Friday, 18 September 2015

Great new book on Stonehenge

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe - one for the wish list

The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe

Front Cover
Chris Fowler, Jan Harding, Daniela Hofmann
OUP Oxford, 26 Mar 2015 - History - 1200 pages
0 Reviews

The Neolithic - a period in which the first sedentary agrarian communities were established across much of Europe - has been a key topic of archaeological research for over a century. However, the variety of evidence across Europe and the way research traditions in different countries (and languages) have developed makes it very difficult for both students and specialists to gain an overview of continent-wide trends. The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe provides the first comprehensive, geographically extensive, thematic overview of the European Neolithic - from Iberia to Russia and from Norway to Malta - offering both a general introduction and a clear exploration of key issues and current debates surrounding evidence and interpretation. Chapters written by leading experts in the field examine topics such as the movement of plants, animals, ideas, and people (including recent trends in the application of genetics and isotope analyses); cultural change (from the first farming to the first metal artefacts); domestic architecture; subsistence; material culture; monuments; and burial and other treatments of the dead. In doing so, the volume also considers the history of research and sets out agendas and themes for future work in the field.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Durrington Walls "Superhenge" - Full Press Release

The remains of a major new prehistoric stone monument have been discovered less than 3 kilometres from Stonehenge. Using cutting edge, multi-sensor technologies the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has revealed evidence for a large stone monument hidden beneath the bank of the later Durrington Walls 'super-henge'.
The findings were announced on the first day of the British Science Festival [Sept. 7th 2015], hosted this year at the University of Bradford.
Durrington Walls is one of the largest known henge monuments measuring 500m in diameter and thought to have been built around 4,500 years ago. Measuring more than 1.5 kilometres in circumference, it is surrounded by a ditch up to 17.6m wide and an outer bank c.40m wide and surviving up to a height of 1 metre. The henge surrounds several smaller enclosures and timber circles and is associated with a recently excavated later Neolithic settlement.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project team, using non-invasive geophysical prospection and remote sensing technologies, has now discovered evidence for a row of up to 90 standing stones, some of which may have originally measured up to 4.5 metres in height, Many of these stones have survived because they were pushed over and the massive bank of the later henge raised over the recumbent stones or the pits in which they stood. Hidden for millennia, only the use of cutting edge technologies has allowed archaeologists to reveal their presence without the need for excavation.
At Durrington, more than 4.5 thousand years ago, a natural depression near the river Avon appears to have been accentuated by a chalk cut scarp and then delineated on the southern side by the row of massive stones. Essentially forming a C-shaped 'arena', the monument may have surrounded traces of springs and a dry valley leading from there into the Avon. Although none of the stones have yet been excavated a unique sarsen standing stone, "The Cuckoo Stone", remains in the adjacent field and this suggests that other stones may have come from local sources.
Previous, intensive study of the area around Stonehenge had led archaeologists to believe that only Stonehenge and a smaller henge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue possessed significant stone structures. The latest surveys now provide evidence that Stonehenge's largest neighbour, Durrington Walls, had an earlier phase which included a large row of standing stones probably of local origin and that the context of the preservation of these stones is exceptional and the configuration unique to British archaeology.
This new discovery has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting. The earthwork enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after the Stonehenge sarsen circle (in the 27th century BC), but the new stone row could well be contemporary with or earlier than this. Not only does this new evidence demonstrate an early phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, it also raises significant questions about the landscape the builders of Stonehenge inhabited and how they changed this with new monument-building during the 3rd millennium BC.
"Our high resolution ground penetrating radar data has revealed an amazing row of up to 90 standing stones a number of which have survived after being pushed over and a massive bank placed over the stones. In the east up to 30 stones, measuring up to size of 4.5 m x 1.5 x 1 m, have survived below the bank whereas elsewhere the stones are fragmentary or represented by massive foundation pits," says Professor Neubauer, director of the LBI ArchPro.
"This discovery of a major new stone monument, which has been preserved to a remarkable extent, has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting. Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier," explains Professor Gaffney.
"The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which the new discoveries at Durrington Walls exemplify, is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it. Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written," says Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, and the principal prehistorian on the project.
Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, said: "The Stonehenge landscape has been studied by antiquaries and archaeologists for centuries. But the work of the Hidden Landscapes team is revealing previously unsuspected twists in its age-old tale. These latest results have produced tantalising evidence of what lies beneath the ancient earthworks at Durrington Walls. The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story."
Dr Phil McMahon of Historic England said: "The World Heritage Site around Stonehenge has been the focus of extensive archaeological research for at least two centuries. However this new research by the Hidden Landscapes Project is providing exciting new insights into the archaeology within it. This latest work has given us intriguing evidence for previously unknown features buried beneath the banks of the massive henge monument at Durrington Walls. The possibility that these features are stones raises fascinating questions about the history and development of this monument, and its relationship to the hugely important Neolithic settlement contained within it."
Imagery for download can be found under
Additional information about the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project (2010–15)
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has brought together experts in non-invasive geophysical prospection and remote sensing, and specialists in British prehistory and landscape archaeology in order to carry out one of the most sophisticated single archaeological projects in Europe. The outstanding geophysical survey and visualization capabilities of the team has been made possible only because of the unique expertise and combined resources of the project partners, the Digital Humanities Hub and Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham; the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection & Virtual Archaeology (LBI Arch Pro) in Vienna and its European partners; the School of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford; the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of St Andrews; and the Soil Spatial Inventory Techniques Research Group at the University of Ghent.
Additional quotes and information

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Post Holes and Tree Throws

I have a hunch that the large very early post holes didn't hold "totem poles" but were  the upturned base of respected trees with their roots in the air (as the only one found so far, at Seahenge, had). See:

Avebury: ". In Trench 6 the tree-throw hole that is right next to our giant posthole has turned out to be simply enormous; so big in fact that we have more than a sneaking suspicion that the post may have been erected to in some way commemorate (or  replace) the giant of a tree that had once stood there."

Stonehenge : Three post holes and a tree throw hole.  G Vatcher and F de M Vatcher, 'Excavation of three post-holes in Stonehenge car park', Wiltshire Archaeological and History Magazine, 68 (1973), 57–63

Woodhenge:  from  Stonehenge: Exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery by  Mike Parker Pearson

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Mid Summer Solstice Sunset Pictures 2015

 By Tim Daw 20 June 2015

 By Tim Daw 20 June 2015

 Copyright Peter Squire  24 June 2015

 Copyright Peter Squire  24 June 2015

Click any to embiggen

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


Exploring Stonehenge
Our knowledge of the people who worshipped at Stonehenge and worked on its construction is set to be transformed through a new project led by the University of Reading.
This summer, in collaboration with Historic England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Wiltshire Museum, archaeologists are embarking on an exciting three-year excavation in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.
Situated between the iconic prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is a barely explored archaeological region of huge international importance. The project will investigate Marden Henge. Built around 2400 BC ‘Marden' is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain's most important but least understood prehistoric monuments.
Excavation within the Henge will focus on the surface of a Neolithic building revealed during earlier excavations. The people who used this building will have seen Stonehenge in full swing, perhaps even helped to haul the huge stones upright.
Dr Jim Leary, from the University of Reading's Department of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeology Field School, said: "This excavation is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge and its surrounds. The Vale of Pewsey is a relatively untouched archaeological treasure-chest under the shadow of one of the wonders of the world.
"Why Stonehenge was built remains a mystery. How the giant stones were transported almost defy belief. It must have been an astonishing, perhaps frightening, sight. Using the latest survey, excavation and scientific techniques, the project will reveal priceless insight into the lives of those who witnessed its construction.
"Marden Henge is located on a line which connects Stonehenge and Avebury. This poses some fascinating questions. Were the three monuments competing against each other? Or were they used by the same communities but for different occasions and ceremonies? We hope to find out."
The Vale of Pewsey is not only rich in Neolithic archaeology. It is home to a variety of other fascinating historical monuments from various periods in history, including Roman settlements, a deserted medieval village and post-medieval water meadows. A suite of other investigations along the River Avon will explore the vital role of the Vale's environment throughout history.
Dr Leary continued: "One of the many wonderful opportunities this excavation presents is to reveal the secret of the Vale itself. Communities throughout time settled and thrived there - a key aim of the dig is to further our understanding of how the use of the landscape evolved - from prehistory to history."
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, added: "Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment."
The Vale of Pewsey excavation also marks the start of the new University of Reading Archaeology Field School. Previously run at the world-famous Roman town site of Silchester, the Field School will see archaeology students and enthusiasts from Reading and across the globe join the excavation.
The six week dig runs from 15th June to 25th July. Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 5pm. Groups must book in advance.
There will also be a chance for the public to visit the site at two exciting Open Days on Saturday 4th July and Saturday 18th July. To visit the excavation follow Sat Nav SN10 3RH.