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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

 

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

Current Archaeology Awards 2017. Rethinking Durrington Walls: a long -lost monument revealed.

The 9th annual Current Archaeology Awards celebrate the projects and publications that made the pages of CA this year, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology. Research Project of the Year category includes;

Rethinking Durrington Walls: a long-lost monument revealed

 (CA 320 – Stonehenge Riverside Project / Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project / National Trust)

Ongoing research at Durrington Walls has revealed a massive and previously unknown palisaded enclosure beneath the banks of the famous Neolithic henge. It is a discovery that is set to rewrite the site’s history.

To cast your vote, click here!

Voting closes 6 February 2017

Durrington Walls, two miles from Stonehenge, is named after the Neolithic henge that calls the location home. But with ongoing research revealing a massive and previously unknown monument hidden beneath its banks, the site’s history is set to be rewritten. Carly Hilts spoke to Vince Gaffney, Mike Parker Pearson, and Nick Snashall to find out more.

monument-landscape-1

Looking towards Durrington Walls henge, over the concentric rings of posts that mark Woodhenge. Ongoing research has revealed huge post holes (inset) belonging to another wooden monument hidden beneath the prehistoric bank.

Around 4,500 years ago, hundreds of people gathered two miles from Stonehenge to build another massive monument, at a location known to us as Durrington Walls. The spot they had selected lay within sight of the celebrated stones, and had previously been home to a village that may have housed the community that erected them (CA 208). But now the short-lived settlement lay abandoned, and – perhaps motivated by a desire to commemorate its presence – the new group of builders punched through the living surfaces and midden material of their predecessors to complete their work.

Their efforts were not focused on raising the imposing earthworks of the henge that gives the site its modern name, however. Instead, their labour created a previously unknown earlier phase whose full extent is only now being revealed by ongoing research: as many as 300 huge wooden posts, evenly spaced 5m apart in a ring almost 450m across. It would have been an arresting sight, yet within a maximum of 50 years the monument had been decommissioned once more, its posts removed and their sockets filled in, before being covered over by the henge that we see today. All trace of the post circle would lie hidden beneath the banks of its successor for millennia – until it was brought to light once more by a series of excavations and the largest geophysical survey of its kind. Why did the site undergo such a sudden change in design, and what can we learn about the rise and fall of a long-lost monument? As analysis continues, intriguing clues are beginning to emerge.~
Full story here

Join the local Stonehenge experts on a guided tour from Salisbury and hear all about this amazing discovery.

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tour
The Stonehenge Travel Company
http://www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

Archaeology Day Tours of Wiltshire’s World Heritage Sites.

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

DSCF0295

Small Group Guided Tour of Avebury

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

We also offer a Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury guided tour

Bringing History Alive……………..

Links:
STONEHENGE & AVEBURY WORLD HERITAGE SITE
VISIT WILTSHIRE WORLD HERITAGE SITE INFORMATION

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

 

Huge ritual monument found hidden near Stonehenge.

The super-henge of Durrington Walls has been hiding a secret for thousands of years. A huge row of megalithic stones buried beneath.

SUPERHENGE

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
Stonehenge and Avebury Guided Tour Experts
The Stonehenge Travel Company
Salisbury Wiltshire

On the Magna Carta trail. Celebrating the 800th anniversary.

Legend has it that in 1220 the Bishop of Salisbury shot an arrow high into the air from the ramparts of Old Sarum castle vowing that he would build a new cathedral wherever the arrow landed. He must have had arms like an ox or some seriously impressive divine intervention for Salisbury Cathedral is actually several miles from the castle.

Salisbury Cathedral. Picture: Getty

Cathedral. Picture: Getty

Little matter. The reality is that the Cathedral he had built is probably the finest example of Early English gothic architecture in the country. It is perfectly positioned on the beautiful water meadows beside the slow-moving River Avon and topped by the tallest spire in the country (which you can climb if you have the knees and lungs for it).

The cathedral’s elegant vaulted ceiling. Picture: Getty

The cathedral’s elegant vaulted ceiling. Picture: Getty Source: Getty Images

It is also home to the best-preserved of the four remaining original Magna Cartas which guarantees the city a starring role in the document’s 800th birthday celebrations throughout 2015.

Salisbury and surrounding areas of Wiltshire, including Stonehenge and the market town of Trowbridge, make up one of six designated Magna Carta trails. These guide visitors through some of the most historic and picturesque parts of England from Durham and York in the north to Worcester and Hereford in the centre, Norwich in the east and Dover, Canterbury and Pevensey in the south west.

Events kicked off in February when the four surviving original Magna Cartas — from Salisbury, from Lincoln Cathedral and two kept at the British Library — were brought together, the first time this has ever occurred, for three days in London.

For the rest of the year the Magna Carta is at the heart of a myriad of festivals, fetes, exhibitions and displays, literary and academic gatherings in every city, town and village with even the flimsiest link. And a few without any connection at all.

The Magna Carta, literally the Great Charter, was essentially a political device, drawn up to settle an increasingly violent dispute between King John and 25 rebel barons. Much of it referred to specific grievances. Its enduring legacy was that it outlined basic human rights, setting the principle that no-one was above the law and everyone had the right to a fair trial.

It not only became the cornerstone of the British constitution, it influenced subsequent documents like the US Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In March the Salisbury Magna Carta was returned to a redesigned interactive display in the Cathedral Chapter House along with other historical treasures from the extensive archives.

And the Cathedral itself is well worth a detailed exploration: from medieval tombs and effigies to the arched supporting pillars bent inward under the weight of the tower. There’s a beautiful modern baptismal font which spectacularly reflects the ceiling and the brilliantly coloured stained glass windows and the bumping stone, worn away from the centuries of traditionally “bumping” the heads of new choirboys to welcome them.

It has wide vaulted cloisters and boasts the oldest working clock in Europe. Built in 1386 it’s an ingenious series of weights and pulleys that has no traditional face but sounds the hour.

Running parallel to the building is the eye-catching Cathedral Close where the clergy lived. It still has a number of the original medieval buildings as well as some elegant Georgian town houses such as the impressive Mompesson House and featured in a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

More than a million visitors each year visit Stonehenge to ponder its mysteries. Picture:

More than a million visitors each year visit Stonehenge to ponder its mysteries. Picture: Getty Source: Supplied

Stonehenge, just 13 kilometres from Salisbury, remains one of the world’s great mysteries. Religious temple? Astronomical clock? Ancient burial chamber? Alien landing zone (that’s my favourite)? Truth is, nobody knows for sure. The mesmerising prehistoric circle of monolithic stones, dating back to between 3000-2000 BC and one of the most distinctive monuments in the world, still baffles experts and attracts more than a million tourists each year.

The new visitor centre, designed by an Australian firm of architects, is modern and eye catching yet sits surprisingly sympathetically in the rolling Wiltshire countryside.

Consisting of two main “pods” one of glass and one of wood, under a soft wave metal roof balanced on slender, unevenly angled metal poles. Inside, it contains an engaging interactive education centre, a cafe, shop and toilets.

The original “facilities” have been removed from their position much closer to the stones, and an access road grassed over which means Stonehenge can now be viewed not as an isolated structure but as part of a broader sweep of ancient mounds and barrows.

Visitors must walk through the gently undulating fields the approximately 2kms from the centre to the stones or take the official land-train. It always was an awesome site but now, with less clutter, it seems even more impressive.

There is more mystery at nearby Avebury which has the largest stone circle in the world, more than 100 stones believed to have been erected about 4,500 years ago. Or Woodhenge, with the remains of six concentric rings possibly part of a structure used by an early community.

From Avebury you can also see Spilbury Hill, the largest man made mound. What the circle and the mound were for, and who created them, is still unknown. Another mystery.

Trowbridge is impressively credentialed for inclusion on the Magna Carta trail. Mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1200 the town was granted one of the earliest market charters from King John.

But by 1215, Baron Henry de Bohun, tiring of the King’s constant demands for increased taxes, joined with 24 other barons to force him to seal the Magna Carta at Runnymede near Windsor. Henry, clutching the charter, is immortalised in a stained-glass window in the parish church.

Through the centuries, Trowbridge forged itself a position as a centre of weaving, first fine woollen cloth, largely for export to Europe then, when that dwindled, into coloured cloth made from the wool of Spanish merino sheep. Quick to adapt to new technology, first the spinning jenny and then the power looms, at one stage the town’s industry was so dominant it was dubbed the “Manchester of the West.”

Although not as cutesy as many of the villages and towns in Wiltshire, Trowbridge has numerous important historic buildings across a wide range of eras. Its museum, which focuses heavily on the town’s nationally important textile heritage, is a kids’ paradise. Established in one of the old cloth mills it has that real feel of living history which many of the newer and more high tech museums have lost. Here you are transported back in time in a series of historic tableaux.

Wadworth Brewery in Devizes still uses a dray pulled by Shire horses to deliver beer barr

Wadworth Brewery in Devizes still uses a dray pulled by Shire horses to deliver beer barrels to local pubs. Picture: Getty Source: Getty Images

No visit to any part of England is officially complete without a pint of the best local brew. Wadworth Brewery is based in the pretty town of Devizes, roughly 40 kilometres north of Salisbury and has been serving up specialist regional beers for more than 125 years.

It runs regular tours that include the opportunity to meet two of the brewery’s most popular workers, the gentle giants Max and Monty, two magnificent Shire horses who still deliver the beer to local pubs pulling the distinctive drays.

But the highlight has to be dropping in to the brewery’s own private “pub”. Here, visitors can compare the various brews like the popular 6X and the Bishop’s Tipple. Or go for something a little different like the Swordfish, created for the 100th anniversary of the Fleet Air Arm, where beer blended with Pusser’s Navy Rum. Cheers.

The writer was a guest of Visit England and travelled with British Airways.

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

English Heritage has opened five recreated Neolithic houses, in the shadow of Stonehenge.

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.neolthic-houses

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
http://www.newsweek.com/2014/06/20/meet-flintstones-265268.html

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