Friday, 26 August 2016

The Stonehenge Barrow Map

From  Simon Banton, the renown Stonehenge expert, writes:

"In 1812, Sir Richard Colt Hoare (henceforth RCH) published "The Ancient History of Wiltshire, Vol. 1" - a magnificent work (one of a pair - volume 2 followed later) which detailed the work he sponsored and William Cunnington supervised in the years before and after the turn of the 19th century.

Aided by Stephen and John Parker, this ensemble excavated many hundreds of burial mounds across Wiltshire. It was one of the earliest attempts at scientific archaeological recording as opposed to simple treasure hunting. Many of the finds ultimately ended up in Wiltshire Museum and the descriptions of the barrows' excavations are a valuable resource.

There is a map in Ancient Wiltshire labelled "Stonehenge and its Environs", drawn by Philip Crocker, that depicts the landscape around the monument together with the barrows that had been investigated and numbered by RCH during this work. RCH also grouped the barrows into several areas in his "Stations" and "Itineraries" in the text, but not totally consistently in all cases.

These days, we don't use RCH's barrow numbers.

Instead there are several different standards such as the Goddard/Grinsell Parish Numbers (eg Amesbury G15), the National Monuments Record Number (eg SU 14 SW 104), the Historic England Monument Number (eg 219732) or the Wiltshire & Swindon Historic Environment Record Number (eg MWI12998 SU14SW835).

All of the above refer to the same barrow - one called "Sun Barrow" - which is RCH's barrow number 164 in his Amesbury grouping.

It can be a real challenge to correlate information that uses one system with other information that uses a different system. What's more, there isn't (or wasn't) anything online that allowed you to find a barrow via any of these systems and see the reference numbers (and links to) the other systems alongside.

That sort of thing tends to frustrate someone like me so I created a Google Map backed by a Google Spreadsheet and set about matching up the data into a single reference work for the barrows shown on RCH's famous map. It took about 6 months to achieve - two days to do the coding, the rest of the time going through each of the sources carefully matching records together. Unsurprisingly, there are some errors in each of the reference sources so I sent in reports of discrepancies along the way and the custodians of those sources have been able to update the information in them to fix things.

There are still inconsistencies - it's inevitable. In the time between RCH's excavation and numbering of a barrow and Goddard and Grinsell's work in the early and mid 20th century, mechanized ploughing has obliterated many previously upstanding earthworks. Since RCH didn't have GPS or even decent OS maps to go by, determining exactly which slight rise in the ground matches which particular one of his barrows can be a huge problem.

Nonetheless, the end result is useful I hope. "

Friday, 19 August 2016

Durrington Walls - Post Removal Thoughts.

I have linked before to Gillings, Mark and Pollard, Joshua (2016) Making megaliths: shifting and unstable stones in the Neolithic of the Avebury landscape. Cambridge Archaeological Journal261-32.
where they discuss "the web of practices and transformations bound up in the extraction and movement of megaliths during the Neolithic of southern Britain....their removal, movement and resetting represented a remarkably dynamic and potentially disruptive reconfiguration of the world as it was known. Megaliths were never inert or stable matter, and we need to embrace this in our interpretative accounts if we are to understand the very different types of monument that emerged in prehistory as a result "

The discovery that the anomalies under the bank at Durrington Walls were postholes which seem to have only held posts for a short period before they were removed is being interpreted as  that it was "a time of particularly intense religious and political rivalry" with a change of organiser who demanded the posts be removed and a bank erected.

That the posts were carefully removed and not just burnt, chopped or slighted suggests to me that they were treated with some reverence, and as others have suggested were then reused. It may well be that the raising and removal of the posts were all part of the same tradition and yet again we see the evidence of hard work being a demonstration of devotion.

Link to the earlier discussion:

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Astronomy shown to be set in standing stone - PR

University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago. 

The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, details the use of innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the patterns of alignment of the standing stones.

“Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” says project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.

Examining the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland (Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney ─ both predating Stonehenge’s standing stones by about 500 years), the researchers found a great concentration of alignments towards the Sun and Moon at different times of their cycles. And 2000 years later in Scotland, much simpler monuments were still being built that had at least one of the same astronomical alignments found at the great circles.

The stones, however, are not just connected with the Sun and the Moon. The researchers discovered a complex relationship between the alignment of the stones, the surrounding landscape and horizon, and the movements of the Sun and the Moon across that landscape. 

“This research is finally proof that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2000 years,” says Dr Higginbottom.

Examining sites in detail, it was found that about half the sites were surrounded by one landscape pattern and the other half by the complete reverse.

“These chosen surroundings would have influenced the way the Sun and Moon were seen, particularly in the timing of their rising and setting at special times, like when the Moon appears at its most northerly position on the horizon, which only happens every 18.6 years,” Dr Higginbottom says.

“For example, at 50% of the sites, the northern horizon is relatively higher and closer than the southern and the summer solstice Sun rises out of the highest peak in the north. At the other 50% of sites, the southern horizon is higher and closer than the northern, with the winter solstice Sun rising out of these highest horizons.

“These people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew. They invested a tremendous amount of effort and work to do so. It tells us about their strong connection with their environment, and how important it must have been to them, for their culture and for their culture’s survival.”

The research is part of the Western Scotland Megalithic Landscape Project carried out by Dr Higginbottom and Professor Roger Clay, astrophysicist at the University of Adelaide.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Autumn Equinox Stonehenge Open Access Arrangements Thursday 22nd September 2016

Thursday 22nd September from 0615, or when it is light or safe enough to enter the monument field. Access will end at 0830 that morning.

More details as we get them.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The New Visitor Centre - The Dream and The Reality

The pre-build architect visualisations and the same scenes as best as could be taken, 15 August 2016

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Stonehenge Visitor numbers

An Edward Shepherd put in an FOI request to obtain the number of visitors to Stonehenge, or perhaps more accurately the number of people processed through the tills at the New Visitor Centre.nearby.

2013/14 Financial Year 1,265,104 
2014/15 Financial Year 1,364,519 
2015/16 Financial Year 1,359,448 

2013 Calendar Year 1,241,296 
2014 Calendar Year 1,346,177 
2015 Calendar Year 1,366,765 

EH/HE refused to supply the daily figures: "Re your request for visitor numbers for ‘each day for the years 2013,2014,2015 and 2016 ’, this information is not readily available. Having looked in to this part of the request for you I am sorry to inform you that I am unable to provide the information under Regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR: Manifestly unreasonable requests- contained within the EIR, as I believe that the cost of compliance with your request is too great. " 

As a daily figure is put into a spreadsheet I would have thought the figure was easily found, but what do I know? 

Mr.Shepherd obviously thinks similarly so he has put in another FOI request for just one year's figures. Dealing with that FOI request will take longer than just digging out the spreadsheets....

The New Model for English Heritage states that:
The assumptions behind this projection are:
• First, that there will be an increase of 11% in visits to Stonehenge between 13/14 and 15/16 as a result of the investments there which will be complete in spring 2014, and that the 15/16 visit figures will be maintained on an on-going basis.

An extra 11% in visits on the 13/14 financial year visitors would mean the expectation was for 1,404,265 visitors in 15/16 - looks like Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge may be missing her target..

Friday, 12 August 2016

Durrington Walls - No Stones Found

The news is out now as the dig has finished:

'New Stonehenge' at Durrington Walls 'had no standing stones'

Mike Parker Pearson and Vince Gaffney on the site before the dig started.

A 4,500-year-old monument experts thought was "another Stonehenge" is now understood to have not contained any standing stones at all.

Archaeologists digging at Durrington Walls - about two miles from Stonehenge - said they now believed the Neolithic site was surrounded by timber posts.

Last year they said a survey showed evidence of "a Superhenge" of more than 100 buried stones at the site.

But no evidence of stones was found during an excavation.

Pits that contained wooden posts have been found.....