Woodhenge Henge Timber Circle – Amesbury, Wiltshire. A wooden version of Stonehenge?

21 01 2017

“A little further on the right of the road leading to Amesbury, we see the mutilated remains of an enormous Druid barrow”

This is how Richard Colt Hoare described Woodhenge in the early 19th century, and it continued to be viewed as a disc barrow (with the name “Dough Cover”)  until 30th June 1926.

On that day, Squadron Leader Gilbert Insall VC took an aerial photograph that showed a series of dark circular cropmarks inside the area enclosed by what had been regarded as the barrow’s ditch.

Insall’s photo is shown below, Woodhenge is just above left of the centre.

gilbert-insall-woodhenge

These marks later proved to be the surface traces of six concentric rings of postholes, uncovered by Maud and Ben Cunnington in their excavations between 1926 and 1928. These posts date to between 2600 and 2400BC.

When their excavations were over, they installed short concrete markers to show the positions and sizes of the postholes, using colour-coded tops to indicate which holes belong to each concentric ring.

These are the markers that are still in place today.

The monument shares the same solstitial alignment as Stonehenge, pointing to summer sunrise in one direction and the winter sunset in the other. This photo shows winter solstice sunset.

As well as the postholes, the Cunningtons also discovered two burials and evidence that at least two stones had been erected on the site. Subsequent investigations in the mid-2000s found three more stone holes which show that large sarsens had been erected after the wooden posts had disappeared.

woodhenge-winter-solstice-sunset

One of the burials was near the centre – that of a small child about three years old whose skull was broken. At the time that was interpreted as evidence of sacrifice although it’s also possible that the weight of earth on the body was the actual cause of the damage.

The second burial was in a grave in the bottom of the surrounding henge ditch, dateable by the fragments of Beaker pottery found within. The ditch dates to between 2400 and 2100BC.

Other pottery discovered at the site is the distinctive earlier Grooved Ware style from the time of Stonehenge and some fragments of a much older style that indicates activity at the site dates back at least to between 3,800 and 4,000 BC.

Woodhenge is on a low ridge that overlooks the River Avon to its east, and is due south of the huge neolithic henge of Durrington Walls. Along this ridgeline to the south is evidence of a number of other barrows and also structures that made use of large timber posts.

It’s been suggested that these “four posters” might be the remains of excarnation platforms – elevated wooden areas where the bodies of the dead would be placed to be defleshed by the elements and carrion birds.

The fields around Woodhenge are rich in other archaeological remains. Apart from those already mentioned there is a ploughed-flat long barrow to the southwest. Recent geophysical research by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has shown that beneath the ground surface there appears to be evidence of some kind of timber mortuary building.

woodhenge-longbarrow-geophys-comp

Access to Woodhenge is via a small slip road off the A345 north of Amesbury. There is a small, free, car park area and the monument itself is open at all times. The neighbouring fields immediately to the west (“Cuckoo Stone Field” and north (“Durrington Walls Field”) are owned by the National Trust and allow open access.

It’s well worth exploring this area to get a wider perspective of the landscape within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. The Ordnance Survey Explorer series map #130 “Stonehenge and Salisbury” shows the public footpaths.
Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

Circular walking route from Woodhenge to Stonehenge
This walk explores two major historic monuments, Durrington Walls and Stonehenge, in the heart of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Visit the National Trust site for this trail.

Durrington Walls and Woodhenge, Wiltshire: Walk of the week
The first of our new series of weekly walks, provided by the National Trust, is a ramble around mysterious Durrington Walls in Wiltshire, with views towards Stonehenge. Visit the Times Travel webpage

How to see Woodhenge on a guided walk
The National Trust are hosting ‘Discover Durrington Walls and Woodhenge’ events throughout the year. On this 3-mile walk, you’ll explore the secrets of Durrington Walls – once home to the builders of Stonehenge – and discover 6,000 years of hidden history with National Trust’s landscape guides. Visit the National Trust events page.  Booking essential

Hire a local expert tour guide or join a scheduled group tour
The Stonehenge Travel Company based in nearby Salisbury are considered the local experts and offer archaeological guided walking tours of Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and the greater Stonehenge landscape. Stonehenge Guided Tours include photo stops and private group walking tours with transport from London

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Massive 25 ton stones of Stonehenge may have come from further afield

29 10 2016

The builders of Stonehenge are known to have sourced the smaller bluestones used in the 5000-year-old monument from Wales.

But a new theory suggests that the entire monument might have come from elsewhere, even the huge 25 ton Sarsen stones which make up the large circle of the Wiltshire megalith.

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The huge sarsens at Stonehenge could have come from elsewhere

Katy Whitaker, of the University of Reading, will present a new paper at symposium at University College London next month suggesting that the sarsens could have come from sites as far away as Ken.

“Most people are aware that some of Stonehenge’s stones came all the way from south-west Wales,” she said.

“The really huge sarsen stones at Stonehenge are assumed to have come from sources on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, about 30km to the north of Stonehenge. Sarsen stone, however, is found in other locations across southern England.

“There are sarsens in Dorset, spread about dry chalk valleys similar to the locations on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, and as well as locations in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Sussex, there are even sarsens in Kent.

“The distribution is quite broad, there are sarsens in Buckinghamshire and even across to Norfolk.”

People in the Neolithic are known for trading stone across large areas, including from the Lake District to the East of England.

Huge Sarsen boulders from outside of Wiltshire are known to have been used in other prehistoric monuments including Kits Coty House in Kent, and Wayland’s Smithy, a burial mound, in Oxfordshire.

“People were clearly aware of, and using, these stones in prehistory.” said Miss Whitaker. “Why not think about the possibility that sarsens came from further-afield too?”

The idea could also challenge that Stonehenge represents a peak of monument construction which could only have been achieved through organisation by a hierarchical leadership.

Instead, it may show that smaller groups had banded together to bring meaningful stones to a central area.

“Maybe it wasn’t a large group of people under the control of a tribal leader ‘cracking the whip’ to move all the rocks from one location down to Stonehenge as has been suggested before,” added Miss Whitaker.

“What about groups of people related in different ways, working collaboratively to move a special stone from one area to another? “

The source of the Stonehenge stones was first determined in the early 1920s by H.H. Thomas, an officer with the Geological Survey of England and Wales.

He determined that the so-called ‘spotted dolerites’ matched a small number of outcrops in the Mynydd Preseli district in south-west Wales

Latest theories about Stonehenge also suggest it was once an impressive Welsh tomb which was dismantled and shipped to Wiltshire.

An experiment this summer by University College London found that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected.

They discovered that a  one tonne stone could be pulled on a raft by just 10 people at around one mile per hour, far faster than experts believed.

MS Whitaker is presenting her work at the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium at University College London from 18th to 19th of November.

Full article (source) The Telegraph:

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Stonehenge Autumn Equinox Open Access Arrangements: 22nd September 2016

4 09 2016

The 2016 Autumn Equonox is September 22nd at 14:21 GMT

English Heritage are expected to offer short period of access, from  first light or safe enough to enter the monument field (approximately 06.30am) until 08:30am.
More details as we get them.(source)

Autumn-Equinox-Mabon_Stonehenge-2014 (11)The Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21st, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. It’s a time of plenty, of gratitude, and of sharing our abundance with those less fortunate.

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

The word ‘equinox’ itself actually mean ‘equal’ (equi) and ‘night’ (nox).

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Archaeologists Feud Over Second-Hand Stonehenge Theory

15 12 2015

The ink wasn’t even dry (or the bits weren’t even embedded in the Cloud) yet on the 2 Comments about a new theory that Stonehenge once stood in Wales before being moved to Wiltshire when a cry rose up from other archaeologists who claim that it was glaciers, not humans, that pushed the monoliths to their current resting place in Wiltshire. Who’s right, who’s wrong and what’s the betting line on the fight?

Stonehenge-585x306

The feud started with a report last week in the journal Antiquity that archaeologists from University College London (UCL) identified two quarries in Wales that matched some of the bluestones at Stonehenge. The more controversial part of the report was their belief that the stones were made into a monument in Wales which stood for a few hundred years before being toppled and moved to England, making Stonehenge what some were sacrilegiously calling a “second-hand monument.”

Just a week later, Dr. Brian John, Dr. Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes thumbed their noses at their peers in a paper published in the journal Archaeology in Wales where they stated that there are “no traces of human intervention in any of the features that have made the archaeologists so excited.”

Path and distance the bluestones would have had to travel from Wales to Wiltshire

The stone of contention in this argument is foliated rhyolite debris – fragments of thinly-layered volcanic rock that were found at both sites, prompting the UCL team to declare that they came to Glastonbury with the bluestones from Wales. Dr. John’s team says the Irish Sea Glacier brought the foliated rhyolite debris (a great name for a heavy metal band) 500,000 years ago.

While Dr. John’s team agrees that the Welsh outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin show signs of human campgrounds, there’s no evidence the Neolithic humans were quarrying monoliths and building a miniature Welsh Stonehenge. In fact, he suggests that the features the UCL team thought were evidence of quarry activity were actually made by the archaeologists themselves. As Dr. John eloquently puts it:

An expectation or conviction that ‘engineering features’ would be found has perhaps led to the unconscious fashioning of archaeological artifices.

Archaeologists at the site in Wales - are they finding evidence or creating their own?

Ouch! But Dr. John doesn’t stop there.

On the contrary, there is substantial evidence in favour of glacial transport and zero evidence in support of the human transport theory … We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them. That’s very careless. They now need to undertake a complete reassessment of the material they have collected.

Dr. John has taken the lead. Back to you, team from University College London.

Article by Paul Seaburn | Mysterious Universe

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Bradford researchers help uncover hidden secrets of Stonehenge

12 09 2014

Bradford archaeologists are part of an international research team that has uncovered a host of previously unknown archaeological monuments around Stonehenge in a project that will transform our knowledge of this iconic site.

Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath, can be seen on BBC iPlaver here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04hc5v7/operation-stonehenge-what-lies-beneath-episode-1

Results from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project are unveiled today at the Stonehenge_new_monumentsBritish Science Festival in Birmingham. They show how, using new remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys, the team has uncovered 17 previously unknown ritual monuments around the site, along with dozens of burial mounds – all of which have been mapped in minute detail.

Researchers at the University of Bradford are partners in the project, which is led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, in Austria.

Alongside previously unknown features, the team has also uncovered new information on other monuments, including the Durrington Walls ‘super henge’, a vast ritual monument of more than 1.5 kilometers in circumference which is situated a short distance from Stonehenge.

Hundreds of burial mounds, and settlements from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman period have also been surveyed at a level of detail never previously seen. Taken together, the results show how new technology is reshaping how archaeologists understand the landscape of Stonehenge and its development over a period of more than 11,000 years.

Dr Chris Gaffney, Head of Archaeological Sciences at Bradford, says: “The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project is the pinnacle of a recent trend to apply new and rapid technologies to collect accurate non-invasive data for mapping our buried heritage.

“In many respects, the Stonehenge project goes far beyond any other project – both in the complexity of the data sets generated but also in the immense impact it will have on our understanding of Britain’s greatest and best-known archaeological site.

He adds: “Archaeology studies the past, but, in the application of remote sensing at this scale, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project demonstrates how future researchers will investigate our archaeological heritage. Increasingly, the investigation and understanding of iconic sites across the globe will be enhanced by rapidly mapping the larger-scale environment that they have come to dominate.”

British project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney, Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics at the University of Birmingham, and Chris Gaffney’s brother, said:

“This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.

“New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.

“Stonehenge may never be the same again.”

The results of the project will be featured in a major new BBC Two series, Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath, is due to be broadcast at 8pm on Thursday 11 September.

Full article: http://www.bradford.ac.uk/life-sciences/news-and-events/news/bradford-researchers-help-uncover-hidden-secrets-of-stonehenge.php

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