Stonehenge was built to unify Britain, researchers conclude

22 06 2012

Building Stonehenge was a way to unify the people of Stone Age Britain, researchers have concluded.
Teams working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project believe the circle was built after a long period of conflict between east and west Britain.

 Researchers believe Stonehenge was built in the "centre of the world" for prehistoric peopl


Researchers believe Stonehenge was built in the “centre of the world” for prehistoric peopl

Researchers also believe the stones, from southern England and west Wales, symbolize different communities.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson said building Stonehenge required everyone “to pull together” in “an act of unification”.

The Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) has been investigating the archaeology of Stonehenge and its landscape for the past 10 years.

In 2008, SRP researchers found that Stonehenge had been erected almost 500 years earlier than had originally been thought.

Now teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manch

ester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London, have concluded that when the stone circle was built “there was a growing island-wide culture”.

“Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture”

Professor Mike Parker PearsonUniversity of Sheffield

“The same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast – this was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries,” said Prof Parker Pearson, from University of Sheffield.

“Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them.

“Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.”

Stonehenge may also have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons

‘Centre of the world’

The SRP team found that its solstice-aligned avenue sits upon a series of natural landforms that, by chance, form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

“When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realised that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance,” said Mr Parker Pearson.

“This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else.

“Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world”.

Previous theories suggesting the great stone circle was inspired by ancient Egyptians or extra-terrestrials have been firmly rejected by researchers.

“All the architectural influences for Stonehenge can be found in previous monuments and buildings within Britain, with origins in Wales and Scotland,” said Mr Parker Pearson.

“In fact, Britain’s Neolithic people were isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries.

“Britain may have become unified but there was no interest in interacting with people across the Channel.

“Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel.”

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-18550513

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





Hidden dimension of Stonehenge revealed

8 12 2011

A project directed by academics at the University of Sheffield has made the archaeology of the world-famous Stonehenge site more accessible than ever before.

StonehengeGoogle Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge is the first application of its kind to transport users around a virtual prehistoric landscape, exploring the magnificent and internationally important monument, Stonehenge.

The application used data gathered from the University of Sheffield´s Stonehenge Riverside Project in conjunction with colleagues from the universities of Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and London. The application was developed by Bournemouth University archaeologists, adding layers of archaeological information to Google Earth to create Google Under-the-Earth.

The unique visual experience lets users interact with the past like never before. Highlights include taking a visit to the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls and a trip inside a prehistoric house. Users also have the opportunity to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and the great timber monument called the Southern Circle, as they would have looked more than 4,000 years ago.

The project is funded through Google Research Awards, a program which fosters relationships between Google and the academic world as part of Google’s ambition to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Professor Mike Parker-Pearson from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “Google Under Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge is part of a much wider project led by myself and colleagues at other universities – the Stonehenge Riverside Project – which began in 2003. This new Google application is exciting because it will allow people around the world to explore some of the fascinating discoveries we’ve made in and around Stonehenge over the past few years.”

Archaeological scientist Dr Kate Welham, project leader at Bournemouth University, explained that the project could also be the start of something much bigger:

“It is envisaged that Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge could be the start of a new layer in Google Earth. Many of the world’s great archaeological sites could be added, incorporating details of centuries’ worth of excavations as well as technical data from geophysical and remote sensing surveys in the last 20 years.” she said.

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist at Stonehenge said: “The National Trust cares for over 2,000 acres of the Stonehenge Landscape. Seeing Beneath Stonehenge offers exciting and innovative ways for people to explore that landscape. It will allow people across the globe, many of whom may never otherwise have the chance to visit the sites, to share in the thrill of the discoveries made by the Stonehenge Riverside team and to appreciate the remarkable achievements of the people who built and used the monuments.”

You can download the application from the Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge site. The tool is easy to use and requires Google Earth to be installed on your computer.

Notes for Editors:
Google Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge was created at Bournemouth University by Dr Kate Welham, Mark Dover, Harry Manley and Lawrence Shaw. It is jointly directed by Dr Kate Welham and Professor Mike Parker Pearson at the University of Sheffield.

To find out more about the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, visit: Department of Archaeology

The Stonehenge Riverside Project was a joint collaboration between Universities of Bournemouth, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and University College London. It was led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, University of Sheffield, and co-directed by Professor Julian Thomas, University of Manchester, Dr Joshua Pollard, University of Southampton (formally University of Bristol), Dr Colin Richards, University of Manchester, Dr Chris Tilley, University College London and Dr Kate Welham, Bournemouth University.

This project has been supported by: The Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Society of Antiquaries, the Prehistoric Society, the McDonald Institute, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Andante Travel, University of Sheffield Enterprise Scheme, the British Academy, the National Geographic Society, with financial support from English Heritage and the National Trust for outreach. The project was awarded the Bob Smith Prize in 2004 and the Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year award for Bluestonehenge in 2010.
Links: www.shef.ac.uk/

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

Merln says: The tool is easy to use and requires Google Earth to be installed on your computer.

Melin @ Stonehenge Stone Cirle
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Archaeological discovery provides evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

27 11 2011
BIRMINGHAM.- Archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge. Shedding new light on the significant association of the monument with the sun, these pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark its rising and setting and could have defined a processional route used by agriculturalists to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.

 photograph showing Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.

photograph showing Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.

Positioned within the Cursus pathway, the pits are on alignment towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, the enigmatic stone standing just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. For the first time, this discovery may directly link the rituals and celestial phenomena at Stonehenge to activities within the Cursus.

The international archaeological survey team, led by the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna (LBI ArchPro) have also discovered a previously unknown gap in the middle of the northern side of the Cursus, which may have provided the main entrance and exit point for processions that took place within the pathway. Stretching from west to east, the Cursus is an immense linear enclosure, 100 metres wide and two and a half kilometres across, north of Stonehenge.

Professor Vince Gaffney, archaeologist and project leader from the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre at the University of Birmingham, explains: “This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape. These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important, ritual focus and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date.

“Other activities were carried out at other ceremonial sites only a short distance away. The results from this new survey help us to appreciate just how complex these activities were and how intimate these societies were with the natural world. The perimeter of the Cursus may well have defined a route guiding ceremonial processions which took place on the longest day of the year.”

Archaeologists have understood for a long time that Stonehenge was designed to mark astronomical events, built by farming societies whose everyday concerns with growing crops linked their daily lives to the passage of the seasons and in particular the sun, on which their livelihoods depended. This new evidence raises exciting questions about how complex rituals within the Stonehenge landscape were conducted and how processions along or around the Cursus were organised at the time Stonehenge was in use.

Professor Gaffney adds: “It now seems likely that other ceremonial monuments in the surrounding landscape were directly articulated with rituals at Stonehenge. It is possible that processions within the Cursus moved from the eastern pit at sunrise, continuing eastwards along the Cursus and, following the path of the sun overhead, and perhaps back to the west, reaching the western pit at sunset to mark the longest day of the year. Observers of the ceremony would have been positioned at the Heel Stone, of which the two pits are aligned.”

Dr Henry Chapman, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Visualisation observes: “If you measure the walking distance between the two pits, the procession would reach exactly half-way at midday, when the sun would be directly on top of Stonehenge. This is more than just a coincidence, indicating that the exact length of the Cursus and the positioning of the pits are of significance.”

Stonehenge, while certainly the most important monument in the later Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape, was surrounded by a dense concentration of other sacred sites, some of which were already ancient when Stonehenge itself was built. The team has also revealed a new horseshoe arrangement of large pits north-east of Stonehenge which may have also contained posts and, together with the henge-like monument discovered last year and a number of other small monuments, may have functioned as minor shrines, perhaps serving specific communities visiting the ceremonial centre.

Paul Garwood, Lecturer in Prehistory at the University of Birmingham, comments: “Our knowledge of the ancient landscapes that once existed around Stonehenge is growing dramatically as we examine the new geophysical survey results. We can see in rich detail not only new monuments, but entire landscapes of past human activity, over thousands of years, preserved in sub-surface features such as pits and ditches. This project is establishing a completely new framework for studying the Stonehenge landscape.”

These new discoveries have come to light as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, which began in summer 2010 as the world’s biggest-ever virtual excavation using the latest geophysical imaging techniques to reveal and visually recreate the extraordinary prehistoric landscape surrounding Stonehenge.

Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, adds: “The LBI provides the best academics, technicians and young researchers in a team of 20 people and uses multiple systems designed for use on projects where the scale of work was previously unachievable. The use of non-invasive technologies provides information for virtual archaeologies that can be disseminated to the public via the web, iPad or mobile phone.”

Dr Christopher Gaffney, lecturer in Archaeological Geophysics at the University of Bradford, concludes:

“Building on our work from last year we have added even more techniques and instruments to study this remarkable landscape. It is clear that one technique is not adequate to study the complexity of the monuments and landscape surrounding our most important archaeological monument and the battery of techniques used here has significantly increased the certainty of our interpretation.”

Link: http://www.artdaily.org

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

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





The Stonehenge Landscape Project. Lecture: 10th December 2011

19 11 2011

 

Recent Analytical survey and investigation in the World Heritage Site, by David Field.

Saturday LectureMonuments within the Stonehenge Landscape have rarely been subject to survey techniques in modern times and in many cases reliance has been placed on Ordnance Survey depictions of the early 20th century. In advance of the establishment of a new visitor centre and to complement and support the recent university programmes of excavation in the area, English Heritage has been conducting the Stonehenge WHS Landscape Project to determine what non-destructive survey techniques can tell us about the area. Using ground survey, aerial photography, lidar and laser scanning a number of fresh and sometimes surprising conclusions emerge. This talk will outline the results so far.

David Field is a senior landscape archaeologist at English Heritage. He has undertaken extensive research into the prehistory of Salisbury Plain and the Vale of Pewsey, including the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Publications include ‘Earthen Long Barrows’ 2006),‘The story of Silbury Hill’ (co author with Jim Leary, 2010), ‘The Field Archaeology of the Salisbury Plain Training Area’ (2002) and ‘Ancient water management on Salisbury Plain’ in Patterns of the Past: Essays in Landscape Archaeology (1999). He has also contributed a number of articles to WANHM, most recently as one of the joint authors of the reports on the Breamore jadeite axehead and the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Midden at East Chisenbury, in Volume 103 (2010).

Saturday afternoon lectures start at 2.30pm and last approx. one hour.

Booking:

Contact the Bookings Secretary if you would like to be added to a reserve list:
* Tel: 01380 727369 (10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday)
* Send an e-mail.
Cost:   £5 (£3 for WANHS members)

Visiting Stonehenge ?  Visit the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes:  http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk

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

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





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





The Stonehenge Landscape

8 09 2011

Stonehenge is the best known of all the prehistoric monuments in the British Isles and probably also in Europe. Along with the Neolithic monuments around Avebury situated 28km to the north, it forms a UNESCO recognised World Heritage Site (WHS), the parts of which are separated by the southern edge of the Marlborough Downs, Pewsey Vale and the Salisbury Plain military training area.

Much of the Avebury portion of the WHS, along with the military ranges, has been investigated from an archaeological landscape perspective during recent decades, as has the area to the south and west of the WHS, but ironically the Stonehenge area has not been treated in this way and it lacks the solid base of landscape surveys on which to build interpretations and understanding. The fresh Government-led imperative to ensure that new visitor facilities are in place by 2012 demands the provision of modern archaeological site plans, interpretations and other data which can feed into educational and presentational programmes as well as serving academic, management and conservation needs. 
Stonehenge Landscape

English Heritage are therefore undertaking an analytical landscape investigation of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This draws upon the considerable existing work provided by excavation, aerial, metric and geophysical survey but it fills a gap in this suite because there has been no modern detailed survey of the earthworks and other upstanding historicphysical remains within the Site – the barrow cemeteries, field systems and linear ditches, but also the tracks, ponds and military remains of more recent date.

Consequently there are no adequate plans of most of the upstanding archaeological remains within the WHS and no synthesis of the landscape history, especially in regard to its medieval and post-medieval phases. Analytical earthwork survey and analysis,supported by aerial survey and lidar data, is the key to understanding landscape change and will provide the framework in which individual small-scale site specific interventions can rest. Recommendations for other work, eg geophysical survey or coring to explore the extent of buried land surfaces, may arise from this.

The knowledge gained from this project is needed to inform displays in the new Visitor Centre, but also to inform various ongoing management issues, such as visitor pressure, and animal burrowing. The requirements of the new Visitor Centre include the best possible visualisation of the stones and their environs; digital terrain modelling of the surrounding land surface will provide the latter while it is hoped that laser scanning of the former will complete the package
For further detaisl visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Companywww.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Website

 





Tomb found at Stonehenge quarry site

1 09 2011

The tomb for the original builders of Stonehenge could have been unearthed by an excavation at a site in Wales.

The Carn Menyn site in the Preseli Hills is where the bluestones used to

The central site had already been disturbed so archaeologists chose to excavate around the edges

The central site had already been disturbed so archaeologists chose to excavate around the edges

construct the first stone phase of the henge were quarried in 2300BC.

Organic material from the site will be radiocarbon dated, but it is thought any remains have already been taken.

Archaeologists believe this could prove a conclusive link between the site and Stonehenge.

The remains of a ceremonial monument were found with a bank that appears to have a pair of standing stones embedded in it.

The bluestones at the earliest phase of Stonehenge – also set in pairs – give a direct architectural link from the iconic site to this newly discovered henge-like monument in Wales.

The tomb, which is a passage cairn – a style typical of Neolithic burial monument – was placed over this henge.

The link between the Welsh site and Stonehenge was first suggested by the geologist Herbert Thomas in 1923.

This was confirmed in 2008 when permission was granted to excavate inside the stone circle for the first time in about 50 years.

The bluestones had been transported from the hills over 150 miles to the plain in Wiltshire to create Stonehenge, the best known of all Britain’s prehistoric monuments.

Two of the leading experts on Stonehenge, Prof Geoff Wainwright and Prof Timothy Darvill, have been leading the project.

They are now excavating at the site of a robbed out Neolithic tomb, built right next to the original quarry.

They knew that the tomb had been disturbed previously, so rather than excavate inside, they placed their small trench along its outer edge.

Prof Darvill said: “It’s a little piece of keyhole surgery into an important monument, but it has actually lived up to our expectations perfectly.”

There are many springs in the area, which may be have been associated with ritual healing in prehistoric times, and also the reason why these particular stones were quarried for another monument so far away.

Prof Wainwright said: “The important thing is that we have a ceremonial monument here that is earlier than the passage grave.

“We have obviously got a very important person who may have been responsible for the impetus for these stones to be transported.

“It can be compared directly with the first Stonehenge, so for the first time we have a direct link between Carn Menyn – where the bluestones came from – and Stonehenge, in the form of this ceremonial monument.”

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

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website








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