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Carbon dating shows that the site dates back to 3300 B.C.
Sonehenge, the iconic Neolithic site in Wiltshire, England, has intrigued researchers for generations. In recent decades, however, archaeologists have found that Stonehenge isn’t the only ancient megastructure in that area—in fact there are a lot, including Woodhenge, the Southern Circle and Durrington Walls’ recently discovered “super-henge”. Now, new research is putting the spotlight on another monument: an ancient structure consisting of two giant wooden circles, located 23 miles away in Avebury, which predates Stonehenge by 800 years, reports the BBC.
Researchers used bits of charcoal collected from the site 30 years ago to carbon date the structure to 3,300 B.C. Tia Ghose at LiveScience reports that researchers are not certain exactly what the circles were used for, but they were palisades constructed of thousands of logs that were purposely burnt down, perhaps in some sort of fire ritual. The research appears in the magazine British Archaeology.
“The date of 3300 B.C. puts the palisades in a completely different context; it’s the end of the early neolithic, when there’s a blank in our knowledge of the big monuments of the time,” Alex Bayliss, an archaeologist with Historic England, tells Simon de Bruxelles at The Times. “We have an entirely new kind of monument that is like nothing else ever found in Britain.”
Ghose reports that the site was originally found sometime in the 1960s or 1970s when a pipeline was laid in the area. It wasn’t until the late 1980s, though, the area was partially excavated. Researchers found the charred remains of the two circles, one of which was 820 feet in diameter. In total, the enclosures were made of over 4,000 trees and stretched an incredible 2.5 miles. Bayliss says it’s possible that one of the circles was for men and one for women during the fire ritual.
Constructing the monuments was no easy undertaking. The builders would have dug massive trenches, fitting oak posts into holes in the bottom. Then they would have then refilled the trenches to make the palisade.
Ghose reports that during the first excavation, researchers dated a shard of pottery to the time Stonehenge was constructed. Other finds in the area also indicated that it was in use during that time. But advances in carbon dating led to the new findings.
Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, tells de Bruxelles that the new date is sure to stir up debate. “Having this massive palisade structure, not just at Avebury but even in southern England, at 3300 B.C. is completely unexpected,” he says. “The dates are so surprising some archaeologists are going to question it.”
Ghose reports that animal bones, pottery and remains of housing show that people occupied the site and nearby areas for centuries after burning the great circles, which is consistent with historical patterns in England during those times.
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A tooth unearthed near Stonehenge shows dogs were man’s best friend even in prehistoric times, it has been claimed.
The tooth, dug up at Blick Mead in Wiltshire, is believed to be evidence of the earliest journey in British history.
It is thought to be from a pet Alsatian-type dog that travelled 250 miles from York with its owner.
Archaeologist David Jacques said it was significant as it was not known people travelled so far 7,000 years ago.
The shape and size show the tooth was from a domestic dog, he said.
It also suggests people were visiting Stonehenge 2,000 years before the monument was built.
“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,” Mr Jacques said.
“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.”
Bones found near the tooth suggest the dog would have feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.
Researchers at Durham University used carbon dating to discover the age of the tooth and isotope analysis on the enamel.
Mr Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said: “We know it was probably born in the area of York.
“It was drinking from the area when it was young, it went on a journey of about 250 miles to the Stonehenge area with people and it ate what the people were eating on this site at Blick Mead.
“You would not get a wolf travelling 250 miles but you’re much more likely to get a dog doing that because it’s travelling with its people.”
Previous excavations have uncovered tools from Wales and the Midlands and evidence people lived near Stonehenge for long periods of time, near the natural springs used hollowed out tree trunks for shelter.
Full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-37574881
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‘Exciting’ Bronze Age cremation site is unearthed near Stonehenge…by a BADGER: Human remains and 4,000-year-old artefacts found near the animal’s sett
- A badger dug up an urn from burial mound on Netheravon Down, Wiltshire
- Archaeologists then conducted an excavation of the 4,000-year-old site
- Cremated human remains and tools dating back to 2,200BC were found
- Wrist guards and tools suggest the grave may have belonged to an archer
The Stonehenge site has been scoured by archaeologists for decades as they attempt to learn more about the history of the land around Britain’s famous ancient monument.
But the latest discovery at the site has been excavated by a rather unlikely source – a badger.
A Bronze Age cremation site was found after badgers dug into an ancient burial mound on land belonging to the Ministry of Defence at Netheravon in Wiltshire.
Artefacts including Bronze Age tools, a flint knife, pottery and an archer’s wrist guard, dating back to between 2,200BC and 2,000BC, were discovered alongside cremated human remains at a site that sits just 5 miles (8km) from the monument.
Archaeologists spotted the site after a badger unearthed a cremation urn and left shards of pottery lying on the ground around the burial mound.
Richard Osgood, senior archaeologist at the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation, led an excavation of the site and described it as an ‘exciting find’.
Experts have said the discovery may be of similar significance to the famous Amesbury Archer, which was found in 2002.
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The remains of 14 women believed to be of high status and importance have been found at Stonehenge, the iconic prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England.
The discovery, along with other finds, supports the theory that Stonehenge functioned, at least for part of its long history, as a cremation cemetery for leaders and other noteworthy individuals, according to a report published in the latest issue of British Archaeology.
During the recent excavation, more women than men were found buried at Stonehenge, a fact that could change its present image.
In almost every depiction of Stonehenge by artists and TV re-enactors we see lots of men, a man in charge, and few or no women,” archaeologist Mike Pitts, who is the editor of British Archaeology and the author of the book “Hengeworld,” told Discovery News.
“The archaeology now shows that as far as the burials go, women were as prominent there as men. This contrasts with the earlier burial mounds, where men seem to be more prominent.”
Pitts added, “By definition — cemeteries are rare, Stonehenge exceptional — anyone buried at Stonehenge is likely to have been special in some way: high status families, possessors of special skills or knowledge, ritual or political leaders.”
The recent excavation focused on what is known as Aubrey Hole 7, one of 56 chalk pits dug just outside of the stone circle and dating to the earliest phases of Stonehenge in the late fourth and early third millennium B.C.
Christie Willis of the University College London Institute of Archaeology worked on the project and confirmed that the remains of at least 14 females and nine males — all young adults or older — were found at the site. A barrage of high tech analysis techniques, such as CT scanning, was needed to study the remains, given that the individuals had been cremated.
Radiocarbon dating and other analysis of all known burials at Stonehenge reveal that they took place in several episodes from about 3100 B.C. to at least 2140 B.C. Long bone pins, thought to be hair pins, as well as a mace head made out of gneiss — a striped stone associated with transformation — have also been excavated at Stonehenge.
As for why no children’s remains were found during this latest excavation, both Willis and Pitts believe that such corpses must have been treated differently. Pitts suspects that infants and children were also cremated, but that their ashes were scattered in the nearby river Avon.
“There is a common association between late Neolithic religious centers and the sources or upper reaches of significant rivers,” he explained.
Stonehenge’s location is also important because prior U.K. burial sites, which were often large mounds containing stone and timber chambers, tended to be erected on hilltops or other high ground, far away from where people lived.
While Stonehenge was also set apart from housing, it and other later cremation cemeteries tended to be on lower ground near rivers that locals must have frequented.
Pitts said this placement is “perhaps in line with a move from a focus on male lineage and hierarchy to both genders and family or class. This reflects a parallel shift from markers of territory and land (via the barrows) to commemorations of communities.”
As for the culture(s) represented by Stonehenge, Willis said the monument was built about 1,000 years after agriculture arrived from the Middle East. The people had wheat, barley, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, but no horses yet. They did not yet use wheels, but had well-crafted stone tools. Metalworking spread to Britain at around 2400 B.C., which was well after the early stages of Stonehenge construction.
Stonehenge, now a World Heritage Site, radiates timeless beauty and achievement, but it seems women’s status proved to be more ephemeral.
Willis said that the role of women in society “probably declined again towards the 3rd millennium B.C…both archaeological and historical evidence has shown that women’s status has gone up and down quite noticeably at different times in the past.”
BY JENNIFER VIEGAS – DISCOVERY NEWS
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Latest Research and Theories About the World’s Most Famous Standing Stones.
Stonehenge. It stands on Salisbury Plain, massive, isolated and mysterious. People have been trying to fathom the meaning and history of the UK’s – and probably the world’s – most impressive and important standing stones for at least 800 years.
According to English Heritage, which manages the site about 90 miles southwest of London, early references have been found in the mid 12th century writings of Henry of Huntingdon, a Lincoln clergyman who wrote a history of England. Calling the site Stanenges, he wrote of stones of “wonderful size…erected after the manner of doorways, so that doorway appears to have been raised upon doorway; and no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built there.”
His questions – how was Stonehenge built, why was its location chosen and by whom – have puzzled generations of writers, researchers and visitors. Now, in the first decades of the 21st century, archaeologists are beginning to come up with some new answers – as well as a lot of new questions.
How Was Stonehenge Built and By Whom?
One of the great mysteries of Stonehenge is its actual creation. Some of its heaviest stones, the blue stones that make up the lintels, come from hundreds of miles away in the Preseli Hills of Wales. How were they transported by a society that did not use the wheel? And calling the monument “the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world,” English Heritage points out that while other Neolithic stone monuments were essentially piles of natural stones and boulders, Stonehenge is made of dressed stones, fitted together with precise mortise and tenon joints. When all the lintel stones of the outer circle were in place, they formed a perfectly horizontal, interlocking circle, even though the monument stands on sloping ground.
Early writers have theorized the monument was built by Romans – Inigo Jones thought no earlier people had enough engineering skill. In about 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his history of Britain placed it in the heart of Arthurian legends and suggested that Merlin had a hand in building it. There are stories of Merlin flying the bluestones from Wales and levitating them to the top of the monument. And of course, there are plenty of stories of alien involvement.
Current theories are equally impressive though more down to earth. For ten years, in the Stonehenge Riverside Project, teams of archaeologists from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton and Bournemouth, along with University College London, have been studying the monument and the surrounding landscape. They suggest that it was built as a unification project between farming tribes of East and West Britons who, between 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC, shared a common culture.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, author of Stonehenge: A New Understanding, explains, “there was a growing island-wide culture – the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast…Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands… Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.” (Buy Prof. Pearson’s Book Direct).
In fact, a settlement being excavated about two miles northeast of the monument, Durrington Walls, indicates as many as 1,000 houses and 4,000 people from all over Britain took part in the building of Stonehenge. And this was at a time when the estimated population of the entire country was about 10,000. The village of builders was probably the largest Neolithic village in Europe.
So the manpower to undertake so much plain hard work was there. The stones were moved from Wales, via sledges and by boat, not by dark arts or secret sciences. Though the level of organization required at such an early period, is rather amazing.
Of course, that’s just the latest theory about the origin of the stones. Another idea is that the Preseli bluestones were carried to the Salisbury landscape by Ice Age glaciers and were found naturally littering the plain when Stonehenge’s builders walked the earth.
How Old is Stonehenge?
The common wisdom has been that the monument is about 5,000 years old and was built in several stages over a period of 500 years. In fact, much of the main building of Stonehenge, visible today, was probably built within that time frame.
But the use of the Stonehenge site for important, and probably ritual purposes goes back much further – perhaps as long ago as 8,000 to 10,000 years. Excavations around the monument’s parking area in the 1960s and then again in the 1980s found pits that held wooden posts planted between 8500BC and 7000BC.
It’s not clear whether these are directly related to Stonehenge but what is becoming more evident is that the landscape of Salisbury Plain was important to early Britons for many thousands of years.
Why Salisbury Plain?
Nice big landing place for spaceships perhaps? Not very likely. What is more probable is that the landscape chose itself. Ancient Britain was covered by forests. A large open space, thousand of acres of chalk grassland, would have been rare and special. I can tell you myself, that even today, driving across Salisbury plain at in the dark, its mysterious earthworks looming blank against a starry sky, can be a transcendant, almost supernatural experience.
Then, there is the matter of the lines. No not ley lines. Aerial photography, excavations and geophysical surveys have revealed grooves – known as periglacial stripes – that run parallel to the Avenue at the Stonehenge site and coincidentally line up with the axis of the solstice. It is possible that the farming people who settled the area and who closely observed seasonal signs noticed the alignment of these natural geological features and chose the site and position of Stonehenge because of them.
That certainly was the conclusion reached by Prof. Pearson’s group. He said, “When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realized that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance…Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world”.
Was the Summer Solstice Important to Ancient People?
Every year, Wiccans, Neo Pagans, New Agers and curious tourists flock to Stonehenge for the summer solstice. It is the only time that visitors are allowed to camp out around the site and spend all night waiting for dawn.
But findings at Durrington Walls suggest that midwinter, not midsummer was the most important and the time for rituals and feasting. Scientists have been able to date pigs teeth found at the site and say that they were slaughtered and consumed in winter, not summer. Most of the other monuments in the Stonehenge area are aligned to midwinter sunrise and sunset. That theory makes even more sense when you consider the fire festivals and observances of midwinter all over Northern Europe.
What Was Stonehenge Used For?
Take your pick: Druid worship, burials, harvest festivals, animal sacrifices, solstice celebrations, communal rituals, a healing center, a farming calendar, a defensive earthwork, a signal to the gods, an alien landing strip. There are dozens of theories about what Stonehenge was used for. And over the years, archaeological excavations have found evidence of most of theses activities (except aliens – so far). The discovery of at least 150 burials in the area is a relatively recent finding, for example.
The fact is, the ritual landscape that Stonehenge is a part of was in use by different human societies for thousands of years. It’s likely that it, and the other monuments in the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage site, had a variety of different uses over the millennia. We may never fully understand this mysterious place, but archaeologists and historians are getting closer all the time. Article by By Ferne Arfin: http://gouk.about.com
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Archaeologists who have been undertaking excavation work in the surrounding area of Stonehenge have claimed to have solved the mystery as to why the large circle of standing stones was constructed in the position it is in. However, it seems rather premature to be popping open the champagne bottles just yet as the evidence is far from conclusive.
The team of scientists working in Amesbury, a short distance from where the landmarks sits on a hillside, believe the discovery of a ‘warm’ water spring provides all the answers they were looking for. It is claimed that Ice Age man was drawn to the nearby pools which never froze over and settled in the area to have access to the water.
The pools are fed by a spring which keeps the water at a constant 11 degrees, even in winter. Scientists visited the area in minus ten degree temperatures and found that the pools had not frozen over.
“The belief has always been that Stonehenge would not have been built here without there being something special about the area, said Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of the Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust. “We believe the answer lies in the springs which feed the River Avon.”
The reason for Stonehenge’s location has remained one of the great unsolved mysteries of British prehistory, with no one theory accepted as correct. While the latest finding is interesting, it certainly appears too superficial to explain all the other evidence relating to Stonehenge’s location – were the warm springs a big enough motivation for Mesolithic settlers to drag megalithic blocks over 240 kilometres? Is the fact that it sits perfectly on a solstice axis now considered insignificant?
Hopefully scientists don’t believe this research is enough to close the file on the mysteries of Stonehenge.
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Archaeologists have uncovered a missing piece of the Stonehenge Avenue, the route leading to the prehistoric monument.
The 2.5km Avenue has long been considered the formal processional approach to the monument, and is aligned with the solstice axis of Stonehenge. But its connection with the monument had been severed by the A344.
Archeologists were unsure whether the remains of the severed section of the Avenue would be intact. But two ditches were found near the Heel Stone, about 24 metres from the entrance to the monument.
A section of the A344 running past Stonehenge was closed permanently in June. The road will be grassed over to improve the Stonehenge visitor experience.
Heather Sebire, properties curator and archaeologist at English Heritage, said: “The part of the Avenue that was cut through by the road has obviously been destroyed forever, but we were hopeful that archaeology below the road would survive.
“And here we have it – the missing piece in the jigsaw. It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for.
“It was always agreed that once the road came up it would be excavated. We hoped the ditches would be there but there was a slight unknown element, so we were delighted to find they were there.
“We are fairly sure the Avenue outlines the walkway towards the stones.
“It was constructed in 2300 BC so is a later addition to the stone circle, but people would have processed along it to the monument. It leads directly into what we think is the entrance, and links the monument to the river Avon.
“It’s quite a dramatic finding.”
Once the A344 has been grassed over, it will be used as the visitor route into Stonehenge. Visitors will be able to walk along the Avenue, tracing the route along which people in prehistoric Britain most likely made their way to the monument.
Submitted by Emma McFarnon (HistoryExtra.com)
Full article: http://www.historyextra.com/news/%E2%80%98missing-piece%E2%80%99-stonehenge-avenue-uncovered
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