Saturday, 30 August 2014

Stonehenge rings within rings

Parchmark plan from English Heritage as published on - Colour enhanced for clarity. Click any to enlarge.

In July 2013 various parchmarks were showing up at Stonehenge - as reported on this blog and professionally at The most noticable were the stone hole marks between Stones 16 and 21.

But the Z and Y holes were also showing up well. Walking round them I noticed there seemed to be extra marks that were also in a circular pattern. They were jokingly called the Daw Holes as it seemed they were a product of my overheated imagination. But over the next week as the weather changed some became more noticeable and then they faded. As they were fading Mark Bowden and Sharon Souter from EH GPS mapped them as best we could. Some were more certain than others, some were quite doubtful but until the next spell of similar weather the plan above is as accurate as we will get of the phenomenon. 

It was noticeable that the Z and Y holes that had been excavated and those that hadn't appeared the same, and that the other parch marks were very similar to the known holes.

I realised that the marks might have more modern causes, the most obvious being the Fire Garden for the Olympics, but they didn't seem to coincide with any installations so I am certain that was not a cause.

One reason for some of the marks may be the larch poles used to prop the stones up in late Victorian times. Sharpe's aerial photograph shows them well and can be overlain to some degree of accuracy onto the plan (As stones were leaning it is not completely accurate.) 

Apart from the poles for Stone 7 they don't noticeably line up with the marks but I would treat any marks near where the poles were installed with scepticism.

But this still leaves a lot of unexplained marks forming a rough ring equidistant between the Z and Y holes.

The wobble in the ring of Y holes (outer ring of marks) in the south east corner might be explained by reassigning Y6, Y7 and Y8 to the middle "Daw hole" ring and noting the faint marks further out as possible Y holes that were missed by Hawley.

What the marks show and from when is a new mystery of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Complete Circle Evidence

BBC news story:

Stonehenge 'complete circle' evidence found
....Historians have long debated whether Stonehenge was a full or incomplete circle, with some arguing a lack of stones in the south-west quadrant is proof it was never complete.

A scientific paper which adds weight to the "complete" theory has been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

The parch marks - areas where the grass does not grow as strongly as in other areas during hot, dry weather - were first noticed in July last year.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said the discovery seemed to indicate the positions of missing stones. "If these stone holes actually held upright stones then we've got a complete circle," she said. "It's really significant, and it shows us just how much we still have to learn about Stonehenge.......

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Stonehenge - More Circles?

Win Scutt's ArchNews  @Archaeology_ws

Stonehenge: circle of parchmarks identified outside sarsens between Y and Z holes @AntiquityJ

Win has spotted the surprise finding of the Antiquity parchmark paper - that maybe there are more circles at Stonehenge...

The conclusion of the paper is: “The new discoveries do tentatively allow further consideration of the multicircuit post settings envisaged by Gibson (1998: 41-44) and comparison with Woodhenge and the Sanctuary as well as Stanton Drew (David et al. 2004) but in the absence of dating evidence this remains speculative. The more diffuse marks around the periphery of the site might offer support for Pitts’ (1981) suggestion of an outer ring of stones. However, again, more research is needed to clarify this issue. This emphasises the potential for new discoveries about Stonehenge (one of the most widely researched monuments in the world) through non-invasive as well as invasive techniques.”

I can't share the plans yet so here is one of some other circles instead...

Click to enlarge - for more on Stanton Drew see 

Antiquity article on Stonehenge parchmarks

Antiquity Issue 341 - September 2014

Simon Banton, Mark Bowden, Tim Daw, Damian Grady and Sharon Soutar

Parchmarks at Stonehenge, July 2013.... Volume: 88 Number: 341 Page: 733–739

Despite being one of the most intensively explored prehistoric monuments in western Europe, Stonehenge continues to hold surprises. The principal elements of the complex are well known: the outer bank and ditch, the sarsen circle capped by lintels, the smaller bluestone settings and the massive central trilithons. They represent the final phase of Stonehenge, the end product of a complicated sequence that is steadily being refined (most recently in Darvill et al. ‘Stonehenge remodelled’, Antiquity 86 (2012): 1021–40). Yet Stonehenge in its present form is incomplete—some of the expected stones are missing—and it has sometimes been suggested that it was never complete; that the sarsen circle, for example, was only ever finished on the north-eastern side, facing the main approach along the Avenue. A chance appearance of parchmarks, however, provides more evidence.

©2014 © Antiquity Publications Ltd.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Vince Gaffney's Liturgical Routes

Vincent Gaffney's research on the Hidden Landscape of Stonehenge is dominating the Stonehenge news at the moment. Lots of impressive stuff but I noticed one phrase kept coming up:

Vince Gaffney, one of the lead researchers is quoted as saying: “The point I think we’re coming to is that increasingly we can see the area around Stonehenge as providing extensive evidence for complex liturgical movement—which we can now understand, largely because we know where things are.”

The break in the Cursus to the north of Stonehenge seems to be one of these liturgical routes.  This theme is one that Gaffney has covered before. His co-authored book Stonehenge Landscapes: Journeys Through Real and Imagined Worlds, published in 2000, examines the same idea:

To quote:
The importance of paths and tracks within the formation of past landscapes has been much discussed within the recent literature (Edmonds 1999, Ingold 1993). It seems clear from this debate thai paths are not passive or simply functional landscape features. Paths and tracks make statements about signifìcant features within a landscape. and ultimately have a formative role in that they begin to guide movement. In highly charged landscapes, like that around Stonehenge, paths and tracks may have a liturgical role. They may guide the observer through a directed sequence of movements and spatial relationships, perhaps emphasising links with past landscapes, or relationships between groups, and indirectly restating the importance of social or power relationships through repetitive movement in a prescribed manner. Despite the importance of movement within a landscape archaeologists only occasionally have access to this information, and in the past have rarely attempted their reconstruction at a landscape level. Only in exceptional circumstances such as the preserved tracks on the Somerset Levels can we physically experience such paths, but it is intriguing to note that, however interpreted, these paths may also have had a ritual aspect through the deposition of specific objects including flint or figurines within the body of the track (Coles and Coles 1986).

This pessimistic statement is not entirely true for Stonehenge. Here there are a number of tracks defined formally within the landscape. The cursus monuments and the Avenue appear to function as processional ways and, as such, can clearly be interpreted as tracks of a highly specific type..... 

I eagerly await his new results, due 9th Sept I believe, I would like liturgical routes to have evidence of erosion or depositions along them, all we can do is wait to see.

A timeline of the Hidden Landscape Project is here

UPDATE - I am reminded in the comments of a previous Press Release from 2011.

Discoveries provide evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Detailed analysis of Stonehenge Bluestones and the Altar Stone by Rob Ixer

Two papers to download for those seriously interested in the stones of Stonehenge:

A detailed re-examination of the petrography of the Altar Stone and other non-sarsen sandstones from Stonehenge as a guide to their provenance by Robert Ixer


The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project by Vincent Gaffney Online

Lot of chatter online about a new film coming this autumn revealing new discoveries in the landscape at Stonehenge - - - much of it is based on Vincent Gaffney et al's research.

(The research has continued since this paper was released but it seems to cover all the "new" discoveries that are being reported.)

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project by 

Click to enlarge - but follow link below to get full paper.

Available online at :

Gaffney, C., Gaffney, V., Neubauer, W., Baldwin, E., Chapman, H., Garwood, P., Moulden, H., Sparrow, T., Bates, R., Löcker, K., Hinterleitner, A., Trinks, I., Nau, E., Zitz, T., Floery, S., Verhoeven, G. and Doneus, M. (2012), The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. Archaeol. Prospect., 19: 147–155. doi: 10.1002/arp.1422