Crown jewels of Stonehenge go on dazzling display: new prehistory galleries opening 14th October!

12 10 2013

In September 1808, William Cunnington, who was Britain’s first professional archaeologist, wrote to his patron to tell him that he had discovered what were to become known as the crown jewels of the “King of Stonehenge”.

On Monday, some of the treasures he found will go on permanent public display for the first time.

Gold from the time of Stonehenge:  new prehistory galleries at the Wiltshire Bush Barrow LozangeMuseum in Devizes Opening on 14 October, a completely new display over 4 galleries will tell the story of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

On display for the first time are dozens of gold items dating to the time of Stonehenge. Many were found Bronze Age burial mounds within sight of Stonehenge, and were worn by people who worshipped inside the stone circle. These nationally important objects have never been on permanent display, and are now on show as part of this £750,000 gallery development at the Wiltshire Museum – home of Britain’s richest Bronze Age collection.

The centrepiece of the stunning new displays is Britain’s most important Bronze Age burial. The Bush Barrow chieftain lived almost 4,000 years ago and was buried in a barrow overlooking Stonehenge wearing the objects that showed his power and authority – including a gold lozenge, a ceremonial mace and a gold-decorated dagger. Axes and daggers like those found in the grave are carved onto the Sarsen stones at Stonehenge. The precision and design of the Bush Barrow lozenge proves that the people who built and used Stonehenge had a detailed knowledge of mathematics and geometry. The gold finds from Bush Barrow have never before been on permanent display in Wiltshire.

The image alongside show Sebastian Foxley of the Wiltshire Council Conservation Service and David Dawson, Director, moving the Stonehenge Urn to its new home.

Wiltshire Heritage Museum:

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Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

Stonehenge Landscape. Events and Tours – August 2012

28 07 2012

Summer Stonehenge archaeology walk (4th / 18th August 2012)

Discover the wider Stonehenge World Heritage Site with a guide and discover hidden histories, ancient mysteries, and downland wildlife.

Stonehenge Landscape ToursExplore the downs in summer with an afternoon walk up on the downs to visit the ancient archaeology and varied wildlife of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. On this three mile walk with views of the Stone Circle, we’ll visit ancient earthworks that have revealed much about the people who once lived and celebrated here. Talking points include the Cursus, the many and varied barrows, an ancient avenue connecting ceremonial centres, and a rich diversity of wildlife.

  • Dress for the weather – bring a hat and sunscreen as there’s little shade out on the downs – and wear stout footwear. You may like to bring a cooling drink and a snack.
  • Meeting at the Stonehenge car park SP4 7DE (not NT) by the two ‘touching stones’ at the top of the slope that leads down towards the Stonehenge Cafe.
  • Dogs on leads welcome
  • Accompanied children welcome, free
  • Although your guide will tell you about it, this walk doesn’t visit the Stone Circle. You might like to visit it before or after the walk; NT members are admitted free.
  • Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is mostly grassland and trackways, often uneven underfoot. Cattle and sheep graze the gently sloping downs.

Durrington Walls to Stonehenge… and back again! (9th August 2012)

Join this walk to imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of Neolithic revellers…

Explore the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and especially the close connections between the two great henge monuments of Durrington Walls and Stonehenge. Your guide will take you on a circuit of around 6 miles over the downs, also exploring some of the less visited monuments that together form the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.


  • Please dress for the weather and wear stout footwear. Wrap up warm ‘ it gets chilly up on the downs!
  • Meeting at Woodhenge Car Park (not NT) (SP4 8LR) – take turn-off signed to Woodhenge from A345 between Amesbury and Durrington. Parking at own risk. No parking charge.
  • Dogs on leads welcome
  • Accompanied children welcome, free
  • Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is mostly grassland and trackways, often uneven underfoot. Cattle graze the gently sloping downs. Toilets in Stonehenge Car Park (on walk route).

Stargazing and storytelling, meteors and myths

Discover the night sky through telescopes and exciting myths and legends. (15th August 2012)

Join our friendly team of astronomers for an adventure exploring the night sky with telescopes, alongside legends told by our own starry storyteller, activities, and toasting marshmallows. As well as learning about the constellations, we hope the Perseid Meteor Shower will be putting on a show! Telescopes and expertise are provided by Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group, storytelling with Lizzie Bryant.

  • Bring a torch. Wrap up warm – we recommend plenty of layers, gloves, scarf and a hat – and wear stout footwear. Bring your own seating and blankets. You may like to bring a drink and a snack, too.
  • Meeting on byway 12, close to the Stonehenge Car Park (which will be closed when the event starts) parking at own risk – OS grid reference SU 120 424, postcode SP4 7DE.
  • Ideal for accompanied children, 8 years and up
  • Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is grassland, and trackways that are uneven underfoot and sometimes potholed.

Wings over Stonehenge – Military Airplane Competition centenary walk

This walk will commemorate the centenary of the Military Aeroplane Competition held at Lark Hill in August 1912 in which Colonel Sam Cody’s bi-plane ‘The Cathedral’ was the outright winner.

Walk in the slipstream of the early pioneer military aviators at Larkhill. See where the Bristol Boxkite made its first flight in 1910 and where the first British military aeroplane unit was formed in 1911. These walks will cover how aviation developed on Lark Hill from 1909-1914 and how military aviation ‘took off’around Stonehenge from 1914-1918. These walks aim to recreate the period with contemporary photographs and maps and include viewing the early hangars and crash sites.

  • Please dress for the weather and wear stout footwear. You are welcome to bring a snack and a drink to enjoy on the walk.
  • Meeting on Wood Road, Larkhill, grid reference SU143438; the post code is SP4 8LX.
  • Accompanied older children welcome, free
  • Access is by pedestrian and farm gates; the terrain is public roads, as well as grassland and trackways, uneven underfoot.

More Information: Lucy Evershed,             01980 664780

Booking Essential            0844 249 1895
A 5% booking fee applies. Phone lines are open Mon to Fri 9am-5.30pm, plus Sat and Sun 9am-4pm.
Booking Fee Applies

Merlin says  “These are truly great events and need to be booked in advance”

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Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle website

Stonehenge, Charles Darwin and Worms – What’s the connection ?

1 07 2012

Darwin’s earthworms and Stonehenge

One of Charles Darwin’s lesser known scientific contributions was the study of the humble earthworm. But could his work on this underground creature provide valuable clues about the ancient site of Stonehenge?

Stonehenge - clues in the earth.

Stonehenge – clues in the earth.

The earthworm plays a crucial role in improving soil fertility as it burrows beneath the ground.

Its work helps us to live in a green and pleasant land as the worms aerate the soil.

But as Darwin discovered, worms are also surprisingly good friends to archaeologists.

Today this humble beast is providing clues about the history of Stonehenge and its surrounding countryside.

Stonehenge solutions

Darwin’s studies of earthworms at Stonehenge involved some of the first scientifically recorded excavations at the site.

They’re unusual because they were carried out not by an archaeologist, but by a naturalist.

Darwin was interested in the action of earthworms in burying objects.

Earthy solutions – the humble earthworm.

It’s the continual processes of burrowing, digesting and excreting the soil by earthworms that gradually leads to

Earthworm clues - Charles Darwin.

Earthworm clues – Charles Darwin.

objects settling down in the soil.

In some cases they become completely buried by it.

Dr Josh Pollard, one of the directors of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, has been assessing the importance of Darwin’s worm experiments at the ancient site.

Pollard thinks he’s identified a fallen stone on the outside of the circle, and one that was split in two, as the subject of Darwin’s book – “Vegetable Mould and Earthworms”.

The book features a picture of the ground which had built up around the fallen stone and describes how the stone had sunk into the soil profile:

“At Stonehenge, some of the outer Druidical stones are now prostrate, and these have become buried to a moderate depth in the ground.”

Animal diggers

Darwin discovered that earthworms are rather like archaeological JCB diggers.

They eat the earth, it goes through their muscular tube, and comes out the other end as worm casts.

This is where the earthworms interact with archaeology.

The cumulative effect of millions of worms in a field chewing their way through the soil and depositing it on the surface is that they actually raise the surface of the soil.

Darwin worked out that the soil increased in depth by 0.2 of an inch per year.

After 10 years an object in the soil will go down two inches, and after 1,000 years it will reduce down 200 inches.

The result on the ground is that things disappear and gently sink into the soil.

To test this theory Dr Josh Pollard visited the site of one of his old excavations – the remains of a Saxon village on a farm overlooking Cheddar in Somerset.

Since his last visit a decade ago the landscape has changed – and it’s down to the efforts of the earthworms which have worked their their magic.

Earth shattering clues?

So should archaeologists be worried about the impact of earthworms?

Dr Josh Pollard says:

“When you’re finding small objects through the layer, they needn’t have started out in that layer, they may have started out higher up in the slightly later layer.

“But worms have gradually taken those small objects or maybe small pieces of charcoal or other material that we might actually use for things like radio carbon dating, down through the layers.”

So does this and Darwin’s research mean that the dating of Stonehenge, could be completely wrong?

And could the activities of earthworms continue to alter the landscape of Stonehenge in 100 year’s time as objects and stones sink deeper into the ground and get covered by soil?

To modern minds Darwin’s work on natural selection was far more important than his study of the humble earthworm.

But to archaeologists he founded the modern science of soil, and provided some clues about the changing landscape around Stonehenge.

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Merlin says “Darwin also ate owls!  Darwin was an inquisitive man. Sure he was curious about nature and all that science stuff, but he’s also a guy. So when he saw strange animals, he often wondered what they would taste like. The difference between Darwin and the rest of us is that he actually ate ’em!

More ‘Stonehenge Fun Facts’ coming soon………………

Merlin @ Stonehenge

Stonehenge by Mike Parker Pearson: review

29 06 2012

One thing’s for sure, Mike Parker Pearson won’t be bouncing up and down on   Jeremy Deller’s inflatable replica of Stonehenge this summer. The title of   Deller’s artwork, Sacrilege, couldn’t prove more appropriate.   As Professor Pearson establishes once and for all in his (literally)   groundbreaking new book, Stonehenge has a very curious connection to the   dead.

mike-peasron-book-stonehenge-bookIn 1918 the Office of Works rather hastily entrusted the restoration of   Stonehenge to the amateur hands of an archaeologist named Hawley. “Archaeology   has been likened to a historian reading the last surviving copy of an   ancient book and then tearing out and burning every page”, Pearson   says. Hawley’s involvement was a bit like this.

Until recently, many scholars believed that a wooden structure, like those   known to have stood in Durrington Walls, down the River Avon, originally   occupied the site at Stonehenge. Chipping away at a rare patch of rubble   Hawley had missed in one of the chalk pits (called Aubrey Holes), Pearson   and his team of archaeologists have attempted to overhaul that possibility,   suggesting that the ground was compressed in such a way as to prove that   Stonehenge was only ever made of stone. The eureka moment sprung from a   surprisingly simple hypothesis: stone is made to last, wood will perish.   Stone, in other words, is ripe for commemorating the dead, wood a material   for the living.

Though much remains untouched, Stonehenge, which dates to as early as 3000BC,   has so far offered up from its chalky soils the cremated burials of over 60   humans. Pearson and his team have also unveiled a handful of remains, dating   from the point when the Brits, admitting European influence, switched to   burying their dead (after 2400BC). Piecing together this evidence, Pearson   presents a compelling reinterpretation of the significance of this landmark   monument in time and space.

Dispelling many of the myths that have fogged the bare essentials of the site   for centuries, Pearson has produced a clear and intriguing argument for   viewing Stonehenge as the final resting place for elite, local males of the   third millennium BC. With scientists still at work on the human remains from   his many years of excavation, that story is still an evolving one.

Although his main concern is with a construction associated with death,   Pearson does a remarkable job of bringing back to life the hitherto unknown   inhabitants of Durrington Walls. The two places, he proves beyond question,   were part and parcel of the same Stone Age network, among which early Briton   was never just all beard and brawn. He was a masterful architect, Pearson   shows, and a hearty eater. Pig teeth, cow bones, bits of beaver, were all   uncovered from the Durrington Walls area, helping to characterise it as an   important place of celebration in the shadow of Stonehenge itself. The   connection between life and death, he convinces, was of primary importance   to the builders, and inhabitants, of the monument.

Stonehenge has both the taste and the content of an authentic archaeological   log-book, and without doubt will become an essential academic source. What   sets it apart is the almost pain-staking patience with which Pearson is   prepared to break down even the most complex of scientific processes. He has   somehow convinced me, probably unwisely, that if left to excavate a field,   I’d have a fair idea as to where to start.

Stonehenge by Mike Parker Pearson is published by Simon &   Schuster (£25.00)

By Daisy Dunn –

Merlin says ” A truly great read”

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Merlin @ The Stonehenge Website

Was Stonehenge designed for sound? Researchers recreate what ancient site would have sounded like for Neolithic man.

19 04 2012

Stonehenge could have been designed with acoustics in mind like a Greek or Roman theatre, a study has revealed.

A team of researchers from the University of Salford spent four years studying the historic site’s acoustic properties in a bid to crack the mystery of why it was built.

While they could not confirm the exact purpose of the stones, the researchers did find the space reacted to acoustic activity in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man.

Mystery: The researchers found Stonehenge reacted to acoustic activity in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man suggesting it was built with acoustics in mind  Read more:

Mystery: The researchers found Stonehenge reacted to acoustic activity in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man suggesting it was built with acoustics in mind

Stonehenge is very well known, but people are still trying to find out what it was built for and we thought that doing this research would bring an element of archaeology that so far hasn’t been looked at,’ lead researcher, Bruno Fazenda said.

He added the new area of acoustic science, named archaeoacoustics, could be helpful in the archaeological

Because the site in Wiltshire is in a derelict state, researchers travelled to Maryhill in the U.S. where a full-sized concrete reconstruction of Stonehenge was built in 1929 as a memorial to the soldiers of WWI.

Recreation: To get a more accurate representation, researchers travelled to Maryhill in the U.S. where a full-sized concrete reconstruction of Stonehenge was built in 1929

Recreation: To get a more accurate representation, researchers travelled to Maryhill in the U.S. where a full-sized concrete reconstruction of Stonehenge was built in 1929

They were able to make proper acoustic measurements that allowed an investigation into striking acoustic effects such as echoes, resonances and whispering gallery effects.

The second phase consisted in the creation of a full 3D audio-rendition of the space using a system comprised of 64 audio channels and loudspeakers especially developed at the University of Salford based on Wave Field Synthesis.

This system enables an accurate and immersive recreation of what Stonehenge would have sounded like.

Dr Fazenda said: ‘This type of research is important because now we can not only see ourselves surrounded by the stones using virtual reality, but we can also listen how the stone structure would have enveloped people in a sonic experience. It is as if we can travel back in time and experience the space in a more holistic way.’

Dr Fazenda also thinks that this research opens a whole new world for archaeoacoustics: ‘Of course there are other sites of interest, and as soon as the methodology for studying acoustics in ancient spaces becomes robust then it can be used as a part of archaeology and I believe in the next ten years a lot of such studies will include acoustics.’

Now listen to recording done at Maryhill, U.S., where where a concrete reconstruction of Stonehenge was built in 1929. Click here

Link source : Amy Oliver –

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’

Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle

Stonehenge was based on a ‘magical’ auditory illusion, says scientist

17 02 2012

The layout of Stonehenge matches the spacing of loud and quiet sounds created by acoustic interference, new theory claims

Two flutes playing the same continuous note set up a pattern of interference that apparently echoes the layout of Stonehenge. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty

Two flutes playing the same continuous note set up a pattern of interference that apparently echoes the layout of Stonehenge. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty

The Neolithic builders of Stonehenge were inspired by “auditory illusions” when they drew up blueprints for the ancient monument, a researcher claims.

The radical proposal follows a series of experiments by US scientistSteven Waller, who claims the positions of the standing stones match patterns in sound waves created by a pair of musical instruments.

Waller, an independent researcher in California, said the layout of the stones corresponded to the regular spacing of loud and quiet sounds created by acoustic interference when two instruments played the same note continuously.

In Neolithic times, the nature of sound waves – and their ability to reinforce and cancel each other out – would have been mysterious enough to verge on the magical, Waller said. Quiet patches created by acoustic interference could have led to the “auditory illusion” that invisible objects stood between a listener and the instruments being played, he added.

To investigate whether instruments could create such auditory illusions, Waller rigged two flutes to an air pump so they played the same note continuously. When he walked around them in a circle, the volume rose, fell and rose again as the sound waves interfered with each other. “What I found unexpected was how I experienced those regions of quiet. It felt like I was being sheltered from the sound. As if something was protecting me. It gave me a feeling of peace and quiet,” he said.

To follow up, Waller recruited volunteers, blindfolded them, and led them in a circle around the instruments. He then asked participants to sketch out the shape of any obstructions they thought lay between them and the flutes. Some drew circles of pillars, and one volunteer added lintels, a striking feature of the Stonehenge monument.

“If these people in the past were dancing in a circle around two pipers and were experiencing the loud and soft and loud and soft regions that happen when an interference pattern is set up, they would have felt there were these massive objects arranged in a ring. It would have been this completely baffling experience, and anything that was mysterious like that in the past was considered to be magic and supernatural.

“I think that was what motivated them to build the actual structure that matched this virtual impression. It was like a vision that they received from the other world. The design of Stonehenge matches this interference pattern auditory illusion,” said Waller, who described his research at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.

“It’s not a complete structure now but there is a portion of the ring that still has the big megaliths arranged in the circle. If you have a sound source in the middle of Stonehenge, and you walk around the outside of the big stones, what you experience is alternating loud and soft, loud and soft, loud and soft as you alternately pass by the gaps and the stone, the gaps and the stone,” he added.

“So the stones of Stonehenge cast acoustic shadows that mimic an interference pattern.”

Waller argues that his findings are not mere coincidence and says local legend offers some support for his thesis. Some megaliths are known as pipers’ stones, while stories tell of walls of air forming an invisible tower, and two magical pipers that enticed maidens to dance in a circle before they turned to stone.

Stonehenge was built in several stages, with the lintelled stone circle constructed around 2,500 BC. The site was originally a burial ground, but may also have been a place for healing.

In 2009, Rupert Till, a music expert at Huddersfield University, used a full-scale replica of Stonehenge and computer analyses to show that repetitive drum beats and chanting would have resonated loudly between the standing stones.

Timothy Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University, said that while sound played an important role in events at Stonehenge, the monument was probably not designed with acoustics in mind.

“The main structure is a replica in stone of what was normally built in wood,” he said. “They used the same techniques. The positioning of the main components is all about the construction of a framework, a building if you like, as the setting for ritual adventures that included the use of the bluestones brought over from Wales.”


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Merlin says “Trippy stuff man………”

Merlin at Stonehenge 
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website 


Stonehenge Book Gift Guide

3 12 2011

As Mid-Winter approaches, it’s time to consider the accompanying consumerfest. Whether you’re buying gifts for someone else, or just giving yourself a year-end treat, the following is a list of books, in no particular order, that we have enjoyed throughout the year. You may too.

Note that not all of these are new books by any means, but they are books we’ve read, enjoyed and can recommend.

  • Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland Before the Romans – Francis Pryor. The first in a four-part opus spanning athe Ice Age to Modern Times, this books concentrates on the birth of Farming and Agriculture in Britain, a subject close to Pryor’s heart.
  • A History of Ancient Britain – Neil Oliver. A companion to the TV series, this book spans half a million years of human occupation, through several Ice Ages to the Romans, looking at the various objects left behind for us to interpret. A thoughtful read.
  • A Brief History of the Druids (Brief Histories) – Peter Berresford Ellis. Forget the romantic antiquarian view of the Druids, this books tells it like it is, using the latest research into classical sources to give a good general overview of life and society in the pre-Roman period.
  • A Brief History of Stonehenge – Aubrey Burl. Although titled ‘A Brief History’, the scope and detail in this book is remarkable. casting aside the more lunatic fringe ideas, this book deals purely in facts, but is no less readable for all that. The ‘Brief History’ series generally is to be recommended, whatever your historical period of interest.
  • The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain – Julian Cope. First written in the 1990′s and recently re-printed, this book spawned a website of the same name that has gone from strength to strength. A series of extraordinary essays followed by a decent gazetteer of some 300 ancient sites to visit in Britain.
  • Standing with Stones: A Photographic Journey Through Megalithic Britain and Ireland –  “Across the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland lies an unsurpassed richness of prehistoric heritage. Standing with Stones is a personal voyage of discovery, taking the reader to over a hundred megalithic sites in a photographic journey through the British Isles.” Stunning photography and an easily accessible text make this book a must-have. A companion DVD is also available.
  • A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany – Aubrey Burl. A superb gazetteer of stone circles. Provides what it says on the cover. In our view, an indispensible item.

Any of the above should provide a decent background to our ancient heritage. There are of course many more academic books we could recommend which go into fine detail about specific sites or time periods, but those above are targetted to a more general readership. If you think we’ve left anything important off our list, please add a comment to let us know.

Thanks to Heritage Action for the recommendations

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Melin @ Stonehenge

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