Wednesday 28 November 2012



- Friday 21 December 2012 -

English Heritage will once again allow people access to Stonehenge for the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the first day of the winter season. Sunrise is at 8.09am on Friday 21 December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely. Entrance is free and will be available from roughly 7.30am until 9am, when the site will close - before re-opening as per usual to paying visitors at 9.30am.

The exact time of the Solstice this year, when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, is at 11.11am on 21 December, however it is generally accepted that the celebration of this special event takes place at dawn and therefore access is permitted at Stonehenge earlier that morning.

Over the last few years, the popularity of Winter Solstice has grown considerably, with many families and young people joining the druid and pagan community in the celebrations. Two years ago, 2,000 people attended Winter Solstice and in 2011 that figure more than doubled to a record 5,000 people.

Peter Carson, Head of Stonehenge, said: “We are delighted to offer people a warm welcome to Stonehenge this Winter Solstice but as facilities are limited, we are not able to accommodate any more people than last year. We don't have the luxury of using nearby fields in winter for parking and encourage people to make use of the special bus service running from Salisbury. We are working very closely with the local authorities and agencies plus the druid and pagan community to ensure that access to Stonehenge will once again be a success.”

Additional notes
Access may not be possible if the ground conditions are considered poor or if it is felt that access might result in severe damage to the monument.
Public have in previous years used byway 12 for parking on the morning of 21st December. Additional car parking for approximately 800 cars will be available on the A344 (which will be closed to through traffic).

A special Wiltshire and Dorset bus service will run from Salisbury Bus Station from 6.30am on 21 December and will drop people directly to the Stonehenge Visitor Car Park.

New theory of a Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment -Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice leaflet (ISBN 9780957093010)
(Background on the Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment theory is here)

Tuesday 27 November 2012

93 - The Total Number of Visible Stones at Stonehenge

There are 93 rocks or lumps of stone visible at Stonehenge now - not counting the buried and missing ones. All the stones are numbered on standard plans, see below.

Note, if a numbered stone is broken and two separate bits or fragments of it are visible then it counts as two stones etc.

I have checked this on the ground, but errors may remain, please comment if you spot any.

Stone No. Volume (m³) Estimated above ground weight (tonnes)Additional visible fragments

80 Altar Stone1
Total Visible Stones 93

Stone 40g is not counted because all that is visible is a lead cap.

How many stones did Stonehenge originally have is a different question.

There are five Sarsen Trilithons which gives fifteen large Sarsen stones.
The outer ring of Sarsens is planned to contain thirty uprights and thirty lintels so that is 75 worked sarsens in total.
There are four sarsens outside the centre, the two Station Stones, the Slaughter Stone and the Heel Stone.
There are stoneholes for other stones matching these, another two station stones, a matching Slaughter Stone and a paired hole to the Heel Stone. (There are other holes such as the F,G and H holes which maybe were stoneholes.) These empty holes may have held other stones or maybe stones that were then moved, for instance the Heel Stone may have originally occupied Stonehole 97. So that is between five and ten other sarsens.

There is the Altar Stone, origin unknown.

And lots of bluestones and bluestone holes. There are 29 bluestones that are still visible, but the original number is probably around 80. They have been shuffled around the holes so it is hard to be sure but that is a reasonable estimate.

So Stonehenge may have had up to 165 stones originally. It also had a vast number of stone fragments and hammerstones used for packing.

Where are the missing stones from Stonehenge?
We don't know.
There is broken up bluestone, known as debitage, all over the site. Is this from stones being broken up for tools and talismen or is it the remains of shaping the stones?
We know bits have been knocked off the edges of stones, greatly reducing them in some cases but complete stones carted off for use elsewhere have not been found despite searches. So it is another Stonehenge mystery.

(Note this is an updated post combining previous published posts into one.)

April 2020 - Note from

Some bluestones and bluestone fragments that are labelled on the plan, for example Stones 32c (Type: Altered Volcanic Ash), 32d (Type: Spotted Dolerite), 32e (Type: Rhyolite), 33e (Type: Altered Volcanic Ash), 33f (Type: Altered Volcanic Ash), 40c (Type: Calcareous Ash), 41d (Type: Altered Volcanic Ash), 42c (Type: Sandstone with Mica), 70a (Type: Spotted Dolerite), 70b (Type: Unknown) and 71 (Type: Unknown),.... are not visible above ground level and exist only as completely buried stumps.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Stonehenge Periglacial Stripes

A great photo of the Avenue Periglacial Stripes at Stonehenge that I hadn't seen before. Showing off the skill of Aerial Cam!

Stonehenge: Excavation of the Avenue during the Stonehenge Riverside Project 2008. (Click for larger)

Aerial Cam - Specialist archaeological photography, Gallery:

Friday 23 November 2012

Burnt Patches

Alexander Mann - Burning Couch Grass 1902

For some reason I was thinking about patches of burnt soil on Salisbury Plain and remembering the autumnal smoke from piles of burning couch grass. I can only just remember the tedious chore of harrowing and harrowing the thin soil to gather up every rhizome of couch and then burning them in piles. And then forking the edges of the slow burning piles of root and soil in to ensure it all died.

The arrival of Round-Up herbicide put an end to what was seen as an eternal chore.

I wonder if at the edge of any of the large fields on the Plain the circular burnt patches show up still?

Thomas Hardy during the First World War used the unchanging job as a symbol of unchanging life.

In Time of `The Breaking of Nations`

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With a horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though the Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War`s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)

Thursday 22 November 2012

Lintel 122 Keystone Carving

Lintel 122 has a pronounced bulge in its middle which makes more doorway like. The uprights, especially 22 have vertical lines which also add to the effect.

Monday 19 November 2012

The Avenue - Not A Processional Way?

The Avenue - the detailed EH report argues it was never much used as either a processional or stone dragging route. Was it purely symbolic? This conclusion rather goes against the new favourite theory that the stones were designed to be seen by the masses from the heelstone area. -
31/2012 - Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Avenue and Stonehenge Bottom
Analytical earthwork survey and investigation, by the former Archaeological Survey & Investigation team of EH, of the area to the north of Stonehenge revealed several zones of archaeological interest. Chief among these and well-known is the Avenue which, for the first part of its course, survives as an earthwork. When studied it is more substantial closer to Stonehenge than elsewhere. The lack of hollowing where the Avenue passes over a steep bluff at the ‘elbow’ is highlighted, raising the question of the degree to which the Avenue can ever have been a heavily used route, either for stone moving or processions.

And from the report itself:

...current theories on the purpose of the Avenue see it as a route for the transport of the bluestones from the River Avon or as a commemoration of that route, the argument being that the Avenue follows the easiest gradients from the river. This may be true for most of the route but at one crucial point,the ‘elbow’,it is not. A route a hundred metres or so further west here, utilising the dry valley which runs down from the current car park,would have avoided the steepest part of the low bluff;this, however, would not bring Stonehenge into view on the solstice alignment — it could be argued that the extra effort of bringing the stones up the bluff on that crucial alignment was part of the purpose. Another curiosity of the Avenue’s route up the bluff, however, is the lack of hollowing which we would expect at this point if it had been subjected to heavy traffic for any length of time. This lack of hollowing is clear both from surface observation for the current project and from the excavations. It is precisely on shoulders such as this that hollow ways first develop. This argues somewhat against the ‘elbow’ either as a route for the stones or as a well used procession route over any length of time. If processions did take place up this slope they either did not happen very often or did not involve many people....

Sunday 11 November 2012

English Heritage 2012 Research Reports on Stonehenge
3/2012 - Larkhill Barrows, Durrington, Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project : Archaeological Survey Report
Rapid field investigations of two areas near Larkhill complement a detailed analytical survey of the round barrow cemetery south-east of Down Barn, Durrington, and other recent surveys undertaken as part of English Heritage’s Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project. They provide updated information on the condition of the round barrows, some suggestion of multiple phases and highlight the presence of pond barrows and an alignment of three small bowl barrows.
29/2012 - Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Lake Barrows, The Diamond and Normanton Gorse
Rapid survey of three areas on Boreland Farm was undertaken as part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project. Barrows, field systems and linear ditches were investigated, as well as elements of the more recent landscape. The opportunity has been taken to report a previous survey of the nearby long barrow Wilsford 34. The most significant issues raised are: the previously accepted relationships between the Lake Barrows and adjacent linear ditches; and the existence of the ‘North Kite’ enclosure. A more conventional relative chronology between the barrows and the linear ditches is suggested here but more detailed survey is recommended to resolve this issue satisfactorily; in the light of results from aerial survey it is suggested that the ‘North Kite’ is a fortuitous survival of linear ditches which were otherwise ploughed out before the first maps and antiquarian records were made. -
31/2012 - Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Avenue and Stonehenge Bottom
Analytical earthwork survey and investigation, by the former Archaeological Survey & Investigation team of EH, of the area to the north of Stonehenge revealed several zones of archaeological interest. Chief among these and well-known is the Avenue which, for the first part of its course, survives as an earthwork. When studied it is more substantial closer to Stonehenge than elsewhere. The lack of hollowing where the Avenue passes over a steep bluff at the ‘elbow’ is highlighted, raising the question of the degree to which the Avenue can ever have been a heavily used route, either for stone moving or processions. The degree of later damage to the Avenue through use as a trackway and by cultivation at various times in the past has become evident. Earthworks associated with an 18th-century road and a 20th-century group of agricultural buildings were recorded. In Stonehenge Bottom quarrying has disturbed earlier remains but on the western slopes a series of terraces and platforms may relate to buildings associated with agriculture in the area. On the eastern slopes of the valley a number of barrows, trackways and other features were surveyed, along with traces of a possible enclosure close to the valley floor. -
32/2012 - Stonehenge Laser Scan: Archaeological Analysis
From May to August 2012, ArcHeritage, in collaboration with Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark, undertook the archaeological analysis of laser scan data of Stonehenge, collected by the Greenhatch Group in March 2011. The results of the project were beyond all expectations. The investigation identified traces of stone-working on virtually every stone, revealing significant new evidence for how Stonehenge was built. In addition, all of the known prehistoric carvings were identified and examined, and numerous new carvings of axe-heads and a possible dagger were revealed. The number of prehistoric axe-head carvings on Stonehenge has increased from 44 to 115; this doubles the number of Early Bronze Age axe-head carvings known in Britain. Differences in patterns of tooling across Stonehenge were also identified that reveal significant new evidence for how, and potentially when, different elements of the monument were constructed. The analysis revealed that the Sarsen Circle was built and dressed with an apparent emphasis on the NE-SW solstitial axis. The study also presents new evidence allowing the question of the non-completion of the Sarsen Circle to be explored. The project, funded by English Heritage, recorded all visible graffiti, damage, weathering and restoration. This revealed considerable evidence for the removal of stones from Stonehenge, and documented extensive damage from past visitors. -
34/2012 - Stonehenge Monument Field and Barrows,Wiltshire: Report on Geophysical Surveys, September 2010, April and July 2011
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey was conducted over an area of approximately 1.5ha centred on the stone circle at Stonehenge, Wiltshire (AMIE SU 14 SW4). The field work was undertaken to complement earlier geophysical survey coverage and a more recent earth work survey of the monument. In addition, three barrow groups (AMIE SU 14 SW397-401, SW89 and SW421-422) were surveyed with both GPR (2.0ha) and magnetic (2.8ha) techniques. The results from the GPR survey over the monument recorded responses to many known, recent interventions at the site such as the course of former track-ways recorded on historic aerial photographs. However, some new anomalies were also identified that enhance the existing geophysical record of the site and may well prove to be of archaeological significance. The survey of the barrow groups demonstrated the advantages of applying high sample density magnetic survey to complement existing coverage and the complexity of the GPR response over such features. -
35/2012 - Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: A344 Corridor: Level 1 Survey
This report describes the archaeological sites visible on the road verges either side of the A344 in the vicinity of Stonehenge. It focuses on the section of the A344 from its junction with the A303 in the east to the junction with the A360 at Airman’s Corner and highlights those areas that are particularly vulnerable to road works. This report supersedes a previously issued interim report (RDRS 8-2010).
1/2012 - Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire: Chronological Modelling
This report contains details of all the radiocarbon determinations obtained on samples dated from Stonehenge up to the end of 2011. A series of chronological models based on different readings of the archaeology are presented for the monument as a way of exploring how these interpretations influence our understanding of its chronology.
Darvill , T , Marshall , P , Parker Pearson , M , Wainwright , G

Earlier Online Reports:

Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Architectural Assessment 
The Stonehenge World Heritage Site is designated for the importance of its surviving prehistoric mon...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Level 1 Field Investigations 
A series of rapid field (Level 1) investigations around Stonehenge have identified a range of previo...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: King Barrow Ridge 
A rapid field investigation (Level 1 survey) along the King Barrow Ridge has identified previously u...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Earthworks at Lake and West Amesbury 
Two sets of medieval and early post-medieval earthworks on the southern boundary of the Stonehenge W...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Greater Cursus, Durrington, Wiltshire 
In 2010 the Research Department of English Heritage undertook the first detailed analytical earthwor...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Stonehenge Down and the Triangle, Amesbury, Wiltshire 
Survey of the earthworks on Stonehenge Down, including those in the immediate environs of Stonehenge...

Assessment of Human Remains Excavated from the Stonehenge Landscape 3700-1600BC 
Human remains excavated from the Stonehenge Landscape dating from 3700-1600BC were assessed. The ass...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Cursus Barrows and Surrounding Area 
The area between the A344 and the Fargo Plantation, to the north-west of Stonehenge, was surveyed by...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Durrington Firs 
Analytical survey and investigation of the earthworks within part of the Durrington Down plantation,...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project, Normanton Down: Archaeological Survey Report 
The Normanton Down Barrow Group is one of the most prominent Neolithic and Bronze Age cemeteries in...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Lake Down, Wilsford-cum-Lake 
Archaeological features on Lake Down, including a barrow group, were surveyed at a scale of 1:1000 i...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project, Fargo South: Archaeological Survey Report 
The area of Fargo Plantation to the south of the earthwork known as the Stonehenge Cursus was invest...
Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads 
To the north-west of the Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads (also known as the Longbarrow Crossroads but...
Stonehenge WHS Landscape Project: Wilsford Down Barrows 
The Wilsford barrow group is one of the least studied of the major cemeteries around Stonehenge. It...
World Heritage Site Landscape Project: Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire 
Analytical survey of the ground surface at Stonehenge revealed the presence of a number of interesti...