Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2017: Crowds gather on the longest (and hottest) day of the year

21 06 2017

About 13,000 people watched the sunrise at Stonehenge on Wednesday morning, on the longest day of the year.

The sun rose at the historic monument in Wiltshire at 04:52 BST.

English Heritage opens the site up every year for the solstice, giving people a rare chance to get up close to the monument.

sunrisest

Read this story on the BBC Wiltshire website

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Other Sarsen Stones near Stonehenge and Woodhenge

5 02 2017

Sarsen boulders lie scattered in substantial “drifts” across the landscape of the Marlborough Downs near Avebury.

By contrast, close to Stonehenge there are almost none. This is one of the reasons why most archaeologists believe that the large sarsens for the monument were not locally sourced.

There are, however, a few examples of substantial sarsens dotted about Salisbury Plain within a couple of miles of Stonehenge. And there are tantalising hints that others used to exist.

The most obvious, and easily accessible, is the Cuckoo Stone. This stone is about 2m long by 1.5m wide by 1.5m thick and lies in the field immediately west of Woodhenge.

Cuckoo Stone

The Stonehenge Riverside Project excavated around the Cuckoo Stone in 2007 and discovered that the stone once had been set upright right next to the hollow in which it had originally formed.

Close by were two neolithic pits containing pottery worked flint, deer antlers and animal bones, dating to between 4000BC and 2000BC. A series of three burials were also found close by, dating to around 2000BC.

The stone remained a focus of activity right down to Romano-British times, and a small square wooden building – most likely a shrine – was built immediately to its southwest. Coins and pottery found in the ploughsoil date this to between 200AD and 400AD.

The other readily accessible sarsen is the Bulford Stone which lies in an arable field east of Bulford Village. It’s rather larger than the Cuckoo Stone at 2.8m long and again the excavation evidence shows that it too was once stood upright next to the hollow in which it formed.

It’s also closely associated with burials from the neolithic, the pottery found here dates to between 2300BC and 1900BC. The grave goods found were remarkable, including a flake of transparent rock crystal from either South Wales or the Alps and a “mini megalith” carved from a piece of limestone.

Bulford Stone.jpg

Lying in the northern ditch of a badly degraded long barrow within the Salisbury Plain military training area (and therefore not accessible to the public) are three more sarsen boulders.

They vary in size and – being half buried in the turf – are difficult to see, but the largest seems to be almost 2m long.

This long barrow was excavated by John Thurnam in 1864 who found an early neolithic burial on the original ground surface and an later Beaker burial just below the top of the mound.

Subsequent digging by the military in the early 20th century has almost obliterated the barrow but its outline can still be made out.

There is some debate about whether the sarsens lying in the ditch were originally part of the structure of the long barrow or if they were dragged there by farmers clearing fields at some later date. The stronger possibility is that they were part of the structure.

long-barrow-sarsens

John Britton in his “Beauties of Wiltshire (1801)” says:

“About two miles north of Amesbury, on the banks of the Avon, is Bulford. Near this village are two large stones of the same kind as those at Stonehenge. One of them is situated in the middle of the river, and, as I am informed, has an iron ring fixed in it; but the waters being very high I could not see it.”

Old OS maps of the area show where this stone in the river once lay, but sadly it has now been removed and its present location is unknown to this author (please get in touch if you have any information about or pictures of it):
location-of-sarsen-in-river-os
“…
an interment which was lately discovered above Durrington Walls, by a shepherd, who in pitching the fold, found his iron bar impeded in the ground : curiosity led him to explore the cause, which proved to be a large sarsen stone, covering the interment of a skeleton”

There are other references to large local sarsens from antiquarian reports – one is mentioned by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in the early 1800s:

… and another by the Rev. Allan Hutchins from about the same time:

“In a field, not far from the road which leads from the Amesbury Turnpike into Bulford, is a Barrow of chalk facing the parish and standing by itself… When I came nearly to the virgin earth in this Barrow, my progress was impeded by an immense oval sand stone, underneath which was a skeleton, a beautiful lance head, and a handsome drinking cup”

Perhaps there are still more to be found. Certainly it seems that sarsen boulders of “large” or even “immense” size are not unknown in this part of Wiltshire so maybe the idea that the sarsens of Stonehenge were brought from the Marlborough Downs shouldn’t be accepted at face value.

Here’s a view from Beacon Hill on the east side of Amesbury:

labelled-view-from-beacon-hill

… and here’s an overhead view from Google Earth:

locations-of-sarsens-around-stonehenge

Curiously the Cuckoo Stone, the Avon Sarsen and the Bulford Stone all lie precisely on a straight line, with the Avon Stone being 1500 yards from the Cuckoo Stone and 1450 yards from the Bulford Stone.

But that’s another story……….

Want to learn more and here more Stonehenge stories? 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 conduct guided tours of the Stonehenge landscape. Stonehenge Guided Tours include photo stops of Durrington Walls and Woodhenge and their private group tours service offer trips from London, Salisbury and Bath.  Stonehenge Walks offer archaeological guided walking tours

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Biggest full moon for 60 years! At Stonehenge and in the UK #Supermoon

14 11 2016

STARGAZERS at Stonehenge and around the world are looking forward to catching a glimpse of the biggest supermoon in nearly 70 years.

Tonight’s supermoon will be particularly large because it is the first time that the full img_4552moon has come this close to Earth since 1948.

Make sure you look up to the night’s sky this evening because there will not be another supermoon as big and bright as this one until 2034.

The best time to see Monday’s supermoon in the UK will be at around 4.45pm – but a sighting will depend on the weather.

But the moon will actually be at its closest – 356,509km away – at 11.21am this morning.

NASA said that the biggest and brightest moon for American stargazers will be on Monday morning just before dawn.

A Met Office spokesman said: “Monday evening and overnight Monday night is the best chance to spot it in Europe.”

Although the sky may be cloudy in Wiltshire, he said that there are likely to be cloud breaks.

What is a supermoon?

Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon so close you could almost touch it? Well done, you’ve spotted a supermoon.

The impressive sight happens when a full moon is closest to Earth. It orbits our planet in an oval shape so sometimes it comes closer to us than at other times. To us Earth-lings, the moon appears 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger.

By the way, supermoon is not an astrological term. It’s scientific name is perigee-syzygy, but supermoon is more catchy, and is used by the media to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astrologer Richard Nolle first came up with the term and he defined it as “… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit”, according to earthsky.org.

How can I see it? 

The best time to view it in the UK will be when the sun is setting in the late afternoon. The closer to the horizon it is, the bigger it will appear.

Pick a place with the least light pollution. Paul Thomsett, chairman of the South East Kent Astronomical Society said: “As long as the skies are clear and you have a good view to the south you will have no trouble seeing our nearest celestial neighbour blazing in the night sky.”

The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company offer Stonehenge ‘Full Moon’ walking tours with a local astronomer and Stonehenge expert

Full Moon (SuperMoon) Links Links:
What is a supermoon, when can I see the largest moon in 69 years and will it be cloudy where I live? (Telegraph)
Watch the Moon rise at Stonehenge with local astronomer tour guide (The Stonehenge Guided Tour Company)
‘Supermoon’ viewers to get closest glimpse since 1948 (BBC)
Catch a glimpse of the biggest supermoon for 70 years in the UK TONIGHT (Express)Full Moon Rise at Stonehenge:  (Silent Earth Blog)

“Weather permitting it will be visible without the need for a telescope in Wilsthire.”

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The Stonehenge Bluestones.

7 11 2016

The bluestones at Stonehenge are the smaller rocks you can see standing inside the huge sarsens that form the outer circle and the inner trilithons.

Stone 62.jpgThey range in size from stumps barely visible in the turf through to slender pillars standing nearly 2.5m tall (plus another metre or more below gound) with the largest weighing between 2 and 3 tonnes.

These rocks definitely come from the Preseli Mountains in southwest Wales, 150 miles from Stonehenge as the crow flies. Their place of origin was first established in 1923 by the geologist H. H. Thomas and has been confirmed by modern geochemical analysis. They used to be known as the “foreign stones” because it was recognised that they weren’t local to the Stonehenge area.

The name bluestone is a collective term and there are two main types – spotted dolerite and rhyolite.

It’s not obvious why they’re called bluestones to most people since at first glance, and especially from a distance, they look more greyish green in colour. But a freshly broken piece of the dolerite type reveals that the unweathered interior is a striking blue-green colour with white spots.

How and – more importantly – when and why they were brought to Stonehenge is a matter of lively debate.raw-bluestone

Being comparatively lightweight, the transportation from Preseli to Stonehenge may have been accomplished fairly simply despite the distance involved. In the 1950s a team of a few dozen teenage schoolchildren was easily able to drag a replica bluestone using rollers and a sledge, and half a dozen were able to pilot one on a raft up and down a small river with no trouble.

One theory of when they arrived at Stonehenge suggests that it was around 3000BC and that they were placed in a circle just inside the earthwork bank in the 56 sockets that are known as the Aubrey Holes. This was 500 years before the large sarsens were put up. Subsequently, this theory says, they were moved to within the sarsen monument and re-arranged at least twice.

carn-goedogThe question of why anyone would go to the bother of transporting up to 80 rocks from Wales to Wiltshire is unanswerable. It may be that they formed an existing monument that was dismantled as the spoils of war, they might represent the ancestors of a group of people who migrated eastwards or they may even have been a gift from one population to another.

They clearly had some great significance, perhaps because of their striking position in easily quarried outcrops on the top of the Preseli Mountains.

Curiously, a number of the Stonehenge bluestones were once the components of two bluestone trilithons that must have stood about 2.5m tall. The evidence is in the form of two half-buried bluestone lintels that have mortise holes worked into them and several other standing bluestones that have the remains of tenons on their tops.

These individual components are now placed remotely from each other at Stonehenge but perhaps these small trilithons were the inspiration for the enormous sarsen versions that still stand at the monument.

There are only about 30 visible bluestones remaining at Stonehenge and it is likely that the others have been chipped to pieces for souvenirs and talismen or stolen away for use elsewhere in the last 5000 years. Local rumours of bluestone doorsteps, bridge footings and magnificent fireplaces crop up every so often and fragments have been found in many of the nearby Bronze Age burial mounds.  Stonehenge special access tours allow you to enter the inner circle of Stonehenge and get close to the blusestones.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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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.

unesco-stonehenge_3293166a-large-large_trans2oueflmhzzhjcyuvn_gr-bvmxc2g6irfbtwdjolshwg

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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Orionid meteor shower 2016 to light up Wiltshire skies this October

9 10 2016

The Orionid meteor shower will be at its peak — 20 showers per hour — in the morning of  21st October 2016.

Sky gazers in the United Kingdom can brace themselves for a visual feast, thanks to the meteor shower that will light up the sky this October.

meteor-shower

A general view of Stonehenge during the annual Perseid meteor shower in the night sky in Salisbury Plain, southern England August 13, 2013. The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle. Picture taken using a long exposure. [Representational image] Reuters

The meteor shower is called Orionid and originates from the remains of the Halley’s Comet. The shower is likely to take place from October 2 to November 7, a Science Alert report said.

The Earth passes through the Halley’s Comet trail twice annually. The last time the planet passed through the trail of Halley’s Comet was in May and Eta Aquarids meteor shower was observed.

The meteor shower will be at its peak — 20 showers per hour — in the morning of October 21 2016. However, scientists have said that the shower will be seen at pre-dawn from today up to October 15, as the moon is likely to hinder the visibility later on.

Various planets, stars and constellations can be observed this month along with the meteor shower. Uranus will be visible opposite the Sun in the east post sunset on October 15 and the full moon will aid the visibility.

Jupiter will be spotted along with its moon with naked eyes during dawn in the east on October 28. Saturn and Venus too will be seen too in the low south-west skies on October 30 and Venus will be more luminous than Saturn.

Aldebaran, the orange star which is known as the bull’s red eye of the constellation Taurus, might be seen in the dark skies on October 18. Also, radiant stars Alpha Leonis and Eta Leonis from constellation Leo can be seen before sunrise on October 25, National Geographic reported.

Article Source and more stories: International Business Times

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King Arthur takes council to court in Stonhenge parking row

30 09 2016

Even kings have problems with councils, it seems.

King Arthur in all his glory (Picture: SWNS)

King Arthur in all his glory (Picture: SWNS)

Arthur Pendragon, the self-titled druid king of Britain and who says he’s the reincarnation of King Arthur, is suing over a parking charge at Stonehenge.

He’s also taking action against a police force and English Heritage over the £15 fee.

King Arthur believes the charge is ‘illegal’ for worshippers to the stones for the summer solstice, dubbing ‘pay to pray’.

The charge was introduced for this year’s event on June 21, which saw 12,000 people flock to Stonehenge, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, to mark the longest day of the year.

When Mr Pendragon refused to fork out – saying the £15 fee is ‘grossly unfair’ as it is three times what tourists pay on any other day of the year – he was barred from the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The 62-year-old, who rides a motorbike, decided to take action against the ‘money-grabbing’ authorities because it breaches his human rights.

Mr Pendragon – an ex-soldier and biker gang leader who was born John Timothy Rothwell to parents May and Wilfred – said he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to win.

Who is the modern-day King Arthur?

Mr Pendragon is an English eco-campaigner and Neo-Druid leader of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, who believes he is the reincarnation of King Arthur.

He rose to fame in the 90s when he won a case at the European Court of Human Rights to allow open access to Stonehenge for religious festivals.

He said: ‘If you go to Stonehenge as a tourist today you will pay £5, but if you go there on the solstice as a pilgrim they make you pay ££15.

‘As soon as they bring in a parking charge, it means it is virtually impossible to attend unless you pay. They are stopping me from praying.’

English Heritage has previously stated that it needs to charge the fee as £60,000 is spent on parking facilities during summer solstice.

He said: ‘It is all about money. Stonehenge is getting 1.3 million tourists a year – it is English Heritage’s biggest cash cow.

Read the full story on the Metro website

More relevant links:

Arthur Pendragon Facebook Page: (Arthur is a Warrior, Druid, Witch and Pagan High Priest defending environmental and libertarian causes) https://www.facebook.com/arthur.rex.984

Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge: Live Periscope video footage from the Autumn Equinox 2016 celebrations: https://www.periscope.tv/w/1vOxwRaaZMdJB

King Arthur launches Stonehenge parking legal action | Plymouth Herald

NEWS: Senior druid launches legal challenge over £15 parking charge at for solstice: http://www.spirefm.co.uk/news/local-news/2106390/king-arthurs-stonehenge-parking-wars-to-be-shown-on-tv/

King Arthur sues council, police and English Heritage over ‘pay to pray’ scheme: 

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