The lost sounds of Stonehenge. Hidden sounds of prehistoric site revealed on new app

6 01 2017

There are many questions surrounding the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge but might sound help in the search for answers?

Virtual reality allows new ways to examine Stonehenge's history

Virtual reality allows new ways to examine Stonehenge’s history

Thomas Hardy said it had a strange “musical hum”. Tess of the d’Urvbervilles ends at Stonehenge and features the “sound”. Modern-day druids also say they experience something special when they gather at Stonehenge and play instruments within the stone circle.


 

However, Stonehenge is a ruin. Whatever sound it originally had 3,000 years ago has been lost but now, using technology created for video games and architects, Dr Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield has – with the help of some ancient instruments – created a virtual sound tour of Stonehenge as it would have sounded with all the stones in place.

Arriving at 07:00 on a decidedly chilly January morning, I was sceptical. Dr Till had arrived with a horn, a drum and some sticks to try to show me that, even in its partially deconstructed state, there was still a distinctive echo.

Perhaps it’s the mystique of the stones but it’s easy to hear something. However, sound is always going to bounce off huge standing stones: how can we say that was in any way meaningful for people 3,000 years ago?

Dr Till says there’s a great deal of evidence that ancient people were intrigued and drawn to places that had a distinctive sound and Stonehenge had a “strange acoustic”. Even today, the wind or drumming can, he says, help generate a 47hz bass note.

He first got a taste of what the circle might do to sound when he visited a concrete replica of the original intact Stonehenge in Maryhill in the US state of Washington.

He has now developed an app which will help people blot out the sounds – including those made by tourists, and cars on the nearby A303 – and go back to the soundscape of 3,000 years ago.

He’s used instruments that were used at the time, such as bone flutes and animal horns, to give people a sense of what music would have sounded like within the reverberation of the intact stone circle and says the site has some of the characteristics you might expect of a rock concert venue.

Dr Till explains that there’s there’s strong evidence that people several thousand years ago had an interest in acoustic environments. He’s worked on caves in Spain in which instruments have been found deep underground.

The echoes of the tunnels and cave systems may have had a special meaning for people. There are also, what appears to be, human markings on certain “musical” stalactites. Strike the stalactites in the right way and they give off a deep resonant note and can be played like a huge vertical xylophone.

Stonehenge is a magnet for strange theories but this reflects a wider movement within archaeology to try to recreate the past with the rapidly growing technology of virtual reality (VR). Dr Aaron Watson is a research archaeologist and specialises in visualising the past.

VR, he says, opens up a new way of researching history.

“The material record can’t give us all the answers,” he explains.

“The moment we start creating a virtual reality world it begins to ask questions, especially about people. What were they wearing, what were their postures, were they highly coloured, tattooed? As soon as we create the immersive experience it demands those answers.

“It gives a new sensory experience to looking at the past that might take us beyond what we describe in books.”

By David Sillito BBC NEWS

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Stonehenge – Eclipse Predictor?

4 01 2017

Astronomer Prof. Gerald Hawkins wrote two articles for “Nature” in 1963 and 1964 in which he pointed out several new Stonehenge alignments to the Sun and Moon and proposed that the 56 Aubrey Holes could be used to predict eclipses. His subsequent popular book “Stonehenge Decoded” gave the world the idea that the monument was a Neolithic computer.

stonehenge-decoded-and-gh

Archaeologists were horrified at the thought and the leading authority on Stonehenge at the time, one Richard Atkinson, wrote a rebuttal paper in 1966 called “Moonshine on Stonehenge” which heavily criticised Hawkins conclusions. Atkinson considered the builders of Stonehenge to be “howling barbarians” – a statement he later came to regret.

on-stonehenge-and-fhProf. Fred Hoyle followed up Hawkins’ work on the eclipse predictor idea and came up with a relatively simple recipe for moving markers around the 56 Aubrey Holes to keep track of the Sun, Moon and the two points in the sky where their paths cross (the “nodes”). He published this work in two journal articles in 1966 and then in his 1977 popular book “On Stonehenge”.

 

So how does this eclipse predictor theory work and is it possible that the Aubrey Holes were in fact used like this? We’re going to have to get slightly technical, but it’s not too hard to follow.

Hoyle said that you need a marker for the Sun, one for the Moon and two more for the “nodes”, and that these markers are moved around the 56 holes of the Aubrey Hole circle in a particular way.

The Moon goes around the Earth once in about 27.3 days (the “sidereal month”) so if you move your Moon marker two Aubrey Holes per day it’ll go once round the circle in 28 days.

The Sun goes around the entire sky once in about 365.25 days (the “tropical year”), so if you move your Sun marker two holes every 13 days it’ll go once round the circle in 364 days.

The points where the paths of the Sun and Moon appear to cross (the “nodes”) also gradually move around the sky, taking 18.61 years to make one revolution. This period is called “the regression of the lunar nodes” and occurs because the Moon’s orbital ellipse actually rotates slowly around the Earth.

The Moon’s orbit is also tilted by about 5° to the path of the Sun in the sky, which is why we don’t get eclipses every New and Full Moon – we only get eclipses when both the Sun and Moon are at or very near the “nodes”.

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The node markers are always kept opposite each other – there’s the “ascending node” and the “descending node” – one for each of the two crossing points on opposite sides of the sky.

To keep track of the nodes, you move their markers 3 holes each year – in the other direction to the movement of the Sun and Moon markers. This means the node markers go backwards round the circle once in 18.66 years.

To summarise:

Arbitrary Position and Explanation.png

Now, 28 isn’t 27.3, 364 isn’t 365.25 and 18.66 isn’t 18.61 but the inaccuracies can be corrected.

Every month you can fix the Moon marker by making sure it’s in the Aubrey Hole directly opposite the Sun at Full Moon.

Twice a year, at the solstices, you can make sure that the Sun marker is in the Aubrey Hole closest to Stonehenge’s main axis – either the Aubrey Hole towards the Heel Stone at summer solstice or the one directly opposite it across the circle at winter solstice. The error between 18.66 and 18.61 is actually small enough not to matter.

Suppose you see a lunar eclipse one night, this allows you to set up the markers in the first place. The Sun and Moon markers are placed directly opposite each other (because lunar eclipses are only possible at Full Moon) and the node markers are placed one each in the same holes as the Sun and Moon markers.

Now you follow the recipe for moving the markers, day by day.

If you ever end up with the Sun and Moon markers in the same hole together, and they’re in the same hole as (or in the hole next to) a node marker then this predicts a solar eclipse. Sun and Moon markers in the same hole means New Moon, and solar eclipses are only possible then.

The following animation shows how this works, starting with the solar eclipse of March 20th 2015 and predicting the subsequent lunar eclipse of 4th April 2015.

ah-animation

If all this seems very unlikely and complicated to manage, then you may be right. Hawkins’ and Hoyle’s theories simply show how a 56 hole machine with four markers could be used to track the things that allow you to know when to expect an eclipse to occur.

One of Atkinson’s objections was that if 56 was a useful number for eclipse prediction in the ancient world then it’d be found all over the place – not just at Stonehenge. What’s more, up until the 1960s the number 56 wasn’t associated with eclipse cycles by astronomers.

Curiously, it was discovered later that perhaps the ancients did link 56 with eclipses. There is a passage in Plutarch’s “Of Isis and Osiris”, dating to the 2nd Century AD, which says:

“The Pythagoreans also clearly believe Typhon to be a daemonic power… the 56-sided polygon is said to belong to Typhon, as Eudoxus [Greek astronomer c.370 BC] has reported…

There are some who give the name Typhon to the shadow of the earth, into which they believe the moon falls and so suffers eclipse…”

The argument continues even 50 years on – the builders of Stonehenge clearly weren’t “howling barbarians” and the builders of that monument and others definitely paid attention to the sky and how things moved around it.

Humans have been curious for as long as we’ve been humans and the earliest artifact that has a record of the phases of the Moon on it is a carved bone from the central European Aurignacian culture which is about 32,000 years old (https://sservi.nasa.gov/articles/oldest-lunar-calendars/)

Perhaps we’re still underestimating our ancestors’ abilities, despite the evidence they’ve left behind.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

May 26th 2017: Amesbury History Centre is proud to bring to you a talk by Archaeoastronomer Simon Banton on the Astronomy of Stonehenge, on the 26th May 2017, 8pm.  Click here to view this event

If you want to here more about Stonehenge and the astronomical calendar you could join a Stonehenge walking tour with a local Archaeoastronomer who offers amongst guided walks, talks and even full moon tours.
Stonehenge guided tours are considered the leading Stonehenge experts and offer a range of guided tours, many taking you into the inner circle at sunrise or sunset. Private Stonehenge tours with a Stonehenge expert and astronomer can easily be arranged.

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2017 Stonehenge Opening Hours, Entry Prices and Tickets.

2 01 2017

Stonehenge Opening Times and Entrance Prices.
English Heritage advise to expect a visit to last around two hours. Please see the table below for opening times for 2017/18, with some seasonal variability, and entrance prices for adults, children, families, seniors and groups.

visitor-centre2

The Stonehenge Exhibition and Visitor Centre

There is 10% discount for groups of 11 or more visitors paying together plus a free place for every additional 20 paying passengers. Free entry for coach driver and tour leader.

If you come by car you will park in the car park outside the visitor centre. It is free for people purchasing tickets to enter Stonehenge, there is a charge if you are not. Tour buses have their own separate coach park.

All Members of English Heritage or National Trust must show a valid membership card on arrival to be granted free parking and site access.

To enter the Stonehenge Exhibition at the Visitor Centre you need a full ticket to Stonehenge, anyone can access the café, gift shop and toilets though, for free.

Very Important!  Book Your Stonehenge Tickets in Advance 
To be assured of entering Stonehenge the best way is to reserve timed tickets in advance on the English Heritage web site

Tickets to Stonehenge are booked by half hour time slot, the website showing you how many tickets are still available for your chosen date and time.

Note: you cannot reserve tickets on-line on the day of your visit, you must reserve before midnight latest on the day before. Only a very small number of tickets are held back each day for walk-up visitors.

Note: the last admission time is two hours before closing time of Stonehenge. Closing times are variable according to month of the year (see below)

Stonehenge Admission & Opening From 1st January 2017 – October 2017

Admission

Opening Times

Adult

£15.50

16 Mar – 31 May

09.30 – 19:00

Child (5-15)

£9.30

1 Jun – 31 Aug

09.00 – 20:00

Students/Seniors *

£13.90

1 Sep – 15 Oct

09.30 – 19:00

Family Ticket †

£40.30

16 Oct – 15 Mar

09.30 – 17:00

Last entry 2 hours before closing
Members of the National Trust & English Heritage enter free
Prices are valid until 31st March 2017* 16-18 yr olds + seniors 60+

† 2 Adults and 3 Children

~ Closed 24th to 26th December

2017 STONEHENGE OPENING TIMES

1st JANUARY 2017– 31st MARCH 2017

Monday 9:30 – 17:00
Tuesday 9:30 – 17:00
Wednesday 9:30 – 17:00
Thursday 9:30 – 17:00
Friday 9:30 – 17:00
Saturday 9:30 – 17:00
Sunday 9:30 – 17:00

1st APRIL 2017 – 31st MAY 2017

Monday 9:30 – 19:00
Tuesday 9:30 – 19:00
Wednesday 9:30 – 19:00
Thursday 9:30 – 19:00
Friday 9:30 – 19:00
Saturday 9:30 – 19:00
Sunday 9:30 – 19:00

1st JUNE 2017 – 31st AUGUST 2017

Monday 9:00 – 20:00
Tuesday 9:00 – 20:00
Wednesday 9:00 – 20:00
Thursday 9:00 – 20:00
Friday 9:00 – 20:00
Saturday 9:00 – 20:00
Sunday 9:00 – 20:00

1st OCTOBER 2017 – 15th OCTOBER 2017

Monday 9:30 – 19:00
Tuesday 9:30 – 19:00
Wednesday 9:30 – 19:00
Thursday 9:30 – 19:00
Friday 9:30 – 19:00
Saturday 9:30 – 19:00
Sunday 9:30 – 19:00

16th OCTOBER 2017 ONWARDS
Opening times will be available nearer the time

For more information please visit the official English Heritage website

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Thousands gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice

22 12 2016

Thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice.

solstice2016

Stonehenge was built over 5,000 thousands years ago and remains a place of spiritual significance for many. Credit: PA

Druids and pagans were among the crowd that watched the sun come up at 8.13am on the shortest day of the year.

People, some dressed in traditional pagan clothing, danced, played musical instruments and kissed the ancient stones.

One South African woman said she had made the trip to the UK “especially for the solstice”.

She said: “I am a Pagan, a witch and this is about the best place to be.”

Kate Davies from English Heritage, who manage the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, said: “We were delighted to welcome approximately 5,000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning.

It was a very enjoyable and peaceful celebration and the ancient stone circle was filled with the sound of drumming and chanting.”

There will be just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds of daylight on 21 December, almost nine hours less than the year’s longest day in June.

Stonehenge was built over 5,000 thousands years ago and remains a place of spiritual significance for many people.

Crowds gather at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the shortest and longest days of the year as the stones are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice.

Some experts believe the winter solstice was more important to our ancient ancestors than the summer solstice as the longest night marked a turning of the year as the days begin to grow longer.

Article source: ITV NEWS

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A Happy Winter Solstice to you all. Time to celebrate! It’s the shortest day of the year!

20 12 2016

Stonehenge News and Information

happy-winter-solsticeThe Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into…

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A Happy Winter Solstice to you all. Time to celebrate! It’s the shortest day of the year!

20 12 2016

happy-winter-solstice

The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

Stonehenge is an ancient pre-historic site. It has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of the Winter Solstice since time immemorial. Respect the Stones and each other!

Time to celebrate! It’s the shortest day of the year!

happy-solstoce-3

Image courtesy of Astrocal Calendars 

SOLSTICE LINKS:
Stonehenge Winter Solstice Cards: Astrocal and Solstice Calendars
Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access Arrangements
Please visit the official English Heritage website for full details and respect the terms of entry.

Please respect the Stones and each other! 

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Why Thousands Of Pagans Gather At Stonehenge For The Winter Solstice

17 12 2016

The prehistoric site holds spiritual significance for many Pagans and Druids.

While some are buying presents and trimming their tree for Christmas, a very different kind of spiritual celebration gets underway every year at Stonehenge. It’s the winter solstice, also known as Yule in some Pagan circles, and the occasion draws thousands of Pagans, Druids, spiritual seekers and tourists to the prehistoric site for a reverent and ecstatic ceremony.

solstice-inner

The sun peeks through clouds during a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near on December, 2015. MATT CARDY VIA GETTY IMAGES

The December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it falls on Wednesday, December 21 at 5:44 EST.

In ancient Pagan traditions, the winter solstice was a time to honor the cycles of life and death and celebrate the sun’s rebirth as the days would slowly begin to lengthen in the months leading into spring. Many modern practitioners of Pagan and earth-centered spiritual traditions observe the holiday, and at Stonehenge, the celebration is particularly special.

Stonehenge, which celebrates its 30th year as a World Heritage site this year, is believed to be roughly 4,500 years old. Its significance as a link to British prehistory has drawn countless visitors over the years who come to gaze upon what’s considered to be the most architecturally advanced, prehistoric stone circle on the globe.

Apart from its architectural significance, Stonehenge holds a place of sacred importance to many. Much of its history is still shrouded in mystery, though one thing that’s sure is that it was built upon a landscape that had long been used for religious purposes. The stones that make up the massive circle are thought to have been collected from distant places, some as far as 150 miles away, and brought to this particular location. They were then erected using sophisticated, interlocking joints ― but how exactly the builders accomplished these feats is unclear.

It’s also unclear what exact purpose the site served to those who built it. English Heritage, a UK-based charity, notes that speculations on Stonehenge’s original function include “a coronation place for Danish kings, a Druid temple, an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events, a place where ancestors were worshipped or a cult centre for healing.”

rolo-solstice

Rollo Maughfling, Archdruid of Stonehenge & Britain, conducts a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge on December 22, 2015 in Wiltshire, England. MATT CARDY VIA GETTY IMAGES

Whatever its intended purpose, Stonehenge remains a place of wonder for thousands who visit the awe-inspiring structure every year. And its significance is especially potent at the winter solstice.

“One of the most important and well-known features of Stonehenge is its alignment on the midwinter sunset-midsummer sunrise solstitial axis,” a spokesman for England Heritage told BBC. “The midwinter sun sets between the two upright stones of the great trilithon.”

In other words, on the two annual solstices ― summer and winter ― the sun respectively rises and sets in perfect alignment with the site’s massive stones.

To witness the astronomical event, visitors typically arrive early in the morning on the day of the solstice to watch the sunrise and stay through to the sunset. Local Druids host a ceremony during the day, as revelers and tourists alike bask in Stonehenge’s ancient atmosphere.

“What we’re really here for is to celebrate the fact that the cycle of the world turns, and from now on the days get longer and it’s the return of the sun,” Druid leader and activist King Arthur Pendragon told BBC at the Stonehenge winter solstice celebration in 2014. “It’s a time of change and hope is renewed ― the same message really from a pagan perspective as from a Christian perspective. That’s what this season is all about ― a message of hope.”

Article source: Antonia Blumberg  Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access Arrangements

Please visit the official English Heritage website for full details.

Solstice Events are offering their usual  Stonehenge Winter Solstice guided tour from London and Bath.

 

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