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The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company are based near Stonehenge and widely considered as 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.
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”
“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
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Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
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.
Join us on a guided tour of Stonehenge and Avebury and learn more about this important discovery
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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
Join us on a guided tour and explore Stonehenge and the nearby landcaspe. rich in archaeological finds.
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Stonehenge and Avebury form part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site which stands testament to the ages. The explanations behind why the sites are located where they are and what their exact purposes are still remain a mystery to this day with a magnetism that has drawn people to them for centuries.
We are pleased to offer exclusive Archaeology Tours visiting both Stonehenge and Avebury throughout 2016. We believe we offer an excellent up-to-date specialist service; giving you the opportunity to learn in great detail about these amazing prehistoric sites, but also leaving you time to explore your surroundings by yourself.
Stonehenge, Avebury and Bath Guided Tour from London
Britian’s most beautiful landscapes
Tour Leaders are qualified archaeologists
Walk the paths of ritual specialists and builders of Britain’s most fascinating and awe-inspiring prehistoric sites, at Stonehenge and Avebury.
Explore the Roman and Georgian history of Bath.
Guaranteed small groups 8 – 18 participants.
This feature-packed archaeological tour takes in the iconic stone circles of Stonehenge
and Avebury and a delightful break in the beautiful Roman city of Bath.
Leaving from London by luxury mini coach, this Stonehenge tour will explore its iconic standing stones with expert analysis by a trained archaeologist. Nearby Avebury is an even more impressive site, covering a much wider area and you will also encounter Neolithic burial tombs and the less visited ancient site of Woodhenge.
Mid-day is spent in gorgeous Bath offering history of a different era. There are colorful remnants of its glorious Roman past to see and regency mansion houses from Georgian times. The famous Roman baths are a must see.
Guided tour itinerary:
The morning starts with a visit to Durrington Walls and Woodhenge, home to the ‘Stonehenge Builder’s’ village and the most convincing evidence for human sacrifice. We then travel a short distance to Stonehenge. We enjoy a leisurely paced walk through the landscape immediately surrounding Stonehenge, visiting the Stonehenge Cursus, Bronze Age burial mounds and walk along the Stonehenge Avenue. We complete our morning at Stonehenge with a guided walk around the stone circle, our archaeologists bringing to life this enigmatic, ancient and mysterious monument.
At mid-day we arrive at the beautiful Georgian city of Bath. Here we allow our guests aprox 2 hours to enjoy the centre of this city, famous for Jane Austen, Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. We also use this opportunity for our guests to have lunch.
We conclude our visit to Bath with a coach tour of the most impressive examples of architecture Bath has to offer, visiting the Assembly Rooms, Royal Circus and Royal Crescent.
The Afternoon is spent at the Avebury World Heritage Landscape. We visit Silbury Hill, the largest man-made hill in prehistoric Europe. We enter the 5500 year old burial chamber of West Kennet Long Barrow, entering a sacred space originally reserved only for ritual specialists and the dead.
We finish by visiting the largest stone circle in Europe at Avebury, with its beautiful medieval village situated inside. As John Aubrey in the 1600’s notes [Avebury]…”does as much exceed in greatness the so renowned Stonehenge as a Cathedral doeth a parish church.”
Please also note as part of the Stonehenge, Salisbury and Avebury Archaeologist Guided Tour, the detailed walk around the Stonehenge Cursus, Stonehenge Avenue and Bronze Age burial mounds only runs between March to October, this is due to time restrictions in the winter months
View 2016 Tour Departures and book now
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Bringing History Alive……………..
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The super-henge of Durrington Walls has been hiding a secret for thousands of years. A huge row of megalithic stones buried beneath.
A huge ritual monument which dates from the time of Stonehenge has been discovered hidden under the bank of a nearby stone-age enclosure.
Durrington Walls, a roundish ‘super-henge’ has long puzzled archaeologists because one side is straight while the rest of the structure is curved.
As early as 1810, historian Richard Colt Hoare suggested that its shape had been left ‘much mutilated’ by centuries of agriculture.
But now ground penetrating radar has found that the straight edge is actually aligned over a row of 90 massive standing stones which once stood 15ft high, and formed a c-shaped arena which has not been seen for thousands of years.
The stone line, which curves into a c-shape towards one end, is likely to have marked a ritual procession route, and is thought to date from the same time as the sarsen circle at Stonehenge.
Archaeologists believe the stones were pushed over and a bank built on top, but they are still trying to work out exactly why they were built. Nothing exists like it in the world.
“It’s utterly remarkable,” said Professor Vince Gaffney, of the University of Bradford. “It’s just enormous. It is definitely one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and is completely unique. We’ve never seen anything like this in the world.
“We can’t tell what the stones are made of, but they are the same height as the sarsens in the Stonehenge circle, so they may be the same kind.
“It was probably for a ritual of some sort, or it could have marked out an arena. These monuments were very theatrical. This a design to impress and empower.
“Not only does the new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier.”
Durrington Walls, which sits in a depression not far from the River Avon, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, is one of the largest known henge monuments, measuring around 1,640 feet in diameter and built around 4,500 years ago in the Neolithic, or new stone age.
It is surrounded by a ditch of up to 54ft wide and a bank of more than three foot high and is built on the same summer solstice alignment as Stonehenge. Some archaeoolgists have suggested that the builders of Stonehenge lived at Durrington. A nearby wooden structure, called Wood Henge was thought to represent the land of the living while Stonehenge represented the realm of the dead.
But the discovery of the stones suggests that Durrington Walls had a far earlier and less domestic history than has previously been supposed.
The Bradford archaeologists have been working alongside an international team of experts as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project which has been mapping the entire area around with the latest technology.
“Everything previously written about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written,” said Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham and principle prehistorian on the project.
Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, said the new results were providing ‘unexpected twists in the age old tale.’
“These latest results have produced tantalising evidence of what lies beneath the ancient earthworks at Durrington Walls. The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story.”
The research will be presented at the British Science Festival in Bradford this week.
Story By: Sarah Knapton, Science Editor – The Telegraph
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Neolithic building on vast site at Marden Henge is welcoming public visitors again after thousands of years buried beneath farmland.
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 recently built Neolithic houses built by volunteers next to the new Stonehenge visitor centre have proved popular with tourists. Overseas visitors have found them fascinating. This recent international article in Newsweek gives an indepth insight:
Stonehenge Reconstructions Show Brits Have Always Been Houseproud
English Heritage has opened five recreated Neolithic houses, in the shadow of Stonehenge, revealing how the builders of the monument lived 4,500 years ago. At first glance, we could be forgiven for thinking they were built in the modern age. Certainly, their building techniques are very similar to those used on Victorian cottages in nearby Wiltshire villages. The walls were made from cob, a mixture of the local chalk and hay, slapped, when wet, onto seven-year-old hazel stakes. These walls were then topped with thatched roofs, made from knotted straw tied onto a woven hazel frame.
Far from being dark, little Hobbit spaces, the interiors are surprisingly bright, illuminated by the white chalk walls and floors, and open door. A tall man can easily stand up straight inside. In the middle of the room, the ash-log fire on the hearth sends up smoke, which seeps through the thatch. As the smoke slowly dissipates, it creates a thin carbon dioxide layer against the straw that stops any spark from the fire igniting the thatch. As if that weren’t ingenious enough, the thatch expands in the rain, providing an even more waterproof membrane.
The houses are pretty small – around 5m across – but they were certainly big enough to hold a family: English Heritage has managed to fit in 15 people easily into a single house, gathered around the fire.
It wasn’t just the architecture that was astonishingly avant-garde. Furniture in 2,500 BC, when Stonehenge and these cottages were thought to have been built, was pretty advanced too. Neolithic man slept on animal skins on wooden beds, with cupboards and shelves carefully inserted into the wall. In the house and outside the front door, there were handy pits, filled with handsome, striped pottery, known as “grooved ware”, the first pottery in Britain with a flat base. The pits also contained a selection of flints and animal bones, carved to create every conceivable mod con. Near Stonehenge, archaeologists have found chalk axes, bone tweezers, flint awls for piercing holes in bone and leather, flint saws and flint “fabricators” to create sparks for igniting fires.
The beauty of these objects – and the advanced engineering of the houses – seems particularly astonishing when we consider how early on in European, and global, civilisation they were made. In 2,500 BC, the Great Pyramid was being built at Giza, in Egypt. It was 500 years before the Minoan civilisation flourished at the Palace of Knossos; 900 years before the Mycenean civilisation in mainland Greece; and 2,000 years before the Parthenon was constructed. Jesus Christ is 500 years closer to us today than he was to the people who lived in these houses
Constructed over five months by 60 English Heritage volunteers, the buildings were closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered in 2006 and 2007 at Durrington Walls, a ceremonial earthwork enclosure just north-east of Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating has placed that settlement at about the same time that the mammoth sarsen stones from north Wiltshire, and the smaller bluestones from south Wales, were being raised at Stonehenge. So they’re among the earliest houses ever found in Britain.
Just like those nearby Wiltshire villages today, Durrington Walls consisted of a series of these cottages – and there may be 100s more, yet to be found – clustered closely together, but separated by woven wooden fences.
Again like lots of modern villages, Durrington Walls was built next to the River Avon – a crucial water source, home not just to trout and salmon, but to beavers and otters, much prized for their fur. Edible plants grew in the nearby damp soil, and red deer came to drink at the water’s edge. Deer antlers were used both as pickaxes and rakes to build the ditch and banks that circle Stonehenge. One red deer antler pick was found, laid carefully right on the floor of the ditch, perhaps to celebrate the end of the work.
The Flintstone diet wasn’t so different to ours, either: surviving cow and pig bones, some of them still with butchering marks on them, reveal a meat-rich diet, although there’s little trace of any cereal grain.
Already at this early stage, there are plenty of signs of human migration by water, too. The Amesbury Archer – whose burial was discovered in 2002, 5km east of Stonehenge – was born in the Alps, probably in what is now Switzerland. His origins were found thanks to chemical analysis of his teeth. The Amesbury Archer is thought to have been buried in 2,400 BC, a century after Stonehenge was built.
His body was surrounded by a glittering array of treasures: three copper knives, 16 flint arrowheads and a pair of gold hair ornaments, the earliest gold found in Britain. He was also buried with two archers’ stone wrist-protectors, which gave him his moniker. Alongside him, there were five delicately-carved and shaped Beaker pots, which gave their name to the neolithic Beaker culture, which spread right across western Europe, from present-day Holland to Spain, France and Germany.
The more archaeological research is made into Stonehenge man, the more evidence emerges that Britain wasn’t some remote backwater in the Neolithic Age, waiting for the Romans to provide it with the basics of civilised life. In the new Stonehenge visitors’ centre, hidden in a fold of Salisbury Plain close to the stones, there stands the skeleton of another early Neolithic Briton – whose recent bone analysis reveals quite how advanced this supposedly primitive civilisation was. The skeleton – excavated from a long barrow at Winterbourne Stoke, 3km west of Stonehenge – belonged to a man active in 3,000 BC, when the first earthwork enclosure at Stonehenge was built. Examining the enamel in his teeth – and the levels of strontium and oxygen, elements which vary in quantity from location to location – archaeologists have determined that he was probably born in Wales, moved to Wiltshire at two, went back to Wales at nine, and then shuttled between Stonehenge and Wales from 11 to 15. These regular journeys might explain the Welsh bluestones at Stonehenge – they were religious and sentimental reminders of the old country. This Neolithic man wasn’t so different from us. He was 1.72m, only 25mm shorter than the average British male today. He was 76kg, and lived off a classic West Country diet of dairy products and meat – mostly beef, mutton and venison.
Dr Simon Mays, the English Heritage scientist who carried out the bone analysis, determined that he’d led a peaceful life, with no injuries apart from a damaged knee ligament and a torn back thigh muscle. There was no sign of any illness, disease or nutritional stress in the body. He seems to have died in his late 20s or 30s. Life expectancy was a lot shorter, then, but what’s clear is that the great British obsession – class – was already alive and well 5,500 years ago. Our man was buried in one of the area’s grandest mausolea – and was initially the only body there, until he was joined around a thousand years later by other bodies in less prominent spots in the 82m-long grave.
There are around 350 of these long barrows in Britain. Half of them had no one buried in them at all; another quarter had five to 15 people in them; and only a quarter were allotted to a single person. So we are dealing with a major toff here, moving between his various smart residences in Wales and Wiltshire. A second home for the rich is nothing new.
The Durrington Walls houses may also help unlock one of the great secrets of mankind -–what was Stonehenge actually for? No one can be definitively sure but one of the most popular current theories is that it was a sort of holy cemetery. Its circles of cold stone, with cremated human bones all around, have been called “the land of the dead”. This is contrasted with “the land of the living” – with the timber houses of Durrington Walls, next door to another circular monument, Woodhenge, also built out of timber. Just walking around the Neolithic houses, we begin to see why this part of the West Country is so rich in Neolithic and Bronze Age finds. Not only is the open, rolling country so well-suited to farming – as it still is today – but also it’s purpose-built for house construction.
As visitors stroll around Stonehenge, they still kick up great lumps of chalk, studded with fragments of flint – the same chalk that built those ancient houses, the same flint that lit those long-extinguished ash fires. Suddenly, the Stone Age doesn’t seem so far away.
Stonehenge Reconstructions Show Brits Have Always Been Houseproud
Five Neolithic houses have been recreated at Stonehenge to reveal how the ancient monument’s builders would have lived 4,500 years ago.
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
“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
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Plains, Trains and Automobiles: Salisbury, Stonehenge and South Wiltshire is a truly unique destination
Take some time out and escape to Wiltshire this year. Find out more about this mysterious and beautiful part England.
The newly completed Stonehenge visitor centre deserves an extended visit. We recommend staying in Wiltshire and exploring the surrounding area, rich in history, myths and legends. Salisbury, Stonehenge and South Wiltshire is a truly unique destination. Set among some of the most beautiful countryside and with a 5,000 year old history the area is steeped in history but with its eye firmly fixed on the future.
Salisbury is a bit of a rail hub with main lines and frequent trains going east to London, south to Southampton and west to Bath and Bristol. Frequent trains run from London’s Waterloo station taking approximately 80 minutes to do the journey. There are normally two trains an hour operating up until very late evening. During the week, the cheap tickets are not available until after the morning commuter rush. Don’t worry if your accommodation is in London, its very easy to get to Salisbury or Bath from London by train and the trains run till late so there is still time to get back to London last thing.
Here are some examples of how accessible Wiltshire is using the Inter-City services from central London:
• London (Paddington) – Bath and Bristol via Swindon (55 mins),Chippenham (70 mins) and Great Bedwyn (90 mins).
• London (Waterloo) – Salisbury (90 mins) and Tisbury (103 mins).
Salisbury is one of England’s most wonderful cities – a medieval masterpiece with something for everyone. From traditional English pubs to cosmopolitan street cafes and from hard-to-find specialist shops to major high street stores, you’ll find it in Salisbury. And at its heart there is the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral, towering over the city as it has for over 750 years. Step outside of the city and you are in another world. Green hills, crystal clear rivers and picturesque towns and villages just waiting to be discovered. And, of course, there’s Stonehenge. The world’s most famous stone circle stands just a few miles north of Salisbury – a must see destination.
Stonehenge Stone Circle is the most famous and enigmatic Megalithic site in the United Kingdom. Dominating the landscape of Salisbury Plain in the county of Wiltshire, the giant standing stones of Stonehenge – some weighing up to 50 tonnes – are a mysterious icon left by mysterious ancient peoples. You may have a special interest in burial chambers, the construction of Stonehenge, the purpose and culture of the people that built the henge.
English Heritage Stonehenge Visitor Centre. The fantastic new £27m visitor centre at Stonehenge is now open, offering tourists an interactive experience and the chance to examine prehistoric objects. Visitors are transported by shuttle bus more than a mile (2km) from the venue to see the stones.
Discover prehistoric sites and rare species preserved on Salisbury Plain. An ocean of grassland and a sweep of big sky. Ancient monuments loom out of the mist; camouflaged soldiers crouch in the undergrowth. Salisbury Plain is a landscape of extremes. It is the largest remaining area of chalk grassland in Northwest Europe and home to 2,300 prehistoric sites yet also the largest military training area on British soil.
Avebury Stone Circle Avebury rivals – some would say exceeds – Stonehenge as the largest, most impressive and complex pre-historic site in Britain. Avebury is part of a wider complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, with many other ritual sites in English Heritage care. West Kennet Avenue joined it to The Sanctuary, and another stone avenue connected it with Beckhampton. West Kennet Long Barrow and Windmill Hill are also nearby, as is the huge and mysterious Silbury Hill. This extraordinary assemblage of sites seemingly formed a huge ‘sacred landscape’, whose use and purpose can still only be guessed at. Avebury and its surroundings have, with Stonehenge, achieved international recognition as a World Heritage Site.
Mysterious Crop circles Salisbury Plain is well known for its crop circles and much mystery still remains as to why they occur and the meanings behind their complex formations. A tour of the ancient hills and vales of Wiltshire which are, inexplicably, the world capital of crop circles Crop circles in Wiltshire often occur around the heart of the county in and around Avebury, usually first appearing in April and continuing into the summer months. Crop circle guided tours can be arranged from Salisbury or Bath
Guided Tours from Salisbury can return to Salisbury or why not make the most of your sightseeing and be dropped off in Bath, Southampton or even London. Popular destinations can include: Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta | Old Sarum Hillfort | Stonehenge Stone Circle and the new visitor centre | Woodhenge and Durrington Walls | Ancient Chalk Hill Figures | Pewsey valleys | Salisbury Plain and mysterious crop circles | Avebury Stone Circle | West Kennet Long Barrow | Silbury Hill | Lacock Village | Castle Combe Village | The Cotswolds | Glastonbury Tor and The Isle of Avalon
Needless to say private guided tours are bespoke and can be tailoured to suit your needs in the date(s) you wish to travel. Stonehenge private access tours allow you to enter the inner circle of Stonehenge before or after it is officially open to the public.
A once in a lifetime opportunity!
We would be delighted to arrange a private guide tour of Wiltshire and help you with your Salisbury Travel plans. Email us: tours@StonehengeTravel.co.uk or visit our website: http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk
Some Salisbury and Stonehenge links:
Visit Wiltshire: Discover things to do and places to visit across Wiltshire. Plan your visit, book hotels and accommodation and find out what’s on in the county. http://www.VisitWiltshire.co.uk
Download the Visit Wiltshire Apps here: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/plan-your-visit/apps
Magnificent Salisbury Cathedral with the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom, home to the finest of the four surviving original Magna Carta 1215: http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/
Old Sarum Hillfort: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-sarum/
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park, in Wiltshire, England was opened in 1966 and was the first drive-through safari park outside Africa: http://www.Longleat.co.uk
Wilton House is an English country house situated at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years: http://www.WiltonHouse.co.uk
Amesbury Museum & Heritage Centre: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/ideas-and-inspiration/amesbury-museum-and-heritage-centre-p1536253
Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum: Showcasing the medieval Cathedral town of Salisbury and the ancient wonders of Stonehenge. http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/
The Cathedral Express. Wonderful days out by steam train: http://www.steamdreams.com/
English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
The Stonehenge Tourism Website: http://www.Stonehenge-Tourism.com
London to Salisbury Trains: http://www.thetrainline.com/
Guided Tours of Stonehenge and Salisbury http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk
For Stonehenge and Salisbury News follow us on Twitter: @SalisburyTours
Local Wiltshire Tour Guide
The Stonehenge Travel Company
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
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.