Tired of trekking all the way to the English countryside just to perform your druid rituals at the actual Stonehenge site? Do you wish there was a more convenient way? Well your prayers—or chants, or whatever—have been answered with this inflatable alternative.
Created by artist Jeremy Deller to commemorate the Olympic games, and to show that Britain has a good sense of humor, this unique version of Stonehenge is completely inflatable. So all you need is a big enough space, an air compressor, and a bit of patience, and in no time you’ll have your own version of one of England’s biggest mysteries. And maybe next time Deller will create a bouncy castle version of Buckingham Palace—now that’s a tourist attraction.
ORIGINAL STORY AT WIRED.CO.UK
A team of geologists from Britain have pinpointed the exact quarry that Stonehenge’s innermost circle of rocks came from. It’s the first time that a precise source has been found for any of the stones at the prehistoric monument.
Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales painstakingly identified samples from various rock outcrops in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
For nine months the pair used petrography — the study of mineral content and textural relationships within rocks — to find the origins of Stonehenge’s rhyolite debitage stones. These spotted dolerites or bluestones form the inner circle and inner horseshoe of the site.
They found the culprit on a 65-metre-long outcropping called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It lies approximately 160 miles from the Stonehenge site.
READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE
This is an important find. I had not heard of this before and I can only find this one article that references it but if the scant figures are to be believed, this is extraordinary. The article – from the County Times is a s follows:
WHAT look like just a few fields close to Presteigne, in fact cover up an ‘exceptional’ and significant historical site which maps around 5,000 years of Welsh history.
The Walton Basin has been an area of interest to Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT), who have been carrying out significant excavation work over the last few years to try and uncover the wonders of Welsh history.
One of their earliest findings is from the Neolithic period, where archaeologists believe they have found something that could be as significant as the word famous Stonehenge, on the Salisbury plains.
Chris Martin, regional architect at CPAT, explained that what has been found in the Walton Basin is thought to be a rare Neolithic ’causewayed’ enclosure.
Having used some 1,400 mature oak trees in its construction, which has been dated to around 2700 BC, to date this is the largest Neolithic enclosure in Britain, making its finding quite significant.
“It’s really quite an impressive structure when you consider that it was 5,000 years ago or so,” said Chris.
“We don’t actually know what it is for. It seems to be some kind of ceremonial enclosure that was significant to the local population, a religious structure, a meeting place for the community.”
Will Adams, curator at the Radnorshire Museum in Llandrindod Wells speculated that one of the enclosures could be as bit as four Millennium Stadiums.
“This could be as important as Stonehenge,” he said.
The enclosures may be significant if they are the only ones, however archaeologists are unsure as to whether or not these enclosures exist elsewhere in the country.
Despite this, the site’s significance is not in question because of all the other era that can be found there from the Bronze Age, to the Romans.
Mr Martin said: “There is a riot of stuff in a relatively small space, you’ve got almost an entire Welsh history in this small area.
“It’s a mind blowing area and has something for everyone, and there is almost too much to say about the basin. It really is exceptional.”
There is currently an exhibition at the Radnorshire Museum on the Walton Basin, and people can watch an interactive video which explains the significance of the site, or it can be viewed at www.cpat.org.uk/vr/llandod/index.htm
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN
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
How didn’t the Preseli bluestones get to Stonehenge? Ask your maths teacher.
ARTICLE REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF EDWARD PEGLAR. YOU CAN READ THE ARTCLE AT HIS OWN BLOG HERE.
The late Neolithic temple (or whatever) of Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, England, is constructed from two types of stones. These are the large ’sarsens’ and the smaller ‘bluestones’.
The sarsens are large slabs of a kind of rock called silcrete. Silcrete forms at the bottom of a sandy soil profile under semi-arid conditions in landscapes where there is little erosion. Silcrete once covered much of southern England. Now it is limited to small pockets in North Wiltshire, such as Fyfield Down and Lockeridge Dene. Whilst a bit of a schlepp, Neolithic oxen and people probably could have dragged silcrete blocks the twenty miles from these locations to Stonehenge. Whether they did… ?
Bluestones are a series of varied rocks which have their origins, for the most part, in the Pembrokeshire peninsula of South Wales. They are largely igneous rocks (similar to lava) which have experienced a small amount of metamorphism due to their deep burial in the Earth before they were brought back to the surface by erosion in the last few million years.
How to move the stones
The People Method: people quarried or collected the bluestones in Pembrokeshire, then brought them to Salisbury Plain by boat across the sea and pulled them the last part of the journey.
The Ice Sheet Method: the bluestones were broken off by an ice sheet (a kind of very large glacier) in a cold period around 400,000 years ago. As the ice sheet grew it spread to Salisbury Plain, or at least quite near. When the ice sheet melted it left the bluestones behind as what are known as glacial erratics.
For and Against
The arguments for the People Method are that the bluestones are similar in size and many are similar in composition. Most appear to have come from the Preseli Mountains and there is little evidence for other Welsh rocks on Salisbury plain.
The arguments for the Ice Sheet Method are that the stones are, in fact, quite diverse and even include a stone from far to the east. If there were an ice sheet, modelling suggests that it would be travelling in about the right direction to end up at Salisbury Plain. Finally, and most importantly, it’s an absolute bastard to carry a stone as big as a bluestone across the sea by boat, let alone drag it the last bit of the way to Salisbury Plain.
Now from a pure sense argument I’m very much inclined to support the Ice Sheet Method. It involves a simple natural process. It doesn’t ask people to do something that they haven’t done at almost any other stone circle, which is use non-local stone. It doesn’t demand the impossible or our poor feeble ancestors in their hide covered boats. Whilst the romantic in me loves the epic effort involved, the engineer wipes oily stains from his hands and says “Naa, not a chance, mate.”
But… something is niggling. It’s a small thing, but I can’t help thinking about it.
Glaciers and ice sheets are renowned for their lack of selectivity when it comes to stone collecting. Due to their bigness and force they can pick up any size of rock, from grain to boulder, on their frozen undersides. And they do. Also, because ice sheets and glaciers behave like one solid (well sort of solid) mass they can carry the small and the large with equal ease.
But when the ice sheet finally melts it dumps everything, from grain to boulder, in the same place. Unlike many other geological processes, ice sheets are astoundingly untidy. However, this jumble of rubble will tend fit tidily in one thing though – the statistical bell curve of size distribution by weight.
To explain: An ice sheet could pick up a really large boulder but it wouldn’t pick up many because their aren’t that many around. But with smaller rock chunks the ice sheet picks up more of them because there are more of them. So the ice sheet will be picking up thousands of tiny pebbles at the same time as it picks up one large boulder. So you get a graph of number of stones vs stone size like the one in Fig.1.
On the other hand those millions of tiny pebbles, when you weigh them, don’t weigh that much. Medium sized stones are heavier but the largest boulders are much heavier still. So with that you get a graph of the weight of each stone versus its size, as shown in Fig. 2.
You can combine this information by calculating the total weights of all the sizes of stones collected. This involves multiplying the number of stones of each size by the average weight of each stone of any size. What you get is the bell curve graph of the weight of all the stones in one size fraction vs stone size like that shown in Fig. 3.
Ice sheets lose
“So what?” I hear you say. Well it’s simple. If you plot the distribution of all the bluestones or related stones on Salisbury plain it would have one big spike. This represents the large, and
relatively similar in size, bluestones of Stonehenge. There may also be a couple of small spikes for those smaller stones found in local burial sites. Importantly, it doesn’t look like the ice sheet dump distribution. (Fig. 4)
So perhaps someone cleared the rest of the bluestones away. There are two clear arguments against this.
If the bluestones were the biggest stones deposited by the ice sheet (A on the bell curve) then there should be absolutely thousands of smaller bluestones lying around. Their aren’t. Even if farmers had subsequently collected the medium size stones for use in walls and houses (and there’s no evidence of this) there would still be masses of pebbles lying around. Their aren’t.
Alternatively, if the bluestones were the “average” stone size (B on the bell curve), then there should be much larger stones lying around. There aren’t. Perhaps the Stonehenge builders chopped these larger stones into bits. Maybe. Whatever, even in this cas you’d still find a large number of pebbles lying around. You don’t.
Notably, the Neolithic long barrows of Salisbury Plain, which are older than Stonehenge, do not include one single one of these theoretical large bluestone boulders in their construction. For that matter they include very few small “Welsh” stones. Indeed, for that matter, they don’t include any sarsens either.
In North Wiltshire and the Coltswolds, similar long barrows always used local stone in their construction if it was available. It seems odd that the builders of Salisbury Plain perversely chose not to use the handy bluestones of Salisbury Plain. But that’s probably because they weren’t there yet.
People win … at least partly
Reluctant as I am to say it, it’s time to give up on the idea of a glacier reaching Salisbury Plain carrying its bluestone bounty. People must have been involved in getting the stones to Salisbury Plain. I have no idea how they did it but just fact that they did makes the people of Neolithic Britain pretty smart (and unbelievably determined), in my opinion.
But whether an ice sheet carried carried the stones part of the way from Pembrokeshire, maybe to the Somerset plain… hmm. That’s another argument that I’ll leave alone for the moment.
Atkinson, R.J.C. 1956 Stonehenge, Pelican, pp221
Burl, A. 2006 A brief history of Stonehenge, Robinson, pp368
John, B. 2008 The Bluestone Enigma – Stonehenge, Preseli and the Ice Age, Greencroft, pp160
ARTICLE REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF EDWARD PEGLAR. YOU CAN READ THE ARTCLE AT HIS OWN BLOG HERE.
Work to create new visitor centre and make road improvements could start next year after financial announcements by ministers
READ AT THE GUARDIAN The on-off saga of sorting out the roads around Stonehenge and building a proper visitor centre seems to be back on track after ministers announced two important measures which could mean work finally starting as early as next year.
The closeness of the A344 to the stones near Salisbury, as well as the visitor facilities described by the public accounts committee in 1993 as a “national disgrace”, have long been a problem in need of fixing. Government funding for the latest project was axed as part of £73m of savings announced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports in June.
The heritage minister, John Penrose, said the government was giving English Heritage the permission it needs to access £2m from its historic reserves of £8m. That is money given philanthropically over the years and the DCMS said its use represents “the government’s commitment to philanthropic support for major cultural projects”.
Penrose said the way Stonehenge – listed by Unesco as a world heritage site in 1986 – had been presented to the public had been “woefully inadequate. Decades of dithering and indecision have got us nowhere.”
He added: “It was bitterly disappointing when the country’s dire financial state meant we had to withdraw government funding for the visitor centre here last June. But I – along with English Heritage and my colleagues across government – have been committed to finding other ways to support the project. The fact that we have now almost secured private funding is an example of the ‘big society’ in action, with everyone working together to ensure a mix of funding solutions.”
The £27.5m project already has £10m of lottery money in the pot as well as money which English Heritage has made in profit from its commercial activities and fundraising. Today’s announcement means there is now just £3m to raise – a sum English Heritage is confident of getting to allow work to start in 2012.
Here is a nice long clip from the DVD – all about henges. It just so happens that the most important of them occur within a quite small distance from one another in the South of England. Now, the two sites in the film that actually have the word ‘henge’ in their name turn out to be NOT true henges in the sense that the word has come to be accepted. As is shown in the film, although the word originally derives from the name ‘Stonehenge’, it turns out that Stonehenge itself is an anomaly amongst ‘henges’ and does not now count as one – strictly speaking. Woodhenge ‘may’ have been a henge – but was so named long before it was discovered that the post holes that make up all that is now visible of the site was surrounded by a raised mound. As for places like ‘Seahenge‘ for example – well, it becomes clear that the tag ‘henge’ is easily used by the media to indicate that a new discovery – whether of rock, wood or earth – is a pretty ancient one.
This section of the film gave me an opportunity to go to town with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and do my best to produce some watchable reconstructions of how the sites MAY have looked. The two ‘true’ henges that are featured – Avebury and Stanton Drew – really are wonders. Avebury is, of course, the most visually spectacular of the two today, but as Rupert and I found out more about what was lurking beneath the soil of the farm field that the stone circle of Stanton Drew inhabits, so our imagination was spurred and led to a surprising idea about their purpose. So, I’m not going to spoil it for you now, but let me just say that, however radical our thoughts may seem, they did not come from nothing. Our main suggestion is supported by evidence from other sites and most notably by Mike Pitts observations about the excavations at Durrington Walls in his book ‘Hengeworld‘. Most of all though, it was the privilege of spending time at these places – being present to their grandeur and scale as a human being that gave rise to our speculations. And speculations is all they are. We don’t pretend to have any answers – we’re not experts – but we do hope that a little “thinking outside the box” can inspire ideas that really do crack the mystery of these wonderful places.