Tuesday 30 October 2012

Woodborough Kissing Stone

Yesterday I quoted from an 1822 book about the route the Sarsens took from the Marlborough Downs to Stonehenge. This passage made me wonder.

Sarsen.org - Quote from The miscellaneous tracts of the late William Withering: Volume 1 1822: "In the lowland vale separating the northern and southern tracts of downs there was entire in 1773 near Woodborough an immense block popularly called the kissing stone.
This I learned with regret has been broken and dispersed for various purposes more than twenty years past and now not a fragment remains upon the spot."

In Woodborough at the crossroads there is a Sarsen stone erected in 1995 to note fifty years since the end of the Second World War. The hole in the middle might just be large enough to kiss through. Is this the Kissing Stone that has been rediscovered?

Monday 29 October 2012

The Sarsen Route to Stonehenge - 1822

An interesting book from 1822 which proposes the same Sarsen Route from the Marlborough Downs across the Pewsey Vale that I proposed here and which Mike Parker Pearson's Stones of Stonehenge project is also exploring. It differs in proposing a river carriage down the Avon rather than a land route across the Plain.
Do click on the link and find more of his views on Stonehenge.

The miscellaneous tracts of the late William Withering: Volume 1 1822

... the opinion that the great masses of Stonehenge were brought from the downs about Marlborough ... still remains the only probable conjecture

A large portion of Wiltshire consists of extensive elevated and open downs mostly calcareous and naturally divided into two tracts never uniting northern and southern by an inclosed and lowland vale which at a mean may be between four and five miles broad.

The upper stratum of this vale is not calcareous like the downs that bound it on either side but principally consists of a loose powdery soil proceeding from a decomposed pulverized tripoly which in the banks of deep hollow ways &c frequently appears in its indurated state.

This tripoly is very common about Devizes for many miles round and seems to be the basis whereon the calcareous matter generally rests and even in the vale some eminences appear slightly overspread with chalk.

The ponderous blocks must cross this valley in their passage to the southern tract from off the northern the descents from which are steep and difficult Upon a contemplation of the face of the country it seems probable they were conducted down a pass between Milk hill and Work way the most practicable and easy of any that they afterwards proceeded by Alton Barns Honey Street Woodborough Hilcot Rushall and Upavon and here arriving at the southern tract of downs and the river Avon they easily and as it were on a level entered its vale along the western bank without ascending the hills on either side and that the conductors of the business being doubtless not unmindful of the advantage of continuing in the vale near the river thus proceeded beside the western bank by Compton Enford Netheravon Fighelden Dur rington and Bulford without encountering the difficulties of ascent and descent which would have occurred so very frequently had they departed from the vicinity of the Avon.

At Bulford they were obliged to quit the vale to attain the chosen site of the work about two or three miles further towards the south west and to pass over an intervening hill on which a very large and unwrought sarsen stone now lies conspicuous about midway between Bulford and Stonehenge

The whole course of these gigantic materials cannot be less than twenty miles In the lowland vale separating the northern and southern tracts of downs there was entire in 1773 near Woodborough an immense block popularly called the kissing stone.

This I learned with regret has been broken and dispersed for various purposes more than twenty years past and now not a fragment remains upon the spot.

It was probably of the sarsen kind so commonly broken on the Marlborough downs for building &c in default of other stone which is very scarce also about Woodborough.

It has perhaps been thus made use of and in truth I observed some neighbouring cottages partly constructed with sarsen fragments.

To deem it a mass destined for Stonehenge does not I think appear extravagant it seems certainly to have been brought thus far into the vale from off the northern tract of downs.

Although the mysterious ceremonies of ancient times had long ceased around this stone yet its modern name implies the celebration of other rites that succeeded them and that should have preserved it from destruction and this it would have done it is said had not the unrelenting possessor remained deaf to the entreaties of the villagers.

About a mile and a half south west from the site where this stone lay at a small arched footbridge over a rivulet is a spot called Limber stone where I noticed some large pieces of sarsen stone lying beside the stream.

To found a conjecture on this and the name only may be thought unwarrantable therefore I will only observe without laying any stress on it that by allowing a small latitude of signification to the word limber the present local name might possibly proceed from the ancient existence here of what is called a Rocking stone but to this idea I have not learnt any tradition that can give support.

About a mile and a half also from the site of the before mentioned kissing stone but more southerly near the village of Marden is a remarkable markable tumulus called Hatfield Barrow the only work of the kind I believe to be found in this lowland vale although so very frequent on the elevated downs on both sides.

It stands in an enclosure and is above the usual size and nearly hemispherical it is surrounded by a broad circular intrenchment which from being constantly supplied with water by innate springs forms a sort of moat which does not become dry even in the midst of summer a circumstance I have never found attending any other barrow.

In this watery ditch the Menyanthes trifoliata or bogbean plentifully grows a plant which I have not seen elsewhere in that neighbourhood.

The whole of the barrow is at present ploughed over and is said to be more fertile than the surrounding field I have seen it clothed with wheat ready for the sickle when the richness of colour and the beautiful undulations of the corn formed an object as pleasing as it was uncommon.

The ancient people who raised so many similar sepulchral monuments on the northern and southern tracts of downs are proved then by the testimony of Hatfield barrow to have been present at least for a short time in the intermediate vale and from its being the only barrow hereabouts it is probable their continuance here was but temporary This consideration strengthened by the concurrent though indirect support of the kissing stone seems to point out the path of those who slowly and patiently conducted across the vale such ponderous masses from one tract of downs to rear them on another.

... At my first visit to Stonehenge last year I omitted to obtain specimens of the third kind of stone of which the smaller series are formed and afterwards being unprovided with a proper instrument I could only avail myself of some very small fragments which the late exertions of some naturalist perhaps had loosened from the blocks such as they are I have sent them for your examination and to complete the natural history of the work They are different from the altar stone and from the large masses composing the transoms and their supports and are much harder than either The fresh broken fragments are of a deep bluish slate colour darker and finer in texture than the altar stone without those numerous glittering particles not fermenting with aqua fortis and containing sometimes a speck of seemingly metallic matter I cannot guess whence they came but the contemplation of the beholder dwells with astonishment only on the carriage and erection of the gigantic sarsen masses 

The stone in the river at Bulford though probably an altar seems too plain and unwrought for Roman workmanship it is destitute of mouldings or other ornaments and the cavity in Roman altars if I mistake not is always circular I was at Bulford again in August last and conversed with the farmer who occupies the estate on which it lies he assured me he had been upon it when a long drought had laid dry its surface and that the ring is certainly of iron But I found him inclined to invalidate the opinion of its antiquity by relating a tradition which I will here repeat it is said that formerly a railing extended across the river at this place to detain the fish that the square cavity in the stone received one of the supporting posts that another similar stone was once placed in the river also near the opposite bank for the same use and that the ring is of later date and fixed only to attempt the removal of the block Be this relation true or false I cannot but think it improbable at least that so much needless trouble and expense should be incurred when a post firmly fixed in the earth of each bank only would have been fully adequate to the purpose He says the nature of the stone is different from any of the three kinds at Stonehenge that it is softer and agrees with the productions of the Chilmark quarries situated about fifteen miles south west of Stonehenge and about twelve miles west of Sarum 

From Bulford I went to Fighelden and made many particular inquiries of aged and intelligent natives of the place concerning the stone said by Aubrey to lie in the river there Their invariable reply was that none such was ever known to exist at Fighelden or nearer than Bulford where added they is to be seen one corresponding with the description It is almost certain then I think that the Bulford stone is the real object of that writer who has fallen into a local error in the name and in about three miles in the situation of the place 
I have with as little success sought also after the prepared stone mentioned by Aubrey as lying between Rockley and Marlborough 
The intervening tract of downs which does not exceed about two miles I have attentively surveyed but nothing of the kind nor even a single sarsen in its natural bed is to be seen in that course on the the right hand or on the left
 And though the etymology of the name Rockley seems to imply an abundance of stony masses the complete reverse is now the fact however it might have been in past ages before so many of them had been broken for the construction of houses in Marlborough and the neighbourhood a practice that still continues and annually lessens their number in every assemblage 
In the opposite direction about a mile and a half north west from Rockley is a district called Temple farm overspread with numerous and vast masses of stone but this is foreign to our purpose Persons who have been long well acquainted with the country around Rockley and Marlborough concur also in having no knowledge or recollection of this remarkable object of Aubrey's notice 
Whether he had ever seen it himself or only related the accounts of others I know not but from the result of my search at Fighelden I am induced to suspect the latter I am however inclined to believe here also the existence of some foundation for the error and that he meant what I have described in my last letter the cromlech in Clatford Vale called the Devil's Den
 Although the incumbent stone of this actually rests on only two supporters about five or six feet high there is besides a third intermediate stone which has probably by sinking ceased to perform the office of a support 
The situation of this cromlech is certainly not in the line between Rockley and Marlborough but more than a mile distant south west from the middle of that line yet as nothing in any degree corresponds with Aubrey's description but this it seems probable that he may have by some means or other again fallen into a local error 
But the positions of the supporters are as artificial as the situation of the incumbent stone they are set up edgeways in the ground a needless labour only for the temporary resting place of a block in its way to Stonehenge and sufficient to refute that idea of its destination I believe it to have been intended ever to remain where it now stands 

The Other Stonehenge Periglacial Stripes

Mike Parker Pearson has made the periglacial stripes within the avenue that align with the mid-summer sunrise the rational for the positioning of Stonehenge. I was intrigued by a comment at Brian John's blog that there were other periglacial stripes found at Stonehenge:

"..according to Michael Allen in the Cleal book Martin Trott (during the Wessex Archaeology 1988 investigation at the car park). "reported (unpublished notes)that these investigations revealed a series of periglaical stripes and solution hollows but little of archaeological significance except a single pit ..."

So more stripes. Which direction did they go? Have any of the other slopes around Stonehenge got them as well? How unique are the Avenue stripes?

From Stonehenge in Its Landscape: 20th Century Excavations (English Heritage Archaeological Report)

Sunday 28 October 2012

New Enclosure at the Hill of Tara - Photograph

Google Earth finds fort at Hill of Tara | The Sunday Times:

"GOOGLE EARTH, the internet mapping tool, has uncovered a previously unknown prehistoric site at the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of Ireland’s ancient kings. Aidan O’Sullivan, an archeology lecturer at University College Dublin, noticed an unfamiliar dark, circular feature in a field photographed by Google Earth while preparing a presentation on the Hill of Tara for his first-year students this month. Without leaving his office O’Sullivan was able to verify that the soil mark was a large embanked enclosure, dating back 4,000 years. The enclosure, between 263ft and 328ft in diameter, is 2,000ft southwest of Rath na Riogh, or the Fort of Kings, an Iron Age enclosure at the summit of the Hill of Tara used for enthronements and other ceremonies."....

It annoys me when they don't link to the discovery so I fired up my copy of Google Earth to see if I could spot it.

Yes - there it is, though I couldn't confirm it from the comfort of my desk.

If you haven't spotted it then I have highlighted it below.

Friday 26 October 2012

New Photo of the Stone 23 Dagger

Here's a stunning new photograph of the dagger on Stone 23, probably the best ever taken. For more on the dagger see http://www.sarsen.org/2012/10/stone-23-dagger-carving.html.

Taken by Peter Keith Squire in the dark by illuminating it by torchlight from above.

Click for larger. (c) Peter Keith Squire

Thursday 25 October 2012

Stone 23 Dagger Carving

I went dagger hunting at Stonehenge yesterday and easily found the one on the narrow SW side of Stone 23. 

From the Laser Scan Report:

Stone 23
On New Year’s Day 1954, Dr O.G.S. Crawford identified a carving of a small dagger on the SW side of Stone 23 (F364, see Figure 14). This carving is commonly illustrated as appearing on the SE interior face of the stone as Crawford simply described the carving as being on the S face (e.g Cleal et aI. 1995, 30, Fig.17); this is incorrect. A superb photograph of the carving appears in Crawford’s 1954 article on the carvings that he discovered and this shows a short blade with a clear handle and pommel. This carving exhibits a deeply incised outline, but the central area has not been lowered by pecking
This technique of manufacture was not employed on other prehistoric carvings, but there is no reason to suspect that this carving is not prehistoric.

Comparing the 2012 close up and the 1954 one it is noticeable how recognisable the Lichen patches are, and how little they have changed. Emphasising how slow growing and long living they are.

UPDATE - New photo taken by torchlight to show details: http://www.sarsen.org/2012/10/new-photo-of-stone-23-dagger.html

Click pictures to enlarge.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Stonehenge Vandalism

Damage to Stonehenge can take many forms and is often from the best of intentions. The painters of these symbols probably thought they were helping save the world from nuclear annihilation, though it is noticeable that they managed to put up the symbol of a luxury German car manufacturer rather then the Chicken Foot symbol of CND.

But look in the background (click picture for larger). The photograph has captured the putting down of the gravel surface that Stonehenge had in the 1960s and 1970s. It was hoped it would protect the monument but the abrasive particles in visitors' shoes eroded much of the surface of the fallen stones.

And the surface is being compacted with a heavy vibrating roller!

I also note that the gravel seems to be piled up next to stone 54, where it is thought there maybe an ancient mound - see http://www.sarsen.org/2012/01/three-original-standing-stones-of.html.

Thursday 18 October 2012

King Alfred, The Tump and A Sarsen

"Swanborough Tump - Swinbeorg c850
Here in the year 871 the future King Alfred the Great met his elder brother King Aethelred I on their way to fight the invading Danes and each one swore if the other died in battle the dead man's children would inherit the lands of their father King Aethelwulf." More here...

An old picture from here - where there is also more. My photos from today:

....In the Wilts.ANHM volume 94 (2001) the authors Semple and Langlands describe the Tump as a long low earthwork running NE-SW, on a low natural rise next to the Pewsey-Manningford Bruce road, and close to the boundary of the hundred of Swanborough.

The earliest mention of the wood it which it stands is 1840, so perhaps it was previously on open ground. It's mutilated condition apparently has nothing to do with the work of antiquarians (for once) - perhaps it's partly the work of the trees and the road - they certainly don't make it any easier to decipher. The authors even suggest it could have been two mounds once.

It's obviously connected with stories about the Anglo Saxons, and the name itself comes from Swan + Beorh = barrow/mound of the common people. It was a meeting place for a Hundred. The road that runs by it has been shown to have existed since at least AD987 (Pewsey was an important settlement in the 9th century too).

However, could it be older? The prehistoric mounds at Mutlow and Knightlow were reused as later meeting places, so could this be the case here?

The authors weren't making any firm conclusions, but hinted that the way the mound butts up against the road rather suggests the road cuts through the mound. Which suggests the mound is older than the road (but by how much?).

Monday 15 October 2012

The Stone 16 Spiral Carving

I have written before about the spiral on Stone 16. (Search for "Spiral" in the search box to find them.)

The recent Laser Scan report is silent on it except to dismiss all other "carvings" apart from the axe-heads as natural features.

But a close up of the spiral shows it is dressed in the same way as the rest of the front of 16. Was this a natural feature which had the crust removed along with the rest of the stone or was it carved by picking?

Large photos! Click for originals.

More: Original Discovery - Stone 16 Spiral

Sunday 14 October 2012

Stone 57 - Atkinson's Box-Goddess

From the Laser Scan report:
Stone 57
A quadrilateral symbol was recorded on this stone by R.S. Newall in July 1953 (Figure 18). This symbol has been the subject of much debate, as it was initially reported as a Breton-style ‘shield-escutcheon’ or box-goddess symbol (Atkinson 1956, 32). This interpretation has long been questioned; not only is the carving unclear but radiocarbon dating has placed the Breton carvings millennia earlier than Stonehenge (Lawson and Walker 1995,30-34; Lawson 2007). The laser-scan model reveals this ‘quadrilateral’ to be part of a much larger complex of lines that appear to relate to the pick dressing of the surface. Notably, rectangular panels, possibly representing the working area of individual stone masons, are present on a number of stones (e.g Stones 12, 54 and 60).

I thought it interesting to dig out Atkinson's original photo from his book where the surface of 57 is rubbed clean because the stone was fallen and people had been walking and sliding on it. It looks much more like a incised box than a recessed panel in the old photo.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Axe-heads on the Southwest side of Stone 53

Following the publication of the English Heritage report on the Laser Scan of Stonehenge it has been fun hunting down the axe-heads they report..

The two reported on the southwest side of Stone 53 have proved a bit of a puzzle.

One is very clear, it is incised about half an inch and very visible, but difficult to photograph.

But I couldn't make out the second one at all in the light of yesterday morning. I must try again when the light is different.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The Full Laser Scan Report on Stonehenge


71 pages of wonderful stuff - download it!

One passage stood out because it links into my theory that the flat faces of the Great Trilithon also mark the Midwinter sunrise and sunset - see my pdf.

In contrast to the other trilithons, the internal faces of the Great Trilithon are vertically convex, while the exterior faces are perfectly flat. The exterior faces have also been finished to a very high quality, indicating that the area behind this trilithon was an important location. Indeed, it is no doubt significant that midsummer sunrise can be observed from this point along the NE-SW axis of the monument.

Apologies for any mistakes in the copied text but EH have made their pdf 
"uncopyable", but we have ways to do it....

The Newly Discovered Axehead Carvings at Stonehenge

Scan image of axeheads on stone 54 
(according the The English Heritage Website at 06:30 am 9/10/12 but it looks more like Stone 4 to me)
All pictures expand if clicked on.

Scan image of axeheads on stone 53



Using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, an English Heritage analysis of Stonehenge has found new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators, including that of the midwinter sunset,

The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.

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. By contrast the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.

These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.

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 the NE/SW 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 NBSW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: "The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 — which severs the alignment - to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which brings the number of this type of carvings known in Britain to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge. It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in midwinter.
English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.


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 (c) English Heritage

The extremely straight and neat outline of the Great Trilithon, compared with all the other trilithons, suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis (c) English Heritage

Friday 5 October 2012

Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice Sunrise

The final pdf version of my leaflet on Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice is now available on the web. 

It sets out a new theory about how the builders of Stonehenge marked the midwinter sunrise as well as the sunset.

If you could point anyone interested in Stonehenge at it I would be grateful, as I will be for any comments.

Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice by Tim Daw

Thursday 4 October 2012

Hole H - Bush Hole or Stone Hole or Both?

Hole H (which is in line with the Winter Sunrise Alignment across the back of the Great Trilithon has been described as a "Bush Hole"

Cleal provides the information.

Two holes, one large with a smaller one on the side. The large hole is so similar to the other two holes F&G and not shaped like a tree through that I find it hard to think of it as a natural hole. But the smaller hole that sounds like a bush grew in the disturbed spoil that filled the hole and then left a throw hole. Was that the Bush Hole?

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Winter Solstice Sunrise and Stone 58

I have been remiss in not linking to a couple of sites that propose a Winter Sunrise Alignment through the notch on Stone 58.

Novacaster Community: Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment at Stonehenge - An excellent paper from my friend Simon.

0.2° IN 4000 BP
Gordon R. Freeman and Phyllis J. Freeman
- A more technical paper.

(Note this isn't a Winter Solstice Sunrise picture, but a close up of the notches on Stone 58 - and here is the reverse of this picture - again not the WSS alignment but a gap we call the diamond which points nearly due east.)

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Shrewton Sarsens

I found this picture on the Wiltshire Council site about Shrewton

 It is labelled "Church of St. Mary, Shrewton" (click picture for larger)

It looks like two sarsens in a stream or at a spring, but where they are in Shrewton I don't know.

They might not be sarsens but I would love to look at them.

If you know where they are please tell me.

There are sarsen stones in Shrewton, and tonight I looked at a couple of very interesting rocks there, more on them after some more investigation.