Neolthic Houses at Stonehenge Visitor Centre

25 03 2014

NEOLITHIC buildings are being painstakingly recreated in the new outdoor exhibition area of the Stonehenge visitor centre.

Salisbury Journal: Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

When complete, the houses will showcase what life would have been like at the time that Stonehenge was built. The re-created huts are based on archaeological evidence unearthed at the nearbyDurrington Walls.

 

Volunteers are weaving hundreds of hazel rods through the main supporting stakes, thatching the roofs with hand-knotted wheat straw, and starting to cover the walls with a daub of chalk, straw and water.

Once the buildings are completed, volunteers will be on hand to talk to visitors about the project and to demonstrate the daily activities of our Neolithic ancestors.

 

 

Link source:
Salisbury Journal http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/11097745.Neolithic_houses_at_Stonehenge/

Link resource:
Follow their progress here: http://neolithichouses.wordpress.com/
English Heritage Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/discover/neolithic-houses

Follow the project and progress on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/NeolithicHouses
https://twitter.com/Eh_stonehenge
https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge and local area news blog





Neolithic Houses at Old Sarum: Behind-the-Scenes May 4th 2013

4 05 2013

Go behind-the-scenes and enjoy an exclusive talk and ‘first-look’ tour of the Neolithic House project, under construction, at Old Sarum. Watch the construction work as it happens and learn about the building techniques used by the volunteers leading the project.

178_neo-houseTime: Tours at 10am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm (May 4th 2013)

How to Book

Purchase your tickets today using our online system below or by calling our dedicated Ticket Sales Team on 0870 333 1183 (Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30 Sat 9am – 5pm).  Please note: Booking tickets for this event is essential as places are limited

Neolithic Houses Project

One of the most exciting features of the new visitor centre at Stonehenge will be an external gallery, which will include three reconstructed Neolithic houses. Using archaeological evidence and authentic materials, these buildings will provide a real and tangible link for visitors to the distant past. People will be able to walk into these houses and see how people may have lived 4,500 years ago.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/neolithic-houses-at-old-sarum-behind-the-scenes-os-4-may/

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge project compares Neolithic building methods

17 04 2013

An experiment is under way here in Wiltshire to find out more about Neolithic building methods.

Using archaeological evidence unearthed from nearby Durrington Walls, three structures are being built at Old Sarum Castle, near Salisbury.

The project aims to recreate the buildings which may have existed in Neolithic times

The project aims to recreate the buildings which may have existed in Neolithic times

The English Heritage project aims to discover what was the most efficient way of building with locally-sourced materials.

The final reconstructions will be built at Stonehenge later this year.

They will be put up outside the new visitor centre.

The experiment is part of a £27m English Heritage scheme looking at how the setting of the ancient monument can be improved.

The recreated Neolithic buildings will form part of an “interactive and experiential” external exhibition at the 3,500-year-old World Heritage site.

The Dorset-based Ancient Technology Centre has been commissioned to construct the three prototype homes.

Luke Winter from the centre said the project aimed to look at what type of buildings may have been around at the time.

“The evidence from Durrington Walls several years ago brought to light the remains of several different types of building,” he said.

“We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground.

“On each of the three buildings we are trying different materials and methods and at the end we can say which is most likely to have been used

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-22168354

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Ancient Stonehenge ceremonial landscape midwinter Walk

11 12 2012

Ancient ceremonial landscape of great archaeological and wildlife interest

Within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, the National Trust manages 827 hectares (2,100 acres) of downland surrounding the famous stone circle.

Stonehenge Landscape ToursWalking across the grassland, visitors can discover other prehistoric monuments, including the Avenue and King Barrow Ridge with its Bronze Age burial mounds.

Nearby, Winterbourne Stoke Barrows is another fascinating example of a prehistoric cemetery. While Durrington Walls hides the remains of a Neolithic village.

The best approach to the famous stone circle is across Normanton Down, a round barrow cemetery dates from around 2600 to 1600BC.

National Trust Link: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stonehengelandscape/
More Stonehenge Landscape Tours: http://stonehengetours.com/stonehenge-prehistoric-wessex-walking-tour.htm

 

Stonehenge news blog sponosred by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Stonehenge Project Update. December 2012

8 12 2012

As Stonehenge gears up for winter, we wanted to let you know we’re making good progress with the new visitor centre at Airman’s Corner. This time next year, work will have been completed and we’ll be busy preparing for the opening.

As you can see from the photo below, the visitor centre and the car park are  taking shape behind the hoardings. The building should be water-tight by Christmas and a ‘bird cage’ scaffold will be used in the New Year to help install the delicate canopy roof.

Aerial view of Airman's Corner

Aerial view of Airman’s Corner

We’ve taken great care with the design and construction of the building – disruption to the ground has been kept to a minimum and we have used locally sourced materials wherever possible.

The new visitor centre taking shape

The new visitor centre taking shape

At Last, a Proper Place to Tell Stonehenge’s Story

A visit to the stones will, for the first time, be enhanced by special exhibition galleries curated by English Heritage experts which will tell the story of Stonehenge and its relationship with the wider landscape. They will feature important objects excavated near Stonehenge kindly loaned by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

Curators discussing the objects on loan from the two local museums

Curators discussing the objects on loan from the two local museums

Neolithic Builders Needed

One exciting feature of the outdoor gallery is the reconstruction of three Neolithic houses based on rare evidence of buildings unearthed near Stonehenge. We need volunteers to help us build three prototype houses at Old Sarum Castle in spring 2013 and then build the actual houses at the new visitor centre in autumn 2013. To find out more or to register your interest, please go to Stonehenge volunteering.

An attempt at reconstructing a Neolithic house in East Sussex

An attempt at reconstructing a Neolithic house in East Sussex

Business As Usual at Stonehenge

The construction work is not visible from Stonehenge at all; throughout the construction period Stonehenge will continue to welcome visitors at its existing facilities.

An opening date for the new visitor building will be announced in 2013, and the switch-over to the new facilities will be overnight so that there will be no disruption to visitors.

When the new visitor centre and its captivating galleries open in winter 2013, we will start dismantling the existing facilities and restore the landscape around the stones. We look forward to keeping you posted as these exciting developments progress.

Computer-generated image of the new visitor centre when completed

Computer-generated image of the new visitor centre when completed

Road Improvements

We understand the closure of the A344 has raised some concerns – it’s a vital change to help create a more tranquil and dignified setting for Stonehenge, but we are working hard to mitigate the impact. The Highways Agency is carrying out works to improve the capacity of Longbarrow Roundabout to cope with the diverted traffic (see details below) and the section of the A344 between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will only close when these improvements are complete in May 2013. The rest of the road will remain open until we move operations to Airman’s Corner.

Work is also underway to improve the Airman’s Corner roundabout. During the construction, we’re keeping the use of traffic lights to a minimum but some are needed to ensure safe traffic flow.

Longbarrow Roundabout Roadworks (A303/A360 Junction)

The Highways Agency has started a six-month scheme to improve the Longbarrow roundabout at the junction of the A360 and A303. The proposed improvements to the northern and eastern approaches to the roundabout will accommodate changes in traffic flows following the planned A344 closure in May 2013. New lanes will be added to the roundabout to take the extra traffic caused by the closure of the A344 and the centre of the roundabout itself will be realigned.

During the works, there will be lane closures on the northern and eastern approaches to Longbarrow roundabout and a temporary 40mph speed limit in place. The A360 south of Longbarrow will be closed for up to eight days and nights on dates to be confirmed in either February or March 2013. Diversion routes will be in operation using the A345 or the A36 depending on journey destinations.

Contact us

If you have any questions regarding the project please email English Heritage atstonehenge.project@english-heritage.org.uk

Link source: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

Stonhenge News Blog sponsored by Stonehenge Guided Tours – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge





New light on Stonehenge. Latest theories about when and why Stonehenge was built

8 11 2012

Tuesday 13 November 2012. A talk by Professor Mike Parker-Pearson, University of Sheffield. This lecture will present new findings by the ‘Feeding Stonehenge’ project about the people who built Stonehenge, and about the sources of its stones in Wales and north Wiltshire. It will examine the latest theories about when and why Stonehenge was built, and will present new discoveries from Wales as well as the Stonehenge area.

image credit : Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam

image credit : Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam

Prof. Mike Parker-Pearson is leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project and author of Stonehenge: exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery, published by Simon & Schuster in June 2012. (see below)

7.00 pm refreshments, 7.30 pm lecture.

 

Please note this lecture is at the Guildhall (Market Square)not the Museum. A lecture in the Salisbury Museum Archaeology Lectures (SMAL) series. SMAL lectures are held on the second Tuesday of each month from September to April. Please note earlier start time for this particular lecture. This particular lecture requires booking. This is a fundraising event.

http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk


Booking:  Booking required. Please contact the Museum to book.

Cost:  In Advance: £8.00; On the Night : £10.00.

Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery

Our knowledge about Stonehenge has changed dramatically as a result of the Stonehenge Riverside Project (2003-2009), led by Mike Parker Pearson, and included not only Stonehenge itself but also the nearby great henge enclosure of Durrington Walls. This book is about the people who built Stonehenge and its relationship to the surrounding landscape. The book explores the theory that the people of Durrington Walls built both Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, and that the choice of stone for constructing Stonehenge has a significance so far undiscovered, namely, that stone was used for monuments to the dead. Through years of thorough and extensive work at the site, Parker Pearson and his team unearthed evidence of the Neolithic inhabitants and builders which connected the settlement at Durrington Walls with the henge, and contextualised Stonehenge within the larger site complex, linked by the River Avon, as well as in terms of its relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Parker Pearson’s book changes the way that we think about Stonehenge; correcting previously erroneous chronology and dating; filling in gaps in our knowledge about its people and how they lived; identifying a previously unknown type of Neolithic building; discovering Bluestonehenge, a circle of 25 blue stones from western Wales; and confirming what started as a hypothesis – that Stonehenge was a place of the dead – through more than 64 cremation burials unearthed there, which span the monument’s use during the third millennium BC. In lively and engaging prose, Parker Pearson brings to life the imposing ancient monument that continues to hold a fascination for everyone

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge News. Read all about it!

10 10 2012
Once again Stonehenge and Wiltshire is in the spotlight.  The recent revealing 3D laser resilts have uncovered some fascinating facts.  Stonehenge is being talked about across the world which can only be good for South West toursim.  Here is a small selection of Stonehenge Newslinks:

Stonehenge secrets revealed by laser scan
BBC News
Researchers using laser technology at Stonehenge have uncovered evidence which they say shows the importance of the midwinter sunset to its creators. The scan by English Heritage showed significant differences in how various stones were shaped and
 

BBC News
Stonehenge dressed to impress
Stuff.co.nz
A cutting-edge laser scan of Stonehenge has shown how Britain’s enigmatic neolithic monument was built to enhance the dramatic passage of sunlight through the circle of stones at midsummer and midwinter. The slabs were intended to appear at their best 
 
Stonehenge was an ‘art gallery’ suggests new study
TNT Magazine
Laser scans have revealed prehistoric carvings of axe heads, which are invisible to the naked eye. The surface of the 83 remaining stones was scanned using state-of-the-art 3D scanners. These recorded using billions of points of microtopographically. 

TNT Magazine
New Stonehenge secrets revealed
Evening Standard
Professor Clive Ruggles, emeritus professor of achaeo-astronomy at University of Leicester, said: “This extraordinary new evidence not only confirms the importance of the solstitial alignment at Stonehenge, but also show unequivocally that the formal  
Revealed: Early Bronze Age carvings suggest Stonehenge was a huge prehistoric art gallery
Stonehenge News Blog
A detailed laser-scan survey of the entire monument has discovered 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones.

Evening Standard
Lasers find secrets of Stonehenge
This is Bath
They’ve dug under it, mapped it, photographed it and dated it, but a new laser scan of Stonehengehas told scientists even more things they didn’t already know about the ancient Wiltshire monument – including which way the monument ‘faced’. The scan  
The story of British art
The Guardian
From the earliest evocative stone structures at Skara Brae and Stonehenge to the disturbing 20th-century portraits by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, the art inspired by the British isles tells a truly spectacular story. Through painting, sculpture  
Midwinter Sun Link to Stonehenge – ITV News
Read Midwinter Sun Link to Stonehenge latest on ITV News. All the Tuesday 9th October 2012 news.#
Midwinter sun linked to Stonehenge – Stonehnege Tours. The latest 3D laser technology has revealed new evidence of the importance of the midwinter sunset to the ancient creators of Stonehenge. 
Laser uncovers new Stonehenge evidence (From Salisbury Journal)
NEW evidence to suggest the importance of the solstices at Stonehenge to its creators has been discovered by English Heritage. A 3D laser scan was used to 
Blog Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.Stonehengetours.comFor all the latest news on Stonehenge follow us on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

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Moving the Stonehenge Bluestones: At last a successful method is demonstrated!

3 10 2012

Without a single archaeologist in sight, a couple of boat builders and an inspired TV company show just how easy it can be to load a full-size bluestone onto a replica Bronze-Age boat. Robin Heath was there and took some photographs
Stonehenge Bluestone experimentOn the 15th August, near Poppit Sands, in Cardigan, West Wales, several skilled artisans showed how they would load a boat with a multi-ton bluestone. They did this with a force 7 on-shore gale battering the shore-line. In the time it took for the tide to come in, a flawless lowering took place of a large bluestone onto a prepared cradle within a near-replica of the boat found at Ferriby during the early 70s.
Moving the BluestonesThe Ferriby boat has been dated around 2000 BC, making it much too late for the period of bluestone moving (given at around 2700 – 2400 BC depending on which source one reads). But the boat is entirely believable as a design possible within the known technology of that period. Basically, if one can make Stonehenge, replete with mortice and tenon joints and tongue and grooving in stone, then one can make planks and joints in wood!. The remains of timber roundhouses reveal how timber was strung and stitched together.
On the 15th August, near Poppit Sands, in Cardigan, West Wales, several skilled artisans showed how they would load a boat with a multi-ton bluestone. They did this with a force 7 on-shore gale battering the shore-line. In the time it took for the tide to come in, a flawless lowering took place of a large bluestone onto a prepared cradle within a near-replica of the boat found at Ferriby during the early 70s.

Under the direction of a film crew working for the state-side Discovery Channel, not a single multicoloured pullover bearded archaeologist was harmed during this risky undertaking, primarily because none were employed. Instead, the company wisely sought out highly skilled local craftpeople, Nick, Dougie and Paul, time-served in the construction and repair of wooden boats including one (www.Keewaydin.com) weighing in at over 100 tons, and having much experience of building large wooden structures for maneuvering seemingly unfeasibly heavy weights. They delivered the goods with utter confidence and without fuss. The spectacle was a joy to behold.

The history of replicating aspects of how the bluestones were moved from sites in the Preseli mountains of West Wales is colourful, to say the least.  In 1923, Dr H H Thomas, a petrologist, wrote a seemingly innocent paper indicating that most of the Stonehenge bluestones had originated from just a very few outcrops around Carn Meini, near the village of Mynachlog ddu in North Pembrokeshire. Ever since a series of vitriolic and quite emotional arguments have periodically flared up to either applaud Dr Thomas on finally nailing this vital question for Stonehenge researchers, or to completely rubbish his experimental methodology because the stones “must have got there by the action of glaciation.”

The question is an important one, because if moved by the hand of man, it poses some humdinger other questions about the capabilities and intentions of the Stonehenge builders. These are uncomfortable to mainstream archaeologists, many of whom lie awake at night racked with anxiety whenever the present rather cosy model of Neolithic life is threatened by increased reality.

This ‘bluestone argument’ has recently been reactivated through the work of a team of geologists and archaeologists whose most well-known spokesperson, the amiable Professor Mike Parker-Pearson (Sheffield), oversaw the excavation of a buried and large megalith from a lowland outcrop on the northern side of the Preselis near Pont Saeson, near Brynberian, in 2011.Although not a classic spotted bluestone, this beast’s geology exactly matched that of the nearby outcrop and also matched the chemistry of several others of the “non-bluestone bluestones” at Stonehenge. The theory is put forward that, based on the evidence so far, no ice-age could have moved this stone or other ones from this site over the Preselis to Stonehenge. That the outcrop lies adjacent to a tributary of the Nevern river also supports the theory of transport by river, then the sea, as per the now traditional theory first promoted in the 1950s by Professor Richard Atkinson (Cardiff) and described within his still remarkably comprehensive book Stonehenge (Unwin, 1956). A later edition of his book has a Byronic illustration ( by Alan Sorrell) of a raft holding a doomed bluestone and crewed by savages being lashed by a Pembrokeshire so’westerly.

Now Atkinson really was old school archaeologist. Never far from a cigarette holder and always sporting a bow-tie, ‘Dickie’ Atkinson produced a classic 1950s TV re-inactment of bluestone moving using ‘multiple punts’ and other supposedly neolithic craft on a stretch of the Bristol Avon, using public schoolboys as stone-age stone movers. It was all rather Enid Blyton and Eton mess.

This may appear laughably naïve to us today, yet later attempts have been far more dangerous to life and limb than this first filmed effort. Perhaps it was the lashings of ginger beer that fortified the crews on the Atkinson boats, or perhaps it was just that folk had far more common sense than today, for since then, two attempts have sent bluestones tumbling to the bottom of Milford Haven, or Neyland, and at least four people have been hospitalized with crushing and fracturing injuries as a result of attempting to lift or move these heavy monoliths.

During the heady days of the new millennium, a lottery funded attempt to take a bluestone from Carn Menyn to Stonehenge became part of local folklore, and is a story that will be told to grandchildren by their grandparents for a while yet, as it contains all the tragedy, farce and comedy of a good narrative. The fated single stone now languishes in 70 feet of water opposite Pembroke Dock, where it lends support to the dangerous theory that suggests, perhaps, we have actually devolved in our abilities as a species since the Stone Age.

Those who have taken the trouble to read my own contributions to the matter of Stonehenge (in books, presentations and via http://www.skyandlandscape.com) will appreciate that another question needs to be asked concerning the monument. Once they are seen to have been moved to Salisbury Plain by the hand of man, it goes beyond how the bluestones arrived there and becomes why they were so important in the monument? It is 135 miles (as the crow flies) from Preseli to Stonehenge, and these stones were not moved without some powerful driving motivation. What might that be, eh? If the glaciation theory is attenuated by this new evidence, then ipso facto the argument for the bluestones having been moved by human intent is fortified. And this then begs a really tricky ‘geomantic’ question: Might the location of the bluestones, rather than their geological composition, be a significant reason for their required presence at Stonehenge?

No one in academia presently wants to get anywhere near this question, yet today’s successful positing of a fat bluestone into the bowels of a believable neolithic boat scores an important point in supporting the theory that the moving of the bluestones occurred through human intent. That being the case, why the Neolithic culture should have been compelled to undertake such a task now surely commands our utmost attention.

Watch the increasing thrumming emanating from various blogs and websites manned 24/7 by researchers, zealots, seekers, bigots and unemployed folk sporting archaeology degrees. Finally, watch the documentary on the Discovery Channel when it comes out!

Written by
Source Link: http://www.matrixofcreation.co.uk/megalithic-sciences/item/93-moving-the-bluestones-at-last-a-successful-method-is-demonstrated

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

Merlin says “The BIG  debate continues – Glacier V Bronze Age Boat”

 The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge life-sized Neolithic homes to be built

2 10 2012

A contract to build three life-sized Neolithic homes at Stonehenge in Wiltshire has been put out to tender.

English Heritageis inviting contractors to bid for the £60,000 project, which is part of a £27m scheme to improve the setting of the monument.

Using authentic materials, the prehistoric homes will be based on those excavated at Durrington Walls.

English Heritage said the buildings will provide a “real and tangible link for visitors to the distant past”.

The Neolithic homes will be based on dwellings excavated at nearby Durrington Walls

The Neolithic homes will be based on dwellings excavated at nearby Durrington Walls

The £27m scheme to build a new visitor centre and close the road alongside the ancient monument, was begun in July.

But a “key aim” for the new centre is to create “a sense of prehistoric people using, working and living in the landscape”, an English Heritage spokesperson said.

‘Interactive and experimental’

The recreated Neolithic buildings will form part of an “interactive and experiential” external exhibition at the 3,500-year-old World Heritage site which receives more than one million visitors a year.

“Visitors will be able to walk into these houses, see how people may have lived 4,500 years ago and experience something of the lifestyle of the builders who constructed Stonehenge,” the spokesperson said.

The prehistoric homes will be based on the foundations of dwellings discovered at Durrington Walls in 2007.

The large settlement, dating back to 2600-2500 BC, was discovered under earthworks 3km (2 miles) from the stone circle.

‘Learning project’

“We’ve had about 15 to 20 contractors – mainly architects, traditional builders and civil engineers – respond,” said Robert Campbell from English Heritage.

“But it’s a learning project – the contractor will be working with volunteers, using Neolithic building techniques and materials which hopefully will have been collected from the local area.

“It’s a fantastic learning experience – but quite a commitment.”

A prototype Neolithic house will be erected at Old Sarum in early 2013 with the new visitor centre at Stonehenge due to open in Autumn 2013. Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-19797815

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says “I want to live in one”

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Herders rather than farmers, built Stonehenge

10 09 2012

The ancient builders of Stonehenge may have had a surprisingly meaty diet and mobile way of life. Although farming first reached the British Isles around 6,000 years ago, cultivation had given way to animal raising and herding by the time Stonehenge and other massive stone monuments began to dot the landscape, a new study finds.

Stonehenge in southern England may have been built by herders, not farmers, suggests a new analysis of crop remains from the last several millennia.

Stonehenge in southern England may have been built by herders, not farmers, suggests a new analysis of crop remains from the last several millennia.

Agriculture’s British debut occurred during a mild, wet period that enabled the introduction of Mediterranean crops such as emmer wheat, barley and grapes, say archaeobotanists Chris Stevens of Wessex Archaeology in Salisbury, England, and Dorian Fuller of University College London. Farming existed at first alongside foraging for wild fruits and nuts and limited cattle raising, but the rapid onset of cool, dry conditions in Britain about 5,300 years ago spurred a move to raising cattle, sheep and pigs, Stevens and Fuller propose in the September Antiquity.

With the return of a cultivation-friendly climate about 3,500 years ago, during Britain’s Bronze Age, crop growing came back strong, the scientists contend. Farming villages rapidly replaced a mobile, herding way of life.

Many researchers have posited that agriculture either took hold quickly in Britain around 6,000 years ago or steadily rose to prominence by 4,000 years ago. In either case, farmers probably would have assembled Stonehenge, where initial work began as early as 5,500 years ago, with large stones hauled in around 4,400 years ago (SN: 6/21/08, p.13).

But if Stevens and Fuller’s scenario of British agriculture’s ancient rise, demise and rebirth holds up, then small groups of roaming pastoralists collaborated to build massive, circular stone and wood structures, including Stonehenge. Shifts from farming to pastoralism, sometimes accompanied by construction of stone monuments, occurred around the same time in parts of Africa and Asia, the researchers say.

“Part of the reason why pastoralists built monuments such as Stonehenge lies in the importance of periodic large gatherings for dispersed, mobile groups,” Fuller says. Collective meeting spots allowed different groups to arrange alliance-building marriages, crossbreed herds to boost the animals’ health and genetic diversity and hold ritual feasts. At these locations, large numbers of people could be mobilized for big construction projects, Fuller suggests.

“A predominantly pastoralist economy in the third millennium B.C. accords well with available evidence and provides a suitable backdrop to the early development of Stonehenge,” says archaeologist Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University in England. But he believes many large stones were brought to Stonehenge during a later upswing in cereal cultivation, as pastoralism receded in importance.

Stevens and Fuller compiled data on more than 700 cultivated and wild food remains from 198 sites across the British Isles whose ages had been previously calculated by radiocarbon dating. A statistical analysis of these dates and associated climate and environmental trends suggested that agriculture spread rapidly starting 6,000 years ago. About 700 years later, wild foods surged in popularity and cultivated grub became rare.

Several new crops — peas, beans and spelt — appeared around 3,500 years ago, when storage pits, granaries and other features of agricultural societies first appeared in Britain, Stevens and Fuller find. An influx of European farmers must have launched a Bronze Age agricultural revolution, they speculate.

Stevens and Fuller’s analysis offers only a general breakdown of how farming and pastoralism developed in Britain, asserts archaeologist Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University in Wales. The scale of cultivation, even during times characterized by relatively abundant remains of domesticated plants, remains uncertain, Whittle says.

Even if farmers didn’t built Stonehenge, cultivators erected plenty of massive stone monuments, Whittle holds.
Bruce Bower
Link source: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/343984/title/Herders%2C_not_farmers%2C_built_Stonehenge

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