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.

STONEHENGE RELEVANT NEWS LINKS:

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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The 25th Century BC: Stonehenge vs The Great Pyramid of Geeza  

4 04 2020

When people think of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, they will almost certainly consider the pyramids of Geeza and Stonehenge. However, a surprising fact about two of the world’s most heralded monuments is that they were built in the same century- and are perhaps the two most significant features of their century from today’s perspective. These seemingly immortal monuments possess a similarly mesmeric quality – gained through their sheer antiquity and the mystery surrounding their construction. Given their temporal bond I thought I would compare and contrast the two great monuments, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Geeza: their size, their construction, the civilizations which constructed them and the myths that have followed them to this day.

Stonehenge and the Pyrimids

Is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid?

Size
If this were a competition, then the great pyramid would win this round- it quite literally would tower over our beloved stone circle. Stonehenge’s largest stones, the Sarsens stones, boast a height up to 9m and an individual weight of up to 35 tonnes. On the other hand, the Great Pyramid of Geeza stands at 146.7m, with a length of 230.34m- the whole mass weighing in at an estimated 6.5 million tonnes. Stonehenge comes in at an estimated 680 tonnes. The sheer scale of the pyramid is truly astonishing.

Construction
But is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid? Again, if this were a competition this round might end in a draw. Of course, the scale of the pyramid is more impressive, but the two monuments share a similar sense of mystery when it comes to their construction. With both, there are very few facts surrounding construction – we deal mainly in inferences and theories. A key theory about the construction of the pyramid is the theory that great ramps were constructed linking the pyramids to quarries and allowing the workmen to reach such a great height without the advent of the crane.

One of the greatest discoveries surrounding the construction of Stonehenge was the location of a quarry in Preseli hills, Pembrokeshire, south wales where the smaller Blue stones were sourced – 140 miles away from the site of Stonehenge! Theories of how the stones were transported are multifarious (and the myths are even more wide ranging). However, a popular theory chimes with the construction of the pyramids as some have suggested a continuous proto-rail system was constructed between the sites to push the stones along.

Alas, the pyramid might score more points on the transportation of materials – there is a suggestion that some stones from the King’s Chamber in the The Great Pyramid were brought from 500 miles away.

Civilisations
The scale of the Great Pyramid in comparison to Stonehenge is easily explained in reference to the two different civilisations that built them. Whilst most of Europe in this period was literally stuck in the stone age – Britain lagged particularly behind and was mostly inhabited by relatively primitive farming peoples. In comparison, the civilisation of Egypt was the greatest civilisation on Earth at this point and one of the greatest civilisations in the history of our planet. They had far more advanced construction techniques, paper and writing on which to plan, complex irrigation systems, artwork… the list goes on. I would argue that the relative primitiveness of the society which constructed Stonehenge makes It more impressive.

Myths
The mystery which inexorably links these two monuments will always spawn the most fascinating mythology. Out of the possibly thousands of myths about the monuments I will pick my favourite about the construction of each. Egypt had its own mythology, but modern-day thinkers have added to that treasure trove with their own theories about the pyramids. A popular myth is that the pyramids were constructed by either a lost civilisation with advance technology or perhaps even aliens (as reported in the Daily Express). As for Stonehenge, it has long been claimed that it was magically constructed by Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend.

Whichever you think is the ‘best’- there can be no doubt that these two great monuments of the 25th Century BC share an extraordinary history of intrigue.

Relevant Links:
From the pyramids to Stonehenge – were prehistoric people astronomers? ZME SCIENCE
To understand the pyramids and Stonehenge, look up – not down – THE GUARDIAN
Egypt SHOCK: Aliens BUILT the pyramids claims INTERGALACTIC medium – THE EXPRESS
The Lore and Lure of Ley Lines –LIVE SCIENCE
The pyramids, the Minoans, Stonehenge: 6 of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history – THE MIRROR

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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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Prehistoric Enclosure Found Near Stonehenge

3 02 2018

LARKHILL, ENGLAND —According to a report in The Guardian, a team led by Si Cleggett

England-Larkhill-alignment

Wessex Archaeology

of Wessex Archaeology has uncovered a series of nine post holes in a causewayed enclosure they say matches the orientation of the circle at Stonehenge. The site is located a short walk from Stonehenge, and dates to between 3750 and 3650 B.C., or about 600 years before a circular ditch and timber posts were first installed at the Stonehenge site. Cleggett suggests the people who built the enclosure at Larkhill may have been the architects of the Stonehenge landscape. “That nine-post alignment could be an early blueprint for the laying out of the stones at Stonehenge,” he said. For more, go to “The Square Inside Avebury’s Circles.”

 

An exhibition at the site gives fresh insight into the builders of Stonehenge, showcasing research that suggests animals were brought from as far afield as northern Scotland to feed the engineers and for lavish midwinter feasts.

The Larkhill dig, which is taking place because the land is being cleared for military housing, has also unearthed some fascinating 20th-century history.

REad the article in the Archaeological Magazine

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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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Dynamic Diversity – the nature of working on a prehistoric archaeological site. #DurringtonDig

10 08 2016

The team has been digging for 8 days and ideas are continually evolving and being re-evaluated. What is exciting about this excavation is that no matter what day you visit or read the blog, you will hear something different from the previous day – and tomorrow will likely be different from today.

Theories, which can develop in tandem, are either abandoned, held on to, proved or disproved, or sit in the background quietly in wait. There are many specialists and highly experienced archaeologists on site who are all sharing and debating their ideas with each other – and if you’re lucky you may have caught them on site in deep discussion.

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Three different areas under excavation – different ideas for each one

Read the full story on the National Trust blog

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Sights to visit around Stonehenge.

4 03 2016

While Stonehenge is by far and away the superstar of southern England, and no visit to Wiltshire is complete without touring it, Stonehenge is in fact just one of many ancient sites in the area. Indeed, the surrounds of Stonehenge contain the most densely-grouped collection of neolithic sites and monuments within England – and more are being discovered all the time. It’s thought that the nearby settlement of Amesbury (believed to be the oldest in Britain) was a major cultural centre during the island’s ancient days. If you’ve got some time to spare during your Stonehenge trip, and want to take in some of the area’s other sights, here are a few suggestions:

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Within Walking/Cycling Distance Of Stonehenge – Woodhenge, Durrington Walls, The Cuckoo Stone

In all fairness, you can strike out in pretty much any direction from Stonehenge and hit archeological gold – although you may not always recognise it as such. Just be careful not to wander into the path of the military (who train on Salisbury Plain). If you’re cycling, be sure that you’re properly prepared for historically significant (but nonetheless unexpected) bumps and tumbles! Woodhenge, less than four miles from Stonehenge, is an odd sight at first glance. However, once you understand what you’re looking at, it becomes much more impressive. It’s thought that this was once a large burial mound with a complex system of banks and ditches (now eradicated through ploughing). Thousands of years ago, six concentric rings of wooden posts may have supported an enormous building. Today, the position of these posts are marked with stumps. It’s an atmospheric and very interesting place! A short walk away from Woodhenge is Durrington Walls – a recently discovered monument which in its heyday would have dwarfed Stonehenge. The ‘Walls’ were formed by lines of enormous stones, which could possibly have formed a processional way leading to Stonehenge itself. There’s not masses to see there now, but it’s still a lovely area! West of Woodhenge is the Cuckoo Stone – a sarsen boulder lying on its side. It was once a standing stone, the origins of which remain a matter of debate. It’s an enigmatic piece of history in a very atmospheric location.

Salisbury – Old Sarum, Salisbury Museum

Old Sarum is a wonderful visit for anyone with an interest in history. It’s the site of Salisbury’s oldest settlement – a hilltop fort commanding absolutely incredible views over Wiltshire. There’s an iron age hillfort to walk around, the remains of a castle to admire, and an absolutely breathtaking panorama which will give the camera-happy everything they could ever dream of. There are also plenty of events put on by English Heritage throughout the year, giving people the opportunity to really step back in time! Down in Salisbury itself, the Salisbury Museum is packed full of fascinating finds from all over the county. It’s a well laid-out and beautifully explained museum, with some truly intriguing exhibits. You can find it just opposite Salisbury Cathedral – which it itself a beautiful and interesting building.

A Short Drive Away – Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill

A 40 minute or so drive from Stonehenge is Avebury. Managed by the National Trust, this ancient stone circle sits in a Neolithic landscape incorporating avenues of standing stones, a henge, and an enormous stone circle in which a village was once situated. The stone circle itself is the largest in the world, and contains two smaller circles. A short walk away is West Kennet long barrow, which can be entered by those who are neither claustrophobic nor fearful of our long-dead ancestors! Then, of course, there are the round barrows with which the landscape is littered, and the curious structure of Silbury Hill. Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, and would have taken similar effort to construct as its contemporary pyramids in Egypt. It was clearly important to those who built it – although, unlike most barrows of its kind, it contains no burial. Its purposes remain perplexing, but its presence is both beautiful and fascinating! Anyone with an interest in Stonehenge and its ilk, particularly those who enjoy the mystery of the structure, will find much to whet their appetites at Avebury and Silbury!

There are Stonehenge tour companies who operate guided tours of the area and the Visit Wiltshire webiste lists the best ones.  If you want to explore the Stonehenge landscape with a local expert then we recommend ‘The Stonehenge Travel Company

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Stonehenge burials show ‘surprising degree’ of gender equality

3 02 2016

A new study of prehistoric bones discovered at Stonehenge has found around half belonged to women.

In 2008 archaeologists first explored the site in Wiltshire examining the cremated remains of some 200 adults.

Researchers said their findings showed a “surprising degree of gender equality” despite artists portraying prehistoric man as in charge of the site “with barely a woman in sight”.

The findings are reported in the magazine British Archaeology.

Stonehenge digImage copyrightAdam Stanford
Most of the material dug up in the 1920s from the periphery of the stones was reburied in Aubrey Hole seven (seen excavated in 2008)

The study showed the finding are important because burial at Stonehenge was likely to have been reserved for selected people of higher status.

It also contrasts with the evidence from older Neolithic tombs in southern Britain, with their higher ratios of adult males to females.

Stonehenge digImage copyright Mike Pitts
Some 45kg (99lbs) of bone fragments were recovered

Christie Willis, a PhD student at University College London and an expert on human remains, sorted through some 45kg (99lbs)of bone fragments.

Her task was to identify which part of the skeleton each fragment came from and to then establish the age and sex of the remains.

Ms Willis said the samples had originally been place in a series of Aubrey Holes around the periphery of the site – which were originally excavated in the 1920s by William Hawley.

“These were dug up and reburied in Aubrey Hole seven with the hope that one day there would be a breakthrough to allow them to be analysed.

Stonehenge digImage copyright Adam Stanford
The archaeologists said their work had taken four years in total

“Because of this the fragments have become co-mingled – or mixed up – which is why the work has taken so long.”

The fragments were also sent to universities in Oxford and Glasgow to be radiocarbon-dated.

Researchers at Teeside University also looked at how hot the cremation fires were, and how long the bones were in there for.

Article Source: BBC NEWS

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