Ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list.

30 11 2019

For people across the world- Stonehenge is a must see location, it’s majesty as well as it’s mystery has made it a mainstay on everyone’s bucket list. 

Stonehenge sunset

However, here lies the problem. Is Stonehenge merely a pretty collection of stones which need only be sited to be ticked off the list? There is no doubt that the site itself, taken as it is, is fulfilling. However- the occasion of ticking such a magnificent and ancient spectacle off a list of things to do on this earth before you die, should be done properly. The site and the whole surrounding area deserve more than tentative voyeurism. To truly ‘tick off’ Stonehenge, one must engage with its history its myths and crucially observe the entire  surrounding area which is a veritable tapestry of Neolithic history. A tapestry which considered in its entirety enriches the ultimate site to see- Stonehenge itself. 

I want to take you on a preliminary journey around Neolithic Wiltshire’s most fascinating sites- all a walking distance from the stones, which an expert guide can take you on for a holistic experience- Weaving together the history and myth of this most beautiful landscape.

On ground level-  you and the stones in front of you, it is hard to appreciate anything else. However, imagine you could fly straight up in the air and take a birds eye view- looking down on the ancient henge and its famous stones- so they are a wonderful miniature series of concentric circles…

…then go higher and take in more and more of the landscape and you’ll notice the ground is littered with meaningful scars- tell tale signs that the entire area surrounding Stonehenge has been heaving with meaning for 5,000 years. 

Luckily the wonder of the modern day means we needn’t defy gravity to appreciate the Neolithic saturation of the landscape- a simple satellite picture reveals all the key location you need to visit.

stonehenge-map

Durrington Walls 

Starting 2 miles east of the stones with Durrington walls. This was once a Neolithic settlement and may have even been the largest village in Northern Europe sometime between 2800-2100 B.C.

Woodhenge 

Heading immediately south from Durrington walls we soon will encounter Woodhenge, the elemental antithesis of Stonehenge itself. Sadly, due to the nature of wood,  the former structure has long since rotted away. This ancient site may well have been lost forever if it wasn’t for aerial photographs which revealed dark spots in wheat crops. These dark spots signalled the former post holes of large wooden posts which formed the ancient structure. Today the post holes have been filled with concrete to partially recreate the previous composition of woodhenge. It represents a magnificent symbiosis of past and present, modern techniques ensuring the survival of ancient monuments and their memory and preserve the heritage of Wiltshire .

The Cursus

Around 4000 years ago from our aerial view the Cursus would have been a bright white scar across the land, thanks to wiltshires famously chalky ground. In the Neolithic period the cursus was a 3k avenue cut into the earth for an unknown purpose.

The cursus is so named because the famous antiquarian William Stuckley and the Cursus’ discoverer- imagined roman chariots riding along its length (cursus meaning race course in Latin). Although the earth is no longer dredged along the cursus it still makes a fascinating route to wander along and to ponder, with its purpose still not totally understood

The Cursus group

At the west end of the cursus you might expect to get a good view of the Stonehenge- however your view is blocked. Instead you  are met with the curious view of a ridge of land, topped with a barrow; a Neolithic burial mound. Between the west end of the Cursus and Stonehenge itself lie the ‘Cursus Group’ an assortment of sixteen  of these Neolithic round barrows. The land literally bulges with history at this point- on top of the ridge you can see the land ripple with various barrows as you survey it- before your eyes are drawn magnetically to the stones themselves. But before you reach them it is fascinating to hear the tales of the barrows, how they had once concealed pottery, weaponry and even jewels for thousands of years.

Beyond tales of treasures it is edifying for those who wander the mounds to ponder their ancient logic- for there certainly appears to be a system- but it is yet to be determined. 

Stonehenge Avenue

Heading East from the swollen turf of the Cursus barrows you will intersect the penultimate Neolithic wonder of our imaginary tour. Like the Cursus, Stonehenge Avenue is an ancient Avenue, stretching for 3 kilometres. And like the cursus Stonehenge Avenue would have been an brilliant white scar on the earth- an alabaster pathway connecting Stonehenge with the river Avon. 

Today the avenue is still recognisable, If a slightly more furtive path then it once was but is nonetheless the pathway to the enigmatic stones, linking up with the henge as though drawn on by a higher being.

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Photo taken by Stonehenge Dronescapes. Visit their Facebook Page for more amazing photos of Stonehenge and Wiltshire.

Stonehenge Stone Circle

At last you reach the stones themselves. The colossal upright sarsen stones, rendering you minuscule in comparison- whilst the horizontal blue stones, quarried from South Wales, add the real dimension of wonder to this wonder of the world. The stones are the crowning sight to this antiquarian tour of Wiltshire’s Neolithic sights. 

Words can hardly to this magnificent structure justice and it really must be beheld to be appreciated. What is certain is that the truest appreciation of this cultural icon is ascertained through a thorough engagement with its surroundings- appreciating the wider history and indeed mystery of the land and truly attempting to cast your mind back to the remote past; ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list in the process.

Relevant Stonehenge Links:
English Heritage – Interactive Maps of the Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge Guided Tours – The Stonehenge Touring Experts – click here
National Trust – The Stonehenge Landscape – click here
Stonehenge – Neolithic / Bronze Age Henge and Stone Circle. Click here
Salisbury and Stonehenge Guided Tours – The local megalithic tour operator – click here
Stonehenge Dronescapesclick here

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Stonehenge monoliths may have been dragged there using greasy sledges lubricated with pig fat

21 07 2019

This new theory is based on pig fat residue on ancient pottery found near the famous monument and fits in with the generally accepted concept that the monoliths were dragged by people all the way from quarries in west Wales.

Stonehenge

Archaeologist Lisa-Marie Shillito say residues of fat on pottery discovered near the monument suggest Neolithic people greased the sleds used to move the huge stones with lard.

  • Scientists claim the enormous stones were dragged using ‘greased sledges’
    Newcastle University archaeologists found fat residues on shards of pottery
    They suggest the same lard could have been used to lubricate the sledges

The pig fat concept was proposed by researchers from Newcastle University after they studied pottery found at Durrington Walls, a Neolithic settlement that is just a couple of miles away from Stonehenge.

According to Science magazine’s Eva Frederick, archaeologists previously posited that the high concentrations of lard left in bucket-sized ceramic containers at the prehistoric village resulted from elaborate feasts hosted by Stonehenge’s builders. Shillito believes otherwise, arguing that the size and shape of the pottery make it better suited for storing animal fat than cooking and serving meals. Additionally, the archaeologist notes in a statement from Newcastle, “The animal bones that have been excavated at the site show that many of the pigs were ‘spit roasted’ rather than chopped up as you would expect if they were being cooked in the pots.”

Analysis of residues of absorbed fat is a widely-used technique which can reveal what foods different type of pottery was used for. There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the construction of Stonehenge’, she says.

‘Until now, there has been a general assumption that the traces of animal fat absorbed by these pieces of pottery were related to the cooking and consumption of food, and this steered initial interpretations in that direction.

‘But there may have been other things going on as well, and these residues could be tantalising evidence of the greased sled theory.

‘Archaeological interpretations of pottery residues can sometimes only give us part of the picture.

‘We need to think about the wider context of what else we know and take a ‘multi-proxy’ approach to identify other possibilities if we hope to get a better understanding.’

RELEVANT LINKS TO THIS STORY:

ROCK SLIDE Stonehenge builders may have ‘dragged rocks into place on sledges greased up with PIG FAT –  THE SUN

Did Stonehenge’s Builders Use Lard to Move Its Boulders Into Place? SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

STONEHENGE: NEOLITHIC PEOPLE MOVED ENORMOUS ROCKS USING PIG FAT FOR LUBRICATION, ARCHAEOLOGIST SAYS – THE NEWS WEEK

Stonehenge was ‘dragged into position using LARD’: Massive stones of the 5,000-year-old Wiltshire monument may have been slipped into place using ‘greased sledges’ lubricated with pig fat – THE DAILY MAIL

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The ancestors of the people who built Stonehenge travelled west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain.

17 04 2019

DNA reveals origin of builders: DNA shows migrants who arrived in Britain around 6,000 years ago constructed the world’s most famous prehistoric monument.

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Britons who built Stonehenge were product of ancient wave of migrant farmers, DNA reveals

Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe.

The Neolithic inhabitants appear to have travelled from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Iberia before winding their way north.  They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.

Ancient skeletons reveal arrival of eastern Mediterranean population replaced hunter-gatherer population of British Isles

Paleogenomicist Federico Sánchez-Quinto from Uppsala University in Sweden used these techniques on dozens of remains from four megalithic tombs in Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden that were first uncovered years ago. He and his team sequenced the nuclear genomes of those remains—most of which have been dated to between 4500 B.C.E. and 3000 B.C.E.

Whereas Britain’s outgoing hunter-gatherers—including the oldest known Briton, “Cheddar Man”—likely had blue or green eyes and dark or even black skin, the farming populations migrating across Europe are believed to have had brown eyes and dark to intermediate skin.

Details have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

RELEVENT STONEHENGE STORIES:
DNA reveals origin of builders – BBC WEBSITE
Were Europe’s megalithic societies patrilineal? – SCIENCE MAG
Study: Aegean farmers replaced hunters of ancient Britain – PHYS.ORG WEBSIITE
Stonehenge builders came from as far as modern-day Turkey, DNA suggests – ITV NEWS
Stonehenge built by descendants of early immigrants, study finds – SKY NEWS
Britons who built Stonehenge were product of ancient wave of migrant farmers, DNA reveals – THE INDEPENDENT

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Ancient Craft at Stonehenge. Neolithic to Bronze Age living history!

2 03 2019

Ancient Craft will be at Stonehenge to demonstrate Neolithic to Bronze Age living history and crafts! Ancient Craft have decided to have two days focused towards the Neolithic and the second two on the Bronze Age. There will be a camp where you can watch crafts like flintknapping, cordage making, grain grinding, cooking and bronze casting! There will be two experienced prehistoric crafts people to show you lots of different objects and skills from the time of Stonehenge so don’t miss out!

EVENT DATE: 22nd April at 10:00 – 25th April at 16:00

ancient-craft

Details will be available on the English Heritage website soon!

What is AncientCraft?

AncientCraft is dedicated to the archaeology of primitive crafts and technologies during prehistory – mainly focused on the Stone Age and Bronze Age. This includes references to materials such as lithics (also known as “flintknapping”), wood, bone, horn, leather, metals and cloth (linen and wool).

AncientCraft was setup and is run by James Dilley, an archaeologist and craftsman who specialises in prehistoric technologies and has around 16 years experience of flintknapping and other ancient crafts. James has worked with museums and heritage sites such as The British Museum and Stonehenge as well as media companies such as the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Dorling Kindersley publishing. The outreach objective of AncientCraft is to encourage people of all ages to explore prehistory through their own research or by practising prehistoric skills. By working with museums or media outlets it is possible to provide a unique view of prehistoric archaeology as James is an academic at the University of Southampton with a strong practical background. It is this combination of academic understanding of prehistoric archaeology, and strong roots in crafts from the Palaeolithic – Bronze Age that makes AncientCraft one of the most popular prehistoric displays for museums in the UK and Ireland.
Their Facebook page shows some of the things James gets up to with AncientCraft across the UK and Ireland from living history events and workshops to some of the replicas being made for museum displays or film work.
You can also visit the website via www.ancientcraft.co.uk

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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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STONEHENGE will be giving visitors a taste from the past in September as they launch their first ever Big Feast weekend.

29 08 2018

Big Feast will be celebrated at Stonehenge this weekend

Across the first weekend of September (next Saturday) the English Heritage site will be giving visitors an insight into some of the first ever meals tasted at the stones.

The Big Feast is coming to Stonehenge ©English Heritage

The Big Feast is coming to Stonehenge ©English Heritage

The Neolithic event will begin on Saturday, September 1, from 9.30am, and flints, roasting spits and stews will be just some of the historic touches to the feast, with celebration foods that have not been seen or tasted for around 4,500 years, including historical dish roasted pork shoulder with honey and blackberries.

Food demos will be held at the event so visitors can learn for themselves how to make a successful Neolithic dish, demonstrated with prehistoric- style cook-ware, and recipe cards will be provided so meals can be replicated within the home for years to come.

For those with a big appetite, history – inspired goods including a hog roast will be available during the weekend, or visit the Neolithic supermarket to learn about the early foods and farming industry.

Additionally experts will be giving talks throughout the foody festivities, teaching about the world of farming and the diets of ancestor builders.

Entry to the weekend is included in a general admission ticket, with local resident pass holders and English Heritage and National Trust England members invited to come along free of charge.

For further information visit the English Heritage website.

Article Source: Salisbury Journal

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Stonehenge builders may have transported megaliths down ‘stone highway’ from Wales. Has the secret of Stonehenge been solved?

29 06 2018

The mystery of how the gigantic rocks of Stonehenge were transported may finally have been solved.

A new study claims the huge hunks of hardened earth and minerals were moved from Welsh quarries on a ‘stone highway’ encompassing roads and rivers.

Experts have long been baffled by how the massive boulders were transported from Wales to Salisbury Plain.

Now, they believe they may have found the source for the stones as well as the route used to deliver them from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire.

  • New study claims to have uncovered the mystery of how Stonehenge was built
  • Giant stones that made up the monolith were transported from Wales to England
  • Experts are baffled as to how neolithic man moved them to Salisbury Plain 
  • New study claims ‘stone highways’ of roads and rivers were used
Stonehenge

Stonehenge, located near Amesbury, in Wiltshire, is an iconic site but historians often debate the origins of its construction and how the stones reached there

The smaller bluestones come from Pembrokeshire, and the huge sarsens come from Marlborough Downs.

However it is unknown where the sandstone of the main Altar Stone originates, but Richard Bevins of the Museum of Wales and Rob Ixer of the University of Leicester told The Times that it “very probably” came from the Senni Beds which go from Llanelli to Herefordshire.

Stonehenge was built in three stages, with some parts being a huge 5,000 years old. The outer bank of Stonehenge was made in around 3000 BC, while the stone settings were built in 2500 BC.

Read the full story:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5899227/Has-secret-Stonehenge-solved.html
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6654449/stonehenge-builders-megaliths-stone-highway-wales/

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Celebrating the building of Stonehenge may have been as important to Neolithic people as worshipping there

11 03 2018

Building Stonehenge ‘may have been ceremonial celebration.

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English Heritage will begin moving a replica stone on Friday using teams of volunteers in an “experiential archaeology” project

The arduous task of building Stonehenge may have been part of a ceremonial celebration, claim historians.

The circle in Wiltshire was built more than 4,000 years ago using bluestones from south Wales – a decision which has long baffled experts.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said they now believed that Neolithic people did not want to make “things as easy and quick as possible”.

Building the monument was as important as “its final intended use,” she added.

Experts have tried to discover why the people who built Stonehenge chose to use some stones from the Preseli Hills, about 155 miles (250km) away.

The stones were probably transported via water networks and hauled over land, using a huge amount of labour over the long and difficult journey.

Experts now believe the construction of the monument was just as important to Neolithic people as worshipping in it.

Read the full story (source) on the BBC website

 

Relevant links:
Party like it’s 2500BC: Stonehenge building secrets unearthed – click here

Bonding and booze secrets of Stonehenge exposed: Construction work on ancient monument 5,000 years ago brought people together – click here

Secrets of Stonehenge are bonding and booze – click here

Step into the shoes of Neolithic Man at Stonehenge – Click here

MOVING AND RAISING A STONE: 10th / 11th March 2018 – Click here

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New theory over Stonehenge origins

18 02 2018

THE community that built the Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Larkhill may have been the architects of the Stonehenge landscape, archaeologists believe.

New theory over Stonehenge origins A Beaker or Bronze Age infant burial site at Larkhill. Picture by Wessex Archaeology

The causewayed enclosure, which dates between 3650 to 3750 BC – pre-dating Stonehenge by 600 years, was uncovered by archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology in 2016.

Si Cleggett, project manager and archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology now believes the community who built the causewayed enclosure may have been more closely involved in the planning of Stonehenge than previously thought.

He said: “The causewayed enclosure at Larkhill was constructed during the late Stone Age, a period of transition when our ancestors gradually moved away from a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle and embraced a farming existence where the domestication of livestock and control of agriculture began.”

Causewayed enclosures are believed to be meeting places, centres of trade and cult or ritual centres to name but a few. They are only 70 known examples.

The Wessex Archaeology teams were commissioned by WYG on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to undertake excavations on land adjacent to Royal Artillery Larkhill. The land, on the edge of Salisbury Plainand, immediately north of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, has been earmarked for the provision of service family accommodation under the Army Basing Programme.

Archaeologists believe there was a five post alignment at the entrance of the causewayed enclosure which were positioned almost identically to the stones of Stonehenge.

Mr Cleggett said: “The communities who gathered at the Larkhill causewayed enclosure during the Early Neolithic were there 600 years before the landscape setting of Stonehenge was conceived and may have been involved in the conceptualisation or even the creation of the landscape we see today.

“It is enormously fitting that thousands of years later, those that strive to protect our identity as a nation will again meet at Larkhill through the delivery of service family housing.”

The Larkhill site, which is 24 hectares, is the largest open area archaeological excavation ever undertaken in proximity to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Article Source: Katy Griffin – Salisbury Journal

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Stonehenge builders ‘ate food from Scotland’

19 10 2017

The “army of builders” of Stonehenge ate animals transported from as far away as the north east of Scotland, according to a new exhibition at the famous Neolithic site in Wiltshire. 

eh-feast

Analysis of pig and cattle teeth has revealed some of the animals were from as far as 500 miles away.

The “Feast! Food at Stonehenge” exhibition includes the skull of an aurochs, an extinct species of cattle.

It is aimed at allowing visitors to explore diet from 4,500 years ago.

English Heritage historian Susan Greany said: “Our exhibition explores the important role feasts and food played at Stonehenge.

“Raising the ancient stones was an incredible feat but so too was feeding the army of builders.

“Our exhibition reveals just how this was done.”

The displays reveal research and stories from a “feeding Stonehenge” project, which has been exploring the lives of the people who lived at the nearby settlement of Durrington Walls.

The researchers say thousands of discarded animal bones and teeth excavated at Durrington Walls suggest it was not a typical village but a site of major feasting and ceremony.

Read the full story (article source) on the BBC NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland website.

Links:
English Heritage will launch a new special exhibition at Stonehenge in October 2017

What did neolithic man eat after a hard day at Stonehenge? Sweet pork and rich cheese

Roasted sweet pork with cheese and butter: What was on the menu for (lactose intolerant) Stonehenge Man

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW OF THE STONEHENGE FEAST

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