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A new walking path links Britain’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, and is as epic as the Inca Trail
The Great Stones Way is one of those ideas so obvious it seems amazing that no one has thought of it before: a 38-mile walking trail to link England’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, crossing a landscape covered with Neolithic monuments.
But like any project involving the English countryside, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. The steering group has had to secure permission from landowners and the MoD, who use much of Salisbury Plain for training. They hope to have the whole trail open within a year, but for now are trialling a 14-mile southern stretch, having secured agreement from the MoD and parish councils. The “Plain & Avon” section leads from the iron age hill fort of Casterley Camp on Salisbury Plain down the Avon valley to Stonehenge. Walkers are being encouraged to test the route, and detailed directions can be found on the Friends of the Ridgeway website.
It’s an area all but the boldest have avoided: negotiating the MoD areas needed careful planning. Few walkers come here and not a single garage or shop along the Avon valley sells local maps. The Great Stones Way should change that.
What makes the prospect of the Great Stones Way so exciting is the sense that for more than a millennium, between around 3000 and 2000BC, the area it crosses was the scene of frenzied Neolithic building activity, with henges, burial barrows and processional avenues criss-crossing the route.
At Casterley Camp, high on Salisbury Plain, it takes me a while to realise what is strange about the landscape, as wild and empty as anywhere in southern England, and with a large burial mound directly ahead. Then it hits me: this is perfect high grazing country, but there’s not a single sheep. Maybe they have read the MoD notice which points out that “‘projectile’ means any shot or shell or other missile or any portion thereof”, and that over much of what you can see you’re liable to be hit by one. You can also be arrested without a warrant. But the trail cleverly and legally threads its way past the firing ranges towards a delightful and ancient droving road that plunges down between cow parsley to an old farm.
Five minutes in we are passed by a lone woman wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and heading determinedly towards the shooting area, where the red flags are up to signify that it’s a “live” day. In a Kensington and Chelsea accent, she tells us that she regularly drives down from London as it’s one of the few places “where you don’t run the risk of meeting anybody else”. I murmur that this might be because they know they’ll get shot at. “Oh, I love all that. It gets my endorphins going. I got back to the car once and found it ringed by military police. When I told them that I just enjoyed the walking, they didn’t believe me. They said, ‘How can you claim to enjoy walking when you don’t have a dog?’”
One animal practising its duck-and-cover technique here is the remarkable great bustard, recently reintroduced to the UK after its local extinction two centuries ago. At 40lbs, the male bird is one of the largest flying animals in the world, so it’s unmistakable even for the most hesitant birdwatcher. As we reach an isolated farm building, we pass a Land Rover full of enthusiasts heading off to track some down.
The trail curves below to cross and then follow the Avon, a river that loomed large in the affairs of Neolithic man. It was along the Avon that the bluestones of the Preseli hills in Wales are thought to have been transported by boat to Stonehenge, after being moved an almost unimaginable distance around both the Pembrokeshire and Cornish peninsulas to the river mouth at Christchurch.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE CONTINUES AT THE GUARDIAN …
In our film, Rupert very boldly asserts that the Stonehenge ‘bluestones’ were brought all the way from the Plesilis in Wales – that’s 135 miles as the crow flies. I think we based our certainty (in the face of what was, and still is, a hot topic of controversy) on the then recent discoveries made by the archaeologist Tim Darvill and the compelling argument he made for the stones having come from a particular ‘quarry’ in the hills. He had also put forward some quite convincing reasons as to why the builders this phase of Stonehenge would have gone to such lengths to transport the stones to Salisbury plain – to create it as a place of healing.
Be that as it may, we are very glad that further – and more concrete evidence – for the human transportation (as opposed to the glacial) of the bluestones has been provided by new research. Read on: (ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT ARCHNEWS)
It has been around for the best part of 5,000 years and still holds many mysteries but new research into Stonehenge has overturned established ideas about where some of the rocks came from.
Dr Rob Ixer from the University of Leicester Department of Geology has been studying the famous monument in collaboration with Dr Nick Pearce from Aberystwyth University and Dr Richard Bevins from the National Museum of Wales. Their particular interest was in the ‘bluestones’ which are not the iconic massive uprights and cross-pieces but smaller stones, weighing a mere(!) four tonnes or so each.
Stonehenge is not just a ‘stone circle’ but is structurally quite complex. There is an outer circle of massive ‘sarsen’ stones: uprights and cross-pieces, weighing anything up to 50 tonnes, collected from the Marlborough Downs about 25 miles away. Within this is a ring of bluestones – which predates the outer ring – then a horseshoe of sarsens, then a horseshoe of bluestones, then the central stone commonly referred to as the ‘altar stone’.
Even that’s not all because there are circular earthworks around the stone circle and all manner of stone detritus scattered within and around. Furthermore any investigation into Stonehenge is, of course, complicated by the number of stones which have fallen over or been moved – and complicated even more by the number which have been stood up again! As recently as the 1960s work was carried out to lift some of the fallen stones and set them in concrete bases which was not, strictly speaking, how they were held up five millennia ago…
Most of the bluestones are a type of rock called spotted dolerite, an igneous rock similar to basalt but coarser grained. It was in 1923 that the source of this rock was comprehensively identified as the Mynydd Preseli district, a range of hills to the east of Fishguard, meaning that each of these stones was transported about 240 miles.
However, while the spotted dolerite is distinctive, the origin of the non-dolerite bluestones, which include sandstone, silica-rich rhyolites and volcanic ejecta called basaltic tuffs, are harder to pin down. They have generally been assumed to come from the same location as the dolerites because, well, there are rocks like these in the Preseli Hills.
Rob Ixer and his colleagues analysed samples from the Stonehenge bluestones and found that they matched rocks in the Pont Saeson area just outside Newport. Having established a likely origin, they looked in detail at zircons within the stones. These are tiny crystals of zirconium silicate (about 150?m across) which have distinctive signatures of trace elements within them, such as hafnium, yttrium and scandium.
Long story short, the Stonehenge bluestones matched the Pont Saeson samples extremely closely whilst being markedly different from control samples of similar rocks collected elsewhere.
Rock and rollers
As so often in research, solving one outstanding mystery just raises more questions, in this case regarding transport.
The accepted view of how the bluestones got to Salisbury Plain is that they were transported overland due south to Milford Haven (probably using logs as rollers underneath the stones), then by raft up the Bristol Channel, then more log rolling to take them across to Stonehenge. Which is fine if all the stones started life at the top of the Preseli Hills because it’s all downhill from there.
But if some of the stones came from Pont Saeson, that’s low ground to the North of Mynydd Preseli. In other words, to get those stones to Milford Haven, our Neolithic building gang would have had to transport them over the Preseli Hills. Which seems, frankly, unlikely.
This research builds on work published by the team in 2006 which showed that the ‘altar stone’, previously believed to have originated at Milford Haven, came from somewhere else much, much further away.
This new, detailed chemical analysis of the stones actually has enormous (pre-)historical implications, overturning established theories about how this extraordinary creation was constructed. The mystery of Stonehenge continues…
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT ARCHNEWS
Suddenly, I want to go to Portugal.
I had not really looked at the area before but stumbling across Cromeleque dos Almendres, I am really taken by these. Here are some photos and the entry from WIKIPEDIA.
The Almendres Cromlech megalithic complex, located 38°33?28?N 08°3?41?WCoordinates: 38°33?28?N 08°3?41?W near Guadalupe, Évora, Portugal, is one of the earliest public monuments. It is the largest existing group of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula, and one of the largest in Europe.
This megalithic monument originally consisted of more than one hundred monoliths, some of which have been taken away for other uses. A recent dig showed that the complex had undergone several building phases during the neolithic period (5000 – 4000 BC).
It was found rather late, in 1964.
92 menhirs of different sizes currently form two grounds that were built oriented to different equinox directions. Several of them were put back in place.
The axis of the ovals is oriented along an east-west direction. The complex’s position latitude is about the same as the maximum moon elongation (38.55 degrees for 1500 BC); the other latitude at which that happens is that of Stonehenge, 51.18 degrees for 2000 BC..
About a dozen monoliths present some form of carved drawings, four of which exhibit only small circular holes. Monolith number 8, with a cut flat top at about breast level and showing several dimples, might have served for finer astronomical observation, specially spring equinox observation, by putting small stones on them. These observations might be made from stone 39, on the eastern focal point of the elliptic layout.
It is believed that the monument had religious purposes and functioned as a primitive astronomical observatory.
This article is nearly twelve years old but I thought it worth posting here. ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY. I did not know about this find before and this is a repro of the online press release found there. What fascinates me is that these instruments have a modality that is closer to a Western musical scale than that we would normally associate with traditional Chinese music.
Bone flute found in China at 9,000-year-old Neolithic site
Upton, NY – Researchers in China have uncovered what might be the oldest playable musical instrument. Their work is described in a paper published in the September 23 issue of the scientific journal Nature.
Recent excavations at the early Neolithic site of Jiahu, located in Henan province, China, have yielded six complete bone flutes between 7,000 and 9,000 years old. Fragments of approximately 30 other flutes were also discovered. The flutes may be the earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments.
Garman Harbottle, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and member of the Jiahu research team, helped analyze data from carbon-14 dating done in China on materials taken from the site. “Jiahu has the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting early Neolithic sites ever investigated,” said Harbottle. “The carbon dating was of crucial importance to my Chinese colleagues in establishing the age of the site and the relics found within it.”
The exquisitely-crafted flutes are all made from the ulnae, or wing bones, of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis Millen) and have five, six, seven or eight holes. The best-preserved flute has been played and tonally analyzed in tests at the Music School of the Art Institute of China.
The discovery of these flutes presents a remarkable and rare opportunity for anthropologists, musicians and the general public to hear musical sounds as they were produced nine millennia ago. Two audio recordings of the flutes being played are available here: WAV file 1 (4.2 Mb), WAV file 2 (1.7 Mb).
The excavations and carbon-14 dating were carried out by researchers from the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, China; the Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Science and Technology of China; and the Paleobotany Laboratory, Academia Sinica, Beijing, China.
of the flutes revealed that the seven holes correspond to a tone scale remarkably similar to the Western eight-note scale that begins “do, re, mi.” This carefully-selected tone scale suggested to the researchers that the Neolithic musician of the seventh millennium BC could play not just single notes, but perhaps even music.
Jiahu lies in the Central Yellow River Valley in mid-Henan Province and was inhabited from 7000 BC to 5700 BC. The site was discovered by Zhu Zhi, late director of the Wuyang County Museum, in 1962, but only in the past 15 years has significant excavation activity begun. In addition to the musical instruments, the site has yielded important information on the early foundations of Chinese society. Music in China is traditionally associated with ritual observances and government affairs.
To date, only about five percent of Jiahu has been excavated, uncovering 45 house foundations, 370 cellars, nine pottery kilns and thousands of artifacts of bone, pottery, stone and other materials. Additional excavation activities are planned for the near future.
The authors of the paper describing the Jiahu findings are Juzhong Zhang, from the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, China, and the Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Science and Technology of China; Changsui Wang, also from the Archaeometry Laboratory; Zhaochen Kong, from the Paleobotany Laboratory, Academia Sinica, Beijing, China; and Garman Harbottle from Brookhaven
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT BBC CORNWALL
The collection of 47 artefacts, found on St Michael’s Mount, is on display in the island’s castle.
Pieces – including axe-heads, daggers, ingots and a complete metal clasp – have been verified by the British Museum as being about 3,000 years old.
Archaeologists said the objects probably belonged to a blacksmith who had hidden them away for later use.
The objects were discovered by Darren Little when he was clearing ivy and found an opening in some rock.
“I first found a small axe head, and, after some more investigation, founds ingots, pieces of swords and chisels,” he said.
Although the age of the objects has been identified, archaeologists said they were not sure how they came to be where they were found.
National Trust archaeologist Jim Parry said: “They could have been stashed away when he was doing a deal and he didn’t want to bring them with him, or it could have been a safe bit of overnight storage.
“He could have had a smith’s working area in front of him and just tucked some pieces behind him, forgot about them and moved on.”
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT BBC CORNWALL
READ FULL ARTICLE AT THE BBC
An archaeology group has called for the site of a 3,500-year-old settlement in the Vale of Glamorgan to be protected.
The remains of a Bronze Age village at Bendrick were first uncovered near the Atlantic Trading Estate near Barry in the 1980s.
Archaeology Cymru says the site is rapidly deteriorating due to off-road biking and other activities by people who may be unaware of what is there.
The county council, which owns the land, said it would investigate.
Archaeology Cymru director Karl-James Langford said he first became aware of the significance of the site when working as a volunteer excavating the land 25 years ago.
He said the remains of a Bronze Age roundhouse were still visible today.
But he said with no signs to warn people what was at the site nothing was being done to protect it.
“The destruction is immense. The archaeology has been badly damaged and very soon it will be gone,” he said.
READ FULL ARTICLE AT THE BBC
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT GLASGOW LOCAL NEWS
Husband and wife team Duncan and Linda Lunan have formed a new organisation, Friends of the Sighthill Stone Circle, to promote and further plans to renovate and complete the astronomically aligned stone circle in Sighthill Park, Glasgow, the first of its kind in the UK for 3000 years.
The Sighthill circle was designed by Duncan and erected by the Glasgow Parks Department Astronomy Project, as part of the Jobs Creation/Special Temporary Employment Programme, 1978-79. It was dedicated to four prominent experts in the field of ancient astronomy, all with close connections to Glasgow. Following the change of government in 1979 the circle was never completed, and it has never become the local and visitor attraction which was intended. Four unused stones lie on the site to this day, the stones are partly buried following incorrect landscaping in 1982, and there is nothing to tell visitors who put them up, to whom they’re dedicated or how the circle works.
Following a public lecture and mass visit to the circle at the summer solstice in 2010, the existing paths around the circle have been cleared by Land and Environment Services. The aim now is to erect the final stones, install a plaque to explain the circle’s origins and function, restore the stones to full height and provide better footpath access. This will highlight its links to the past and the future of the area and to other astronomical attractions in the city and beyond.
Duncan and Linda invite those interested in progressing this work to contact them at: Friends of the Sighthill Stone Circle, www.sighthillstonecircle.net or tel: 0141 221 7658 or to attend the next meeting in the Ogilvie Centre, 25 Rose Street, Glasgow G3 6RE on Wednesday 22 June 2011 at 7.30pm. This will be followed by a visit to the Stone Circle in time to see the sunset there and get an understanding of how the circle works.
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT GLASGOW LOCAL NEWS
Between 3200 BCE and 1100 BCE the inhabitants of the Aegean islands known as the Cyclades produced unique marble figurines and vessels, bronze tools and weapons as well as ceramics. There is an article at Past Horizons on an upcoming exhibition or artefacts in Istanbul. READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE.
Istanbul’s Sakip Sabanci Museum will showcase an exhibition on the civilization and culture of the Aegean Sea region 5,000 years ago with material provided by the Greek National Archaeology Museum in Athens and the N.P. Goulandris Foundation Cycladic Art Museum.
The new exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum is expected to open at the end of May and is the first of its kind highlighting Cycladic Art in Turkey featuring a remarkable 600 pieces from Greece.
The exhibit “Karsidan Karsiya” (From One Side To Another) concentrates on the civilization and culture of the Aegean Sea region 5,000 years ago.
Between 3200 BCE and 1100 BCE the inhabitants of the Aegean islands known as the Cyclades produced unique marble figurines and vessels, bronze tools and weapons as well as ceramics. These physical items demonstrate the extensive commercial and cultural relations between both sides of the Aegean Sea through the islands during this period .
This significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age culture is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands’ pure white marble, centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age (Minoan) culture arose in Crete, to the south.
The Cyclades are a group of islands in the southwestern Aegean of some thirty small islands and numerous islets. The ancient Greeks called them Kyklades, imagining them as a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the site of the holiest sanctuary to Apollo.
Each of the small Cycladic islands could support no more than a few thousand people in scattered communities. When the highly organized palace-culture of Crete arose, the islands faded into insignificance, with the exception of Delos, which retained its reputation as a sanctuary into the period of Classical Greece over a thousand years later.
The chronology of Cycladic civilization is divided into three major sequences: Early, Middle and Late. The early period, beginning ca. 3000 BCE merges into the less well understood Middle Cycladic ca. 2500 BCE. By the end of the Late sequence (ca. 2000 BCE) there was essential convergence between Cycladic and Minoan civilisation.
READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE.