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/

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Merlin @ Stonehenge
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Stonehenge Solstice Manager Job Vacancy

16 04 2013

English Heritage manages access to Stonehenge for celebration of the summer and winter solstices and other seasonal gatherings in conjunction with Wiltshire Council, the Highways Agency, the National Trust and representatives of pagan and druid groups. These celebrations attract many thousands of people every year. From 2014, with the completion of the transformational Stonehenge Environmental Improvements Programme, a new solstice operational plan will come into effect.

English Heritage LogoAs part of the Stonehenge management team, reporting to the General Manager, the successful candidate will be responsible for developing, leading and implementing the future plan, working in close liaison with stakeholders. A track record of organising and managing large-scale events, and of working with stakeholders to deliver positive outcomes will be essential. Highly-developed influencing and negotiating skills and the confidence and ability to represent English Heritage at a senior level will also be critical as will the requirement to work flexibly to meet the needs of this important role.

Title: Solstice Manager Stonehenge (Part-time/Annualised Hours)
Location: Stonehenge
Job Type: Permanent
Salary: c. £34k
Close Date:
06/05/2013 23:59:59

Full details: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/jobs/job/?ref=4575

You will need to refer to the following document(s) when completing your application. Job Description Download English Heritage Behaviours

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Druids and Pagans to get time off to visit Stonehenge under new EU work rules

8 04 2013

New guidance advises bosses to respect atheists and to “consider seriously” adapting work duties on faith grounds

Pagans, vegetarians and ecologists should have their beliefs respected at  work along with mainstream faiths, according to European advice to bosses.

Druids and Pagans @atStonehenge

Getty Images

It means druids will be able to take leave to observe rituals and make  pilgrimages to mystical sites such as Stonehenge.

Christian nurses will be allowed to pray for patients, Muslims to take leave  to visit Mecca, vegetarians can refuse to handle meat and sit on leather chairs  and ecologists refuse to fly.

The new guidance also advises bosses to respect atheists and to “consider  seriously” adapting work duties on faith grounds.

But the Equality and Human Rights Commission guidelines, drafted after  several rulings in the European Court of Human Rights, were slammed  yesterday.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Society, said: “It is  right to accommodate people’s needs in a civilised society but we have to make  sure we draw the right line. It’s not fair to accommodate an employee if others  have to take extra shifts or if their workplace becomes uncomfortable through  others pushing their religion.

“The right to manifest beliefs can’t trump the rights of others.”

The guidance comes after the court in ­Strasbourg, France, ruled in  January the UK was wrong to stop ­Christian BA check-in clerk Nadia Eweida,  61, wearing a cross at work.

The commission’s chief executive Mark Hammond said: “It provides advice and  clarification to help employers avoid costly and ­divisive legal  action.”

Lnk Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/druids-time-visit-stonehenge-under-1817343

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

11 12 2012

English Heritage will once again allow people access to Stonehenge for the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the first day of the winter season. Sunrise is at 8.09am on Friday 21 December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely. Entrance is free and will be available from roughly 7.30am until 9am, when the site will close – before re-opening as per usual to paying visitors at 9.30am.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2011

The exact time of the Solstice this year, when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, is at 11.11am on 21 December, however it is generally accepted that the celebration of this special event takes place at dawn and therefore access is permitted at Stonehenge earlier that morning.

Over the last few years, the popularity of Winter Solstice has grown considerably, with many families and young people joining the druid and pagan community in the celebrations. Two years ago, 2,000 people attended Winter Solstice and in 2011 that figure more than doubled to a record 5,000 people.

Peter Carson, Head of Stonehenge, said: “We are delighted to offer people a warm welcome to Stonehenge this Winter Solstice but as facilities are limited, we are not able to accommodate any more people than last year. We don’t have the luxury of using nearby fields in winter for parking and encourage people to make use of the special bus service running from Salisbury. We are working very closely with the local authorities and agencies plus the druid and pagan community to ensure that access to Stonehenge will once again be a success.”

Additional notes
Access may not be possible if the ground conditions are considered poor or if it is felt that access might result in severe damage to the monument.
Public have in previous years used byway 12 for parking on the morning of 21st December. Additional car parking for approximately 800 cars will be available on the A344 (which will be closed to through traffic), plus the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Car Park.

Connected:
New theory of a Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment –Solstice and the Winter Solstice leaflet (ISBN 9780957093010)
(Background on the Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment theory is here)
Countdown to doomsday. Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

Link source: http://www.sarsen.org/2012/11/winter-solstice-at-stonehenge-2012.html

Winter Solstice updates: Follow Stonhenge on Twitter –  https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin says “Respect the Stones”

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Arthur Pendragon, Stonehenge and the Solstice

12 10 2012

THE RAVING OUTLAW BIKER-DRUIDS AND THEIR 1575-YEAR-OLD KING

Visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice of any year and you’ll see 20,000 people partying in and around the ancient rock formation. The crowd is usually made up of around one third tourists, one third pilled-up teenagers in sportswear, and one third neo-druids. It’s a genuinely bizarre sight. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy chewing my own face off at archaeologically significant sites as much as the next guy, but in a time when British disobedients seem to spend more time in police kettles than they do in squats, you have to wonder how all of this is, y’know, allowed.

Turns out, it has to do with the guy pictured above, who used to be the leader of an outlaw biker gang, but now claims to be the legendary monarch, King Arthur. Arthur, formerly known as John Rothwell, rose to fame in the 90s when he won his case at the European Court of Human Rights to allow open access to Stonehenge for religious festivals like the summer solstice.

Today, as the elected “Battle Chieftain” of the Council of British Druid Orders, King Arthur and his Loyal Arthurian Warband represent the political wing of Britain’s neo-druid community. I headed down to Stonehenge to visit the only living 1575-year-old king.

Please take the time to read the full article by By Matt Shea, Photos by Andrea Herrada
http://www.vice.com/read/all-hail-king-arthur-uther-pendragon

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

Merlin says “Always great see Arthur up at the stones doing his bit”

Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge marks Autumn Equinox.

23 09 2012

100’s of people gathered at Stonehenge to mark this years Autumn Equinox and enjoyed a spectacular sunrise.

Stonehenge has been an important religious site for over 4,000 years. Modern druids have been celebrating the Autumnal Equinox there since the early 20th Century.

On September 21st – 23rd every year 100’s of people travel to ancient religious sites, such as Stonehenge and Avebury in England, in order to celebrate the Spring and Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox is also known as Mabon and is an important festival day for many modern pagans.

People were unable to access Stonehenge during the Equinox and Solstice after a ban was imposed in 1985 at the request of English Heritage. This ban was lifted in 2000 and annual celebrations have been held ever since

Almost all pagans celebrate a cycle of eight festivals. Four of the festivals have Celtic origins and are known by their Celtic names, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. The other four are points in the solar calendar. These are Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, and the Summer and Winter Solstices.

Autumn Equinox Photo stream – click here

The Autumnal Equinox marks the moment when the sun crosses the equator on its apparent journey southward and we experience a day and a night that are of equal length. It’s the time of the final harvest when many crops including apples, grapes, nuts, squash, corn, and berries are gathered. Astrologically speaking, this is the date when the Sun enters the sign of Libra, the balance.Stonehenge Autumn Equinox 2012

The equinoxes (there are two- the Vernal Equinox, when the Sun enters Aries around March 21, is the first day of spring) have a rich place in mythology and ancient tradition. From Stonehenge in the British Isles to the pyramids in Central America, ancient cultures created means by which to measure the change of the seasons. For example, the Anasazi Indians of Chaco Canyon, NM made a hole between some boulders that the sun could shine through. The shafts of sunlight made a dagger shape of the far wall and they drew a spiral there to mark the equinox. It is said that the Druids would cut wands from the willow trees at this time of year. The willow was sacred to them and the wands were seen as powerful tools for use in divination.

Mythically, this is the day when the god of light is defeated by his twin and alter-ego, the god of darkness. It is the time of year when night conquers day- propelling us toward the Winter Solstice which marks the longest night of the year. Mabon, a Welsh god who symbolizes the male fertility of the land, is associated with the Autumnal Equinox. In some myths, he is seen as the male counterpart to Persephone of the Greek myths.

During the weeks around the Equinox, assess your harvest of the seeds of dreams and goals you planted earlier this year. Analyze your progress, acknowledge your successes, and give thanks. After that point of balance, natural law encourages us to turn inward for growth. Like Persephone going to the underworld on her annual journey, the time from the Autumnal Equinox to the Winter Solstice is a perfect opportunity to take a deep look inside yourself. Weed out what has completed its cycle and nourish the roots of what you want to grow again in spring.

Link: http://beforeitsnews.com/spirit/2012/09/autumnal-equinox-2012-harvest-your-gold-2445928.html
L
ink: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/09/110921-autumnal-equinox-northern-hemisphere-first-day-fall-2012-science/
Link:

Blog sponsored by The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says “A Spectacular sunrise and a peaceful gathering made this years Equinox celebrations one to remember”

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