Amesbury – including Stonehenge – is the UK’s longest continually-occupied settlement

6 05 2014

Amesbury in Wiltshire confirmed as oldest UK settlement.

A Wiltshire town has been confirmed as the longest continuous settlement in the United Kingdom.

Amesbury - including Stonehenge - is the UK's longest continually-occupied settlement

Amesbury – including Stonehenge – is the UK’s longest continually-occupied settlement

Amesbury, including Stonehenge, has been continually occupied since BC8820, experts have found.

The news was confirmed following an archaeological dig which also unearthed evidence of frogs’ legs being eaten in Britain 8,000 years before France.

Amesbury’s place in history has also now been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.

David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, said: “The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways.

“It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments.

“The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself.

“The first monuments at Stonehenge were built by these people. For years people have been asking why is Stonehenge where it is, now at last, we have found the answers.”

Mr Jacques said the River Avon, which runs through the area, would have been like an A road with people travelling along it.

“They may have had the equivalent of local guides and there would have been feasting,” he added.

“We have found remains of big game animals, such as aurochs and red deer, and an enormous amount of burnt flint from their feasting fires.”

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The dig unearthed the largest haul of worked flints from the Mesolithic period

Previously, Thatcham in Berkshire, 40 miles from Amesbury, held the record for the longest continuous settlement in the country.

The dig in Amesbury also uncovered 31,000 worked flints in 40 days as well as animal bones such as frogs’ legs.

Mr Jacques said our ancestors were eating a “Heston Blumenthal-style menu”.

The find was based on a report by fossil mammal specialist Simon Parfitt, of the Natural History Museum.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, the founder of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said there was “something unique and rather special about the area” to keep people there from the end of the Ice Age, to when Stonehenge was created and until today.

“The fact that the feasting of large animals and the discovery of a relatively constant temperature spring sitting alongside the River Avon, may well be it,” he said.

The dig was filmed and made into a documentary by the BBC, Smithsonian, CBC and others to be screened later in the summer.

The project was led by the University of Buckingham

Article source: BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-27238503

Historic Amesbury – the Home of Stonehenge

Nestling within a loop of the River Avon alongside the A303 just 1.5 miles from Stonehenge, Amesbury is a destination not to be missed. With recent evidence of continuous settlement since before 7500BC and a breath-taking Mesolithic collection that is greater in quantity (from one single location) than any other found in this country, the town’s new Museum at the Melor Hall, Church Street will amaze visitors with its story of life before the Stones and its mind blowing artefacts from the Town where History began.

Visit Wiltshire Website: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/ideas-and-inspiration/amesbury-museum-and-heritage-centre-p1536253

Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust: https://www.facebook.com/AmesburyMuseum

Salisbury Reds (transport to and from Amesbury): http://www.salisburyreds.co.uk/ptv-amesbury.shtml

Local Tour Operators including Amesbury and Stonehenge:
Salisbury, Stonehenge and Sarum Audio Tours: http://www.salisburystonehengetours.co.uk/
The Stonehenge Travel Company: http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

The Stonehenge News Blog

 





The Path to Stonehenge from Avebury: Walking Guide

24 11 2013

Wiltshire is home to arguably the greatest concentration of prehistoric monuments in Europe, if not the world!

The 45 mile route begins at Windmill Hill before heading south to spend the first day walking amongst the stone circles of Avebury.

                Stonehenge walking map                   

DOWNLOAD: The Path to Stonehenge walking guide (PDF 883kb)

The download includes full day by day walking instructions with accompanying history guide.

Discover how the famous monuments of the area are connected and what they can tell us about life, and death, in Neolithic Britain. The walk takes us across some of the most beautiful landscape in the south west, as we uncover the actions of our ancestors here between 4000 and 2000BC.

Day 1


Avebury Stone Circle
                Avebury Stone Circle                   

A gentle first day with plenty of time for admiring the monuments encountered along the route.

  • Windmill Hill to Avebury via Avebury Stone Circle and the Sanctuary

Distance: 6.5 miles

Day 2


                West Kennet Long Barrow                   

We up the pace as we hunt for hard evidence of our elusive ancestors at Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Long Barrow. We skirt the Marlborough Downs and head up and over Milk Hill for some more modern mysteries, like crop circles.

  • Avebury to Honeystreet, via Silbury Hill, Swallowhead Springs, West Kennet Long Barrow, Field of Sarsen Stones, Milk Hill and the Alton Barnes White Horse, and Adam’s Grave.

Distance: 15.5 miles

Day 3


The Avenue
                The Avenue                   

We follow our ancestors down the River Avon to the greatest prehistoric monument of them all – Stonehenge.

  • Honeystreet to Stonehenge via: Durrington Walls, West Amesbury Henge and the Avenue

Distance: 23.5 miles


The Map

OS Explorer Maps 157, 130 (1:25k) or OS Landranger 173, 184 (1:50k)

All distances are approximate so allow plenty of time

Link: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/walking-through-history/articles/all/walking-guide-the-path-to-stonehenge

Please share your Stonehenge / Avebury pics on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





The New Discoveries at Blick Mead: the Key to the Stonehenge Landscape

29 10 2013

An archaeological team from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute has been uncovering very large amounts of Mesolithic material from a site immediately adjacent to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge At a point called Blick Mead (a part of the Stonehenge landscape known as ‘Vespasian’s Camp’ on the mistaken assumption that it was the remains of a former Roman settlement) around 12,000 pieces of worked flint and burnt flint have been unearthed, as well as over 500 pieces of bone dating from over 8000 years ago. Virtually all the tools are in pristine condition – indeed, some of the team have had their fingers cut by them as they are still so sharp.

The most significant consequence of the excavation is that we have now discovered where the communities who built the first monuments at Stonehenge once lived – something that has eluded archaeologists for the best part of two centuries.  But the fact that the site also provides evidence for ritual activity in later periods suggests that the Buckingham team has also discovered a rare ‘multi-phase’ site, which was occupied over several millennia – indeed into the early medieval period.

David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, has been directing the excavations at Vespasian’s Camp, Amesbury, Wiltshire, since 2005.

Burnt flint used in cookingThe archaeological potential of Vespasian’s Camp first came to light as a result of David Jacques’ detailed research of the site’s estate and nearby farm records. Indeed, before his team started their excavations, there was no evidence of Vespasian’s Camp having played any significant part in the Salisbury Plain ritual landscape or its history, and the site had been generally ignored by archaeologists, who assumed that any archaeological evidence on the site had been destroyed in the course of the landscaping of the area as a park for a neighbouring country house during the course of the 18th century.

Radiocarbon dating of objects from the Buckingham-sponsored excavations now shows that this site was occupied between 7550-4700 BC, which means that the Blick Mead site was in continuous use for almost 3,000 years.

This is generating great interest from archaeologists who have long pondered the possibility of a ‘missing link’ between the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods of activity at Stonehenge. The radiocarbon dates make this the oldest ever ‘homebase’ found in the Stonehenge area and could be one of the reasons why Stonehenge is sited where it is.

The findings produced by the Buckingham-funded excavations have led English Heritage to describe Vespasian’s Camp as potentially ‘one of the pivotal places in the history of the Stonehenge landscape’.

The 7500 BC dating of Blick Mead correlates strongly with the enigmatic posts found underneath Stonehenge car park in the late 1960s, which appear to be marking this area up as somewhere of special cultural significance

Finds from the springA copper alloy Bronze Age dagger, found nearby, at the Bluestonehenge monument in 2009, a 5th-century Anglo-Saxon disc brooch from a nearby spring, and medieval wooden staves from the main spring also connect Blick Mead to the early Anglo-Saxon and Amesbury Abbey periods. They add to the picture of the Blick Mead area being a place associated with veneration over the longue durée.

As a result of the support from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, further work is planned over the next two years.


Article Source: http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/research/hri/blickmead

Related link





Telling the story of prehistoric Wiltshire.

18 08 2013

The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes is opening new prehistory galleries in the autumn.

The centrepiece of the stunning new displays are the objects buried with the Bush Barrow Chieftain almost 4,000 years ago. He was buried close to Stonehenge with the objects that showed his power and authority– a gold lozenge, a ceremonial mace and a gold-decorated dagger.These are just some of the rich Bronze Age objects that are on display for the first time in new high security showcases. Gold ornaments, amber necklaces, ritual costume, polished stone axes and bronze daggers tell the story of the people who lived at the time when Stonehenge, Avebury and Marden henges were great ceremonial centres.

Bronze Age artefacts on show at the Wiltshire Museum

Bronze Age artefacts on show at the Wiltshire Museum

 

The displays feature models and full-size reconstructions that bring archaeology to life. There is lots for children to do, with trails and quizzes, a chance to build Stonehenge and Bronze Age clothes to try on.

Some of the important Bronze Age gold finds from the museum will be on loan for display at the new Stonehenge visitor centre. This is part of an integrated strategy to encourage visitors to Stonehenge to explore Wiltshire and to visit the museums in Devizes and Salisbury. These new displays have been developed with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the North Wessex Downs AONB

More details here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/k-o/megalith-jul2013.pdf

Museum link: http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

 





‘World’s oldest calendar’ discovered in Scottish field

18 07 2013

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world’s oldest lunar “calendar” in an Aberdeenshire field.

Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months.

A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago.

The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004.

An illustration of how the pits would have worked An illustration of how the pits would have worked

An illustration of how the pits would have worked

The experts who analysed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.

The Mesolithic “calendar” is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia.

“It is remarkable to think that our aerial survey may have helped to find the place where time itself was invented” Dave CowleyRCAHMS

The analysis has been published in the journal, Internet Archaeology.

The pit alignment also aligns on the Midwinter sunrise to provided the hunter-gatherers with an annual “astronomic correction” in order to better follow the passage of time and changing seasons.

Vince Gaffney, Professor of Landscape Archaeology at Birmingham, led the analysis project.

He said: “The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and sophistication to track time across the years, to correct for seasonal drift of the lunar year and that this occurred nearly 5,000 years before the first formal calendars known in the Near East.

“In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself.”

The universities of St Andrews, Leicester and Bradford were also involved.

Dr Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews, said the discovery provided “exciting new evidence” of the early Mesolithic Scotland.

He added: “This is the earliest example of such a structure and there is no known comparable site in Britain or Europe for several thousands of years after the monument at Warren Field was constructed.”

The Warren Field site was first discovered as unusual crop marks spotted from the air by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

Dave Cowley, aerial survey projects manager at RCAHMS, said: “We have been taking photographs of the Scottish landscape for nearly 40 years, recording thousands of archaeological sites that would never have been detected from the ground.

“Warren Field stands out as something special, however. It is remarkable to think that our aerial survey may have helped to find the place where time itself was invented.”

Prof Vince Gaffney
Prof Vince Gaffney led the project to analyse the pits at Warren FieldCrathes Castle and its estate is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

From 2004 to 2006, trust staff and Murray Archaeological Services excavated the site.

NTS archaeologist Dr Shannon Fraser said: “This is a remarkable monument, which is so far unique in Britain.

“Our excavations revealed a fascinating glimpse into the cultural lives of people some 10,000 years ago – and now this latest discovery further enriches our understanding of their relationship with time and the heavens.”

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-23286928

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge revealed: Why Stones Were a “Special Place”

22 06 2013

Lead archaeologist at Stonehenge discusses his team’s discoveries in new book

The eerie megaliths of Stonehenge have inspired speculation for centuries.

Druids—and sometimes aliens—have been suspected of planting the 4,500-year-old stones. Is Stonehenge an astronomical calendar or a place of healing or a marker for magical energy lines in the ground? For a long time, no one really knew, though some theories were more grounded in reality than others.

Each year revelers like these travel to Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

Each year revelers like these travel to Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice.
Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

But now, we may be a little bit closer to understanding the monumental Neolithic site. Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues at the Stonehenge Riverside Project, whose research was funded in part by the National Geographic Society, spent seven years excavating Stonehenge and its surroundings. This month, Parker Pearson published the project’s findings in a new book, Stonehenge—A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument.

National Geographic writer Rachel Hartigan Shea spoke with Parker Pearson about what he and his colleagues discovered and how modern celebrants greeting the summer solstice at Stonehenge may have gotten the wrong day.

What got you first interested in researching Stonehenge?

Well, I have to say I didn’t actually have any interest at all in Stonehenge. I was working with Ramilisonina, a Malagasy archaeologist. He comes from a megalith-building culture, so I thought he’d be interested to see Stonehenge. I took him to take a look, and he said, “What do you mean you don’t know what it’s for? It’s obvious.” Then he said, “Mike, have you learned nothing in all of our work together with standing stones in Madagascar?”

He explained to me it was surely built for the ancestors. In Madagascar, they build in stone for the ancestors because it is a permanent medium—permanent like the ancestors—whereas they live in wooden houses because those will perish just like human life will end. I laughed initially and said, “Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily really going to have anything to do with Britain 5,000 years ago.”

But I realized that actually we did have timber circles very close to the stone circle of Stonehenge. That was quite a bombshell for me.

How were the excavations that you worked on at Stonehenge different from previous excavations there?

I think the important thing was not to dig just at Stonehenge but to actually investigate the wider landscape around it and to begin by looking at this area of the timber circles close by. It was there that we found that the place of wood had indeed to do with the living. (See Stonehenge pictures.)

When we came back to Stonehenge and dug there, we recovered some 60 cremation burials inside Stonehenge. What we now know is that Stonehenge was the largest cemetery of its day.

Ramilisonina’s ideas about a place in stone for the dead and a place in wood for the living started as a theory but has actually become a fact as a result of our investigations.

The timber circles were located at a site called Durrington Walls. How was that the place of the living?

At Durrington Walls, we have two of these great timber circles—a bit like Stonehenge in wood—at the center of an enormous village. From where we’ve excavated, you’re looking at a fairly dense settlement of houses.

We discovered that they’d been feasting there on a very large scale. We estimate that about four to five thousand people may have gathered there at the time they were building Stonehenge. (Take a Stonehenge quiz.)

We also know that there were seasonal influxes into the settlement at Durrington Walls. Through analysis of the age patterns on the teeth of pigs, we can see that there are particularly high points in the slaughtering patterns. The pigs had given birth in spring, and what we’re seeing is a culling in the middle of the winter.

Here we are on the summer solstice, but this evidence suggests that people were gathering in large numbers at the winter solstice. We’ve been getting it wrong in modern times about when to gather at Stonehenge.

So Stonehenge was built to commemorate the dead?

Stonehenge wasn’t built in order to do something, in the same way you might build a Greek temple to use it for worship. It seems much more likely that everything was in the act of building—that you’d construct it, then you’d go away. You’d come back 500 years later, you’d rebuild it in a new format, and then you’d go away.

I think we have to shake off this idea of various sorts of priests or shamans coming in every year over centuries to do their thing. This is a very different attitude to religious belief. It’s much more about the moment. It’s about what must have been these upwellings of religious—almost millennial—belief, and once the thing is done, then everyone disperses and goes back to their lives.

What do the summer and midwinter solstices have to do with where Stonehenge is located?

One of our discoveries in 2008 was on the avenue that leads out of Stonehenge. As you are moving along the avenue away from Stonehenge, you are looking toward where the sun rises on the midsummer solstice. If you turn 180 degrees and look back toward Stonehenge, that’s where the sun sets on the midwinter solstice. Underneath the avenue, we discovered a natural landform, formed in a previous ice age, where there are grooves and ridges that by sheer coincidence are aligned on that solstitial axis.

Right next to this landform are pits dug to hold posts that were put up 10,000 years ago, much older than Stonehenge. Another archaeological team has discovered down by the river next to Stonehenge a huge settlement area for hunters and gatherers, which seems to have been occupied on and off for something like 4,000 years before Stonehenge itself was ever built.

We think that long before Stonehenge this location was already a special place. These hunters and gatherers may have been the people who first recognized this special feature in the land where the earth and the heavens were basically in harmony.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
Full Article: : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130621-stonehenge-summer-solstice-archaeology-science/

Follow Rachel Hartigan Shea on Twitter.
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Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Giant rock structure twice the size of Stonehenge found under sea

11 04 2013

Scientists have discovered a giant structure, weighing 60,000 tonnes and twice the size of Stonehenge, under the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

Giant rock structure found under sea

Giant rock structure found under sea

The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology reports that the “monumental stone structure” was cone-shaped and made of rough basalt.

Researcher Yitzhak Paz, of Ben-Gurion University’s Israel Antiquity Authority, said the structure was found in 2003 during a sonar survey and divers had now been down to investigate.

He told the journal that the structure could be 4000 years old.

“The more logical possibility is that it belongs to the third millennium BC, because there are other megalithic phenomena close by,” Dr Oaz said.

At a height of 10 metres and with a diameter of 70 metres, the structure appears to be a giant cairn, used in many parts of the world to mark burials.

“Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made of basalt boulders up to a metre long with no apparent construction pattern,” researchers said. “The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or chiselling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls that delineate this structure.”

The scientists say to monument was definitely manmade and probably built on land, only later to be covered by the Sea of Galilee as water levels rose.

Putting all the data together researchers found that the structure is cone shaped, about 230 feet (70 meters) in diameter and nearly 32 feet (10 meters) tall. It weighs an estimated 60,000 tons.

Putting all the data together researchers found that the structure is cone shaped, about 230 feet (70 meters) in diameter and nearly 32 feet (10 meters) tall. It weighs an estimated 60,000 tons.

“The shape and composition of the submerged structure does not resemble any natural feature. We therefore conclude that it is man-made and might be termed a cairn,” they said.

The journal published a list of nearby examples of megalithic structures. One was the monumental site of Khirbet Beteiha, located 30km north-east of the submerged stone structure. It comprises three concentric stone circles, the biggest of which is 56 metres wide.

During the third millennium BC the city of Bet Yerah was one of the biggest sites in the region, Dr Paz said.

“It’s the most powerful and fortified town in this region and, as a matter of fact, in the whole of Israel.”

Dr Paz told the Journal of Nautical Archaeology that he was hopeful that an underwater archaeological expedition would soon excavate the structure.

The search will focus on finding artifacts and organic material in order to accurately date the site.

Link Source: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/16676628/giant-rock-structure-found-under-sea/

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Merlin @ Stonehenge
The stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog








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