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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5000 people came to celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge this year.

23 12 2018

The winter solstice occurs each year when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the sun, resulting in the fewest hours of sunlight, and the shortest day of the year.

SUNRISE: Hundreds gathered at Stonehenge today to mark winter solstice

SUNRISE: Hundreds gathered at Stonehenge today to mark winter solstice

Crowds of people played music and danced at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, where monuments are believed to be aligned to the movements of the sun.

The traditional event attracted hundreds of people to the monument, particularly from the Pagan community.

Kate Davies, of English Heritage, said: “It was fantastic to welcome approximately 5000 people to Stonehenge this morning to celebrate winter solstice.

“It was an enjoyable and peaceful celebration despite the damp and cloudy weather and it was great to see so many families enjoying themselves around the monument.”

Revellers in vibrant costumes gathered to mark the Winter Solstice and to witness the sunrise after the longest night of the year.

Striking photographs show choirs singing, a couple embracing, and many taking a moment of peace by the ancient stones.

The traditional event attracted hundreds of people to the monument, particularly from the Pagan community.

Stonehenge has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Winter Solstice for thousands of years.

English Heritage has “managed open access”, meaning the public can stand among the stones on these days. Anyone can turn up on the day to get close to the stones, but people are asked not to touch or climb on them.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2018 Links:

Stonehenge Winter Solstice striking moments as costumed revellers sing and dance  – The Mirror

2018 winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge – Salisbury Journal

Thousands mark Winter Solstice at Stonehenge – Spire FM

Pagans and druids including ‘real’ KING ARTHUR descend on Stonehenge for winter solstice – The Dail Star

Stonehnege winter solstice video clips onPericsope 

Stonehenge winter solstice: Parking row mars event – BBC NEWS

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Stonehenge Summer Solstice: Thousands gather for longest day

21 06 2018

THOUSANDS of revellers have gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the arrival of summer and the year’s longest day, in a ritual that dates back thousands of years.

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About 9,500 people were at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

The sun appeared behind the Heel Stone at 04:52 BST to cheering and applause from the crowd.

The summer solstice is one of the rare occasions that English Heritage opens up the stones for public access.

As with last year’s event, Wiltshire Police confirmed it had stepped up security with armed police on patrol.

Although thousands attended the solstice, the force said 3,500 fewer people came to watch the sunrise compared with 2017.

Supt Dave Minty, Wiltshire Police’s overnight commander, said behaviour at the stones was “brilliant”, with no arrests made.

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“The sunrise was amazing, and we don’t see many of those,” he added.

“People seem to have adapted really well to the heightened level of security and they’ve been really patient with it.”

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and sunlight is channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

The site holds special significance for members of the Druid and Pagan community, who perform rituals and celebrations at the summer and winter solstices.

FULL STORY (SOURCE) BBC NEWS

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Stonehenge and Ancient Astronomy

4 06 2018

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive and best known prehistoric stone monuments in the world.

sun

Ever since antiquarians’ accounts began to bring the site to wider attention in the 17th century, there has been endless speculation about its likely purpose and meaning, and a recurring theme has been its possible connections with astronomy and the skies. was it a Neolithic calendar? A solar temple? A lunar observatory? A calculating device for predicting eclipses? Or perhaps a combination of more than one of these? In recent years Stonehenge has become the very icon of ancient astronomy, featuring in nearly every discussion on the subject. And yet there are those who persist in believing that it actually had little or no connection with astronomy at all. A more informed picture has been obtained in recent years by combining evidence from archaeology and astronomy within the new interdiscipline of archaeoastronomy – the study of beliefs and practices concerning the sky in the past and the uses to which people’s knowledge of the skies were put. This leaflet attempts to summarize the evidence that the Stonehenge monument was constructed by communities with a clear interest in the sky above them.

This leaflet is one of a series produced by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). An electronic version is available for download at http://www.ras.org.uk.
To find out about modern astronomy in Britain see http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

Download the PDF here

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Vernal (Spring) Equinox at Stonehenge.

25 02 2017

The Spring Equinox in 2017 falls on March 20th and occurs at 10:28am GMT. The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°. Everywhere on Earth has a day and night of almost equal length and it marks the beginning of the northern spring season.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge. Copyright

There is considerable debate in the archaeoastronomy community as to whether the Equinox had any special meaning for the builders of Stonehenge. They had no accurate clocks by which they could determine when the day and night were almost exactly equal and discovering the mid-point between the Winter and Summer solstice can be done in a couple of obvious ways.

You can count the days and divide by two. Or you can mark the summer and winter sunrise positions along the horizon and divide that line into two equal parts. These two methods give different results.

For example, counting the days between Winter Solstice 2016 (December 21st) and Summer Solstice 2017 (June 21st) gives 182 days. Half of that is 91, meaning the midpoint would fall on March 22nd 2017 – two days after the actual Equinox.

north_season

The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°

 

Using the “divide the horizon” approach causes an additional problem – at the Solstices do you mark the first gleam of the Sun appearing, the point when half of it is above the horizon or when it has fully risen and the full orb is standing exactly on the horizon?

The difference in position between using “first gleam” and “full orb” is about 1.5° because the Sun rises at an angle. As a result the halfway position could be 0.75° different depending on your choice and that is one and a half times the width of the Sun’s disc, potentially putting your Equinox out by a day or so.

In any event, there is no alignment through Stonehenge for the Equinox and what’s more there isn’t even a clear sightline directly through the monument that runs true East-West towards the Equinox sunrise position, in the way that there are clear sightlines for the Solstice sunrises and sunsets.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice photo of an equinox sunrise when it’s clear, because you can.

equinox-sunrise

English Heritage Charitable Trust allows everyone in to the centre of the monument for the Spring Equinox sunrise, in the same way that they do for the Autumn Equinox and the two Solstices, through their “Managed Open Access” events. It’s one of only four occasions in the year when open access is allowed.

It’s worth checking with their customer services department (0370 333 1181) a week or so ahead because sometimes they set the actual day of the open access to be different to the day when the Equinox occurs.

Equinox open accesses attract fewer people than the Solstices – in the several hundreds rather than tens of thousands – and there are modern Druid ceremonies which are held in the circle around dawn, so if you prefer a quieter experience then attending an Equinox is a good choice.

If you do visit Stonehenge on the Equinox please respect the special terms of entry and read this blog: ‘Respecting the Stones’

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice or Equinox celebrations you can join a specialist organised small group tour.  Use a only a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions of entry.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company offering award winning discreet tours from London. Solstice Events offer small group sunrise tours using only local expert guides.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Stonehenge NEWS and updates from the World’s most famous ancient monument.

20 01 2017

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Ordnance Survey Benchmarks at Stonehenge

18 11 2016

Amongst all the various carvings on the stones at Stonehenge, from the modern graffiti of the 17th to the 20th century and the ancient axe heads and daggers from about 1700BC, there are three that are not often noticed.

These are the Ordnance Survey (OS) benchmarks.

The OS website says: “Bench marks are the visible manifestation of Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN), which is the national height system for mainland Great Britain and forms the reference frame for heights above mean sea level.”

The original reference datum levelling survey was begun in Liverpool in 1840 using a benchmark on St. John’s Church, and in 1844 it was changed to the tidal pole in Victoria Dock. The reference Mean Sea Level (MSL) for the datum was established over a nine day period of tidal observations.

A second levelling survey was carried out in 1912-21 and the datum was changed to MSL at Newlyn in Cornwall. In the 1950s a third survey was performed, still making use of the Newlyn datum.

The OS benchmarks at Stonehenge are in the traditional form of three lines / | \ beneath a horizontal bar which is the indicator of the reference height above the datum’s MSL at that spot.

stone-16-annotatedCoincidentally, this is a similar form to that of the Druidic “Awen” emblem which also uses three lines / | \  but positioned below three dots rather than a horizontal bar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awen for the history and an explanation of this symbol.

At Stonehenge two of the benchmarks are on the Heel Stone and one is on Stone 16.

Stone 16 is the tooth-like stone at the southwest side of the monument directly behind the tallest stone on the site, and the benchmark is low down on the left of the southeast face.

 

This references the Newlyn datum, is 103.114m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

The Heel Stone is the massive leaning stone some 80m northeast of the stone circle which famously (but only roughly) indicates the position where the sun appears on the horizon at the summer solstice as seen from the centre of the stone circle.

Its benchmarks are low down on the right hand side of the northeast faceheelstone-annotated

The upper one references the original Liverpool datum, is 101.346m above MSL and was last verified in 1900.

The lower one references the Newlyn datum, is 100.7m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

From the Newlyn benchmarks, you can work out that there’s a drop of 2.414m from the one on Stone 16 to the one on the Heel Stone.

None of these benchmarks are visible from any of the visitor paths around the monument, although if the light is right (early morning or evening in summer) the upper one on the Heel Stone can just be made out from the National Trust field.

To see them properly you’ll need to come to one of the Managed Open Accesses at the solstices or equinoxes.

Alternatively, you can book a private Stone Circle Access visit which take place most days of the year before and after regular opening times.

STONE CIRCLE ACCESS

Stone Circle Access visits, give you a unique opportunity to experience up close this world famous monument. The visits take place outside of our normal general admission opening hours and are subject to very limited availability. Please note that this is not a guided tour, and touching of the stones is not permitted.  You can try Stonehenge Guided Tours for these special access tours

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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