Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Has Mike Pitts found the last missing stonehole?

On Twitter:

Mike Pitts @pittsmike Apr 7

The promo video for a #Stonehenge exhibition in Kansas City includes an extraordinary aerial film clip showing the best photographic record I’ve seen of the parch marks revealed in summer 2013. https://www.unionstation.org/stonehenge/index.php

Tim Daw @TimothyDaw 7:33 AM - Apr 9, 2019

@pittsmike you have spotted Stone 24 (possible) stone hole - I have looked at lots of aerial shots and not seen it. In 2013 I looked hard for it and couldn't see it, ony could imagine it. Congratulations.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Concrete Prehistories: The Making of Megalithic Modernism

Concrete Prehistories: The Making of Megalithic Modernism

Helen Wickstead, Martyn Barber
Issued Date: 2 Sep 2015


After water, concrete is the most consumed substance on earth. Every year enough cement is produced to manufacture around six billion cubic metres of concrete . This paper investigates how concrete has been built into the construction of modern prehistories. We present an archaeology of concrete in the prehistoric landscapes of Stonehenge and Avebury, where concrete is a major component of megalithic sites restored between 1901 and 1964. We explore how concreting changed between 1901 and the Second World War, and the implications of this for constructions of prehistory. We discuss the role of concrete in debates surrounding restoration, analyze the semiotics of concrete equivalents for the megaliths, and investigate how concreting became meaningful in interpretations of prehistoric building activities. The archaeology of megalithic concrete illustrates the untimeliness of concrete as a technology that entangles ancient and modern.



Tan Hill Experimental Firing Range

In the 1950s there was an experimental artillery firing range on the Marlborough Downs - Gunsight Lane in West Kennet is presumably named after its use or construction for the range. On Tan Hill there were telegraph posts running along the Wansdyke and what I remember as a flag pole. There was also a strange thick (two or three inches) iron plate that had been used as a target. Seeing two inch holes through it impressed me as a child.

31 March 2019 - I was pleased to find a pole, the plate and the concrete base of the scaffold all still there.

Plate, concrete base and the top of Silbury Hill in alignment.

The concrete plinth on Google Maps

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Chubb's 400 yard Mystery

When Cecil Chubb gifted Stonehenge he put some conditions in the Deed , the third one was;

Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises.

I have wondered why, and if I have been told I can no longer remember, did he stipulate a a 400 yard radius circle rather than just say "within the premises"?

A quick sketch shows his 400 yards almost covers the whole of his gifted land apart from the tips of two corners. Is that deliberate?

Of course within a few years the curators houses had been built with in the 400 yards so it appears his wishes were ignored from the earliest of days.

And ironically he chose the one stone in the landscape that was then moved, to the other side of the road.

The Deed - http://www.sarsen.org/2013/12/cecil-chubbs-deed-of-gift-of-stonehenge.html

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Good Ole Boys of the Stonehenge Landscape

The fascinating paper "A Meeting in the Forest: Hunters and Farmers at the Coneybury ‘Anomaly’, Wiltshire" about a possible ritualised feast meet between the incoming farmers or pastoral herders and the original population of hunter gathers near Stonehenge before the monument was ever thought of reminded me that there is a stack of literature on the cultural, and even genetic, differences between the two groups.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst – by Robert M Sapolsky, a highly recommended book, provides an excellent overview and highlights the correlates between the ecology and modes of production, and culture. It is worth obtaining the book for the insight into our world but if you are interested in how cultures may have changed as different modes of production took over in prehistoric times it is essential.

.. a large percentage of cross-cultural psychology studies compare collectivist with individualist cultures. This almost always means comparisons between subjects from collectivist East Asian cultures and Americans, coming from that mother of all individualist cultures. As defined, collectivist cultures are about harmony, interdependence, conformity, and having the needs of the group guiding behavior, whereas individualist cultures are about autonomy, personal achievement, uniqueness, and the needs and rights of the individual. Just to be a wee bit caustic, individualist culture can be summarized by that classic American concept of "looking out for number one"; collectivist culture can be summarized by the archetypical experience of American Peace Corps teachers in such countries—pose your students a math question, and no one will volunteer the correct answer because they don't want to stand out and shame their classmates...."

"..Another important link among ecology, mode of production, and culture is seen in dry, hardscrabble, wide-open environments too tough for agriculture. This is the world of nomadic pastoralism—people wandering the desert, steppes, or tundra with their herds..."

"Anthropologists have long noted similarities in pastoralist cultures born of their tough environments and the typically minimal impact of centralized government and the rule of law. In that isolated toughness stands a central fact of pastoralism: thieves can't steal the crops on someone's farm or the hundreds of edible plants eaten by hunter-gatherers, but they can steal someone's herd. This is the vulnerability of pastoralism, a world of rustlers and raiders."

As a taste here is an extract from a study he references.

Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor: An "Experimental Ethnography".

"For centuries, the American South has been regarded as more violent than the North (Fischer, 1989). Over the years, historians, social scientists, and other observers have developed a number of explanations for this, drawing on such facts about the South as its higher temperature, its poverty, and its history of slavery. There is evidence to support all these explanations, and they have been dealt with more fully elsewhere (Cohen, 1996; Cohen & Nisbett, 1994; Nisbett, 1993; Nisbett & Cohen, 1996; Reaves & Nisbett, 1994). We think the best single explanation has to do with the South being home to a version of the culture of honor, in which affronts are met with violent retribution....

Honor in this society meant a pride of manhood in masculine courage, physical strength, and warrior virtue. Male children were trained to defend their honor without a moment's hesitation—lashing out against their challengers with savage violence. (p. 690) Originally, there were good historic and economic reasons for such norms to take hold in the South. For one, the economy of the South was initially based to a large extent on herding (McWhiney, 1988), and cultural anthropologists have observed that herding cultures the world over tend to be more approving of certain forms of violence (J. K. Campbell, 1965; Edgerton, 1971; Peristiany, 1965). Herdsmen must be willing to use force to protect themselves and their property when law enforcement is inadequate and when one's wealth can be rustled away. The settlers of the South came primarily from herding economies on the fringes of Britain, where lawlessness, instability, political upheaval, and clan rule had been present for centuries (Fischer, 1989; McWhiney, 1988). The people from the border country of Britain were forced to be self-reliant in their pursuit of justice, and they brought with them this tradition as they settled the lawless frontier South....


Cohen, Dov & Nisbett, Richard & F. Bowdle, Brian & Schwarz, Norbert. (1996). Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor: An "Experimental Ethnography". Journal of personality and social psychology. 70. 945-59. 10.1037/0022-3514.70.5.945.

A Meeting in the Forest: Hunters and Farmers at the Coneybury ‘Anomaly’, Wiltshire
Kurt J. Gron (a1), Peter Rowley-Conwy (a1), Eva Fernandez-Dominguez (a1), Darren R. Gröcke (a2), Janet Montgomery (a1), Geoff M. Nowell (a2)and William P. Patterson (a3)
1Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham, UK, E-mail: k.j.gron@durham.ac.uk
2Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, South Road, Durham, UK
3Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
https://doi.org/10.1017/ppr.2018.15  Published online: 05 November 2018

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Hardcover – 2 May 2017
by Robert M Sapolsky https://www.amazon.co.uk/Behave-Biology-Humans-Best-Worst/dp/1594205078

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Old Stones Megalithic Sites Field Guide

The Old Stones Megalithic Sites Field Guide from the Megalithic Portal, edited by Andy Burnham

The most comprehensive and thought-provoking field guide ever published to the iconic standing stones and prehistoric places of Britain and Ireland

This ultimate insiders' guide gives unparalleled insight into where to find prehistoric sites and how to understand them, by drawing on the knowledge, expertise and passion of the archaeologists, theorists, photographers and stones aficionados who contribute to the world's biggest megalithic website - the Megalithic Portal.

203 x 239mm Paperback, 418 pages, Watkins Media, September 2018


Very pleased to have received my copy that I bought, just wish I had had it a month ago as I visited Orkney and sites on the way. I used the twenty year old Julian Cope's The Modern Antiquarian as a guide and so I have compared the two for the sites I visited. The Old Stones is less personal but is equal or better for describing the sites and where they are, though driving directions are absent. It also has many more sites, 1000+ vs 300. It also has extra features of lists, short articles by enthusiasts and an excellent overview of the "stone" ages by Vicki Cummings.

I look forward to road testing it in Cornwall in a week or so's time.

If you are reading this then this book is an essential addition to your book collection and I expect my copy to be rain stained and mud splattered as it travels with me. It is such an impressive work of collection ad presentation that I'm in awe and happily recommend it.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Durrington Walls Superhenge Round 2

It seems the differing views on Durrington Walls between Vince Gaffney's Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project (SHLP) and Mike Parker Pearson's Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) are still unresolved. The new SHLP paper has this to say, still suggesting stones may have been erected (as some sort of "Superhenge"?) at Durrington Walls. It will be interesting to watch this debated over.

MPP and Gaffney at Durrington Walls - click to enlarge.

The wider significance of the features discovered in the course of the SHLP surveys very much depends on their dating and their chronological and spatial relationships with the late Neolithic settlement. In particular, if they pre‐date the settlement, the presence of a significant earlier monument at Durrington Walls throws open current interpretations of the process of sacralization and monumentalization not only locally but across the whole Stonehenge landscape. An early suggestion that some of the features contained stones may have been more provocative as this would directly challenge the premise at the heart of the SRP, and the interpretative framework that stems from it. Whilst the existence of stones at Durrington Walls is currently conjectural given the results of a recent joint excavation by the SHLP and the SRP in 2016 (Current Archaeology 320), the presence of known standing stones in the immediate area, including the Cuckoo Stone (Thomas et al., 2009, 42) and sarsens at Woodhenge (Pollard & Robinson, 2007), suggest that stone structures on or near the site should not be discounted. If substantial monumental structures, whether stone or timber, existed at the time the settlement was occupied, it may be that the settlement was less extensive than has been suggested and/or had a particular social and religious purpose in relation to the monument it was adjacent to. If the new features post‐date the settlement, this has less impact on the SRP interpretative framework, though this would still demand a major reconsideration of the sequences, temporalities and purposes of construction tasks and related activities at Durrington Walls, with wider implications for our understanding of social effort and organization in the mid‐third millennium BC. In particular, the very narrow timeframe suggested by Bayesian modelling of the Durrington Walls radiocarbon dates (Parker Pearson, 2012, 110) would in this scenario point to settlement (possibly on an extensive scale with dense occupation), construction of several small enclosures and timber buildings, settlement abandonment, construction of the new timber or stone monument (a major undertaking in its own right, whether completed or not), abandonment of this monument, and finally a massive henge enclosure and timber circle construction project, all within a period of less than 75 years, even within a generation. Whilst certainly not impossible, this would suggest a period of very rapid and far‐reaching social and perhaps religious change, and does not account for the creation of the scarp or its apparent relationship with the newly discovered stone/timber monument.

Gaffney V, Neubauer W, Garwood P,et al. Durrington walls and the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project 2010 – 2016.
Archaeological Prospection 2018;1–15.https://doi.org/10.1002/arp.1707 Available at https://www.academia.edu/37246293/Durrington_walls_and_the_Stonehenge_Hidden_Landscape_Project_2010_2016