Forest of the Sarsens: birthplace of Stonehenge

29 10 2020

An amazing archaeological survey confirms West Woods as ‘the most likely source area for the sarsens at Stonehenge’, a connection long anticipated by 16th Century antiquaries and more recent megalithic investigators.

West Woods, a handsome sweep of beech woods sweeping off of the Marlborough Downs, were originally part of the Royal Hunting Forest of Savernake, until the bounds were altered in 1330. It is bisected by the mysterious Wansdyke earthwork – a ditch which runs to the edge of Bristol and was possibly a demarcation of the southern extremity of the Danelaw. This runs the length of the woods – half hidden beneath the stately canopy of beech trees like Kipling’s ‘Way Through the Woods’. On the southern edge, near Clatford Farm, there stands a long barrow. Bronze Age microliths have been found, and the woods have long been a source of charcoal. These days it is popular with walkers, cyclists, and runners – with two trails: the Wansdyke Path and the White Horse Trail, wending their way through it.

          It was in the midst of the summer lockdown this year that a remarkable discovery occurred – one that had long been intuited (as early as the 16th Century by the antiquarian, William Lambarde) and investigated by modern antiquarians like Hugh Newman, Nicholas Cope and Andrew Collins, for it is common knowledge that the area north of West Woods – up Clatford Bottom to the Downs, is festooned with sarsens, or ‘grey wethers’ (as they were referred to locally, due to their resemblances to grazing sheep – especially on a misty day). The remarkable clustering of glacial erratic that line the dry valley below the Ridgeway, Julian Cope named the ‘Mother’s Jam’. To behold it is to see the workshop of Avebury – Stonehenge’s sister site. To wander amongst them is to wonder what vision inspired the stone circle builders to attempt to move and fashion them with such colossal skill and effort.

          From a sample of 20 potential sites ranging from Norfolk to Devon, the team (Nash, Ciborowski, Ullyott, Parker Pearson, Darvill, Greaney, Maniatis, Whitaker) discovered that the stones of West Woods matched most closely the core sample originally taken from Stonehenge in 1958 and lost until 2018. Five other sites covering the sarsen fields were also surveyed all the way up the ‘valley of the stones’ (as I call it), but at West Woods the team struck gold.

          During a recent visit to the woods – one after heavy rain – the extreme slipperiness of the soil was noted. This seems to be an especial quality of the chalk – as anyone who has walked the Ridgeway would know – and it is tempting to speculate that it lended itself to the transportation of the massive sarsens (some weighing up to 30 tonnes). Although a huge amount of man power would have been required to pull the sarsens along, once traction was achieved, the slipperiness of the chalk (kept wet if not by nature, then by much ‘donkey work’) would have done the rest. Sliding the sarsens along a smooth muddy channel – whether on a raft, rollers, or rushes – would be a lot easier than trying to move their dead-weight over rough ground. As with the theory of a hovertrain – do away with friction and you can go so much faster.

          One also needs to consider the hollow way that descends from West Woods, then over the Wansdyke past Knap Hill down into the Vale of Pewsey – and, pre-canal, days, all the way to Salisbury Plain… straight to Durrington, with its workers’ camp, where the sarsens were dressed before floating up the Avon to the Avenue. This is the most direct route still.

          A distance of 25 km as the crow flies is still considerable, but not impossible – and you don’t need Merlin’s magic to move the sarsens either!

          So, West Woods becomes part of the Stonehenge landscape and legendarium – and is worth a visit any time of the year, as a place of sylvan beauty and a special atmosphere all of its own. The stones would pre-date the existence of such a forest (although wildwood existed, it would have been more likely scrubby heathland, especially when humans started to settle down in the area, requiring timber for firewood, fencing, building materials, and wood-henges, like the one at the Sanctuary, near Avebury, and the other at Durrington), but something of the Neolithic mystery of the place has been absorbed by the beeches. In the Celtic ogham tree-alphabet, Phagos, relates to learning – and etymologically ‘beech’ and ‘book’ are connected. Beech bark was used as an early form of parchment. And so, in a way, a beech wood is a kind of library. Who knows what other secret knowledge it stores, awaiting the curious?

GUEST BLOGGER: Dr Kevan Manwaring is an author, lecturer, and specialist tour-guide. His books include The Long Woman (a novel which features Stonehenge and Avebury), Lost Islands, Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels, Desiring Dragons, Oxfordshire Folk Tales, Northamptonshire Folk Tales, and more. He is a keen walker and loves exploring the ancient landscape of Wiltshire, where he lives with his archaeologist partner.  

Origins of the sarsen megaliths at Stonehenge – SCIENCE ADVANCES
The Stonehenge sarsens — did they come from Overton Down / West Woods? On this evidence, probably they did. THE SARSEN
The Sarsens of the West Woods – STONEHENGE MONUMENT BLOG
Megalithic Specialist Tour Operator. STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Stonehenge: The Sarsens Originated from West Woods, Wiltshire – SCIENTIFIC EUROPEAN
Archaeologists discover likely source of Stonehenge’s giant sarsen stones – THE GUARDIAN
Stonehenge: Mystery of where giant rocks came from SOLVED as scientists pinpoint exact Wiltshire wood – THE SUN
Visit Stonehenge, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and West Woods with a private guided tour from Salisbury – THE STONEHENGE TRAVEL COMPANY

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Stonehenge Myths: Aliens

20 10 2020

One of the more out-of-this-world theories that coalesce around Stonehenge is that it was built by aliens, or is in some way connected with extra-terrestrial intelligence. 

Does this look like an alien ship? ‘Flying saucer’ UFO is captured hovering over Stonehenge, claim conspiracy theorists

Although easy for most of a critical persuasion to dismiss or even to scoff at as an example of the credulity of some people on a par with the Flat Earth Society, the association is worthy of discussion for the very fact it exists as one star in a whole constellation of theories which the world-famous site has attracted. The alien theory has arisen through a combination of factors:

  • The paucity of written records about the purpose of Stonehenge, originating as it did in 3 phases over a 1500 year period from 3100-1600 BCE in the Neolithic.
  • The association of monoliths and stone circles with extra-terrestrial life in popular culture (e.g. Captain Kirk and co. leaping through a supersized Men-an-Tol in the 1967 Star Trek episode, ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’;  the mysterious monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s film of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which turns out to be a galactic portal; the stone circle of ‘Milbury’ – filmed in and based on Stonehenge’s sister site of Avebury – in the 70s childrens’ classic TV serial, Children of the Stones, which turns out to be conduit for sinister alien intelligences from beyond a black hole).
  • The ‘ancient astronaut’ theory perpetuated by Eric Von Daniken in his 1968 cult classic book, Chariot of the Gods, and by ‘alternative history’ authors such as Graham Hancock since. In a nutshell, Von Daniken’s hypothesis is based upon misinterpretations of Mayan iconography, and selective ‘mysterious’ landmarks around the world (e.g. Nazca lines) in a classic example of confirmation bias.
The phenomenon of strange lights witnessed at Stonehenge and ancient sites

Augmenting this already potent stew we have also factor in the historical fact that Salisbury Plain has had over a century of early, experimental aviation – with some of the first test flights taking place (sometimes with catastrophic consequences, as the memorial to two tragically killed early airmen by the Stonehenge Visitor Centre attest). A squadron of the embryonic Royal Air Force, the Royal Flying Corps, was based close to Stonehenge – indeed so close, that at one point the pulling down of the iconic stones was proposed because they were considered a flying hazard to the low-flying, low-powered aircraft. Much of Salisbury Plain is owned by the Ministry of Defence. It is crisscrossed by a network of tank tracks, and sections of it are still occasionally closed off for firing practice. Not far from Stonehenge is Porton Down, home of a biological testing centre. The deserted village of Imber, evacuated by the MOD for use in preparation for D-Day, became an Urban Warfare Unit – access is allowed only once a year for a special service in the church, but the villagers were never allowed back. So it is not surprising that with covert military operations, ghost villages, and frequent reports of unexplained lights in the sky, that the area around Stonehenge is in effect a British ‘Area 51’.

‘UFO’ snapped hovering over Stonehenge being probed by alien investigators

 The phenomenon of strange lights witnessed at ancient sites – stone circles in particular – is well-documented by the likes of Paul Deveraux, who suggests that these ‘earthlights’ are a result of geomagnetic pressures which the stone monuments of the ancient were expressly designed to somehow channel. Anyone who has photographed such places only to find their shots populated by distinctive orbs would no doubt agree that there is something there. It is tempting to think that these lights may have at one time been the cause of cautionary folklore and folk tales about the so-called ‘little people’ commonly believed to be connected with such liminal places, and with a shift into the technological paradigm of the 20th Century, these were reframed as ‘little green men’ instead, especially after the Post-War advent of Atomic testing and explosion in UFO sightings in the heights of the Cold War paranoia. When one surveys the Stonehenge landscape and beholds ‘saucer’ barrows and enigmatic lines in the land (e.g. the 1.9 mile long Cursus) it is all too easy to get carried away. It is perhaps no coincidence that the heavy usage of psychedelics at Stonehenge, especially during the dozen years of the Stonehenge Free Festival, has helped sear into the consciousness of many a stoned pilgrim the possibility of an alien presence or even purpose behind the immemorial monument.  For these the sarsens became interstellar portals and like a lysergically-influenced astronaut, it would be easy to exclaim with some earnestness: ‘My God, it’s full of stars.’

Whatever the various factors which have led to the myth that ‘aliens built Stonehenge’, or that it is some kind of star gate, and however fanciful such notions might seem, we cannot rule out entirely the possibility the existence of extra-terrestrial life – for in an infinite universe all things are possible. To lockdown the numinous, the magical, and the mysterious with a reductive empiricism is missing the point of such sites – which were surely designed with some wish to instil awe and wonder into their beholders. Nothing that took 1500 years to build is going to be purely practical. It was an act of faith over several generations. And, as Shakespeare said: ‘They are more things in Heaven and Earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

GUEST BLOGGER: Dr Kevan Manwaring is an author, lecturer, and specialist tour-guide. His books include The Long Woman (a novel which features Stonehenge and Avebury), Lost Islands, Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels, Desiring Dragons, Oxfordshire Folk Tales, Northamptonshire Folk Tales, and more. He is a keen walker and loves exploring the ancient landscape of Wiltshire, where he lives with his archaeologist partner.  

*7 Ancient Sites Some People Think Were Built by Aliens – NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
*’UFO’ snapped hovering over Stonehenge being probed by alien investigators – THE EXPRESS
*Weird Wiltshire Day Trip. U.K Crop Circle Tours – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
*Giant crop circle appears in field next to Stonehenge just before Summer Solstice – SOMERSET LIVE
*Black ‘flying saucer’ UFO is pictured hovering over Stonehenge – THE METRO
*Has UK’s biggest mass UFO sighting case finally been solved? – THE EXPRESS
*Ancient Aliens: The Purpose of Stonehenge – HISTORY.COM
*Stonehenge was ‘alien construction site’ or eerie ‘ancient burial ground’ – most bizarre conspiracy theories revealed – THE SUN
*UFO over Stonehenge? U.K. releases trove of X-files – CBS NEWS
The Mystery of Stonehenge, Ancient Petroglyphs and Crop Circles – ANCIENT ORIGINS

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Storyhenge: Legends and Folk-tales of Stonehenge.

15 10 2020

Stonehenge could be called ‘Storyhenge’, for this Neolithic monument – ancient, mysterious and yet world-famous and one of the most photographed landmarks on the planet – attracts stories like a magnet does iron filings. In the absence of written records left by the original builders a plethora of narratives have accreted around the striking circle of megaliths, which stand taciturn and proud on Salisbury like so many cousins of the Easter Island moai. Long after the original architects had become part of the landscape themselves – cremated remains cooling within grooven earthenware beakers buried in post-holes, or entombed in long barrows – and long after living memory and oral tradition had faded, the stories moved in, claiming the stones for their own, like the resident population of jackdaws who nest in the nook and crannies of the trilithons: each story raucously claiming attention above the rest – Listen to me! I’m the best! Believe in me!

By Blaeu, J (Atlas van Loon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are three of the finest plumage:

Our first story begins with a storyteller – that consummate fabulist of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey of Monmouth, who tells that the stones of Stonehenge were healing stones, which were taken from Africa to Ireland by kleptomaniac giants, who, perhaps realising their stash wasn’t the most convenient of treasures, decided to deposit them on the summit of Mount Killaraus. Aurelius Ambrosius, the 5th Century King of Britain, got wind of this hoard. Three thousand of his men had been slain in a calamitous battle, and buried at Salisbury – but he wished to raise a fitting memorial to their memory on the nearby plain, and so he tasked his resident magician, Merlin; Uther Pendragon (his dux bellorum and soon-to-be father of fate-mantled Arthur), and 15,000 men to go to wild Ireland and ‘relocate’ the hallowed stones. The Irish did not want to give up their treasure easily, and 7,000 of their men were slain in the process. Well, Merlin and Uther claimed possession of the stones – but how to move them back to Salisbury Plain? They tried every engineering trick they knew of, but in the end Merlin’s great magic came to the rescue. The magician raised his arms, uttered his cantrips, and the mighty stones danced in the air above the astonished Uther and their men. Laughing, Merlin transported the gambolling stones all the way to England, where he brought them to rest on Salisbury Plain in an impressive interlocking configuration. Thus Aurelius had his memorial for his men, and when he passed on, he was buried there too. Not to miss out, Uther bagged a spot as well. And there the sorcerous sarsens remain – give or take one or two – to this day, and for many years they were known as the Giant’s Dance after Merlin’s amazing feat.

In a second tale – less magic, more tragic – the invader King Hengist decided to hold a feast. Since invading the damp isle of Logres he had had very little peace – the troublesome natives were always grumbling (or rebelling) against this or that. And so he invited 420 of the Britons to a feast on Salisbury Plain. ‘It is time to make a truce – so let us eat and drink together and raise the meadhorn of peace and fellowship!’ So, the Britons gathered in a circle around the feast fire – which took the bite out of the wind — and partook of Hengist’s hospitality. He was not a niggardly host, and soon all were merry with mead and meat. Just as they were praising the Saxon king, Hengist gave the signal and his warriors slew all the Britons present! The blood of the guests stained the chalky soil dark. The wind howled across the empty plain. Hengist, apparently stricken with remorse, ordered a great monument to be raised in memory of his doomed guests. And so, in the Year 472 AD, Stonehenge was born out of blood and treachery!

“The Grand Conventional Festival of the Britons,” from The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Islands, by Samuel Meyrick and Charles Smith, 1814

Well! To cheer us all up after that, here is my third tale, which is far lighter in tone!

The Devil, or Old Scrat as he’s known in Wiltshire, went to Ireland, where he bought some unusual stones from an old, old woman. Wrapping them up carefully, like so many loaves, he carried them all the way back to England, to Salisbury Plain – only dropping one in the River Avon. Finding a suitable spot, he dumped them all in a big pile – some landing in interesting configurations. Twirling his splendid moustache, he declaimed: ‘No one will ever guess how these stones got here!’ Well, it just so happened at that precise moment a monk, or Friar rather, was walking by. Overhearing Old Scrat, the Friar called out: ‘That’s what you think!’ The Devil was so enraged he cast one of the large grey stones at the holy man – it struck the Friar on the Heel, and then stuck in the ground – where it remains to this day, an outlier of the stone circle of Stonehenge, known as the ‘Hele Stone’ (although clearly it should be ‘Heel Stone’ but they couldn’t spell back then!). And that is the God’s honest truth!

Written by Guest Blogger: Dr Kevan Manwaring
Dr Kevan Manwaring is an author, lecturer, and specialist tour-guide. His books include The Long Woman (a novel which features Stonehenge and Avebury), Lost Islands, Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels, Desiring Dragons, Oxfordshire Folk Tales, Northamptonshire Folk Tales, and more. He is a keen walker and loves exploring the ancient landscape of Wiltshire, where he lives with his archaeologist partner.

While these legends are most likely far from the truth, they are an entertaining supplement to academic theories about Stonehenge. Many historical monuments are accompanied by folktales about their origin and purpose, and Stonehenge is no different. These myths are part of the mystique and appeal surrounding great monuments.

Relevant Stonehenge Links:
Where so Myths, Legends and Folktales come from? ENGLISH HERITAGE
Myths and Legends of Stonehenge. ANTHROPLOGY WEBSITE
Solving the Riddle of Stonehenge’s Construction. HISTORY.COM
Megalithic Specialist Tour Operator. STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Stone Monument Legends. Univerity of Pittsburgh

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The “Council of Ancestors” theory of Stonehenge.

25 09 2020

Stonehenge was the epitome of a belief system that spanned millennia. To understand the monument we have to look at it through prehistoric eyes. (Written by guest blogger David Atkins)

The “Council of Ancestors” theory of Stonehenge I am currently working on Project Greta – the re-examination of the cranium (calvarium) of a woman who died it is believed 10,000 years ago. We have had international coverage and the project has been translated into several other languages.

David Atkins is currently leading Project Greta – the re-examination of what we believe is Britain’s oldest skull at around 10,000 years old.

The cranium is currently being examined with a battery of tests and if proven will be the oldest complete cranium ever found in Britain. Originally ascribed to the Mesolithic it dropped off the academic radar many years ago and the story can be seen on a number of websites (google Greta Skull Adkins). The research drew me to another cranium – that of a male also found in Burton on Trent and referred to as Mabus. This is also being re-examined with the benefits of modern science although is almost certainly from the Iron Age at the earliest – based on later evidence from the same gravel pit location.

Mabus was found in 1953 and was packed with what was described as “a red ferruginous substance” that was believed to have helped its preservation. This substance was never identified at the time but I now believe it to have been red ochre – or a composite containing it and deliberately placed there. Having considered that the Red Lady of Paviland – thousands of years older than Mabus may also have been treated with a similar substance the very basic question arose – if our ancestors were deliberately trying to preserve their dead over millennia then they must have been doing it to prevent the physical decay and subsequent loss of the remains. There are massive similarities between bodily preservations around the world in relation to red ochre and other mineral elements.

Assuming that the Paviland skeleton and Mabus were both deliberately treated with ochre or something very similar then a huge question arises . If for thousands of years our ancestors were “fixing” their remains where were they keeping them ? No doubt at the beginning of this system of preservation they would have been housed in wooden structures at the centre of the community, although as the belief system developed so too did the receptacles needed to house the bodies – as such the only logical conclusion for the purpose of Stonehenge is that it was constructed to house a covered inner chamber in which to place the mummified (fixed remains) of the ancestors.

The horse shoe design of the inner circle was I believe a covered inner chamber designed to display the mummies. It was a covered structure in the design of a modern council chamber – the attached illustration is a 19thcentury plan of Staffordshire County Councils chamber – and you can instantly see the similarity with the Stonehenge horse shoe structure.

Within this covered mound I believe there would have been wooden platforms around the inner edges at various levels and on these platforms were seated the mummified remains of the ancestors arranged as a sitting council. This may seem somewhat bizarre to modern minds but to a prehistoric society it would have made perfect sense. The ancestors were at the heart of everything they did, they watched over the living , they could be communicated with to intercede in daily events , and intervene on behalf of their community. We have to forget the notion of the bandaged mummies of the classroom and look more towards the “fixed remains” developed in other ancient cultures throughout the world , including the smoking of bodies, disarticulation and the use of ochre. With the inner “council chamber” at Stonehenge the bodies may have had a uniform coloured appearance of a reddish ochre hue and would have looked uniform presenting an illusion of oneness or togetherness . To understand how powerful this illusion would have been one only has to imagine the impact the appearance and presence that a mummified relative would have had. Imagine for one moment a much loved father or mother being immortalised in such a way – they would assume an awe inspiring presence.

I have no doubt that it would have had a profound psychological affect upon them. When this is dropped into the context of a sitting council of the ancestors with positioned remains arranged in rows then it would have become the most powerful political religious and cultural tool we can imagine. Think for one minute of the spectacle the inner sanctum would have presented to the onlooker. A dim lit room full of ancestors facing what I believe would have been a frontal wooden platform at the flat end of the horseshoe where the shaman – and community elders – would have stood.

We can take this one step further by adding the use of mind altering drugs into the equation. There is strong evidence these were used in religious practices from earliest times- a shaman or even a whole community under the temporary influence of a psychedelic compound believing the ancestors would communicate with them would no doubt have elicited the illusion of “moving mouths” and even “voices” coming from the sitting council. To this end therefore Stonehenge was a communications tool , it allowed the community to converse with the ancestors and lobby them for help , advice and strength in times of war and peace.

The outer ring of stones – the great ring – would I believe have been there to primarily enclose the covered inner chamber and designate its space, to mark its bounds Secondly the outer circle was for the living , the community could gather around the inner chamber and feel closer to their ancestors. The hallowed ground between the outer circle and inner chamber would have been a place where the living could meet, trade or perform “blessings” with the presence of the ancestors at the core. Stonehenge was the physical expression, the physical interpretation of their belief system. At the heart were the ancestors seated in their “Spiritual Parliament” with whom the shaman and elders would communicate. The surrounding circle we see today embracing and enclosing the ancestors yet providing a place for the living to visit and to express life with all its challenges. The ancestors literally watching over the living. I think far too much has been made of the perceived alignment to the stars and much of this may be coincidental at best. The structure was more to make a statement – it was to dominate the landscape and reaffirm the fact that “this land is ours” – and “here are our ancestors” to prove it. It was big, bold and designed to dominate and illicit awe in the community.

It could also be defended easily in times of conflict, like cattle protect their young in the well known circular formation. This physical presence was more important than its esoteric links to the stars – with one exception – the solstice . It is highly probable that the inner covered chamber itself was illuminated in a similar way to Newgrange at the solstice . As such for the shaman and elders seated on the frontal platform , the illumination of the ancestors would have been to them a supernatural expression of divinity. The ancestors in that musty smelling chamber would , during the solstice have become “the first true illuminati” in the literal sense of the word and to those early people they probably carried the same connotations as the perceived notion (in populist culture) that the illuminati do today. One can just imagine the inner chamber beginning to light up at the solstice and the sitting ancestors appearing from the gloom. Their faces would have been recognisable to their relatives.

It is certain of course that not everybody would have entered the hallowed sanctum after death. The elite, the spiritual leaders , the great thinkers and the warriors would have been elevated to this exalted status – the common people being buried in the countless burial mounds around the monument we see today . And the cremated remains found by archaeologists in the holes around the inner chamber were not evidence , I think of a crematoria as such , but were either of the deposed mummified bodies when “governments” changed or merely represent one mass cremation when the belief system itself changed -and the inner chamber was destroyed – probably burnt to the ground when people stopped believing in the ancestors. Notwithstanding the necessary speculation that is required to understand the monument I think that when we accept that in ancient Britain our ancestors were preserving their dead , in whatever way they could , then there can be only one possible explanation for Stonehenge – it was designed specifically to house the fixed remains of our ancestors. This was no mausoleum or tomb but a “living” parliament – a sitting council of the ancestors which sat at the very heart of their belief system. We see possible remnants of this practice in more recent times in the Saints bodies that were preserved in abbeys , churches and monasteries throughout Europe.

One day I’m sure that the “Council of the Ancestors” theory will be supported as more archaeological evidence is uncovered. Much good work has been done by anthropologists on tribes from around the world who preserve their dead kinsfolk to this day – often with ochre like substances – and the remains play a significant part in their living communities. I have no doubt that one day the dynamic “Spiritual Parliament” and “Council of Ancestors” interpretations will be one of the more plausible explanations for Stonehenge.

For interest I attach a letter written around 1810 to the Anglesey antiquarian Paul Panton which describes Stonehenge spelt as two words “Stone Henge”. It interestingly describes lichen on the stones and may not have been published before. I think Anglesey’s perceived links to the druids may have elicited Pantons interest in 1810 – perhaps even the mummified remains of individuals from Anglesey were also placed on the seated council of the ancestors at Stonehenge – it would make sense to have the spiritual leaders of the day preserved among the dead. I have no doubt that there will be many detractors and those who will reject the theory, some will see it as ghoulish, bizarre or elementary. My answer is simple – visit Stonehenge and look at it again through prehistoric eyes. ….

David Atkins is currently leading Project Greta – the re-examination of what we believe is Britain’s oldest skull at around 10,000 years old. The cranium / calvarium is currently with the Francis Crick Institute in London . As part of his wider research he was able to clarify what he thinks was the original purpose of Stonehenge. David would like see what people think of the Council of the Ancestors theory.

David Atkins Email:


  • 10,000-year-old Burton skull that went missing for decades found in storage
    A Burton man hopes to examine ‘Greta’ using modern day technology DERBY TELEGRAPH
  • Mystery of Britain’s ‘most ancient skull’ lost for 40 years solved – after 14,000-year-old Greta’s cranium found in dusty cupboard – HEAD TOPICS
  • Skull found in Staffordshire could be 14,000-years-old – ITV
  • Visit Stonehenge with an expert tour guide – STONEHENGE TOURS
  • Bronze Age Brits Kept Bone Keepsakes From Their Dead Old Relatives – SCIENCE ALERT

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A New Study Assesses the Prehistoric Acoustics of Stonehenge.

6 09 2020
  • Researchers created a 3D-printed scale model and broadcast ‘chirps’ at different frequencies
  • When Stonehenge was intact, the acoustics were more like a movie theater
  • The sound lingered, suggesting the unique sound effect was used while speaking or singing

A scale model of Stonehenge has been built to try and find out what early visitors to the monument would have heard more than 4,000 years ago.

Researchers discovered sound briefly lingered inside the model on the mid-frequency range. (University of Salford)

University of Salford academics recreated the ancient circle to find out how sound would have carried across all the original 157 stones in 2,200BC. The to-scale 1/12th model was made using 3D printing and custom modelling.

Prof Trevor Cox said the model gave an insight “into what our ancestors would have heard in the stone circles”.

“Now we know the voice would have been enhanced by being in that space,” he added.

Academics worked with English Heritage using laser scans of the stones and architectural research to create the shape and position of the stones in an acoustic chamber.

Future research may examine other aspects of Stonehenge’s acoustic characteristics, including the kinds of echoes it creates and the way that its stones hum in strong winds.

The new study “shows that sound was fairly well contained within the monument and, by implication, [Stonehenge] was fairly well insulated from sounds coming in,” Timothy Darvill, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University, tells Science News.

Listening to the sounds reverberating “must have been one of the fundamental experiences of Stonehenge,” he adds.


  • Stonehenge had acoustics ‘like a modern day cinema’ say researchers who created 3D printed scale model of the ancient monument and found it would have amplified voices and music – DAILY MAIL
    Scientists Map Stonehenge’s Soundscape – SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE
  • Stonehenge enhanced sounds like voices or music for people inside the monument – SCIENCE NEWS
  • Acoustic Engineers Test Sound in Stonehenge Model – ARCHAEOLOGY.ORG
  • Experience the inner circle of Stonehenge with an exclusive private access tour with the megalthic experts – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
  • Stonehenge mini model reveals sound of monument – BBC
  • Stonehenge bluestones had acoustic properties, study shows – DAILY MAIL
  • The lost sounds of Stonehenge – BBC
  • Neolithic acoustics of Stonehenge revealed by academics – BBC

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The origin of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge has finally been discovered with the help of a missing piece of the site which was returned after 60 years.

30 07 2020

Last year archaeologists pinpointed the origin of many of the ancient monument’s massive stones. A new study identifies the source of the rest. A test of the metre-long core was matched with a geochemical study of the standing megaliths.


The 23ft sarsens each weigh around 20 tonnes

Archaeologists pinpointed the source of the stones to an area 15 miles (25km) north of the site near Marlborough.

English Heritage’s Susan Greaney said the discovery was “a real thrill”.

The seven-metre tall sarsens, which weigh about 20 tonnes, form all fifteen stones of Stonehenge’s central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the outer circle, as well as outlying stones.

The monument’s smaller bluestones have been traced to the Preseli Hills in Wales, but the sarsens had been impossible to identify until now.

The return of the core, which was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958, enabled archaeologists to analyse its chemical composition.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it last year.

Researchers first carried out x-ray fluorescence testing of all the remaining sarsens at Stonehenge which revealed most shared a similar chemistry and came from the same area.

They then analysed sarsen outcrops from Norfolk to Devon and compared their chemical composition with the chemistry of a piece of the returned core.

English Heritage said the opportunity to do a destructive test on the core proved “decisive”, as it showed its composition matched the chemistry of sarsens at West Woods, just south of Marlborough.

Prof David Nash from Brighton University, who led the study, said: “It has been really exciting to harness 21st century science to understand the Neolithic past, and finally answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries.

‘Substantial stones’

“Each outcrop was found to have a different geochemical signature, but it was the chance to test the returned core that enabled us to determine the source area for the Stonehenge sarsens.”

Ms Greaney said: “To be able to pinpoint the area that Stonehenge’s builders used to source their materials around 2,500 BC is a real thrill.

“While we had our suspicions that Stonehenge’s sarsens came from the Marlborough Downs, we didn’t know for sure, and with areas of sarsens across Wiltshire, the stones could have come from anywhere.

“They wanted the biggest, most substantial stones they could find and it made sense to get them from as nearby as possible.”

Ms Greaney added the evidence highlights “just how carefully considered and deliberate the building of this phase of Stonehenge was”.


Stonehenge: Mystery of mighty stones solved by archaeologists – THE INDEPENDENT
Origin of Stonehenge’s huge standing stones discovered after part of monument found in US – ITV NEWS
Mystery of origin of Stonehenge megaliths solved – BBC NEWS
Mystery of where Stonehenge’s giant stones come from solved – SKY NEWS
Whence Came Stonehenge’s Stones? Now We Know – NYC TIMES
Visit Stonehenge and hear all the latest theories – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Origin of Stonehenge’s huge standing stones discovered after part of monument found in US – ITV NEWS

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Stonehenge discovery offers new insights into Neolithic ancestors.

29 07 2020

New prehistoric shafts have been discovered around Durrington Walls henge
Coring suggests the features are Neolithic, excavated over 4,500 years ago
It is thought the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct

Thanks to the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, archaeologists at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire have discovered a larger prehistoric ring that consists of massive shafts. Just two miles from the ever-mysterious Stonehenge, a series of at least 20 shafts that are five-meter deep and 10-meter wide have been discovered and dubbed “Holehenge.”  The holes were found using non-invasive geophysical prospection and remote sensing in a series of surveys. Regularly spaced out, which has ruled out natural phenomena, the holes form a partial circle centering on the prehistoric Durrington Walls henge. Researchers think there could be as many as 30 of the holes and they have been radiocarbon dated using precision coring to around 2500 BC. “The area around Stonehenge is amongst the most studied archaeological landscapes on earth and it is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure which, currently, is significantly larger than any comparative prehistoric monument that we know of in Britain, at least,” said Vince Gaffney, chair of the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences in the Faculty of Live Sciences for the University of Bradford. The full findings of the project have been published in Internet Archaeology, an independent, nonprofit journal.


The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project Reveals a Major New Prehistoric Stone Monument – MORE
How illuminating – Measuring luminescence helps to date a remarkable new discovery at Stonehenge – MORE
A hole new ‘Stonehenge’! New prehistoric monument dating back 4,500 years made up of 15ft-deep shafts in a mile-wide circle is discovered in English countryside – MORE
Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project – Gallery – MOREA Massive, Late Neolithic Pit Structure associated with Durrington Walls Henge – MORE
Durrington Shafts: Is Britain’s Largest Prehistoric Monument a Sonic Temple? – MORE
Stonehenge Guided Tours.  Visit Stonehenge and Durrington Walls with the Megalithic experts and hear more about this fascinating discovery – MORE
Researchers find large Prehistoric Site Near Stonehenge – MORE

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Stonehenge will open on 4th July 2020

2 07 2020

STONEHENGE is set to reopen on July 4th – with new safety measures in place.

English Heritage have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a Member or Local Resident Pass Holder, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance. To book your visit, click here.


Although things might be a little different when you visit, you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring the places where history really happened. And you’ll still be given a warm and safe welcome by our friendly – if socially distant – staff and volunteers. Stonehenge will be open daily from 9pm – 5pm

Please click here for more information about the safety measures you can expect when visiting, as well as their Q&As.

  • The stone circle, exhibition and visitor centre are all open for you to enjoy while keeping to social distancing rules.
  • Shuttle bus – The shuttle bus will be prioritised for those who need it. All visitors using the bus will be required to bring and wear a face covering.
  • Walking to the Stones – We’ve introduced a 2.6 mile circular route to the stones and back on unmade paths through the surrounding ancient landscape which is owned and cared for by the National Trust.
  • Cafe – A takeaway catering offer will be provided in our outdoor seating area or you are welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy near the stones.
  • Shop – The shop will be open and most items are also available online.
  • Audio guide –Free to download to your own smartphone in advance. Don’t forget your headphones!
  • Toilets – Our toilets are open as usual. Additional hand sanitising stations will be available across the site.

Stonehenge relavant news link:
Monumental Lockdown:A period of Rejuvenation for Stonehenge

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Incredible Discovery at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge.

25 06 2020

This week has seen one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in recent years.

For centuries, archaeologists as well as the public have marvelled at the sheer richness of neolithic history concentrated in the Wessex area. Whether it’s the world famous mystery of Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle or Durrington Walls  (possibly the largest neolithic settlement in Europe). With such a historic landscape, so rigorously examined over the years, new discoveries are often few and far between or small in scale. This week however, archaeologists have discovered a gigantic neolithic circle of deep shafts surrounding Durrington Walls – a discovery of seismic proportions.

A  new circle discovered near Stonehenge, is more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep.  Photo taken by Stonehenge Dronescapes.

A new circle discovered near Stonehenge, is more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep. Photo taken by Stonehenge Dronescapes.

“This is an unprecedented find of major significance within the UK,” said archaeologist Vincent Gaffney.

The neolithic settlement, thought to be where the builders of Stonehenge resided, lies around 3 km from the iconic monoliths. The newly found surrounding circle consists of over 20 colossal shafts in fastidiously accurate arrangement. Archaeologists have reported that the shafts form a circle more than two kilometres wide around the ancient settlement, and they believe this perimeter served as a boundary to a sacred area. 

The shafts themselves, 10 metres (32 Feet) wide and five meters (16 Feet) deep, are believed to be more than 4,500 years ago, the same age as the Durrington Walls settlement.

Experts from several institutes including University of St Andrews, the University of Wales, Warwick, Birmingham, Trinity Saint David and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, came together in a multidisciplinary effort to make this stunning finding. 

Not only is this one of the largest finds in recent years, but also could prove to be an incredibly important discovery for our understanding of the Neolithic peoples. This find could be the decisive evidence needed to prove our ancestors enacted a system of counting. Such is the exact and geometrically precise nature of the circle. It has been described by archaeologists who worked on the project as ‘a masterpiece of engineering’. 

Indeed, Prof Vincent Gaffney, a leading archaeologist on the project, said: “This is an unprecedented find of major significance within the UK. Key researchers on Stonehenge and its landscape have been taken aback by the scale of the structure and the fact that it hadn’t been discovered until now so close to Stonehenge.”

Long recognised on old maps as an ancient British Village, Durrington Walls’ true importance only became apparent in the late 1960s when the road through it was realigned on a straighter path. You can see the line of the old, smaller, road in the aerial photo running to the left of the new road.

Long recognised on old maps as an ancient British Village, Durrington Walls’ true importance only became apparent in the late 1960s when the road through it was realigned on a straighter path. You can see the line of the old, smaller, road in the aerial photo running to the left of the new road.

The incredible story unfolded in characteristic fashion. Initially, archaeologists thought the large pits were simple watering holes designed to slake the thirst of livestock. But when they investigated further, using cutting edge radar, they discovered that the holes were far too deep for this purpose.

A combination of techniques were then used to unfold the fascinating reality. Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, said: “The Hidden Landscape team have combined cutting-edge, archaeological fieldwork with good old-fashioned detective work to reveal this extraordinary discovery and write a whole new chapter in the story of the Stonehenge landscape.”

The discovery only accentuates the sheer scale of neolithic intrigue hosted by the landscape of Wessex. Hopefully there will be many more discoveries in the years to come and the lives of our ancient ancestors will become even clearer to us.

Relevant Stonehenge News:

Vast neolithic circle of deep shafts found near Stonehenge – THE GUARDIAN
Archaeologists Discover Enormous Ring of Ancient Pits Near Stonehenge – SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE
‘Astonishing discovery’ near Stonehenge led by University of Bradford archaeologists offers new insight into Neolithic ancestors – BRADFORD UNIVERSITY
A hole new ‘Stonehenge’! New prehistoric monument dating back 4,500 years made up of 15ft-deep shafts in a mile-wide circle is discovered in English countryside – THE DAILY MAIL
Giant circle of shafts discovered close to Stonehenge – ABC NEWS
Tour company specialising in guided tours of Stonehenge and the surronding landscape – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Archaeologists discover ‘astonishing’ huge circular neolithic monument next to Stonehenge – THE INDEPENDENT
Durrington Walls, Stonehenge Landscape walk – THE NATIONAL TRUST
Neolithic monument unearthed near Stonehenge in ‘astonishing’ archaeological discovery – THE METRO
HIDDEN HENGE Stonehenge – Neolithic stone circle dating back 4,500 years discovered just miles from site – THE SUN
Durrington Walls: The largest henge monument in Britain – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Salisbury based tour operator offering guided walks and tours of the Stonehenge landsacpe – STONEHENGE AND SALIBURY GUIDED TOURS
Durrington Walls: The largest henge monument in Britain – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Durrington Walls Dig: August 2016 – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
The Blick Mead excavations have transformed the understanding of the Stonehenge landscape. – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG


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Stonehenge Summer Solstice Celebrations 2020. Watch the summer solstice LIVE from Stonehenge, wherever you are in the world!

13 06 2020

Every year on the 21 June, the rising midsummer sun and Stonehenge’s ancient monoliths combine to create one of the world’s most fundamental and bewitchingly beautiful natural light shows. 


As dawn rises on the year’s longest day, the age-old stones, transported hundreds of miles and precisely arranged by our ancestors, refract the primal light of the sun in the northeast to render a spectacle which has entranced humanity for centuries.

No pandemic can halt the rays of the splendid sun or topple these arcane stones and the lights will once more enact their yearly dance. And despite restricted physical access to the stones, this year’s summer solstice will still be available to watch via streaming – the first time in its great history.

Stonehenge Summer Solstice live stream 2020

Watch the summer solstice LIVE from Stonehenge, wherever you are in the world! Official English Heritage Livestream

The Solstice and Stonehenge

The summer solstice takes place when one of the Earth’s poles is at its greatest tilt toward the Sun. It happens twice per year, once in each hemisphere. Every year on these occasions, the sun seems to pause in the sky, taking a break from its primordial journey to bask us in its warmth. Our prehistoric ancestors were keen astronomers and Stonehenge, combined with the summer solstice go a great way to substantiate this. Stonehenge, ever since its construction, has been carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the summer solstice sunset. Every year humanity lays witness to our ancestors’ ingenuity and  the stones appear purpose built for the crystallizing moment of the midsummer sunrise. 

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Our ancestors, both distant and recent, have come together on the summer solstice, to both celebrate the beauty of nature and the world heritage sites’ rich celebratory tradition. Ancients believed the summer solstice was a time to celebrate the balance of nature, as day defeated night and the height of summer and people rejoiced in the warmth and bounty of summertime.These traditions are still honoured to this day as all people are treated equal under the light of the solstice sun. The festival was once named Litha (in the language of the Wicca)

The perceived suspension of the sun imbued light and energy into the ancients’ rituals and that energy has been retained to this day. The celebrations at the stones are one of the most popular solstice celebrations in the world. 

This year, thousands of visitors will not be able to descend on the Stones. Instead, the Stones and the wildlife surrounding them have had a chance to recharge, whilst we can all still watch the incredible sunrise and keep communities safe from the COVID-19 outbreak. The English Heritage organisation is presenting a livestream version of the celebrations, streaming the sunrise on Sunday morning GMT on 21 June across its social media channels. 

Nichola Tasker, director of Stonehenge said he and the rest of English heritage ‘hope that our live stream offers an alternative opportunity for people near and far to connect with this spiritual place at such a special time of year and we look forward to welcoming everyone back next year’

Although times are hard, Stonehenge continues to create excitement and history, and at this time of year it creates one of the  world’s most brilliant natural light shows. English Heritage cameras will capture the best views of Stonehenge, allowing you to connect with this spiritual place from the comfort of your own home.


The sunset is at 21:26 BST (20:26 GMT) on Saturday 20th June. The sunrise is at 04:52 BST (03:52 GMT) on Sunday 21st June.

More Virtual Summer Solstice Events:
Stonehenge Solstice Festival – Raising money to support the NHS in these troubled times.
Virtual Stonehenge Summer Solstice Ceremony
Glastonbury Virtual Summer Solstice. Hosted by Glastonbury Information Centre
Virtual Stonehenge 2020 Festival
The Glastonbury Festival Experience

Stonehenge Summer Solstice Links:
Stonehenge will be closed during the summer solstice for the first time in decades – THE TELEGRAPH
Avebury closed for Summer Solstice 2020 – NATIONAL TRUST
‘Please don’t travel’ to Stonehenge warning ahead of summer solstice – SOMERSET LIVE
Stonehenge will livestream the sunrise during the summer solstice on June 21 so pagans and travellers in lockdown don’t miss out on the spectacle – THE DAILY MAIL
Summer solstice at Stonehenge to be broadcast live – how to watch – THE BRISTOL POST
The Stonehenge Pilgrims – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge with no crowds? Big changes planned for reopening – THE GUARDIAN
A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge. The Winter Solstice Celebrations, Summer Solstice and Equinox Dawn Gatherings – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge Solstice Photographs on FLICKR
Stonehenge Solstice live video footage on PERISCOPE
Stonehenge may have been pilgrimage site for sick – REUTERS
Background to the Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations – STONEHENGE NEWS
Stonehenge Solstice and Equinox Tours – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Tour Operator offering exclusive Stonehenge Tours – SOLSTICE EVENTS
Virtual Tour of the Stones – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge Virtual Tour: Inside the Stones  – ENGLISH HERITAGE WEBSITE

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