Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours

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Visiting Stonehenge and need a local tour guide?

The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company are based near Stonehenge and widely considered at the local Stonehenge experts.  Operating both scheduled Stonehenge tours and customised bespoke driver / guide tours from Salisbury, Bath and London.   If you are travelling independently and would like to make your visit to Stonehenge truly memorable then why not use one of our expert local tour guides.  We can arrange for them to meet you at the English Heritage visitor centre any time of day throughout the year

Perfect Individual, family and group tours
Stonehenge Inner Circle special access tours
Sunrise or Sunset private access tours
Stonehenge landscape tours including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, The Cursus and ceremonial landscape.
Astronomical tours.
Virtual reality tours
Nearby Avebury Stone Circle and West Kennet Long Barrow

“The best way to approach Stonehenge is on foot across the landscape, the same way that the ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age people did over 4000 years ago”

Stonehenge close up

Our guides can meet you at Stonehenge for a guided inner circle tour.

“Travelling on foot is a great leveller of centuries, reminding you of the impact sites such as Stonehenge must have had millennia ago” 

Our Stonehenge tour guides are all experienced, local and passionate about prehistory and ancient Britain.  Some have archaeological backgrounds, others are authors, story tellers, astronomers – all eager to share their in-depth knowledge with you.  We can often arrange these tours at short notice but we recommend booking in advance

Please email us for further information: tours@StonehengeTravel.co.uk

The Stonehenge Travel Company
The Local Stonehenge Experts
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

VISIT WONDERFUL WILTSHIRE.

Attraction-packed Wiltshire cuts a verdant swathe through southern England.  High chalk downs and gentle valleys characterise the landscape, which is home to chocolate box villages (Lacock, Tisbury, Castle Coombe) charming market towns (Malmesbury, Devizes, Bradford-on-Avon) and a top-notch cathedral city (Salisbury). 40 per cent of the county is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  English Heritage have produced this wonderful inspirational guide for visitors to Wiltshire, please visit their website for full details.

Wiltshire is famous for its ham, white horses and, above all, for its many prehistoric monuments. In fact, it’s got more than any other county in England. In this guide, we’ll explore some of these places that shine a light on our ancient past, visit a couple of castles, and point out a few other fascinating places along the way.

DAY 1 – AVEBURY AND DEVIZES

A sheep grazing in front of one of the stones at Avebury

A sheep grazing in front of one of the stones at Avebury

AVEBURY

The remarkable village of Avebury can be found between Swindon and Devizes. It’s part of the same UNESCO World Heritage Site as Stonehenge.

The main stone circle here is around 4600 years old, and it’s the largest in Britain. It’s thought that it would have taken 1.5 million man hours to construct the ditch and bank and to transport the stones.

Today, the vision of its original builders can be hard to appreciate. The circle is bisected by roads, and the stones rub up against a medieval church, a timber-framed pub, rose-covered cottages and flocks of friendly sheep. But this jumbled palimpsest is part of Avebury’s unique charm.

And we’re lucky that there’s anything to see at all. In medieval times some of the stones were pushed over or buried, and in the 18th century many of those that survived were broken up for building materials. Alexander Keiller restored some of the stones in the 1930s, and he gives his name to the village’s museum, which tells the story of Avebury and its nearby monuments. The National Trust has also recently refurbished and opened up part of Avebury Manor.

There are toilets, a shop and a café near the museum. On the high street you’ll find a quirky gift shop, a community store and the Red Lion – quite possibly the world’s only pub inside a stone circle.

The interior of West Kennet Long Barrow

Inside West Kennet Long Barrow, where at least 46 people were buried.

AROUND AVEBURY

You can walk around Avebury’s stone circle and see the museum in about an hour and a half. But it’s worth exploring some of the other sites around Avebury to really get a sense of how important this place was to our prehistoric ancestors.

The oldest site in the area is Windmill Hill. It’s a ’causewayed enclosure’, built around 3675 BC. It’s thought that people gathered here for trading, festivals or feasts, or all three. Much later, Bronze Age barrows were built on the hill.

West Kennet Avenue joins the stone circle at its southern edge. Once, 100 pairs of stones lined a 2.3km course joining Avebury to the Sanctuary. Today there are 27 upright stones, again restored by Keiller. The Sanctuary itself was begun in about 3000BC, and its purpose is unclear. Circles of timber posts once stood here, and human bones and food remains have been found buried beneath them.

West Kennet Long Barrow is one of the best examples of a long barrow in the country, and you can actually get inside it. This was the resting place of at least 46 people, buried here between 3000 and 2600 BC.

From the top of the barrow you can see East Kennet Long Barrow, and also the enigmatic Silbury Hill, one of the most mysterious remnants of prehistoric Britain. 30 metres high, it’s the largest man made mound in Europe, and was built around the same time as the pyramids of Egypt. There’s a viewing area next to the car park, but to protect the site, you can’t walk on the hill itself.

A display case at Wiltshire Museum

The Bush Barrow Chieftan display at Wiltshire Museum, Britain’s richest and most important prehistoric burial. © Wiltshire Musem

WILTSHIRE MUSEUM, DEVIZES

One of the best places to dive into the prehistory of this part of the country is the brilliant Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. It tells 500,000 years of Wiltshire’s story, and it contains two thirds of all the Bronze Age gold found in Britain.

Its standout treasures were excavated from the Bush Barrow, half a mile from Stonehenge. It’s Britain’s richest and most important prehistoric burial. An adult male was buried in a crouched position with spectacular grave goods, including a dagger with 140,000 tiny gold studs in its handle, a mace made from rare fossil stone, and an exquisite sheet gold lozenge.

But just as fascinating as the Bronze Age bling is what the finds tell us about the people of Stonehenge. Cases tell the stories of characters like the Shaman and the Marlborough Lady, pieced together from their burials. These small glimpses into the lives of our ancestors help us remember that prehistory isn’t just about pots – it’s about people.

Other galleries cover the later history of Wiltshire and Devizes. Children can follow a stamp trail, dress up in period costumes and get hands on with interactive exhibitions dotted throughout the galleries. There’s a small shop selling gifts and books.

Devizes itself is a pretty market town, with over 500 listed buildings and the largest market square in the west of England. There are plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants. You can also visit the red brick Victorian Wadworth Brewery, where shire horses still deliver beer to the town’s pubs every morning.

DAY 2 – SALISBURY AND OLD SARUM

The bridge at Old Sarum, with the spire of Salisbury Cathedral in the distance

The bridge at Old Sarum, with the spire of Salisbury Cathedral in the distance

OLD SARUM

Seated high above the bustling city of Salisbury is Old Sarum. With its origins as an Iron Age hillfort, it’s almost brand spanking new compared to Avebury and Stonehenge. The Romans used it as a fort and as a temple, and after William the Conquerer built a motte and bailey castle a town grew up around it. A cathedral was also built here, but it moved down the hill to Salisbury in the early 13th century.

Salisbury attracted more trade and more people, and was the largest town in Wiltshire by the 14th century. Old Sarum dwindled in size and importance until it gained widespread notoriety in the 18th and 19th centuries for being a ‘rotten borough’ – it still sent two MPs to the House of Commons, despite being almost entirely abandoned.

Today it’s the perfect spot for a picnic, a walk or even a spot of kite flying. There are 29 acres of rare grass chalkland to explore, with wildflowers and ancient trees. The outline of the old cathedral is still visible, and the castle, although well ruined, is still impressive. You’ll get the most out of your visit with a guidebook in hand, but it’s worth the trip just for the stunning views over Salisbury.

There’s plenty of free parking at the site and a small shop by the entrance selling gifts and refreshments.

Visitors at the Salisbury Museum looking at a skeleton

Visitors examining a skeleton at the Salisbury Museum © The Salisbury Museum. Photography by Ash Mills

SALISBURY – CATHEDRAL AND MUSEUM

Venture down the hill to Salisbury’s Cathedral Close and you’ll find an array of attractions. The Cathedral houses the best-preserved of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta. English Heritage members can get two for one entry on Tower Tours on weekdays.

A variety of impressive buildings line the close, including the National Trust’s Mompesson House, Arundells (the former home of Sir Edward Heath) and The King’s House, which  now houses the Salisbury Museum.

The museum is another fantastic repository of local prehistoric finds. Its new Wessex Galleries contain objects from Stonehenge and the surrounding area. Standout exhibits include the jadeite axehhead, coins from the Bowerchalke Hoard and watercolours by JMW Turner. There’s also a brilliant interactive exhibition that explores how archaeology has shaped our understanding of the past.

Other galleries explore the town’s more recent past. Highlights include a surprisingly interesting collection of objects found in the city’s drains, and the remarkable 3.6m tall Salisbury Giant, a towering figure used in pageants for hundreds of years.

The museum puts on temporary exhibitions and hosts events and talks – check the website for details. There are interactive exhibitions and trails for kids.

The King’s House Café can be found inside the museum buildings, and Salisbury city centre is a few minutes’ walk away.

DAY 3 – STONEHENGE AND OLD WARDOUR

Stonehenge at dawn, with the Slaughter Stone in the foreground.

Stonehenge at dawn, with the Slaughter Stone in the foreground.

STONEHENGE

Famous across the world for its iconic stone circle, Stonehenge is a real Wiltshire must-see.

Its visitor centre has a short but sweet exhibition that introduces the development of Stonehenge and sets the stones in their prehistoric context. Have a go a moving one of the huge sarsens, and poke your head into the Neolithic houses. You can walk the one and a half miles to the stones themselves, or catch the bus. It’s well worth plugging into the audio guide as you walk around the stone circle – you can borrow a headset at the visitor centre or download the app from Google Play or the App Store.

The monumental mystery of Stonehenge has fascinated us for thousands of years, and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by it as you get close to the stones. Try to solve the puzzle of the circle’s purpose, or to imagine the immense effort that went into its construction. Or simply marvel at its survival through thousands of years of change.

Back at the visitor centre you’ll find a café serving up locally sourced food and drinks. We serve our snacks and lunches in sustainable takeaway packaging, making it perfect for picnicing.

The Old King Barrows at Sunset, in the Stonehenge landscape

The Old King Barrows at Sunset, in the Stonehenge landscape

THE STONEHENGE LANDSCAPE

Many people who visit Stonehenge are happy to see the stones and take a few selfies, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t explore the surrounding landscape and its monuments. Barrows, henges and earthworks fill the fields, and visiting them helps give you a better understanding of just how important this area was for our ancestors. The Stonehenge visitor centre gives a great overview of the story of the landscape, and you can use our interactive map to orient yourself before your visit.

The National Trust owns most of the land and looks after the monuments in it. Take care with dogs, as livestock grazes in the fields. Check their pages for restrictions.

DAY 3 – OLD WARDOUR CASTLE

View from a tower at Old Wardour Castle

The view from a tower at Old Wardour Castle

Old Wardour Castle is hidden at the end of a single track lane, deep within a lush, secluded valley. It’s a world away from the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain.

Perhaps surprisingly, Old Wardour has been a tourist attraction for longer than it was a working castle. It was built in the 1390s after John Lovell found favour with Richard II. He built his unusual hexagonal castle to confirm his status. In 1596 the godson of Elizabeth I called it ‘the wonder of the west’, but a large chunk of it was blown up during the Civil War in the 1640s.

It was never rebuilt, and 100 years later the owners decided to build a new, grander house a mile away. Old Wardour was preserved as a folly for the enjoyment of the family and their guests. Members of the public probably started visiting from the 18th century, and people have been flocking to Old Wardour ever since.

To this day, these are ruins to have fun in. Over the last few decades, we’ve restored floors and staircases so that you can wander the castle’s rooms and towers, and poke around its nooks and crannies. A brilliant audio guide breathes life back into the ruins with characters and stories from the past. There’s a shop selling gifts and refreshments and plenty of space for picnics. It’s also a good base for walks through the local countryside, which is part of the Cranborne Chase Area of Natural Beauty.

GETTING HERE AND AROUND

Sign for Stonehenge

A signpost near Stonehenge

The M4 skirts the north of the county and the M3 connects London to the A30 and A303 in the south. There are mainline rail stations in Salisbury, Swindon, Chippenham, Tisbury, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster.

There are plenty of places to stay in Wiltshire, but Salisbury is a particularly good base for exploring many of our sites. By rail it’s just an hour and twenty minutes away from London, or an hour and ten from Bristol.

The Stonehenge Tour Bus connects Salisbury with Stonehenge and Old Sarum. Wiltshire Council have information on travelling to Stonehenge on foot or by bike.

You can get buses to Avebury from Swindon or Trowbridge. Buses connect Devizes with Bath, Chippenham, Swindon and Salisbury, and there’s a coach from London.

Old Wardour Castle is not too far from Tisbury, which is ten minutes from Salisbury by train. You may be able to get a taxi to the castle. Alternatively, Discover Nadder have designed a circular 5.5 mile walkfrom the village to the castle.

MORE IN WILTSHIRE & BEYOND

Part of the ruins of Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Somerset

Part of the ruins of Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Somerset

If you’re in Wiltshire for longer you can dive even deeper into the past.

Beautiful Bradford-on-Avon has a spectacular medieval tithe barn you can visit for free. Just over the border with Somerset is Farleigh Hungerford Castle – we’ve come up with a great circular walk that joins the two, making this a great car-free day out. Bratton Camp and its famous White Horse is also nearby.

We also look after the picturesque remains of Ludgershall Castle and Cross, one of the largest Neolithic henges in Britain at Hatfield Earthworks, the thatched Chisbury Chapel and the 18th century Netheravon Dovecote.

English Heritage Members can get two for one entry at Wilton House, as well as discounts at Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury Museum and the Wiltshire Museum.

Please visit the English Heritage website for full details

We specialise in private guided tours of Stonehenge and Wiltshire and would be happy to help you organise a custom tour for your family or small group.  Our bespoke tours can depart from Salisbury, Bath, Southampton and even London

The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Massive Wooden Fire Monument Is Older Than Stonehenge

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.

wooden_circles

Aerial view of the wooden circle site (Historic England)

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.

Join us on a guided tour of Stonehenge and Avebury and learn more about this important discovery

Stonehenge and Avebury Guided Tours
The local Stonehenge Experts
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

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

 

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Sunset Guided Tour from Salisbury.

Witness the sun setting at Stonehenge from the ceremonial Avenue on the Winter Solstice.  Visit two World Heritage Sites in one day!

frosty-sunrise-henge

Stonehenge is carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset and it is now thought that the Winter Solstice was actually more important to the people who constructed Stonehenge than the Summer Solstice

Winter Solstice Guided Tour Highlights (21st December):

  • Visit Stonehenge at Sunset on the Winter Solstice
    Visit the English Heritage visitor centre
    See Bronze Age Burial Mounds
    Look inside the reconstructed Neolithic houses
    Stand in the 360° theatre and watch the solstice sunset
    Visit Avebury Stone Circle
    See Silbury Hill / Ancient Chalk Hill Figures / Neolithic Burial Mounds
    Luxury Mini Coach, expert guide services and all entrance fees included
    Full Day Tour departs from Salisbury
    .

On this guided tour we’ll follow in the footsteps of people from 4,500 years ago as the made their way across the landscape and up the ceremonial Avenue towards Stonehenge as the Sun set into the centre of the monument before the longest night of the year.

Visit Avebury Stone Circle on the Winter Solstice
Avebury Henge is one of the Wonders of Ancient Britain. Originally, the megalithic complex consisted of over 700 standing stones and contained the world’s largest stone circle. Long and meandering stone avenues coursed for one and a half miles which led to the inner circles and the heart of the stone temple. Walk amongst the Stones with the Druids and Pagans absorbing the magic of the largest Stone Circle in the world at one of the most important times of year. Take time to reflect upon its powerful, mysterious presence and the ancient engineering and design.

Enjoy a walking tour of this ancient and see the many Druids and Pagans gathering for the solstice celebrations. There’s also time to explore the charming village with its thatched cottages, antiques and Saxon village church. Maybe enjoy a traditional cream tea or if you are feeling brave enough why not try some local ale in Avebury’s haunted Inn, the Red Lion (the most haunted pub in England) before we continue to Salisbury via the scenic country back roads

You will pass famous white horses carved into the chalk hillsides and picturesque, tucked away villages. We also explore the mysterious phenomena of crop circles and take a closer look at any which may be in the area (seasonal generally from May to August). Their appearance is always unexpected, unpredictable and largely unexplained. We will pass ancient burial mounds and the mysterious Silbury Hill. This is Europe’s largest prehistoric man-made monument yet still a mystery to modern day man.

Sunset on the 21st December is at 15.52pm. We will be there for sunset!

Our Winter Solstice Sunset Tour departs form Salisbury at 9am on 21st December 2016
We also offer Stonehenge private guided tours and Stonehenge walking tours.

The Local Stonehenge Experts
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

Burial of Bronze-Age Teen Discovered in Wiltshire, England

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—The 4,000-year-old skeleton of an adolescent has been uncovered by a team from the University of Reading at Wilsford Henge in the Vale of Pewsey, an area located between Stonehenge and Avebury. The child had been buried in the fetal position, and had been wearing an amber necklace. Wilsford-Henge“The skeleton is a wonderful discovery which will help tell us what life was like for those who lived under the shadow of Stonehenge at a time of frenzied activity. Scientific analysis will provide information on the gender of the child, diet, pathologies and date of burial. It may also shed light on where this young individual had lived,” Jim Leary of the University of Reading told BT News. The excavation has also recovered flint blades, decorated pottery, shale and copper bracelets, and a Roman brooch. To read more, go to “Under Stonehenge.”

Source:

Stonehenge and Avebury Guided Tours
The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury

Wiltshire house rivalled Stonehenge as a hub for ancient Britons

Neolithic building on vast site at Marden Henge is welcoming public visitors again after thousands of years buried beneath farmland.

marden2

Pieces of flint tools dropped more than 4,300 years ago on the floor of a house as old as Stonehenge have been laid bare on the edge of Marden Henge, a giant ditch and bank enclosure so buried in rich Wiltshire farmland that it has almost vanished from view.

“We’ve over-fetishised Stonehenge for far too long, because those giant trilithons are just so damn impressive,” said Dr Jim Leary, director of this summer’s excavation with the Reading University archaeology summer school, in the lush Vale of Pewsey. “It could well be that this was really where it was at in the Neolithic.”

The rectangular building will welcome visitors next weekend for an open day which is part of the national festival of archaeology. The house, believed to be one of the best preserved from the period ever found in the UK, and made to look smarter with tonnes of white chalk brought from miles away and stamped into a kind of plaster, is as neatly levelled and regular as the nearby postwar bungalows built on top of part of the henge bank.

The house and other parts of the huge site have already produced finds including beautifully worked flint arrowheads and blades, decorated pottery including some pieces with the residue of the last meals cooked in them, shale and copper bracelets and a beautiful little Roman brooch – and the tiny jawbone of a vole. Analysis of the mass of seeds and charred grains recovered will reveal what the people were growing and eating.

Pig bones – probably the remains of at least 13 animals, food for hundreds of people – and scorch marks from a charcoal firepit suggest the house was never a permanent residence but connected with great gatherings for feasts. When it was abandoned the entire site, pig bones and all, was cleaned and neatly covered with earth, so it would never be used again.

The structure originally stood on a terrace overlooking a mound, within a small earth-banked circle, in turn part of the enormous Marden Henge.

Leary, joined by archaeology students, professionals and amateurs from all over the world, who will continue working on the site for years to come, is peeling back the layers of a monument that was once one of the biggest and most impressive in Britain. Ramparts three metres high enclosed a vast space of 15 hectares, far larger than the Avebury or Stonehenge circles, and too large for any imaginable practical use.

Leary believes the purpose must have been status, showing off wealth and power in the ability to mobilise a massive workforce. “Avebury had the huge ditches, Stonehenge upped the ante with the massive trilothons, Marden had this enormous enclosure.”

The site is so vast that it takes Leary and fellow director Amanda Clarke 40 minutes to walk from the team working on the house to the diggers who have uncovered a previously unrecorded Roman complex including the foundations of an impressive barn.

Like the Durrington Walls henge a few miles downstream, and Stonehenge itself, Marden was linked to the river Avon by a navigable flow, now a sedge- and nettle-choked stream, which forms one side of the henge.

“Avebury in one direction and Stonehenge in the other have been excavated and studied for centuries because the preservation of the monuments on chalk is so much better. Not nearly enough attention has been paid to the archaeology of the fertile valleys because the land is so good the monuments have often been ploughed out above ground – but it is a key part of understanding the story.”

Marden’s banks, cut through by later roads or lying under modern farm buildings, grazing cows and ripening crops in many places, once stood three metres tall, towering over an equally deep ditch. The outer ring enclosed a complex of smaller monuments, including the Hatfield Barrow, which was once 15 metres tall, and now survives only as a 15cm ripple in the field. It was excavated in 1807 and, after a collapse caused by the shaft, later completely levelled by the farmer.

The site welcomes visitors every day, but the open day will have finds on display, tours and activities. It will be among more than 1,000 events across the country over the last fortnight of July, including lectures, site tours and visits to archaeology stores and structures normally closed to the public.

  • The Reading University archaeology summer field school open day takes place at Marden Henge, Wiltshire, on 18 July. The Council for British Archaeology festival of archaeology runs nationwide from 11-26 July.

 – The Guardian

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