telegraph reported.

“I think the new marks show that this site was used at night and it is likely that other megalithic sites were as well.”

After noticing some very specific markings on the stones that had never been seen before, Dr. Jones explained that the archaeological team then went out at night to photograph the ancient stone monument and discovered even more art which was only truly visible at night and beneath the moon.

“We were aware there were some cup and ring marks on the rocks but we were there on a sunny afternoon and noticed it was casting shadows on others which nobody had seen before. When we went out to some imaging at night, when the camera flashed we suddenly saw more and more art, which suggested that it was meant to be seen at night and in the moonlight.”

With the ancient quartz that is smashed all around the site, this would have created an eerily surreal atmosphere at night next to these ancient Neolithic stone monuments and would have lent magic to whatever nighttime ceremonies were performed at these locations. It is known that Stonehenge also has unusual markings which can only be seen at night, and archaeologists believe that many other stone monuments do as well.

“Then when you think about the quartz smashed around, which would have caused flashes and luminescence, suddenly you see that these images would have emerged out of the dark. Stonehenge does have markings, and I think that many more would be found at sites across the country if people were to look at them in different light.”

At the Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall, there had originally been 13 markings detected on the stone, but Dr. Andy Jones and his colleague Thomas Goskar discovered that there were actually 105 markings here when viewed under different light. Archaeologists now believe that it is extremely likely that nighttime ceremonies were conducted at ancient stone sites like this as the night was associated with the supernatural. Individuals involved in these ceremonies may have smashed the stones to release very special luminescent properties from them, which would explain the many pieces of quartz that have been found at ancient stone monuments like this.

“After the ritual, the broken pieces, once they had fallen on the ground, could have effectively formed a wider platform or arc which would have continued to glisten around it in the moonlight, and thereby added to the aura of the site.”

While Stonehenge and other ancient stone monuments are usually only studied by day, archaeologists will now be trying to discover what may have taken place during these special ceremonies that would have been conducted at night by way of moonlight.

Source: Inquistir

Related Stonehenge Links:

Cornish stone monuments have carvings that are only visible in moonlight, investigation reveals Daily Mail
Astro Moon Calendar shows phases of the Moon each day, astronomical events and astrological forecast for the year.
Stonehenge and Ancient Astronomy. Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site
Stonehenge Full Moon Guided Walking Tours.  Explore the landscape with a local historian and astronomer.

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Take a Guided Tour of Marden Henge Excavations and Wiltshire Museum: July 2017

7 07 2017

Marden Henge is the third ‘super-henge’ in Wiltshire, alongside Stonehenge and Avebury. In July 2017 there is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about prehistory and these enigmatic henges before a visit to see the site being excavated by archaeologists from the University of Reading.

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TOURS ON SATURDAY 8th JULY, TUESDAY 18th JULY & THURSDAY 20th JULY 2017
£30 (£20 WANHS members) – booking essential

A specialist Archaeology tour which starts by exploring the award-winning galleries of the Wiltshire Museum. The Museum will also have a special exhibition about the excavations at Marden Henge featuring some of the finds from previous seasons.

After lunch there will be a guided tour of the excavations (student guides) – with a chance to see archaeologists in action and to find out about the latest discoveries.

Tour Itinerary:

10.30 – Visit Wiltshire Museum, tea/coffee served on arrival. Museum specialist tour.
12pm – Lunch at the Museum
1.30pm – Depart for the archaeological site at Marden Henge (own transport/car share – if you have any questions please contact us)

Booking:

Book your place for “Excavating a Neolithic Henge” using our Yapsody event booking service.

Stonehenge Guided Tours also offer weekly Stonehenge and Avebury archaeology Tours, and as a result offer an excellent up-to-date specialist service; giving you the opportunity to learn in great detail about these amazing prehistoric sites, but also leaving you time to explore your surroundings by yourself.

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SQUARING THE CIRCLE: Archaeological detectives discover ‘secret square’ beneath world-famous Avebury stone circle

29 06 2017

FragmeNTs

New archaeological surveys reveal unique square megalithic monument at the heart of the World Heritage Site.

Archaeologists have found a striking and apparently unique square monument beneath the world famous Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

A research team led by the University of Leicester and University of Southampton used a combination of soil resistance survey and Ground-Penetrating Radar to investigate the stone circle.

Their work was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and supported by the National Trust, as well as archaeologists from the University of Cambridge and Allen Environmental Archaeology.

Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in…

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What would Trump do with Stonehenge?

28 06 2017

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

This is not a polemic, but a long reflection on Stonehenge, archaeology, conservation and the modern world. So as not to interrupt the read, I have put no links in the text. There are some at the end.

A303 at Stonehenge (c) Mike Pitts

In 2014 the president of the United States visited Britain’s most famous ancient monument. Barack Obama was on his way home after a trip to Estonia and a NATO summit in Wales. What better chance to see Stonehenge, he said afterwards, and tick something off his bucket list?

The Marine One helicopter flew over the stones and landed at a nearby military base in rural Wiltshire. A long motorcade of great black vehicles drove Obama to the site – using a backroad to avoid the traffic – and with only a few hours’ notice, English Heritage curator Heather Sebire showed him round. “The visit was his idea,” she told me. “It was…

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