Monday, 25 February 2013

Gowland's Slide?

An old Magic Lantern slide from a lecture on Stonehenge that I bought for a couple of quid off eBay.
(click for much larger)
It shows the section behind stone 56 from Gowland's excavations, as illustrated in his report:

It came without any history. Is it some amateur's interpretation of the excavation, hand drawn because he couldn't copy the printed illustration, or could it be from the original lectures that Gowland gave outlining his work before the report went to press? The differences in the labelling suggest to me that it isn't a copy from the report, but is an original sketch by an expert. An expert on the excavation but not in preparing slides as the labels are half hidden by the border. But then I am biased.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Stonehenge Bottom Pond

An old undated picture of the fenced pond at Stonehenge Bottom, looking North East.

William Turner of Oxford included an unenclosed pond here in his 1820 picture of Stonehenge:

The pond shows as an enclosure on OS Maps up to the 1920s

And is marked on the 1773 Andrews and Drury Map/

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gowland's Report on The Great Trilithon.

Extracts from:

 The Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, with Inferences as to the Origin, Construction, and Purpose of That Monument.

W. Gowland
Vol. 2, (1902), pp. 7-11
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Article Stable URL:

The Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, with inferences as to the Origin, Construction, and Purpose of that Monument. Abstract of a report presented by W Gowland, F. S. J., to the Society of Antiquaries, December 19th, 1901.

The fall of one of the uprights of the outer circle of Stonehenge on the night of 31st December 1900 (cf MAN, 1901. 18) led the owner, Sir E. Antrobus, Bart., to permit a careful examination of the remainder by a committee appointed for this purpose, and to execute the works recommended by this committee for the protection of the stones from further damage. The engineering work was planned by Mr. Carruthers and superintended by Mr. Detmer Blow. The exploratory work was conducted by Mr. Gowland, and a most careful record was kept of every detail of the incidental finds.

The primary object, the replacement of the “leaning-stone” in its original erect position, was effected by enclosing the stone—which had declined from 77 degrees in 1650 to the dangerous angle of 61 degrees in 1901, and which showed three serious fissures on its upper side—in a cradle of stout timbers, and raising it with ropes and winches, while supporting it also on the underside by struts of stout timber. To secure it for the future the whole of the underlying soil was removed in successive sections down to the rock level and replaced by concrete; and it was in the course of this excavation that the discoveries to be described were made.

As to foundations, the “leaning stone” was found to go down 8 ft. below the surface datum, to terminate obliquely, and to rest upon two “sarsen” supports. Its fellow, the “recumbent stone,” had been supported on one face by a pile of “sarsen” blocks, and on the other by two large blocks, by which a row of stone mauls was found, which seem to have been used to wedge the “recumbent stone” tight. If set back in its place this indicated the “recumbent stone” would be exactly in line with the “leaning stone.”

The principal objects found were (1) chippings from the great blocks, (2) implements, (3) hone and coins. The chippings were of all the varieties of stone known to have been used in the monument. Professor Judd, of the Royal College of Science, is engaged on a detailed report on their characters. They lay far too deep to have been merely the work of despoilers, and show that all the stones were worked upon more or less after their arrival on the site of erection. The proportion of “sarsen” chips to "bluestone" shows, however, that the “sarsens” must have been dressed roughly before their arrival, and only finished at Stonehenge; while the "bluestones" must have been wholly dressed on the spot....

The mode of erection was shown conclusively in the course of the excavations and differed in different cases, for the “recumbent stone,” 25 ft. long, went only 4 ft. into the ground, while the “leaning stone,” 29 ft. long, went 8 ft. down. The reason is obvious, for the two stones were set up as a pair, to carry a lintel, in the most important part of the whole structure. The shorter stone, therefore, being set less deep, had a more elaborate base, also, to gain base, was only dressed on the parts which showed above ground. The leaning stone was erected by (1) excavating a pit with three vertical walls and one sloping rim on the side next the stone ; (2) raising the head-end of the stone by levers and timber packing till its foot slid down the sloping rim into the pit; (3) hoisting it from about 50 degrees into an erect position by ropes ; (4) securing it. in place by the smaller “ sarsens “ which support its oblique lower surface. Similar leverage is customarily employed in Japan with trunks of trees, and many rope-ends each pulled by one man.

The “recumbent stone,” on the other hand, was (1) supported at its foot-end on a low wall of small “sarsens”; then (2) tipped upright, as above, against two large “sarsens” placed in front; then (3) packed tight, as above, with disused mauls.

The chronology also receives important new light from these excavations. A legend is current that the “bluestones” circles are of earlier date than the “sarsens,” and that they were brought from Ireland. Both statements prove to be inaccurate.

"Sarsen“ chippings go right down to the bed rock, along with chippings of “bluestone” ; the “sarsens” prove to have been raised from inside, which could only have been done before the “bluestones” were set up, and there is evidence for a much less remote origin for the “bluestones “ than Ireland....

NOTES - This report differs slightly from his published report so I have highlighted two phrases in purple - the replacement of the “leaning-stone” in its original erect position,.... If set back in its place this indicated the “recumbent stone” would be exactly in line with the “leaning stone.”. 
They are of relevance as to the original postition of the Great Trilithon and my theory of its mid-winter solstice Sunrise alignment.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

John Wood, Stonehenge and Freemasonry

John Wood, the Elder (1704 - 1754), was an English architect, working mainly in Bath.
In 1740 he surveyed Stonehenge and the Stanton Drew stone circles. He later wrote extensively about Bladud and Neo-Druidism.
Many of the buildings he designed are littered with icons and symbols associated with Freemasonry, leading many people who have studied his work to believe that he was a member of the organisation, even though there is no documentary proof. Wood wrote extensively about sacred geometry, and argued that the myths of the supposed founder of Bath, King Bladud, were based on truth. He claimed that ancient British stone circles were the remains of once more elaborate buildings designed by Bladud.
It has been suggested that Wood (and his son, also John) were connected to Freemasonry either via one of their building partnerships and/or via symbolism in their architecture. In his Masonic lecture and article, Stephen B. Cox tentatively suggests an image for this as the square (Queen's Square), the circle (The Circus) and the crescent (The Royal Crescent): standing for Earth, Sun and Moon

Detail of a carving on the fallen lintel, stone 156, of the central or great trilithon. The carving, which is in the form of a question mark with the initial LV within the loop, was according to Atkinson cut by an itinerant workman c.1829.

Question mark? Looks more like a crescent and connected circle. A masonic mark? Connected to Wood?

The carving today (ringed) click for much larger.

Photo by Peter Squire - taken by torchlight

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Avenue, Heelstone and Stonehole 97 Plans

The planning application for detailed work at Stonehenge monument includes details of how the Avenue will be marked with a brass arrow pointing to the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise axis -  - The marked axis is between  Stonehole 97 and the Heelstone, not over the top of  the Heelstone.

Stonehole 97 will be marked with a "stonehole marker" which will look great.

(click for larger)
Here is Mike Pitts' plan of Stonehole 97 and other features, which as he discovered the hole probably can be considered reliable.

Is it me or has 97 moved in the plans?

I also note there is no permanent fence around the Heelstone which please a lot of people.

Stonehenge Monument Planning Application

Planning notices have gone up at Stonehenge for the erection of some sarsen uprights, replacement lintels and a roof, sorry, for the facilities at the monument with the new visitor centre.

The full applications are on line but here are probably the best overview plans.

 Full size pdf at

Full size pdf at

For the full file of documents and the rest of the plans the applications are at: and

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sarsen Pick Dressing Question


Stones on Solstitial Axis most Carefully Shaped and Dressed

A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed - that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. ....
The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge's builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a north-east/south-west axis.
The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.
Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.
Stone 56 elevations
Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Reading Gowland's report of his 1901 excavation around Stone 56 adds to this story.

He says;"The underground face was found to be carefully tooled over its entire surface as shown in fig.28, which represents a large flake that became detached during the operation of raising the stone."

"This was particularly well seen on the base of No.56 where it extends below the ground, and had thus been protected from the action of the weather..."

"This tooling was apparently executed with small quartzite hammers. In order to demonstrate that a piece of sarsen was tooled in a similar manner by Mr Stallybrass with a quartzite pebble. On comparing it with the blocks tooled by the builders of Stonehenge, they were seen to be almost perfectly identical. I may say in this connection that Mr Stallybrass failed to produce anything at all like it with any of his mason's tools."

So why did the builders carefully dress the large area of the stone that was going to be buried?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Cremation Plan of Stonehenge

From Parker Pearson, M. and Chamberlain, A. and Jay, M. and Marshall, P. and Pollard, J. and Richards, C. and Thomas, J. and Tilley, C. and Welham, K. (2009) ’Who was buried at Stonehenge ?’, Antiquity., 83 (319). pp.23-39.

(Click for larger)

In the last post I featured a plan of Stonehenge which was criticised in the comments for being inaccurate. For comparison here is another plan of Stonehenge where the position of the South Barrow and Ditch can be compared. This plan is I believe more accurate. 

I have used the plan to show how the cremation burials we know about (and there are probably many we don't know about) cluster around the alignment for the mid-winter solstice sunrise.

Monday, 4 February 2013

All Feature Plan of Stonehenge

From Antiquity Vol 86:334, 2012 pp 1021-1040 - Timothy Darvill and others - Stonehenge remodelled

(Click for larger)

This is the best all feature plan of Stonehenge I have seen and I want to review several of  the paper's findings using it over the next few days. The paper is behind a paywall so I have to publish the plan here to allow a meaningful review.  The whole paper is of similar high quality  and I would urge you to obtain a copy.

The first thing I noticed is that it shows the position of the F,G and H holes which most plans don't. And that allows me to check the alignment of the Great Trilithon and Station Stone 93 and Hole H. An alignment that is also that of the mid-winter solstice sunrise and that I have written of before. See: and my leaflet.

Friday, 1 February 2013

European Megalithic Studies Group

Introductory video of this informal group's meeting. More detail in the links.

Presentation of the IVth meeting of the EMSG by Chris Scarre

More videos are on this YouTube Channel