The Stonehenge prehistoric landscape. A Satellite view,

30 03 2012

I found this wonderful image on the stone-circles web site.  See it here:
http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/stonehenge.htm
 Satellite image of the Stonehenge Landscape

It shows the “ritual” and non-ritual features in the Stonehenge area — with the features themselves overlaid onto a satellite image of the district.  Click to enlarge.

Links: http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ http://www.StonehenegTours.com

Merlin says “Stonehenge is so much more than a Stine Circle and I encourage you all to explore this prehistoric Landscape”

Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle 





Stonehenge: Up Close 12th December 2011

4 12 2011

Stonehenge access guided tourGain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts. Start the tour with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge accompanied by our expert. Visit key archaeology sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus and learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigative work that has gone on in recent years. Includes tea and coffee.

MEMBERS EXCLUSIVE EVENT

How to Book

Purchase your tickets today 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 

Prices

Ticket price includes entry to event site only

TYPE PRICE
Member (Adult) £30.00
 
Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/stonehenge-up-close-s-12-dec/

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.

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com
http://www.stonehengetours.com/html/stonehenge_archaeology_avebury_landscape_tour.htm

Merlin says: The Stonehenge landscape is more important than the Stone Circle – do this tour with the English Heritage………..

Merlin @ Stonehenge

 




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





Secret history of Stonehenge revealed

26 11 2011

 Ancient site may have been place of worship 500 years before the first stone was erected

Extraordinary new discoveries are shedding new light on why Britain’s most famous ancient site, Stonehenge, was built – and when.

Current research is now suggesting that Stonehenge may already have been an important sacred site at least 500 years before the first Stone circle was erected – and that the sanctity of its location may have determined the layout of key aspects of the surrounding sacred landscape.

What’s more, the new investigation – being carried out by archaeologists from the universities’ of Birmingham, Bradford  and Vienna – massively increases the evidence linking Stonehenge to pre-historic solar religious beliefs. It increases the likelihood that the site was originally and primarily associated with sun worship

The investigations have also enabled archaeologists  to putatively reconstruct the detailed route of a possible religious procession or other ritual event which they suspect may have taken place annually to the north of Stonehenge.

That putative pre-historic religious ‘procession’ (or, more specifically, the evidence suggesting its route) has implications for understanding Stonehenge’s prehistoric religious function – and suggests that the significance of the site Stonehenge now occupies emerged earlier than has previously been appreciated.

The crucial new archaeological evidence was discovered during on-going survey work around Stonehenge in which archaeologists have been ‘x-raying’ the ground, using ground-penetrating radar and other geophysical investigative techniques. As the archaeological team from Birmingham and Vienna were using these high-tech systems to map the interior of a major prehistoric enclosure (the so-called ‘Cursus’) near Stonehenge, they discovered two great pits, one towards the enclosure’s eastern end, the other nearer its western end.

When they modelled the relationship between these newly-discovered Cursus pits and Stonehenge on their computer system, they realised that, viewed from the so-called ‘Heel Stone’ at Stonehenge, the pits were aligned with sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year – the summer solstice (midsummer’s day). The chances of those two alignments being purely coincidental are extremely low.

The archaeologists then began to speculate as to what sort of ritual or ceremonial activity might have been carried out at and between the two pits. In many areas of the world, ancient religious and other ceremonies sometimes involved ceremonially processing round the perimeters of monuments. The archaeologists therefore thought it possible that the prehistoric celebrants at the Cursus might have perambulated between the two pits by processing around the perimeter of the Cursus.

Initially this was pure speculation – but then it was realized that there was, potentially a way of trying to test the idea. On midsummer’s day there are in fact three key alignments – not just sunrise and sunset, but also midday (the highest point the sun reaches in its annual cycle). For at noon the key alignment should be due south.

One way to test the ‘procession’ theory (or at least its route) was for the archaeologists  to demonstrate that the midway point on that route had indeed a special relationship with Stonehenge (just as the two pits – the start and end point of the route – had).  The ‘eureka moment’ came when the computer calculations revealed that the midway point (the noon point) on the route aligned directly with the centre of Stonehenge, which was precisely due south.

This realization that the sun hovering over the site of  Stonehenge at its highest point in the year appears to have been of great importance to prehistoric people, is itself of potential significance. For it suggests that the site’s association with the veneration of the sun was perhaps even greater than previously realized.

But the discovery of the Cursus pits, the discovery of the solar alignments and of the putative ‘processional’ route, reveals something else as well – something that could potentially turn the accepted chronology of the Stonehenge landscape on its head.

For decades, modern archaeology has held that Stonehenge was a relative latecomer to the area – and that the other large monument in that landscape – the Cursus – pre-dated it by up to 500 years.

However, the implication of the new evidence is that, in a sense, the story may have been the other way round, i.e. that the site of Stonehenge was sacred before the Cursus was built, says Birmingham archaeologist, Dr. Henry Chapman, who has been modelling the alignments on the computerized reconstructions of the Stonehenge landscape

The argument for this is simple, yet persuasive. Because the ‘due south’ noon alignment of the ‘procession’ route’s mid-point could not occur if the Cursus itself had different dimensions, the design of that monument has to have been conceived specifically to attain that mid-point alignment with the centre of Stonehenge.

What’s more, if that is so, the Stonehenge Heel Stone location had to have been of ritual significance before the Cursus pits were dug (because their alignments are as perceived specifically from the Heel Stone).

Those two facts, when taken together, therefore imply that the site, later occupied by the stones of Stonehenge, was already sacred before construction work began on the Cursus. Unless the midday alignment is a pure coincidence (which is unlikely), it  would imply  that the Stonehenge site’s sacred status is at least 500 years older than previously thought – a fact which raises an intriguing possibility.

For 45 years ago, archaeologists found an 8000 BC Mesolithic (‘Middle’ Stone Age) ritual site in what is now Stonehenge’s car park. The five thousand year gap between that Mesolithic sacred site and Stonehenge itself meant that most archaeologists thought that ‘sacred’ continuity between the two was inherently unlikely. But, with the new discoveries, the time gap has potentially narrowed. Indeed, it’s not known for how long the site of Stonehenge was sacred prior to the construction of the Cursus. So, very long term traditions of geographical sanctity in relation to Britain’s and the world’s best known ancient monument, may now need to be considered.

The University of Birmingham  Stonehenge area survey – the largest of its type ever carried out anywhere in the world – will take a further two years to complete, says Professor Vince Gaffney, the director the project.

Virtually every square meter in a five square mile area surrounding the world most famous pre-historic monument will be examined geophysically to a depth of  up to two metres, he says.

It’s anticipated that dozens, potentially hundreds of previously unknown sites will be discovered as a result of the operation.

The ongoing discoveries in Stonehenge’s sacred prehistoric landscape – being made by Birmingham’s archaeologists and colleagues from the University of Vienna’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institute – are expected to transform scholars’ understanding of the famous monument’s origins, history and meaning.

Full Article: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/secret-history-of-stonehenge-revealed-6268237.html

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

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Archaeostrononomer Gerald Hawkins died today 2003

26 05 2011

Gerald Stanley Hawkins

Gerald Hawkins

Gerald Hawkins

Astronomer who claimed Stonehenge was a computer

· Gerald Stanley Hawkins, archaeoastronomer and author, born April 20 1928; died May 26 2003.

(1928–2003) was an English astronomer and author most famous for his work in the field of archaeoastronomy. A professor and chair of the astronomy department at Boston University in the United States. In 1965 he published an analysis of Stonehenge in which he was the first to propose its purpose as an ancient astronomical observatory used to predict movements of sun and stars. Archeologists and other scholars have since demonstrated such sophisticated, complex planning and construction at other prehistoric earthwork sites, such as Cahokia in the United States.

Gerald Hawkins’ work
Gerald Hawkins’ work on Stonehenge was first published in Nature in 1963 following analyses he had carried out using the Harvard-Smithsonian IBM computer. Hawkins found not one or two alignments but dozens. He had studied 165 significant features at the monument and used the computer to check every alignment between them against every rising and setting point for the sun, moon, planets, and bright stars in the positions they would have been in 1500 BC. Thirteen solar and eleven lunar correlations were very precise against the early features at the site with precision falling during the megalithic stages. Hawkins also proposed a method for using the Aubrey holes to predict lunar eclipses by moving markers from hole to hole. In 1965 Hawkins wrote (with J. B. White) Stonehenge Decoded, which detailed his findings and proposed that the monument was a ‘Neolithic computer’.

Atkinson replied with his article “Moonshine on Stonehenge” in Antiquity in 1966, pointing out that some of the pits which Hawkins had used for his sight lines were more likely to have been natural depressions, and that he had allowed a margin of error of up to 2 degrees in his alignments. Atkinson found that the probability of so many alignments being visible from 165 points to be close to 0.5 (or rather 50:50) rather that the “one in a million” possibility which Hawkins had claimed. That the Station Stones stood on top of the earlier Aubrey Holes meant that many of Hawkins’ alignments between the two features were illusory. The same article by Atkinson contains further criticisms of the interpretation of Aubrey Holes as astronomical markers, and of Fred Hoyle’s work.

A question exists over whether the English climate would have permitted accurate observation of astronomical events. Modern researchers were looking for alignments with phenomena they already knew existed; the prehistoric users of the site did not have this advantage.

Later Stonehenge theories

Although Stonehenge has become an increasingly popular destination during the summer solstice, with 26,000 people visiting in 2010, scholars have developed growing evidence that indicates prehistoric people visited the site only during the winter solstice. The only megalithic monuments in the British Isles to contain a clear, compelling solar alignment are Newgrange and Maeshowe, which both famously face the winter solstice sunrise.

The most recent such evidence supporting the theory of winter visits includes bones and teeth from pigs which were slaughtered at nearby Durrington Walls. Their age at death indicating that they were slaughtered either in December or January every year. Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield has said, “We have no evidence that anyone was in the landscape in summer.”

From the Guardian 2003

In 1961, Gerald Hawkins, who has died of a heart attack aged 75, was professor of physics and astronomy at Boston University in Massachusetts. It was then that he returned to Salisbury Plain to film the sun rise over the marker Heelstone at Stonehenge. Assistants meanwhile plotted every stone and pit, punched coordinates on to cards and fed them, and astronomical data, into an IBM 704.This was at a time when computers were rare and glamorous. Asking that age’s technological wonder to decipher the ancient world’s icon was a gesture of timely genius. The journal Nature published Hawkins’s first results in 1963. Two years later Stonehenge Decoded, written by Hawkins with John B White, was published in the US.The IBM machines, Hawkins argued, showed Stonehenge to be a neolithic computer-observatory for predicting eclipses of the sun and moon. From New York to Iraq, newspapers praised the professor and his computer for rewriting prehistory. Stone-age savages were revealed as skilled scientists.

Archaeologists were less happy. They sniffed at his “overconfident style”, resented his publicity and questioned his results. Hawkins’s statistics were shown to be dodgy; he had contrived a computer from a monument believed to have developed piecemeal over centuries.

Stonehenge excavator Richard Atkinson described Hawkins’s book as: “tendentious, arrogant, slipshod, and unconvincing” – for him the builders of Stonehenge were “howling barbarians”.

The popular archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes, meanwhile, observed that “every age has the Stonehenge it deserves – or desires”.

Hawkins claimed surprise at the response. That contribution to Nature was his 61st scientific paper and many of his others, on subjects such as tektites, meteors and steady-state universe theory seemed to him more exciting. But none of his other dozen books was as successful.

Hawkins had changed the way we think about Stonehenge, and inspired the science of archaeo-astronomy. Repeated studies have failed to do more than support a few solar, and perhaps lunar alignments, and deny a computational function. Yet in the public mind, Stonehenge is now fixed as an observatory and computer. Stonehenge Decoded initiated a debate still alive, and inspired the first generation of archaeo-astronomers.

Hawkins also analysed the Nazca lines in Peru and the temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt. He recently developed a crop circles theory based on Euclidean geometry and musical intervals. He first saw Stonehenge in 1953, when working at nearby Larkhill camp. He read that the monument was aligned on midsummer sunrise, a fact first noted by William Stukeley in the 18th century, and made much of by Sir Norman Lockyer in 1906.

Hawkins’s hometown was Great Yarmouth. He obtained his first degree at Nottingham University in 1949 in physics, with pure maths subsidiary, and a PhD in radio astronomy under Sir Bernard Lovell at Manchester University in 1952.

Manchester awarded him a DSc in 1963 for astronomical research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatories. He was professor of astronomy and chairman of the department at Boston University (1957-69), and dean of the liberal arts Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1969-71).

Boston presented him with the Shell award for distinguished writing in 1965. Other awards came from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences, and he was a proud member of the prestigious intellectual Cosmos Club, Washington DC. He was a science advisor to the US Information Agency.

Hawkins was dedicated to his research, and enthusiastic and generous with those ready to listen. He was due to address an Oxford conference with a new Stonehenge study and, to the surprise of some British academics, he continued to see himself as an Englishman. He leaves his second wife, Julia Dobson.

Links: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=2146410963
Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company, www.StonehengeTours.com

Respect!

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Wessex Audio Tour – Ancient Britain

3 03 2011

Start: Avebury |Finish: Old Sarum
Distance: Approximately 42 miles

Wiltshire is a county of history and mystery set in a dramatic landscape. The combination of heritage and scenery provides a truly memorable day out. So come with us on a journey through the countryside and across the ages as we go back to the time of our prehistoric ancestors. Hundreds of thousands of years may have passed but all over the county there’s evidence of human activity from the end of the Ice Age through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to the invasion of the Romans in AD43.

Click here for audio / visual tour

This driving tour will take you through the heart of Wiltshire. En route you’ll discover more about how our enigmatic and mysterious ancestors lived, worked, fought and died.

This tour can be undertaken in a variety of ways; as a day-long journey, in short sections or you can use the information as a guide to individual visits.

You might also consider embarking on the tour using public transport but keeping up to date with bus service and timetable changes will require plenty of preparation.

Before you set off make sure that you’re properly equipped. Nothing beats a really good Ordnance Survey map, marked with contours and ancient monuments. A compass and a torch would also be useful. Some of these historical gems are in fields and away from roads or footpaths, so good walking boots are a must. Some sites have few or no facilities and it’s also worth noting that mobile phone coverage can’t be guaranteed in parts of rural Wiltshire. For news of road works or route closures, check BBC Local Radio and bbc.co.uk/travelnews

This guide has been produced with the generous assistance of Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, Bob Clarke, Martin Kellett, David Dawson and the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.
Sponsors:  The Stonehenge Tour Company

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website








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