Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours

Home » Stonehenge Guided Tours

Category Archives: Stonehenge Guided Tours

Ancient Britain in a day. Exploring Prehistoric Wiltshire

The American travel writer Bill Bryson once wrote:

“Impressive as Stonehenge is, there comes a moment somewhere about 11 minutes after your arrival when you realize you’ve seen pretty well as much as you care to, and you spend another 40 minutes walking around the perimeter rope looking at it out of a combination of politeness, embarrassment … .”

avebury-pic

Avebury Stone Circle. Image: Tharik Hussain

In many ways, Bill is spot on. The first time I visited England’s most iconic ancient site, I too had set aside a couple of hours to “take in,” “absorb,” “immerse” and “feel” the mystical stone circles that adorn the cover of almost every guidebook to Britain, and then, just like Bill, about 11 minutes in I looked at my watch, then back up at the huge stones and began to wonder what I should do next.
That’s the problem with ancient stones. Besides staring at them for a while, there really isn’t much else to do.
Fortunately, Stonehenge is in an area littered with ancient monuments that bring prehistoric Britain to life, and as spectacular as it is, Stonehenge is certainly not the only ancient site in the English county of Wiltshire. In fact, two historic sites are less than an hour away by car, making it the ideal region to spend a day exploring the very best of ancient Britain, and here’s how …

Avebury
Start in the little village of Avebury, as it is the easiest to access from London via the M4, and the one that will take the longest time to explore. This is because Avebury is home to the largest stone circle in Europe. It doesn’t have the impressive arches Stonehenge can boast, but Avebury’s size makes it clear it was probably more important than its headline-grabbing neighbor. It is certainly far more atmospheric and remains an important site for modern British pagans who frequent it for gatherings at various times of the year, including the summer and winter solstices.
Many of the original stones are missing, though quite a few were put back up by the circle’s late Victorian savior, Alexander Keiller. Keiller was a Scottish businessman-cum-archaeologist, who studied at nearby Eton and fell in love with the area’s ancient history. He had many of the stones dug up from where they had been buried by earlier fundamentalist Christians, and re-installed. Before Keiler, the stones were neglected and dismissed as a “shameful” reminder of England’s pagan past.
In total there are three circles around a henge – a bank and a ditch – the largest of which is 348m in diameter. Despite the village of Avebury cutting across the huge site, there is definitely an “atmosphere” about Avebury’s stone circles, which is no doubt enhanced by the fact that the crowds here are much smaller than those at Stonehenge.

Silbury Hill
From Avebury, head south on the B4003, turning right where it meets the A4. Do not drive too fast otherwise you’ll miss it, for Silbury Hill is on your right only minutes after the turn. It is true that in the pictures it looks just like any other hill, but when you are standing next to Europe’s largest man-made ancient structure, the perfection of the hill makes it clear this was not crafted by nature.
In truth, visiting Silbury Hill is no more thrilling than staring at a large grassy mound, for that is what it is. The excitement of reading the sign that tells you this is the largest prehistoric man-made structure in Europe is about as good as it will get – at least until English Heritage develop some kind of tourist access to the ancient monument. Until then, you’ll have to admire it from the roadside as you speculate what possessed ancient Britons to build the thing. No one knows the real reason of course, but I personally like the local legend that it is the final resting place of King Sil, represented as a life-size statue of gold and riding a horse.

Stonehenge
From Silbury Hill carry on toward the A361 and turn left to head south. From there you can follow signs all the way down to Britain’s most famous ancient site, Stonehenge, now accessed via the new visitor’s center. English Heritage appear to have taken Bill’s comments on board as the new center seems to have been designed specifically to occupy visitors for more than 11 minutes.
They do this first with the center’s exhibition where you can discover the Stonehenge story — essentially a rundown of all the latest theories about the possible purpose of the famous henge. Outside the center, there is a Neolithic village that has been built to show us how the prehistoric Brits who built the henge may have lived, and next to this is a replica of one of the huge sarsens they somehow brought all the way here and positioned in that spectacular style. This comes complete with a rope to pull and a screen that tells you just how many more of you are needed to move the real thing – 95 in my case.
The approach to the stones is either an “atmospheric” 30-minute walk or a short ride on the shuttle bus, with most people combining the two. After your 11 minutes admiring England’s most famous set of rocks, the visitor center’s cafe will make the ideal place to enjoy that other classic English institution, a cup of tea.
Article source: <IMG src=”http://b.scorecardresearch.com/p?c1=8&c2=19888642&c3=2″>Ancient Britain in a day : Tharik Hussain

Join the local experts on a guided tour of ancient Wiltshire exploring Avebury and Stonehenge.

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

Archaeological team made new discoveries that rewrite Stonehenge landscape

Archaeologists working near the Stonehenge World Heritage Site have discovered important new sites that rewrite the Stonehenge landscape.

An Stonehenge Exclusive Private Access Inner Circle Guided Tour with www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

An Stonehenge Exclusive Private Access Inner Circle Guided Tour with http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Some sites predate the construction of Stonehenge itself. The remains, found at Larkhill and Bulford, were unearthed during excavations ahead of the construction of new Army Service Family Accommodation.

The dig at Larkhill has found remains of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure – a major ceremonial gathering place some 200 m in diameter, and dating from around 3650 BC has been found.

About 70 enclosures of this type are known across England, although this is only the second discovery in the Stonehenge landscape, with the other further to the north at Robin Hood’s Ball on the Salisbury Plain Training Area.

In Wessex they occur on hilltops and along with long barrows are some of the earliest built structures in the British landscape. They were used for temporary settlement, as ceremonial gathering places, to manage and exchange animals, including the first domesticated cattle and sheep and for ritual activity, and disposal of the dead including by exposure.

The Larkhill enclosure has produced freshly broken pottery, dumps of worked flint and even a large stone saddle quern used to turn grain into flour. The Neolithic period saw the first use of domesticated crops and this find provides evidence of this. Early farming would have caused significant localised change across the landscape as small fields were created for the first time.  Human skull fragments were also found in the ditch, probably reflecting ceremonial practices and religious belief.

The Larkhill causewayed enclosure is around 700 years older than Stonehenge, and is part of a landscape that included long barrows and cursus monuments. Long barrows may have served as markers within the landscape, often commanding key positions that overlooked areas of downland and only occasionally containing burials. Cursus monuments are possible processional ways, one of which known as the `Lesser Cursus` appears to align on the new enclosure at Larkhill.

The Greater Cursus, an earthwork nearly 3 km in length, is the longest structure. It connects and divides parts of the landscape, and separates the Larkhill causewayed enclosure from the place that became Stonehenge.  The eastern end of the cursus terminates just short of the large Amesbury 42 long barrow.

The people who built the causewayed enclosure are the ancestors of the builders of Stonehenge and were shaping the landscape into which the stone circle was placed. Their work shows that this was a special landscape even before Stonehenge was constructed. People were already living and working within what we now call the Stonehenge landscape and they were building the structures that would culminate in the Stonehenge complex of stones and earthworks.

The Larkhill site shows that they had the social organisation necessary to come together to build significant earthworks and the resources to support the work, as well as the people to carry it out. The offerings in the ditches also show the rich religious life they had created.

Dr Alistair Barclay of Wessex Archaeology said “this is an exciting new find and one that transforms our understanding of this important monumental landscape.”

While part of the site has been investigated the majority of the monument remains undisturbed within the Larkhill Garrison.

At nearby Bulford archaeologists have found further evidence of prehistoric activity. Although henges are well-known across the landscape, Bulford has a double henge, the only one known in Britain. Each henge is formed by an open space enclosed by a ditch. The earliest phases were created around 2900 BC with the enclosures formed by ditches dug in segments with openings to the north. This form was altered when both were enclosed within further ditches in the Early Bronze Age (2000 BC), perhaps showing that their function changed or because they had been closed down.

From one of the Bulford henges a skull from a large dog or wolf, maybe a working companion, a trophy from the hunt, or even a totemic symbol, was recovered.

Martin Brown, Principal Archaeologist for WYG said “These discoveries are changing the way we think about prehistoric Wiltshire and about the Stonehenge landscape in particular. The Neolithic people whose monuments we are exploring shaped the world we inhabit: They were the first farmers and the first people who settled down in this landscape, setting us on the path to the modern world. It is an enormous privilege to hold their tools and investigate their lives.”

Archaeological work on both sites is being managed and directed by WYG on behalf of Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), with fieldwork undertaken by Wessex Archaeology.

The sites’ development is part of wider plans to accommodate the 4000 additional Service personnel plus their families who will be based on and around Salisbury Plain by 2019 under the Army Basing Programme. In total, the MOD is planning to invest more than £1 billion in the area which will provide more than 900 new homes for Service families, over 2,600 new bed spaces for single soldiers and the construction, conversion or refurbishment of 250 other buildings within bases, such as offices, garages, workshops and Mess facilities.
News source: WYG.

Join the local tour experts on a Stonehenge guided tour and explore the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

The newly discovered ‘Superhenge’ joins a long list of mysterious sites in the UK

10 mysterious places to visit in Britain

A huge collection of standing stones – dubbed ‘Superhenge’ – has been discovered underground, just a few miles from the famous stone circle in Wiltshire.

Using special radar equipment, archaeologists have mapped out a “unique” collection of up to 90 subterranean stones. It’s believed the vast, 800m-long site was decommissioned during a time of religious upheaval, and the stones subsequently buried.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has been instrumental in revealing astonishing new details about this fascinating prehistoric period. But did you know there are already a whole host of mysterious historical sites you can explore all over the country?

From spooky burial mounds to ancient artworks, famous landmarks to remote rarities, here 10 magical British monuments to visit – no digging required!

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

One of the most famous tourist attractions in Britain, this collection of stones dates back to around 3000BC and was estimated to have taken more than 30 million man-hours to erect (and how exactly these huge rocks were put into position has sparked countless theories).

The unearthing of thousands of cremated bones at the site suggests it was originally a burial ground – but there’s also evidence that the stone circle was used for animal sacrifice, while others say it was a place of healing, or a ritual pilgrimage destination.

Haunted Britain Stonehenge

St Nectan’s Glen, Cornwall

The waterfall and hermitage at St Nectan’s Glen was once venerated by the Celts, but the picturesque landscape is connected to Arthurian legend as well. It’s believed the King and his knights visited the Glen for a blessing before they began their search for the Holy Grail.

Callanish Stones, Outer Hebrides

This cruciform collection of huge, Neolithic stones near the village of Callanish has been the subject of a variety of mysterious stories throughout the years.

Traditionally, it was believed the stones were petrified giants who had refused to convert to Christianity. It’s also rumoured that on midsummer morning, an apparition known as the ‘Shining One’ walks between two rows of stones.

Haunted Britain Callanish Stones

Lios Na Grainsi, Limerick

Meaning ‘Fort of the Grange’, Ireland’s largest stone circle is positioned so that at summer solstice, the sun shines directly into the centre. But by night, locals apparently won’t enter – fearing the deathly entities that supposedly inhabit the circle after sunset.

Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

It may not have the Neolithic heritage of an ancient stone circle, but stunning Canterbury Cathedral has its own miraculous history. After Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170, a series of miracles attributed to the canonised Archbishop were reported. The stories – including the curing of diseases and healing of grievous injuries – are depicted in the Cathedral’s stained glass windows.

Avebury, Wiltshire

Part of the same UNESCO World Heritage complex as Stonehenge, lying 25 miles away from it, this stone circle is the largest in England. Like Stonehenge, the discovery of bones suggests the site was used for ritual burial purposes – but it’s also been argued that the Avebury stones relate to gender, because they are either long and thin or short and wide.

Haunted Britain Avebury

Sinnoden Hill, Oxfordshire

Legend has it that a valuable treasure chest is buried beneath this hill that was once a Roman Fort, guarded by a raven. It’s said that the treasure was once uncovered by a local villager, but when the man was spooked by a huge raven overhead declaring “he has not been born yet”, he buried the chest again – and it remains undiscovered.

Skara Brae, The Orkneys

While many Neolithic stone structures appear to have been used for ceremonial purposes, the well-preserved settlement at Skara Brae in Scotland was actually inhabited by people and even had its own drainage system.

Many artefacts have been found at the site, but one mystery remains: experts still haven’t been able to translate a type of ancient runes discovered there.

Haunted Britain Skare Brae

Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath

Spread across three hilltops, it’s believed that Loughcrew Cairns is primarily a burial ground, scattered with megalithic tombstones. The site also features surfaces carved with ancient art – some of which are illuminated by the sunrise on certain days – but it’s unclear what the artworks mean. Shields, astronomical symbols and even games have all been suggested.

Glastonbury Tor, Somerset

Another very famous ancient attraction, the hill topped with St Michael’s tower has been associated with a whole Round Table’s worth of Arthurian tales. It was believed that the hilltop was once Avalon, the island where King Arthur recovered after a bloody battle, and in 1191, monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed they had found the graves of Arthur and Queen Guinevere, while in the 1920s it was suggested the Tor represented Aquarius in a giant, 5,000-year-old zodiac spread across the land.

Haunted Britain Glastonbury Tor

By   – Full article here

We operate guided tours of Stonehenge and the new ‘Superhenge’ from Salisbury.  Other tours visit Avebury Stone Circle, Glastonbury and many more mysterious sites in the U.K

Mystical County, Magical Tours…………..  

The Stonehenge Travel Company
Salisbury, Wiltshire, U.K

Magna Carta and beyond: stepping back in time in Salisbury

In 2015, Salisbury will celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary in what promises to be a banner year for the city. This ancient document is one of many treasures in this charming English city, from prehistoric stone circles through to medieval pubs and stately homes. Exploring Salisbury allows you to unravel 5000 years of history. These six experiences are guaranteed to spirit you back in time.

Celebrate Magna Carta, a milestone for human freedom

Salisbury is packed with history. Image by Barry Winiker / Getty Salisbury is packed with history. Image by Barry Winiker / Getty

The ‘Great Charter’ is lauded worldwide as a symbol of freedom and justice – quite astonishing for an 800-year-old document concerning the rights of English noblemen. Sealed on the banks of the Thames in 1215, the Magna Carta curbed the powers of the English throne, gave land-owning rights to noblemen and laid down the right to a fair trial. Barons enjoyed the benefit of these new laws, while peasants remained as downtrodden as ever. But despite this, the Magna Carta has become a global inspiration, in particular the oft-quoted words, ‘No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled’. It has been credited as a predecessor to the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

True enthusiasts are waiting to hear if they will be part of the lucky few to see all four copies at a one-off exhibition in London’s British Library (decided by ballot). But Salisbury’s copy – the best preserved of the four – continues to be part of a grand display in Salisbury Cathedral’s Chapter House, and will be the focus of a calendar of celebrations, talks and choral music during 2015.

One of the pleasures of visiting Salisbury’s Magna Carta is the enthusiasm of the volunteer guides. Check visiting hours on salisburycathedral.org.uk – avoid 3 February 2015, when Magna Carta will be on tour in London.

Climb the spire of a medieval masterpiece

Salisbury Cathedral boasts the tallest spire in Britain. Image by Michael Day / CC BY 2.0 Salisbury Cathedral boasts the tallest spire in Britain. Image by Michael Day / CC BY 2.0

There’s much more than Magna Carta to admire at Salisbury Cathedral. This grandiose construction boasts England’s largest cloisters and cathedral close, and harbours a rather singular curio, the world’s oldest working clock (dating to 1386). Most significantly, Salisbury Cathedral boasts the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom (a cloud-piercing 123m high). Those with a head for heights – and a stomach for narrow spiral staircases – mustn’t miss a guided tour of the tower for views over the rolling hills of Wiltshire.

Detail from Salisbury Cathedral. Image by Anita Isalska / Lonely Planet
Detail from Salisbury Cathedral. Image by Anita Isalska / Lonely Planet

Visitors with a taste for the days of lordly squabbles and tight-bodiced dames will find other traces of medieval Salisbury throughout the city. It’s impossible to miss the elaborate stone Poultry Cross in the market square, and look out for the coat of arms on the North Gate.

Salisbury Cathedral is open daily. Tours of the tower take 90 minutes and allow limited numbers, so book a slot early on salisburycathedral.org.uk.

Visitors with a taste for the days of lordly squabbles and tight-bodiced dames will find other traces of medieval Salisbury throughout the city. It’s impossible to miss the elaborate stone Poultry Cross in the market square, and look out for the coat of arms on the North Gate.

Salisbury Cathedral is open daily. Tours of the tower take 90 minutes and allow limited numbers, so book a slot early on salisburycathedral.org.uk.

Explore the silent city of Old Sarum

For an alternative view of Salisbury Cathedral, step out on the ramparts of Old Sarum. This Iron Age hill fort, slightly north of the city centre, holds the key to Salisbury’s early history. Old Sarum was established in 3000BC, and for centuries was a castle stronghold with a thriving community. Old Sarum’s significance as a military outpost ended abruptly in the 13th century when its bishop was given permission to build a new cathedral in what is now modern Salisbury. People fled Old Sarum to seek their fortunes in the new city, while Old Sarum’s cathedral was gutted and torn down. The result is a site frozen in time: the old cathedral is a ghostly outline, and the windswept ramparts jealously overlook Salisbury.

Roaming this exposed site is best reserved for a sunny day. Old Sarum is a 10-minute drive (or short bus ride on the 8 or X5) from Salisbury city centre. Plan your visit on english-heritage.org.uk

Hail the solstice at Wiltshire’s stone circles

Few sights inspire such a mixture of bewilderment and awe as Stonehenge, the world-famous circle of boulders on Salisbury’s outskirts. Now known to have been transported by labourers from southwest Wales (250km from the site) and assembled around 2400BC, the motivation for this incredible feat remains obscure. Historians’ best guess is that it was an ancient burial site and then a monument to celebrate the winter solstice (pagan worshippers gather at the site to this day). Considering the various theories about Stonehenge is part of the fun, so allow time for the recently upgraded visitors’ centre at the site.Avebury Stones. Image by Gordon Robertson / CC BY 2.0 Avebury Stones. Image by Gordon Robertson / CC BY 2.0

These millennia-old monoliths certainly draw the crowds, but further north lies a site vaster and more ancient than Stonehenge. The Avebury Stones stretch back even further (to an estimated 2850BC) and form Europe’s largest stone circle. The three rings making up this Neolithic monument are thought to have been the focus of rituals warding off nature’s crueller whims. Today, a chapel and a pub, the Red Lion Inn, are encircled by these ancient stones.

Visit Stonehenge and Avebury as a combined day-trip from Salisbury. Stonehenge is a 20-minute drive north of Salisbury, and Avebury another 35 minutes by car from there. Tours from London are also available.

Swoon at 18th-century stately homes

Want to explore a more genteel era? Salisbury boasts an array of period buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the jewel in the crown is Mompesson House. With its stone exterior, iron gates and tranquil walled gardens, Mompesson House is so unabashedly English that it was chosen as a filming location for the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility.

Exploring the interior is evocative of Georgian England – you can almost detect a whiff of smelling salts. You’ll sidle past delicate plasterwork and period furniture, glance at 18th-century goblets and mother-of-pearl jewellery boxes… anyone else need their corset loosening?

Mompesson House rewards eco-friendly travellers: mention that you arrived by bike or public transport and enjoy a discount in their tea room. Plan your visit at nationaltrust.org.uk.

Quaff ales like a medieval peasantiThe Cloisters, Salisbury. Image by Charles DP Miller / CC BY 2.0 The Cloisters has open fires and Sunday roasts. Image by Charles D P Miller / CC BY 2.0

Time travel is thirsty work. Luckily Salisbury’s pubs have rich enough folklore to keep the history flowing along with the ale. Start at the Haunch of Venison: not only does this pub, dating to 1320, conceal secret passageways (supposedly wending their way to the cathedral), it’s also the site of a mischievous ghost. Another 14th-century drinking haunt is Grade II-listed The Cloisters (cloisterspubsalisbury.co.uk), a winter favourite for its open fires and Sunday roasts. Finally, the Ox Row Inn (theoxrowinn.co.uk) is a relative youngster, pouring brews since the 16th century. Some of the old-world charm has been polished out of it during recent makeovers, but its black and white timbered exterior and ale selection make it a fine stop on a historic pub crawl.

Want to go right to the source? Book a visit to a’Beckett’s Vineyard (abecketts.co.uk) or Wadworth Brewery (wadworthvisitorcentre.co.uk). 

Make it happen

Salisbury is an easy day-trip by train from London (1½ hours) or Bristol (from 1 hour 10 minutes) but you’ll need your own wheels if you want to explore the Wiltshire countryside. Basing yourself in Salisbury for a couple of days allows plenty of time to explore the sights and make the most of pubs and local eats. Sticky your fingers over cream tea at Howard’s House (howardshousehotel.co.uk), splurge on confit duck at local favourite Charter 1227 (charter1227.co.uk) or go for sophisticated contemporary Indian at Anokaa. If you want sumptuous lodgings in the city centre, choose St Ann’s House or Milford Hall. For rustic atmosphere and river views, go with the Legacy Rose & Crown Hotel.

Full article in the excellent Lonely Planet Guide Book: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/europe/travel-tips-and-articles/magna-carta-and-beyond-stepping-back-in-time-in-salisbury

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Wessex Gallery grand opening (12th July). Bringing the history of Stonehenge and Wessex to life.

ANTHROPOLOGIST and BBC TV Coast and Origins of Us presenter Dr Alice Robertswill open Salisbury Museum’s new £2.4m Wessex Gallery on Saturday (Salisbury Journal).

The new gallery will house one of Europe’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the Salisbury MuseumAmesbury Archer – popularly dubbed the King of Stonehenge and the Wardour Hoard.

To mark the event the museum will be hosting an admission-free day of action-packed celebrations, special events, living history displays and demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts.

There will also be other celebrity guests including Channel 4 Time Team presenter and field archaeologist Phil Harding, who will be demonstrating flint knapping – the ancient art of shaping tools and weapons from stones – which early the Britons used.

Along with a free view of the new Wessex Gallery, members of the public will have the opportunity to see Norman falconry displays, try on Norman dresses, or get suited and booted in a knight’s hefty chainmail armour complete with sword.

There will also be ancient coppicing, stone masonry, pottery-making and wool dyeing demonstrations as well as a chance for people to try their hand at reconstructing a prehistoric face, carve a Stone Age chalk animal and experience an Anglo Saxon burial ritual.

Museum director Adrian Green said: “The grand opening of our new Wessex Gallery is going to be a fantastic all-day event with lots of exciting activities to see and do for all age groups.

“It’s also a great opportunity for people to see our amazing new Wessex Gallery which brings the prehistory and history of Stonehenge and Wessex to life.”

The Wessex Gallery Grand Opening is on Saturday, 12 July from 10am to 4pm at Salisbury Museum, The Close.

For more information call 01722 332151 or visit: www.salisburymuseum.org.uk.

Read the full article in the Salisbury Journal: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/11321466.New_gallery_set_to_open/?ref=var_0

 

Stonehenge Guided Tours
Mystical County, Magical Tours
www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Neolithic House Project: Stonehenge builders’ ‘bright and airy’ homes re-created

Five Neolithic houses have been recreated at Stonehenge to reveal how the ancient monument’s builders would have lived 4,500 years ago.

Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

More than 20 tonnes of chalk, 5,000 rods of hazel and three tonnes of wheat straw were used

The single-room, 5m (16ft) wide homes made of chalk and straw daub and wheat-thatching, are based on archaeological remains at nearby Durrington Walls.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said the houses are the result of “archaeological evidence, educated guess work, and lots of physical work.”

The houses open to the public, later.

The “bright and airy” Neolithic homes are closely based on archaeological remains of houses, discovered just over a mile away from Stonehenge.

Dated to about the same time as the large sarsen stones were being erected, English Heritage said experts believe they may have housed the people involved with constructing the monument.

Excavations at Durrington Walls, not only uncovered the floors of houses but stake holes where walls had once stood – providing “valuable evidence” to their size and layout.

“Far from being dark and primitive, the homes were incredibly bright and airy spaces” – Spokesman English Heritage

Neolithic houses at Stonehenge

Sited by the new visitor centre, the houses are furnished with replica Neolithic axes, pottery and other artefacts

“We know for example, that each house contained a hearth and that puddled chalk was used to make the floor,” said a spokesman for English Heritage.

“And far from being dark and primitive, the homes were incredibly bright and airy spaces with white chalk walls and floors designed to reflect sunlight and capture the heat from the fire.”

‘Labour of love’

Using authentic local materials including 20 tonnes of chalk, 5,000 rods of hazel and three tonnes of wheat straw, it has taken a team of 60 volunteers five months to re-create the homes.

Susan Greaney, a historian at English Heritage, said it had been a “labour of love” and an “incredible learning experience” for the volunteers.

“One of the things we’re trying to do at Stonehenge is to re-connect the ancient stones with the people that lived and worked in the surrounding landscape,” she said.

“Now visitors can step through the door of these houses and get a real sense of what everyday life might have been like when Stonehenge was built. ”

They are furnished with replica Neolithic axes, pottery and other artefacts

Article source: BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-27656212

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jun/02/neolithic-houses-recreated-at-Stonehenge

English Heritage: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/discover/neolithic-houses/

Stonehenge Neolithic Houses Blog

We operate guided tours of Stonehenge.  Learn more about the Neolithic Houses and explore the Stonehenge Landscape with a local expert.

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Mystical County, Magical Tours

New Stonehenge centre could bring boost to Devizes museum

Wiltshire Museum boss David Dawson believes the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre will benefit the museum and vice-versa.

The museum, based in Devizes, recently opened new Prehistoric Wiltshire galleries which have helped to draw more visitors, but is also making sure Devizes has a high profile at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre.

David Dawson, Devizes Museum

David Dawson, Devizes Museum

The museum is lending some 50 objects, including gold treasures, to the centre and they will be seen by the million visitors that go to Stonehenge each year.

English Heritage is encouraging people to visit the rest of Wiltshire, and especially to see the Prehistoric galleries at Wiltshire Museum.

Museum director Mr Dawson said: “Since our new galleries opened we have more than tripled the number of visitors, and we look forward to welcoming more people who are visiting Stonehenge to come and see the gold treasures that we have just put on display from the time of Stonehenge.”

Wiltshire Museum, Telling Wiltshire’s Story
500,000 years of Wiltshire’s story told in a brand new £750,000 gallery featuring high quality graphics and leading-edge reconstructions: http://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/

Reported in the Gazette and Herald:
http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/headlines/10912099.New_Stonehenge_centre_could_bring_boost_to_Devizes_museum/

Our guided tours from Salisbury can include a visit to the excellent Wiltshire Museum?

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, England
www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

Before Stonehenge – did this man lord it over Wiltshire’s sacred landscape?

Archaeologists have just completed the most detailed study ever carried out of the life story of a prehistoric Briton

What they have discovered sheds remarkable new light on the people who, some 5500 years ago, were building the great ritual monuments of what would become the sacred landscape of Stonehenge.

A leading forensic specialist has also used that prehistoric Briton’s skull to produce the most life-like, and

How 21st-century science is recreating the life story of a neolithic leader - what he looked like, where he grew up and what he ate

How 21st-century science is recreating the life story of a neolithic leader – what he looked like, where he grew up and what he ate

arguably the most accurate, reconstruction of a specific individual’s face from British prehistory.

The new research gives a rare glimpse into upper class life back in the Neolithic.

Five and a half millennia ago, he was almost certainly a very prominent and powerful individual – and he is about to be thrust into the limelight once again. For his is the prehistoric face that will welcome literally millions of visitors from around the world to English Heritage’s new Stonehenge visitor centre after it opens tomorrow, Wednesday. The organisation estimates that around 1.2 million tourists from dozens of countries will ‘meet’ him as they explore the new visitor centre over the next 12 months.

The new scientific research has revealed, to an unprecedented degree, who this ‘face of prehistory’ really was.

He was born around 5500 years ago, well to the west or north-west of the Stonehenge area, probably in Wales (but conceivably in Devon or Brittany)

Aged two, he was taken east, presumably by his parents, to an area of chalk geology – probably Wiltshire (around the area that would, 500 years later, become the site of early Stonehenge). However, aged 9, he then moved back to the west (potentially to the area where he had been born) – and then, aged 11, he moved back east once more (again, potentially to the Stonehenge area).

Aged 12, 14 and 15, he travelled back and forth between east and west for short durations and at increased frequency. Scientists, analysing successive layers of the enamel in his teeth, have been able to work all this out by analysing the isotopic values of the chemical elements strontium (which changed according to underlying geology) and oxygen which reflected the sources of his drinking water.

He grew into a taller than average man, reaching an adult height of 172 centimetres. In Neolithic Britain, the average height for adult males was 165 centimetres, while in Britain today it is 176. He probably weighed around 76 kilos (12 stone) and had fairly slender build. Throughout his life, he seems to have consumed a much less coarse diet than was normal at the time . His teeth show much lighter wear than many other examples from the Neolithic. He also had a much higher percentage of meat and dairy produce in his diet than would probably have been normal at the time.

By analysing nitrogen isotope levels in his teeth, a scientific team at the University of Southampton, led by archaeologist Dr Alistair Pike, have worked out that he obtained 80-90% of his protein from animals – probably mainly cattle, sheep and deer.

A detailed osteological examination of his skeleton, carried out by English Heritage scientist, Dr Simon Mays, has revealed that he probably led a relatively peaceful life. The only visible injuries showed that he had damaged a knee ligament and torn a back thigh muscle – both injuries, potentially sustained at the same time, that would have put him out of action for no more than a few weeks.

There is also no evidence of severe illness – and an examination of hypoplasia (tooth enamel deformation) levels suggest that at least his childhood was free of nutritional stress or severe disease. Hypoplasia provides a record of stress through a person’s childhood and early teenage years.

But he seems to have died relatively young, probably in his late 20s or 30s. At present it is not known what caused his death.

However, he was probably given an impressive funeral – and certainly buried in a ritually very important location.

Initially his body was almost certainly covered by a turf mound but some years or decades later, this mound was massively enlarged to form a very substantial mausoleum – one of the grandest known from Neolithic Britain. He was the only individual buried there during his era – although a thousand or more years later, several more people were interred in less prominent locations within the monument.

This great mausoleum – 83 metres long and several metres high – was treated with substantial respect throughout most of prehistory – and can still be seen today some one and half miles west of Stonehenge. Fifteen hundred years after his death, his tomb became the key monument in a new cemetery for the Stonehenge elites of the early Bronze Age.

All the new evidence combines to suggest that he was a very important individual – a prominent member of the early Neolithic elite.

The research into his life has yielded a number of fascinating new revelations about that period of British prehistory.

First of all, it hints at the degree to which society was stratified by this time in prehistory. Far from being an egalitarian society, as many have tended to think, the evidence points in the opposite direction. Most early Neolithic people were not given such grand mausolea . The type of monument which was constructed over his grave (known to archaeologists as a long barrow) was primarily a place of ritual, not just a place associated with burial. By having one erected over him, he was being given a very special honour.

Of the 350 such long barrows known in Britain, it is estimated that 50% had no burials in them at all, that a further 25% had just one person buried in them – and that most of the remaining quarter had between five and 15 buried in each of them.

Secondly, it shows, arguably for the first time, that high social status in the early Neolithic was already a matter of heredity. The isotopic tests on the man’s teeth show quite clearly that his privileged high meat diet was already a key feature in his life during childhood.

Thirdly, the scientific investigation suggests that at least the elite of the period was associated with a very wide geographical area. In other words, they were not simply a local elite but, at the very least, a regional one. The fact that he seems to have moved back and forth between the west of Britain (probably Wales) and the southern chalklands (probably the Stonehenge area) every few years, at least during his childhood and teenage years, suggests that his family had important roles in both areas.

Given the ritual significance of the Stonehenge area, even at this early stage, it is possible that he and his father and other ancestors before him had been hereditary tribal or even conceivably pan-tribal priests or shamans in a possibly semi-nomadic society. It is also likely that such people also played roles in the secular governance of emerging political entities at the time.

Most tantalizing of all, is the newly revealed likely link between Wales and the pre-Stonehenge ritual landscape. When the first phase of Stonehenge itself was finally built in around 3000 BC, the stones that were probably erected there were not, at that stage, the great sarsens which dominate the site today, but were probably the much smaller so-called ‘bluestones’ (some of which are still there).

Significantly, it is known from geological analysis that those bluestones originally came from south-west Wales – and were therefore almost certainly brought from there to Stonehenge by Neolithic Britons.

Indeed, as late as the 12th century AD, the Anglo-Norman chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote down an ancient legend also suggesting that the stones had come from the west (albeit, in his account, from Ireland, rather than Wales). Archaeologists will now be investigating whether the Stonehenge landscape’s link with Wales was in reality even older than that first phase of the monument.

In that sense it is spookily relevant that the mid-fourth millennium BC man chosen by English Heritage to be the ‘face of the Neolithic’ may actually have been a key part of the original cultural process which ultimately, five centuries later, led to early Stonehenge being erected.

The new visitor centre – built with steel, wood and glass in ultra-modern style – tells the story of Stonehenge and its prehistoric ritual landscape and illustrates it with 300 mainly stone and ceramic artefacts from antiquarian and archaeological excavations carried out around the great stone monument over the past two centuries
David Keys: Archaeology Correspondent

Full article in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/before-stonehenge–did-this-man-lord-it-over-wiltshires-sacred-landscape-9008683.html

Stonehenge Travel Company
Stonehenge Guided Tours from Salisbury

Stonehenge story to be retold in Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum

Salisbury’s exact connection to Stonehenge and the story of Bronze Age Britain will be told in spectacular style at a new gallery set to open next year

The remains of the Amesbury Archer, the Bronze Age man whose arrow-littered grave held the largest

Polished macehead made from gneiss, found with a cremation burial at Stonehenge (3,000 – 2,500 BC)

Polished macehead made from gneiss, found with a cremation burial at Stonehenge (3,000 – 2,500 BC)
© Salisbury Museum

collection of artefacts ever found in a burial from the era, will form the skeletal centre of a much-anticipated new gallery full of Stonehenge stories at Salisbury Museum.

A gneiss mace-head, found by Colonel William Hawley in 1924, and an axe and dagger which were found to match the carvings on stone 53 when they were discovered in 1953, will appear in the Wessex Gallery of Archaeology.

The £2 million space will knock through and combine the astonishing Pitt Rivers Archaeological Collection and the Early Man gallery.

Nottingham-based architects Metaphor will emphasise the theme of discovery in their design, with building beginning this week. Curators say the corridors will explain precisely why the Wiltshire town and its World Heritage Sites play a crucial part in the history of Britain, using timber flooring and glass-reinforced concrete to recreate the feel of the terrain through the centuries.

“By Christmas this year the major construction work will be complete,” revealed museum director Adrian Green, pronouncing himself “absolutely overjoyed” to be creating a “world class gallery of archaeology”.

“We are developing an integrated approach to the interpretation of Stonehenge.

“It means that the Salisbury Museum will be able to create exhibitions directly relating to new displays in the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.

“If you like, we will all be part of the same extended conversation.

“Metaphor have a very impressive CV. Their recent work includes the Holburne Museum in Bath and the Ashmolean, Oxford, in addition to smaller projects such as the refurbishment of the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell.”

Despite being Grade I-listed and facing Salisbury Cathedral, Green says the museum’s finds from Northern Europe have long been a “best-kept secret”, and expects the museum to “step out of the shadows” when the gallery opens next summer. Antler picks, animal bones, flint and stone tools, chalk plaques and pottery all feature.

The museum has already lent around 250 objects to the visitor centre at Stonehenge.
Full story: : http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/megaliths-and-prehistoric-archaeology/art460402#.UqVl6oUD_Ug.twitter

If you are visiting Salisbury organise a private guided tour of Wessex with a local expert: http://stonehengetravel.co.uk

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, England
Guided Tours of Stonehenge and Salisbury

 

Stonehenge Myths and Mysteries – Some New Theories

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.

Stonehenge close up.

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 : http://gouk.about.com

Visit Salisbury, Stonehenge and its landscape with a local expert guide and hear all the latest theories about this mysterious monument.

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury.
www.StonehengTravel.co.uk

%d bloggers like this: