Ancient Avebury site has so much potential

12 02 2013

A TWO-man Avebury stone circle research team say the site should capitalise on a World Heritage boost.

The Which? Travel magazine hailed Avebury as the second greatest World Heritage site, behind only the ancient Mexican city of Monte Alban and ahead of attractions including the Great Pyramid and the Taj Mahal.

Avebury_Stone Circle, WiltshireThis was music to the ears of author Eric M Crook and artist Maurice Giraffe from Swindon, who have spent decades investigating not just Avebury but other ancient sites such as Stonehenge and Silbury Hill.

Mr Crook, 88, is the author of a study called Wiltshire: A Journey-man’s Tale. Many of the book’s illustrations are the work of Mr Giraffe, 55, who combines artistic and technical drawing skills to plot the relative positions of stones.

Mr Crook said of the Which? Travel accolade: “It’s fantastic for this to happen, and we would hope that maybe somebody has taken notice of our comments over the years about this place being so important.”

Mr Giraffe added: “I too am very, very pleased that Avebury has been nominated within the top 10.

“At the same time, what draws the attention is that seven of the 10 are building complexes. There is only one stone circle.

“Avebury should now improve its facilities for visitors. Shelters from the rain would be useful, and so would pathways for wheeled access around the stones. We’d like to see uplighters installed so the stones can be seen better at night.”

The two also suggest night time tours and regular grass cutting, as well as restricting access by grazing sheep.

The researchers believe the archaeological establishment has missed clues about ceremonial and navigational uses for such prehistoric places.

They say their research indicates that the surviving Avebury stones were once part of a vast amphitheatre featuring many thousands of carved human and animal faces, and these faces would have appeared to come to life in flickering firelight.

The researchers say remnants of these carvings can still be seen in fragments hacked from the stones down the years, whether for recycling or because the early Christian church objected to the old religions.

Mr Crook said: “Many churches were built with the old stones, and also other properties across Wiltshire.”

Wiltshire: A Journeyman’s Tale costs £9.99 and can be ordered from Amazon and book shops.
Article (By Barrie Hudson – http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)

Merlin says: ‘Not sure about the uplighters idea’ ?

Merlin @ Stonehenge
Stonehenge News Blog





Prehistoric Wiltshire. Sites of Significance

1 05 2012

If you are in doubt about the key role Wiltshire plays in the long history of these Islands, and that it has done so since the time humans first set foot on our soil, this book joins the growing scholarly titles from the excellent ‘heritage; publisher Amberley Publishing will dispel it.

Prehistoric Wilsthire

Prehistoric Wilsthire

This attractive book is the latest in a successful series from the Stroud-based publisher Amberley. (Amongst others, their titles include Prehistoric Gloucestershire by Tim Darvill, and John Aubrey and Stone Circles: Britain’s First Archaeologist by Aubrey Burl.) It is well written by a knowledgeable local archaeologist in a style that is pleasingly free of jargon, and opens with a fitting tribute from Francis Pryor.

As with some other titles in the series, this pocket-sized book is specifically designed as a field guide (at 235 x 165mm it is slightly larger than A5), in this instance describing nearly 50 of the most visible and accessible prehistoric monuments within the county of Wiltshire. The selected sites are grouped by topographic region (the Marlborough Downs, the Vale of Pewsey and so on), the majority situated on the chalk uplands. All the familiar forms of earthwork from causewayed camps and long barrows to round barrow groups and hillforts are covered. Appropriately, they include the monuments of the World Heritage Site centred on Avebury and Stonehenge, but information from the latest fieldwork in those areas ensures up-to-date coverage.

An introductory section provides a brief outline of the conventional sub-divisions of later prehistory (the Mesolithic to the Iron Age). Thereafter, details are offered on how best to reach each site: although there are no maps, National Grid References and useful directions are offered. Some of the sites are on private land and hence the book judiciously warns ‘this guide does not infer rights of way’, deferring to the county’s highway authority for the latest information on footpaths and bridleways. Nonetheless, it describes what can be seen at each site from the best publicly-accessible vantage points. The entries briefly describe the history of investigation at each site and summarize current understanding of its function and date.

The book is beautifully illustrated. The majority of the figures are the author’s own fine colour photographs, although some monochrome archival images are also used where necessary. Arguably the best views are the excellent oblique aerial photographs. Their use as an invaluable aid to comprehension recalls the local tradition pioneered by O. G. S. Crawford and Alexander Keiller in their 1928 work, Wessex from the Air. Evidently, the author enlisted the help of several pilots, employing a range of micro-light and private aircraft to gain the necessary perspective. Because the book focuses on visible sites, most of the subjects are obviously upstanding earthworks. Nonetheless, the photographs include a few soil-marks, crop-marks and excavations to emphasis that even in an area which boasts some of the country’s best-known monuments, many others have been lost from normal view.

It is well known that Wiltshire contains a remarkable number of well-preserved field monuments of various forms, and hence the author is in the enviable position of being able to select the most impressive. Because of the quality and visibility of its ancient monuments, Wiltshire is an ideal region to serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with prehistoric remains, but equally it is an unceasing source of inspiration for the most experienced archaeologist. The field monuments are complemented by outstanding local museums whose displays reflect the long history of archaeological investigation within the county. Yet, despite the richness of their collections, these museums remain the responsibility of private trusts and societies that constantly struggle to find the necessary resources to conserve and exhibit their assets. It is most commendable, therefore, that Bob Clarke, the author, has written Prehistoric Wiltshire as a personal contribution to the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society’s fund raising effort to re-display the famous Bronze Age gallery at Devizes Museum. There are thus two compelling reasons to buy this excellent book – to guide you to some of the best prehistoric sites in Southern England, and to help display the spectacular objects found in some of those sites.

Sponsored by The Stonehenge Tour Companywww.StonehengeTourscm

Merlin says “Visiting Wiltshire ? Buy this book!”

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Trio collaborate for exhibition of Hardy’s Wessex

27 01 2012

THOMAS Hardy immortalised Wessex in his novels and poems. Three artists who share a common interest in the writer’s use of landscape, Dave Gunning, David Inshaw and Rob Pountney, have collaborated in a fascinating exhibition currently on show in the upstairs gallery at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

Salisbury Cathedral and The Close feature in Jude the Obscure (Salisbury became Melchester in Hardy novels), and it is fitting that the exhibition is in the museum. In Jude the Obscure, Hardy based the college that Sue Bridehead attends on the training college for schoolmistresses that his sisters attended. This was the King’s House, now home to the museum.

Stonehenge plays a starring role at the tragic end of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Robert Pountney’s works in the exhibition capture the stones in a dramatic context.

Landscapes of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is a beautifully crafted exhibition and well worth a visit. It runs until April 14

Sourse: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk

Sponsored  by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com





Stonehenge and Avebury Small Group Guided Tour.

28 10 2011

A new tour operating from London gives the  unique opportunity to explore the awe inspiring world famous Stonehenge and Avebury Prehistoric Landscapes with an expert service, guided by a qualified archaeologist.
avebury-guided-tour
The tour includes –

  • Return travel from London in a luxury coach 
  • Entrance in to Stonehenge
  • Visit Stonehenge Cursus, Stonehenge Avenue and several Bronze Age Round Barrows (burial mounds)
  • A visit to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Bath. Nourished by natural hot springs, stunning architecture, great shopping and iconic attractions
  • Guided coach tour around some of the most beautiful and stunning architectural works in Bath
  • Visit Woodhenge and Durrington Walls
  • Visit West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill
  • Visit Avebury Stone Circle and Henge 

 You will enjoy the passion and enthusiasm expressed by our professional,  archaeologist tour leaders.
The Avebury Landscape

West Kennet Long Barrow
– One of the largest Neolithic burial tombs in Britain. The West Kennet Long Barrow was constructed about 3700 BC, and was in continual use for well over 1000 years.

Silbury Hill – The largest man-made mound in ancient Europe, Silbury Hill was constructed c2800 BC. Even after centuries of research, archaeologists have still not discovered the original purpose of the Hill – ideas include it use as a territorial marker, burial mound and as a cenotaph.

Avebury Henge, Stone Circle and West Kennet Avenue – The largest stone circle in Europe, Avebury formed the centre of one of the most impressive Neolithic ceremonial landscapes in Britain. The great circles, 200 standing stones arranged in an outer and 2 inner circles, surrounded by a massive bank and ditch, were the focal point of the area. They were connected by the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones to other locales in the region, including the Sanctuary on Overton Hill – the site of a postulated temple. Hundreds of great sarsen stones from the downland around, often weighing over 20 tonnes, were used in the construction of the site, some 2500-2200 BC.

 

Visit Bath for Lunch, Guided coach tour and ‘Free Time’

 

The Stonehenge Landscape

 

Durrington Walls is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure. It is 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge. Recent excavation at Durrington Walls, support an estimate of a community of several thousand, thought to be the largest one of its age in north-west Europe. At 500m in diameter, the henge is the largest in Britain and recent evidence suggests that it was a complementary monument to Stonehenge

 

Woodhenge – Neolithic monument, dating from about 2300 BC, six concentric rings, once possibly supported a ring-shaped building.

 

Stonehenge Cursus –  (sometimes known as the Greater Cursus) is a large Neolithic cursus monument next to Stonehenge. It is roughly 3km long and between 100 and 150m wide. Excavations by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2007 dated the construction of the earthwork to between 3630 and 3375 BC. This makes the monument several hundred years older than the earliest phase of Stonehenge in 3000 BC.

 

Bronze Age round barrows The Stonehenge UNESCO world heritage site is said to contain the most concentrated collection of prehistoric sites and monuments in the world. One monument type missed by the casual observer is that of the Bronze Age round barrow (burial mounds). As we walk through this landscape, you will come into contact with these intriguing ancient burial sites and through the expertise of our tour leaders, you will come face to face with the customs and people of Bronze Age society buried in close proximity to the unique stone circle of Stonehenge.Stonehenge Avenue – Walk along the Stonehenge Avenue and approach this unique stone circle as was the intended route experienced by the Stonehenge’s contempories.

 

Admission to Stonehenge – The great and ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is an exceptional survival from a prehistoric culture now lost to us. The monument evolved between 3000 BC – 1600 BC and is aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices.

 

Evening: Return 19.00 (winter schedule 18.00)

 

 These are Archaeology Tours, and as a result we believe we offer an excellent up-to-date specialist service; giving you the opportunity to learn in great detail about these amazing prehistoric sites, but also leaving you time to explore your surroundings by yourself.

This exclusive tour operates all year and can be booked through:
‘The Stonehenge Tour company’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Lugnhasadh – The Celtic harvest festival on August 1st

27 07 2011

Lugnhasadh, also known as Lammas, First Harvest

The name of this festival is Irish Gaelic for “Commemoration of Lugh”. Some authors give the meaning as marriage, gathering or feast (in the name of) of Lugh. The meaning remains basically the same: Lugh is the Deity of Lughnasadh, and there is a feast.

Although Lugh gives his name to this festival, it is also associated with Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu, who is said to have cleared the way for the introduction of agriculture in Ireland, thus linking Lughnasadh to the land and the harvest.

The modern Irish Gaelic name for the month of August is Lúnasa. In Scottish Gaelic Lunasda means the 1st of August.

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill -Wiltshire

One of several historic sources for the four Celtic fire festivals Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh und Samhain is the early medieval Irish tale “Tochmarc Emire” (The Wooing of Emer), which is part of the Ulster Cycle. In the form we know it today it was written in the 10th or 11th century CE, but it is safe to assume that this tale – like so many others – contains a much older nucleus.

The tale narrates how the hero Cú Chulainn is courting Emer. He receives several tasks to fulfill, one of them being that he must go without sleep for one year. As Emer utters her challenge, she names the four major points of the Irish-Celtic year, as they are also mentioned in other Irish sources. Doing this, she does not use the solar festivals, nor Christian ones, which were certainly well known and established by the 10th century. Instead Emer choses the first days of each season.

One of these days is Lughnasadh, marking the beginning of fall. It takes place on the 1st of August, a date internationally agreed upon, or on the day of the full moon next to this date, if you want to celebrate when the ancient Celts probably did.

Since the Celtic day started with sunset, the celebration takes place on the evening before the calendaric date.

Lughnasadh marks the begin of the noticeable descent of the Sun into the darkness of winter. From the connection between the Earth (female principle) and the Sun (male principle), the marriage of the Sky Father (Sun God) with the Earth Mother we celebrated at Bealtaine, emerge the fruits of the first harvest of the year. Lughnasadh is a time of joy about the first fruits. It is also a time of tension, because the dark days of winter are coming nearer, and most of the harvest is not brought in and stored away yet.

The God of the harvest is the Green Man (also known as John Barleycorn). He sacrifices himself every year in order to enable human life on Earth. In some areas his death is mourned with wreaths decorated with poppies or cornflowers.

The grain is cut, part of it goes into bread and nutrition, another part is stored away and used as seeds next spring, to create new life. Looking at that, thoughts about sacrifice, transformation, death and rebirth are also part of Lughnasadh.

The celebration of Lughnasadh includes the ritual cutting of the first grain and an offering thereof, possibly the making of a first meal and the ritual eating of it, as well as dancing. Fires are mentioned, but fire or light do not play such a prominent role as with the other fire festivals. This is probably because August is a warm month in most of Europe, with still long daylight hours, where no fire is needed. Lughnasadh celebrations are reported from Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Another name used for Lughnasadh is “Lammas”, from the old-anglosaxon “hlaef-mass” (loaf mass, mass where the first loaf of bread is consecrated), which developed into the later medieval English and Scottish “Lammas”. As such it is first mentioned in old anglosaxon chronicles as early as 921 CE as “Feast of the First Fruits”. In an agricultural society the begin of the harvest was a natural occasion to celebrate and to give thanks to the Divine for Its gifts.

In Bavarian tradition, the most important festival in August is the “Ascension of Mary” on the 15th of August. On this day, numerous processions through the villages and along the fields are held. During these processions, decorated bundles of herbs, consisting of up to 77 different herbs, are carried along on wooden sticks. These herbs are specially consecrated and stored away then. They are used for ritual incense burning later in the year, e.g. during the “rough nights”, the time of the winter solstice. An older name for this festival is “Maria Kräuterweih”, meaning “Day of Mary and the Consecration of Herbs”.

The beginning of fall was marked by the day of St. Bartholomäus (Bartholomew) on August 24th.

The original Lughnasadh customs have obviously shifted to August 15th and additionally into numerous local and regional harvest celebrations. Lughnasadh is the therefore only one of the eight Celtic festivals which did not survive in Bavaria as a compact celebration ON or near the original date (August 1st). Harvest celebrations are instead dispersed over all of August. This might have to do with the geographical situation of Bavaria, where August tends to be a rather warm month, and harvest and fall are a bit later than elsewhere.

The Deities of Lughnasadh are Danu (Anu), the Mother of Gods and Men, and Lugh, the patron of scholars, craftsmen, warriors and magicians. Lugh is also known as Lugh Samildánach (the Many Skilled) and Lugh Lámhfada (Lugh with the Long Arm). It is disputed among authors whether this refers to Lugh’s magical spear or to the rays of the Sun. Lugh seems to have been worshipped, like his Greek and Roman correspondences Hermes and Mercury, mostly on elevations, hills or mountaintops.

The plant of Lughnasadh is any form of grain or corn, in a wider sense every fruit of field and garden.

The meaning of Lughnasadh on the inner planes is the start of the harvest of the fruits that we have sown in spring. Which things or projects are reaping in us in the moment? What would we like to finish, what to start anew? Do we have the insight that to every harvest there is a necessity of preparation?

The essence of Lughnasadh is the joy of life under the knowledge that darker times are moving in. We take in the warming rays of the Sun and store their power for the times coming. At the time we celebrate the next festival, Alban Elfed, it will be fall and the warm summer days will already be a memory.

Of course Lughnasadh is a very good time to express gratitude to the Gods and the Earth Spirits for their blessings and gifts that we are now receiving. In times of microwave and frozen pizza it may seem anachronistic to thank for the harvest. Many of our modern food stuffs make it hard to still recognize the waving grain on the field in them. And yet there is a way to connect with nature via the food that we eat. This is especially valid for self-harvested fruits. But also conscious eating, eating with focus on the food and not on TV or newspaper, is one way of expressing our thanks for the harvest – all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.

Links:
http://www.mythinglinks.org/Lammas.html
http://www.chalicecentre.net/lughnasadh.htm

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin at Stonehenge (I will be at Avebury Stone Circle this year for Lammas)
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Marlborough mound mystery solved – after 4,400 years

1 06 2011

Hill in Wiltshire school grounds nicknamed Silbury’s little sister revealed as important neolithic monument

Ancient mound in the grounds of Marlborough College, Wiltshire. Photograph: Steven Vaux /Marlborough College

For generations, it has been scrambled up with pride by students at Marlborough College. But the mysterious, pudding-shaped mound in the grounds of the Wiltshire public school now looks set to gain far wider acclaim as scientists have revealed it is a prehistoric monument of international importance.

After thorough excavations, the Marlborough mound is now thought to be around 4,400 years old, making it roughly contemporary with the nearby, and far more renowned, Silbury Hill.

 

The new evidence was described by one archeologist, an expert on ancient ritual sites in the area, as “an astonishing discovery”. Both neolithic structures are likely to have been constructed over many generations.

The Marlborough mound had been thought to date back to Norman times. It was believed to be the base of a castle built 50 years after the Norman invasion and later landscaped as a 17th-century garden feature. But it has now been dated to around 2400BC from four samples of charcoal taken from the core of the 19 metre-high hill.

The samples prove it was built at a time when British tribes were combining labour on ritual monuments in the chalk downlands of Wiltshire, including Stonehenge and the huge ditches and stone circle of Avebury.

History students at the college will now have the chance to study an extraordinary example just a stone’s throw from their classroom windows. Malborough’s Master Nicholas Sampson said: “We are thrilled at this discovery, which confirms the long and dramatic history of this beautiful site and offers opportunity for tremendous educational enrichment.”

The Marlborough mound has been called “Silbury’s little sister”, after the more famous artificial hill on the outskirts of Avebury, which is the largest manmade prehistoric hill in Europe.

Marlborough, at two-thirds the height of Silbury, now becomes the second largest prehistoric mound in Britain; it may yet be confirmed as the second largest in Europe.

Jim Leary, the English Heritage archeologist who led a recent excavation of Silbury, said: “This is an astonishing discovery. The Marlborough mound has been one of the biggest mysteries in the Wessex landscape. For centuries, people have wondered whether it is Silbury’s little sister, and now we have an answer. This is a very exciting time for British prehistory.”

 The dating was carried out as part of major conservation work amid concerns that tree roots could be destabilising the structure.

Sponsored by the The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Prehistoric man ‘used crude sat nav’

20 04 2011

Prehistoric man navigated his way across England using a crude version of sat nav based on stone circle markers, historians have claimed.

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire which may have been part of an ancient navigational aid for prehistoric
Silbury Hill, Wiltshire which may have been part of an ancient navigational aid for prehistoric

They were able to travel between settlements with pinpoint accuracy thanks to a complex network of hilltop monuments.

These covered much of southern England and Wales and included now famous landmarks such as Stonehenge and The Mount.

New research suggests that they were built on a connecting grid of isosceles triangles that ‘point’ to the next site.

Many are 100 miles or more away, but GPS co-ordinates show all are accurate to within 100 metres.

This provided a simple way for ancient Britons to navigate successfully from A to B without the need for maps.

According to historian and writer Tom Brooks, the findings show that Britain’s Stone Age ancestors were ”sophisticated engineers” and far from a barbaric race.

Mr Brooks, from Honiton, Devon, studied all known prehistoric sites as part of his research.

He said: ”To create these triangles with such accuracy would have required a complex understanding of geometry.

”The sides of some of the triangles are over 100 miles across on each side and yet the distances are accurate to within 100 metres. You cannot do that by chance.

”So advanced, sophisticated and accurate is the geometrical surveying now discovered, that we must review fundamentally the perception of our Stone Age forebears as primitive, or conclude that they received some form of external guidance.

”Is sat-nav as recent as we believe; did they discover it first?”

Mr Brooks analysed 1,500 sites stretching from Norfolk to north Wales. These included standing stones, hilltop forts, stone circles and hill camps.

Each was built within eyeshot of the next.

Using GPS co-ordinates, he plotted a course between the monuments and noted their positions to each other.

He found that they all lie on a vast geometric grid made up of isosceles ‘triangles’. Each triangle has two sides of the same length and ‘point’ to the next settlement.

Thus, anyone standing on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire could have navigated their way to Lanyon Quoit in Cornwall without a map.

Mr Brooks believes many of the Stone Age sites were created 5,000 years ago by an expanding population recovering from the trauma of the Ice Age.

Lower ground and valleys would have been reduced to bog and marshes, and people would have naturally sought higher ground to settle.

He said: ”After the Ice Age, the territory would have been pretty daunting for everyone. There was an expanding population and people were beginning to explore.

”They would have sought sanctuary on high ground and these positions would also have given clear vantage points across the land with clear visibility untarnished by pollution.

”The triangle navigation system may have been used for trading routes among the expanding population and also been used by workers to create social paths back to their families while they were working on these new sites.”

Mr Brooks now hopes his findings will inspire further research into the navigation methods of ancient Britons.

He said: ”Created more than 2,000 years before the Greeks were supposed to have discovered such geometry, it remains one of the world’s biggest civil engineering projects.

”It was a breathtaking and complex undertaking by a people of profound industry and vision. We must revise our thinking of what’s gone before.”

‘Prehistoric Geometry in Britain: the Discoveries of Tom Brooks’ is now on sale priced £13.90.

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8461290/Sat-nav-Prehistoric-man-used-crude-sat-nav.html

 Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

 








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