Stonehenge feasters came from far and wide. New study unearths clues to Neolithic celebrations

15 03 2019

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the earliest large-scale celebrations in Britain – with people and animals travelling hundreds of miles for prehistoric feasting rituals.

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Autumn Equinox Celebrations

Four sites close to Stonehenge and Avebury, including Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and West Kennet Palisade Enclosures hosted feasts which drew people and animals from all over the country.

A study examining the bones of 131 pigs from four Late Neolithic complexes show that the animals came from as far away as Scotland, the North East of England and West Wales, as well as other sites in Britain.

Archaeologists have found people travelled from Scotland, Wales and North England to take part in feasts at Stonehenge.

Researchers believe that those attending the feasts may have wanted to contribute animals raised locally at their homes.

Before this study, the origins of the people who took part in the rituals and the extent of the journeys people would take, have been a mystery.

Stonehenge was ‘hub for Britain’s earliest mass parties’

Study lead Dr Richard Madgwick from the University of Cardiff said: “These gatherings could be seen as the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes.”

Dr Madgwick said finding pigs in the vicinity of the feasting sites would have been “relatively easy” making the fact they brought the animals long distances “arguably the most startling finding” as this would have required “a monumental effort”.

“This suggests that prescribed contributions were required and that rules dictated that offered pigs must be raised by the feasting participants, accompanying them on their journey, rather than being acquired locally,” he said.

Related Stonehenge Links:

Study of pig bones shows Stonehenge feasters came from far and wide – SKY NEWS
Stonehenge was ‘hub for Britain’s earliest mass parties’- BBC NEWS
Prehistoric feasts at Stonehenge drew people from across Britain to gather – SALISBURY JOURNAL
Stonehenge mystery UNRAVELLED: DAILY EXPRESS
Neolithic Britons travelled across country for regular mass national feasts 4,500 years ago, new research claims – THE INDEPENDENT
Stonehenge-era pig roasts united ancient Britain, scientists say – NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Ancient Brits ‘travelled to Stonehenge for raves’ – THE EVENING STANDARD

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Stones from Pembrokeshire used in the construction of Stonehenge may have been transported by land rather than sea, archaeologists have found.

24 02 2019

Quarrying of Stonehenge ‘bluestones’ dated to 3000 BC

Excavations at two quarries in Wales, known to be the source of the Stonehenge ‘bluestones’, provide new evidence of megalith quarrying 5,000 years ago, according to a new UCL-led study.  The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

Stonehenge (pictured) is made of natural pillars from Pembrokeshire, 180 miles (290 km) away from its current location in Wiltshire. Experts claim the obelisks were dragged there over land and not taken there by sea, as some theories have suggested

Stonehenge (pictured) is made of natural pillars from Pembrokeshire, 180 miles (290 km) away from its current location in Wiltshire. Experts claim the obelisks were dragged there over land and not taken there by sea, as some theories have suggested

The discovery confirms a prediction made a century ago

It was Herbert Henry Thomas, a British geologist, who first declared that the “foreign stones” of Stonehenge—those that did not come from the vicinity of the prehistoric monument and whose raison d’être was therefore most shrouded in mystery—had been hewed from rocky outcrops in west Wales. In 1923 he pointed to the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire. Nearly a century later he has been found to be nearly, but not quite, right.

The new discoveries also cast doubt on a popular theory that the bluestones were transported by sea to Stonehenge.

Radiocarbon dates
Joshua Pollard, a professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, said the findings were key as they were “further confirmation that the Stonehenge bluestones were moved by people (and not geological forces such as ice-sheets) in prehistory, in what stands out as one of the most remarkable instances of long-distance movement of large stones in the ancient world.”

He said that radiocarbon dates indicate there may have been a gap in time between the quarrying of the stones from Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, which may suggest they were “originally set up as one or more stone circles in Preseli.”

Prof Pollard went on to explain the research revealed the “far-flung importance of the Preseli region during the Neolithic.”

He added: “Ultimately, it’s a story about people – about early farmers – with a strong connection to ancestral lands, and their need to reinforce those connections through the movement and building of great megalithic monuments.”

  • Relevant Stonehege news links:
    Solving the mystery of Stonehenge – The Economist
  • Stonehenge: Preseli stone ‘transported over land’ – BBC NEWS
  • The Where, When and How of Quarrying Stonehenge ‘Bluestones’ Is Revealed in New Report – Ancient Origins
  • Quarrying of Stonehenge ‘bluestones’ dated to 3000 BC – Archaeology and Arts
  • How Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ were quarried 5,000 years ago: Ready-made pillars were pried away from rocky outcrops before being transported over land NOT sea – Daily Mail

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Did Neolithic cows moooove Stonehenge’s bluestones?

14 12 2018

A new study suggests Neolithic farmers had mastered animal traction

The mystery of how Stonehenge’s bluestones were transported 160 miles from Wales to Wiltshire has puzzled archaeologists for generations.  Some experts say glaciers picked up and deposited the huge rocks in the last ice age, while others have suggested the stones were dragged on rollers or sleds by manpower.

Stonehenge

The bluestones of Stonehenge may have been dragged by animals

Stonehenge may have been built with the assistance of cows who helped carry the enormous rocks across the British Isles.

It could help explain how the fabled bluestones managed to complete the journey from Wales to Wiltshire, where Stonehenge still sits today.

Previous research has claimed the movement of glaciers deposited the huge slabs of rock 160 miles away from their original location.

New research has found evidence of cattle being used by humans to pull and carry heavy loads for 8,000 years.

Archaeologists at University College London discovered that the bones in the feet of Neolithic cattle demonstrated distinctive wear patterns, indicative of exploitation as ‘animal engines’.

Neolithic cattle in the Balkans were therefore being used for our purposes two millennia earlier than previously thought

Watch the video and read the full story on the Daily Mail website and the Daily Telegraph website 

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Want to be involved in research at Stonehenge?

19 04 2018

By completing a questionnaire as you walk around Stonehenge you can help archaeologists to understand how people from different backgrounds view the landscape. This will help with interpretations of important sites like Stonehenge. If you would like to take part, simply access the questionnaire via the QR code or URL below. All you need to do is fill in some information about yourself and answer the questions as best as you can. 

survey

Why does this research matter?

Archaeologists try to study past people who have very different cultural backgrounds from themselves. Certain perceptual theories suggest that this will cause us to see landscapes differently than the people we study, whilst others state that this is not an issue. If we see landscapes differently, then how we interpret them may not accurately reflect the past.

In association with English Heritage and the University of Southampton

In association with English Heritage and the University of Southampton

This questionnaire forms part of PhD research looking into this issue and will be analysed for the final thesis.

Why me? Why here?

With visitors from all over the world Stonehenge is the perfect place to carry out this kind of study. We are not just looking for archaeological experts, but all sorts of people. You must be over 18 and give your consent to take part.

What information do you need?

In order to understand what attributes affect perception of the landscape we will ask you to fill in information such as age, gender and cultural background. All information will be completely anonymous and will be held securely in compliance with the Data Security Act and University of Southampton policy. Only the researcher will have access to the questionnaire responses.

What if I change my mind?

If you decide that you no longer want to take part, simply close this webpage without submitting the questionnaire.

Important Information

Please read this information carefully before deciding whether to take part in this research. By checking the box at the start of the survey you are indicating that you are aged over 18, and you are consenting to participate in this survey.

Please select your language by clicking here

Français- Bienvenue, souhaitez-vous contribuer à la recherche archéologique à Stonehenge?

En remplissant un questionnaire sur la façon dont vous voyez le paysage autour de Stonehenge, vous pouvez aider les archéologues à mieux comprendre comment les personnes de milieux différents perçoivent les paysages.

Sélectionnez votre langue en cliquant ici

Deutsche- Willkommen, möchten Sie zur archäologischen Forschung bei Stonehenge beitragen?

Durch das Ausfüllen eines Fragebogens, wie Sie die Landschaft um Stonehenge sehen, können Sie Archäologen besser verstehen, wie Menschen aus verschiedenen Hintergründen Landschaften wahrnehmen.

Bitte wählen Sie die Sprache aus, indem Sie hier klicken

Italiano- Benvenuto, vuole contribuire ad uno studio di ricerca archeologica a Stonehenge?

Compilando questo questionario sul paesaggio intorno a Stonehenge può contribuire ad aiutare gli archeologi a capire meglio come le persone provenienti da diversi ambiti percepiscono questo paesaggio. 

Selezioni la sua lingua cliccando qui

Español– Bienvenido, ¿le gustaría contribuir a la investigación arqueológica en Stonehenge?

Al completar un cuestionario sobre cómo ve el paisaje alrededor de Stonehenge, puede ayudar a los arqueólogos a comprender mejor cómo las personas de distintos orígenes perciben paisajes.

Por favor, seleccione su idioma haciendo clic aquí

Português- Bem-vindo, você gostaria de contribuir com pesquisas arqueológicas em Stonehenge?

Ao preencher um questionário sobre como você vê a paisagem em torno de Stonehenge, você pode ajudar os arqueólogos a entender melhor como as pessoas de diferentes origens percebem paisagens.

Selecione seu idioma clicando aqui

普通話- 歡迎您,您是否願意貢獻於巨石陣的考古研究?

通过填写一份关于你如何看待巨石阵周围景观的调查问卷, 你可以帮助考古学家更好地理解不同背景的人是如何感知景观的。

點擊這裡選擇你的語言

Visit the Stonehenge Survey website here.

Your response is completely anonymous. Data collected as part of this research will be kept confidential and published results will maintain that confidentiality.
In consenting to take part, your legal rights are not affected. If you have any questions about your rights as a participant in this research, or if you feel that you have been placed at risk, you may contact Prof. Denis McManus, the Chair of the Ethics Committee, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK. Email: D.Mcmanus@soton.ac.uk

If you are on a Stonehenge Tour or visiting independently your feedback is valuable.

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Some of the Stonehenge rocks were at Salisbury Plain ‘long before humans’

14 04 2018

Some of the largest rocks at Stonehenge were there long before humans and are not likely to have been moved to the location, an archaeologist says.#

 

Archaeologists and antiquarians have for centuries wondered why Stonehenge is where it is and why the largest stones were dragged miles to a hillside on Salisbury Plain.

An archaeologist who has excavated within the site says there is evidence people were drawn there because of the stones.

An archaeologist who has excavated within the site says there is evidence people were drawn there because of the stones.

It had been thought those stones, called sarsens, were brought from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles (32km) away.

Mike Pitts, one of only a few archaeologists to have excavated within Stonehenge, has found evidence that two of the largest sarsen stones have been there for millions of years.

The largest megalith at the site, the heel stone, which aligns with sunrise on midsummer’s day, is 75 metres from the centre of the stone circle and weighs 60 tonnes.

Read the full (source) story here

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New discoveries rewrite Stonehenge landscape

29 11 2016

Archaeologists have found new evidence that rewrites the history of the Stonehenge landscape.  One of the newly-discovered sites even predates the construction of the world famous monument itself.

arrow-stones

FASCINATING FINDS: Flint arrow heads give a secure early Neolithic date

The remains, found at Larkhill and Bulford, were unearthed during excavations being carried out before the building of a series of brand new Army houses.

At Larkhill, the discovery of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure – a major ceremonial gathering place some 200 meters in diameter – dating from around 3650 BC radically changes our view of the Stonehenge landscape. About 70 enclosures of this type are known across the UK, although this is only the second discovery in the Stonehenge landscape, with the other further to the northwest at Robin Hood’s Ball on the Salisbury Plain Training Area. In the Wessex region they occur on hilltops and, along with long barrows, are some of the earliest built structures in the British landscape.

FASCINATING FINDS – 700 yrs older than Stonehenge:

The Larkhill enclosure has produced pottery, worked flint, a saddle quern, animal bone and human skull fragments, all placed in the ditches which define the enclosure. Sites of this type were used for temporary settlement, to exchange animals and other goods, for feasting and other ritual activity, including the disposal of the dead. The objects found in the ditches reflect these ceremonial practices. The Larkhill causewayed enclosure is around 700 years older than Stonehenge and is part of a landscape that included other large earth and timber structures such as long barrows and cursus monuments. Its builders shaped the landscape into which the stone circle at Stonehenge was placed, which was already special long before Stonehenge was constructed. The causewayed enclosure at Larkhill shows that they had the social organisation necessary to come together to create significant earthworks, and the resources to support the work, as well as the people to carry it out.

Dr Matt Leivers of Wessex Archaeology told Spire FM

“This is an exciting new find and one that transforms our understanding of this important monumental landscape.”

While part of the site has been investigated, the majority of it lies within the Larkhill Garrison, where it remains unaffected by the current works.

LOOK – PHOTOS: There are more pictures of the finds in the mini gallery below…

UNIQUE DOUBLE HENGE:

At nearby Bulford, archaeologists have found a unique double henge, the only example known in Britain. The earliest phases were created around 2900 BC with circular enclosures formed by ditches dug in segments with openings to the north. In the Early Bronze Age (around 2000 BC) both henges were enclosed within continuous ditches, and perhaps buried beneath barrow mounds. From one of the Bulford henges a skull from a large dog or wolf, perhaps a working companion, a trophy from the hunt, or even a totemic symbol, was recovered.

Martin Brown, Principal Archaeologist for WYG told Spire FM:

“These discoveries are changing the way we think about prehistoric Wiltshire and about the Stonehenge landscape in particular. The Neolithic people whose monuments we are exploring shaped the world we inhabit: They were the first farmers and the first people who settled down in this landscape, setting us on the path to the modern world. It is an enormous privilege to hold their tools and investigate their lives.”

ARMY HOUSING WORKS CONTINUE:

Archaeological work on both sites is being managed and directed by WYG on behalf of Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), with fieldwork undertaken by Wessex Archaeology.

The sites’ development is part of wider plans to accommodate the 4000 additional Service personnel plus their families who will be based on and around Salisbury Plain by 2019 under the Army Basing Programme. In total, the MOD is planning to invest more than £1 billion in the area which will provide more than 900 new homes for Service families, over 2,600 new bed spaces for single soldiers and the construction, conversion or refurbishment of 250 other buildings within bases, such as offices, garages, workshops and Mess facilities.

Find out more about WYG and the work at Bulford and Larkhill here: www.wyg.com

Read the full story (source) on the SPIRE FM website

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Ancient dog tooth found near Stonehenge shows 7,000 year old journeys

8 10 2016

We know that man’s best friend is a dog, but archaeologists near Stonehenge have found that dates back 7,000 years!

A dig at Blickmead, a mile from the stone circle, has uncovered a dog’s tooth.

dog-tooth

That particular breed would have been seen as a ‘prized prestige pet’

Scientists from the University of Buckingham and the University of Durham think the dog came from the York area, making it one of the longest known journeys to South Wiltshire ever recorded, at 250 miles.

The finding could also show that people visited the sacred area two millennia before the stone circle’s believed to have been built.

The dog is thought to be an Alsatian, at a time when prehistoric man was only just starting to tame animals and keep them as pets.

Archaeologist David Jacques said:

“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built.

“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was. It would be devastating if the tunnel obliterated our chance of piecing together the jigsaw to explain why Stonehenge was built.”

The site that’s being dug at the moment is under threat as it’s along the route of the proposed A303 tunnel.

There’s more on this story on our national news page at www.spirefm.co.uk/news

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