Dorset history experts turn Stone Age home-makers.

14 05 2013

A team of Dorset archaeologists have been brought in to help with the £27 million project to transform the visitor experience at Stonehenge.

Stone age homes construction smallStaff from Dorset County Council’s Ancient Technology Centre (ATC), at Cranborne, have been commissioned by English Heritage to test build three Neolithic houses and help discover how Stone Age man fashioned his homes.

Working at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury, the ATC team (with the help of English Heritage volunteers) is constructing the houses using the same tools and locally sourced materials as their Stone Age counterparts.

The final constructions will go on permanent display at the new Stonehenge visitor centre early next year.

Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said:

“The reconstructed houses will be an immediate and sensory link to the distant past and will bring visitors as close as they can to appreciate what life was like for the extraordinary individuals who built Stonehenge.”

An excavation at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge revealed evidence of the houses believed to be seasonal homes of the people who built the ancient monument 4500 years ago, uncovering floors and stakeholes where the walls once stood. But above ground, the appearance of the structures is unknown. One of the aims of the project is to test different materials and structures to see which ones work best.

The Ancient Technology Centre (part of Dorset County Council’s Outdoor Education Service)  is an educational facility which provides a unique blend of hands-on ancient skills and crafts activities, long-term construction projects and an opportunity for children of all ages to experience the realities of past life.

The staff’s extensive expertise and experience made them ideal candidates for the Stonehenge project. The team have gathered materials for the huts from Garston Woods in Sixpenny Handley and the Cranborne Estate, and are using traditional Stone Age flint axes and tools to carry out the work.

ATC manager Luke Winter, who is leading the project and guiding the volunteers said:

“The evidence from Durrington Walls brought to light the remains of several types of building. We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground. We’re testing lots of different thatching and walling methods, and new questions about how the Neolithic people lived are appearing every day.”

The experimental Neolithic houses at Old Sarum are open to the public, with a chance to ask questions and view demonstrations, from Saturday, 25 May to Monday 27 May, between 11am and 5pm. For more information please call English Heritage Customer Service on 0800 333 1183.

You can keep up to date with this project via the Ancient Technology Centre  webpage.

For more information, please contact: Dorset County Council

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge occupied 5,000 years earlier than previously thought

19 04 2013

Stonehenge may have been occupied five thousand years earlier than previously thought, archaeologists claim.

The people occupying the site would likely have been responsible for erecting the first monument at Stonehenge, the Mesolithic posts, between the 9th and 7th millennia BC.  Photo: REX

The people occupying the site would likely have been responsible for erecting the first monument at Stonehenge, the Mesolithic posts, between the 9th and 7th millennia BC. Photo: REX

Excavation of a site just a mile from the stone structure provided what researchers claim is the first firm evidence of continuous occupation from as early as 7,500BC.

Earlier evidence had suggested that humans were present at the site, known as Vespasian’s Camp, around 7,500BC but there were no signs anyone had lived there until as late as 2,500BC.

By carbon-dating materials found at the site, the archaeologists identified a semi-permanent settlement which was occupied from 7,500 to 4,700BC, with evidence that people were present during every millennium in between.

The people occupying the site would likely have been responsible for erecting the first monument at Stonehenge, the Mesolithic posts, between the 9th and 7th millennia BC.

Instead of being seen as a site which was abandoned by Mesolithic humans and occupied by Neolithic men thousands of years later, Stonehenge should be recognised as a place where one culture merged with the other, researchers said.

Dr David Jacques of the Open University, who led the study, said he identified the settlement after deciding to search for evidence around a spring on the site, which he reasoned could have attracted animals.

“My thinking was where you find wild animals, you tend to find people,” he said. “What we found was the nearest secure watering hole for animals and people, a type of all year round fresh water source. It’s the nearest one to this place [Stonehenge]. I think it’s pivotal.”

Dr Josh Pollard of the Stonehenge Riverside Project added: “The team have found the community who put the first monument up at Stonehenge.

“The significance of David’s work lies in finding substantial evidence of Mesolithic settlement in the Stonehenge landscape [which was] previously largely lacking, apart from the enigmatic posts, and being able to demonstrate that there were repeated visits to this area from the 9th to the 5th millennia BC.”

Source: , Science Correspondent – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

The findings will be broadcast in an episode of The Flying Archaeologist on BBC One on Friday evening.

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

 

 





Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons

8 03 2013

Ancient bodies lie buried beneath Stonehenge, but what can they tell us about Britain’s greatest prehistoric monument? One man has found vital clues to this ancient puzzle

c4-stonehengeStonehenge is Britain’s greatest prehistoric monument and, for many centuries, has also provided perhaps our greatest prehistoric mystery.

One man believes he has found the vital clues to solve this puzzle, and this programme follows him through a series of discoveries that rewrite the story of Stonehenge.

Buried beneath the stones are ancient bodies, and a research team led by world-renowned archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson has been granted special permission to analyse them for the first time.

The results of that investigation overturn the accepted view on when Stonehenge was built and what it was built for, providing compelling evidence that it once united the people of Britain.

The programme proves that the monument we know today was not the original Stonehenge and answers the mystery of its sudden decline.

When? Next on Channel 4 Sun 10th March , 8PM

Watch a clip here

Link: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/secrets-of-the-stonehenge-skeletons

Links: http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/techfacils/secrets-of-the-stonehenge-skeletons/5052681.article?blocktitle=LATEST-FEATURES&contentID=38754

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





OU students’ Stonehenge dig put to the vote for award

19 12 2012

Excavations by Open University students that could point to the origins of Stonehenge, have been nominated for Research Project of the Year by Current Archaeology magazine.

http://www.open.ac.uk/platform/news-and-features/ou-students-stonehenge-dig-put-to-the-vote-for-awardYou can vote for the project, which is called Vespasian’s Camp: Cradle of Stonehenge? on the Current Archaeology website here.

The project is led by OU tutor David Jacques who has recruited more than 100 OU students to work on the site, alongside volunteers from the nearby town of Amesbury, since the dig began in 2005.

The ongoing dig, at a previously unexplored site 1.5 km east of Stonehenge, is uncovering evidence which suggests the area was an important centre for Stone Age hunters several thousand years before the famous stone circle was built.

“Many experts are now wondering if Stonehenge is where it is because of this new site, because radiocarbon dates obtained from it show a continued use of the site from the 8th millennium BC through to the 5th millennium BC,” says David Jacques.

“This is the longest continually used place yet found in the Stonehenge landscape, and it connects the hunter-gatherer Mesolithic period to close to the Neolithic period, when Stonehenge starts to be constructed.

“It must have been a very special place to be used for 3000 years, a point confirmed by Professor Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University, who also described it as ‘the most important discovery at Stonehenge in many years’.”

The excavation team have uncovered the largest cache of Mesolithic tools ever found in the area, together with evidence of gargantuan Stone Age feasts.

They’ve also found weapons and other objects left as offerings to a god or goddess during the much later Bronze or early Iron Age, suggesting the site had a sacred tradition stretching over thousands of years.

The dig has also inspired the local community to create a museum at Amesbury to house the finds.

To find out more see the story here where you can watch a video and follow links to press reports.

Stonehenge News Blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Bluestone mystery is topic of Archaeology Day

17 11 2012

The origins of the Stonehenge bluestones will headline an Archaeology Day today (Saturday).

The day, organised by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, will be held at the Merlin Theatre, in Pembrokeshire College, and will include five talks and question and answer sessions.

Guest lecturer Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of University College London will lead a talk about his research into how bluestones from the Preseli Hills became construction material for Stonehenge 5,000 years ago.

In addition Louise Barker and Toby Driver, of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, will share their discoveries on Skomer Island, while Roger Thomas will delve into the 19th century fortification of Pembrokeshire.

Tickets are £12, and include a light lunch and morning and afternoon coffee.
Visit www.orielyparc.co.uk or call             01437 720392      . To hold a display call             01834 862105      .

Link: http://www.westerntelegraph.co.uk

Blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Lasers at Stonehenge. British Archaelogy

12 10 2012

At last, after all these years, we’ve got the very first comprehensive study of the actual stones at Stonehenge. As part of its research into Stonehenge and its landscape that will feed into displays at the new visitor centre, English Heritage commissioned Greenhatch Group surveyors to produce the first complete, high resolution 3D digital model of Stonehenge and its immediate landscape, using lasers and a bit of photogrammetry. (http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/)

At last, after all these years, we’ve got the very first comprehensive study of the actual stones at Stonehenge

Then Marcus Abbott (ArcHeritage) and Hugo Anderson-Whymark (freelance lithics specialist) analysed the data, created new digital images and news ways of seeing them, added some of their own photos and spent time amongst the real stones.

In one sense the results are not surprising: it was obvious to anyone with eyes that that we could learn a lot about Stonehenge with a proper study of the stones. And yes, we have learnt a lot. But just about all the details are revelatory.

There are four different areas where new things are really going to change the way we think about the monument:

  • how the stones were dressed and what the original monument looked like
  • prehistoric carvings – difficult to see and unknown to visitors: the new discoveries have doubled the number of such carvings known in the whole of Britain
  • damage by tourists: the scale of damage done by souvenir collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries had not been recognised before
  • graffiti: dates range between 1721 and 1866, though most were carved 1800–1850 – and they’re almost everywhere.

And this must be just the beginning. There are more details yet to see (there is still scope for new and higher resolution survey), and new things to think about in the vast data set.

http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/

If you know Stonehenge, from this alone you can see at once how much new information has been revealed. Amongst other things, it seems fair to draw from this (and other new data) that the sarsen circle probably WAS complete; and that the whole thing was designed to be seen from the north-east, approaching up the Avenue – so the implication follows that the setting midwinter sun you’d be facing to the south-west was the key alignment.

British Archaeology also published the pioneering Stonehenge laser study done in 2002.

Please follow Mike Pitts excellent archaelogy Blog: http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/
L
ink: http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba73/index.shtml
L
ink: http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/

 

British Archaeology magazine

 

The Council for British Archaeology’s award-winning bi-monthly magazine is the authoritative, in-depth source of information and comment on what’s new, interesting and important in UK archaeology.
Link: http://new.archaeologyuk.org/british-archaeology-magazine

Blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge – New Evidence for its Solstitial Function and Approach

9 10 2012

Using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, an English Heritage analysis of Stonehenge has found new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators, including that of the midwinter sunset.

Approach and View from North East Important
The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important. To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

Stones in the North East Segment Larger and More Uniform

A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed – that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. By contrast, the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.

These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.

Stones on Solstitial Axis most Carefully Shaped and Dressed

The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge’s builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a north-east/south-west axis.

The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.

Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Solstitial Alignment Currently Severed by Road to be Restored

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Findings Exceed Expectations

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which bring the number of this type of carvings known at Stonehenge to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge. It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in mid winter.

“Analysis of the different techniques used to dress the stones may even help to refine the chronology of the construction. Disappointing to some, the scan has also ruled out many poorly defined lines and hollows previously thought to be possible prehistoric carvings.”

English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/stonehenge-solstitial-function/

Blog sponsored bt ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTour.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog








%d bloggers like this: