Thursday 26 September 2013

Unfenced Heel Stone

I was lucky enough to manage to sneak a few pictures of the Heel Stone in the minutes between the one fence being taken down and a temporary fence being put up.  I haven't ever seen a photo of it without a fence. When the improvements are finished and the A344 is properly grassed over the temporary fence will come down and the bridge will be removed and everyone will be able to enjoy this view.

Click any to embiggen

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Stonehenge Sans Frontières

The old A344 is being filled in with soil ready to be seeded to grass and the fences removed (a replacement fence will be up tomorrow).

All pictures enlarge when clicked

Autumnal Stonehenge in the Mist

Click any to embiggen

Sunday 22 September 2013

Stonehenge Unhinged - A Review

Stonehenge Unhinged The Wheel of the Sun by Michael and Dan Johnston

The Author's Description:

Over the years, many authors have claimed to have “solved” Stonehenge only to have their pet theories fall apart. This book provides a new perspective which really does offer some incredible insights into the minds and intentions of the Stonehenge builders based solely on treating Stonehenge as an intricate puzzle, subject to analysis and partial solution.
The book, entitled Stonehenge Unhinged The Wheel of the Sun, is written for a general audience and consists of a brief overview of Stonehenge, the developments in human thought that led to its construction, a discussion of its components and the history of speculation as to its meaning. This is followed by chapters revealing just how Stonehenge was probably used, at least in a practical, non-ritualistic way, to mark the seasons, track the motions of the moon and even predict lunar eclipses. Throughout, it refrains from interjecting modern thinking into the analysis and tries to let the archeology and the reasonable motivations of its builders drive the interpretation. The result is a striking, straightforward and believable explanation of how numbers were at the base of their insight and were used successfully, if not serendipitously, to achieve an understanding of their cosmos that still echoes today. In fact, we present compelling evidence that amongst the inheritors of the Stonehenge knowledge were such luminaries as Pythagoras and that celebrations such as Halloween and May Day are a direct outgrowth from Stonehenge. 65 illustrations.
To be honest I was a little worried when I was asked to review this book as I'm firmly on the practical and scientific side of Stonehenge explanations and I hear daily far too many way out theories that need no extra publicity.
So I was really pleased to find this book is a very practical one. The overview of Stonehenge is great and covers everything a general reader needs. It is written in a very easy style to read and the illustrations are numerous and helpful.
Of course they have a theory about Stonehenge to share. I really admire the way they build up the theory from the data clearly signposting their deductions and separating out speculation from them. As a connoisseur of traditional measurements I really enjoyed their numerical excursion trying to pick up neolithic echos in the proper way to measure the world.

I can really recommend that you read the book. It is worth for the general Stonehenge description alone, but their theories of how it may have been used as a calender and predictor are worth considering and should be studied by any student of the stones.

 (It is worth pointing out that there is no connection to the "Heaven's Hinge" theory of Stonehenge)

Monday 16 September 2013

A Mystery Mark In The Mound

I have written before about the mound in the middle of Stonehenge - between Stones 53 and 10 - which David Field has some thoughts about.

In the excitement of finding other parchmarks this summer I also spotted something strange on the mound.

My updated version of Cleals map shows where the known excavations in the mound area are and I have outlined the squares in the bottom picture, the two smaller Atkinson ones and the corner of the more recent Darvill and Wainwright's one.

In the area between them there appeared a circular parchmark with a lush centre.
(A large hole left into chalk can produce this as the chalk edges collapse to give a dry rubble edge and the centre depression is filled with blown soil).

It is off the bluestone circle and I don't think it is an artifact produced by the watering, could it be a hint of a large stonehole?

click to embiggen

It is also visible in this picture taken this year if you look closely:

Sunday 15 September 2013

Cleal et al Twentieth Century Excavation Plan Updated

Cleal et al Twentieth Century Excavation Plan updated with an indicative outline of Darvill and Wainwright's 2008 excavation in red. (Plan scanned from book so excuse the fold - this is for my own information only)

click for larger

Wednesday 11 September 2013

A note on Gowland’s pits re-revealed by parch marks July 2013

Gowland’s excavation report of 1901 details the contents of the pits he dug to use for his supporting props as he straightened Stone 56.

The details are in the appendix and for excavations B & C read:
Excavation B. 3 feet 6 inches long, 3 feet 6 inches wide, and 3 feet deep.
The chalk rock was reached at the same depth as in A (1 foot 3 inches below the turf). There was a much smaller quantity of stone chippings. All the stones were represented, sarsen being somewhat in excess of the “bluestones;” of the latter, diabase and “fissile rock” were most abundant.There were, too, several pieces of iron pyrites, three small fragments of ancient pottery, and one of micaceous sandstone, just above the chalk.
Excavation C. 3 feet long, 2 feet 4 inches wide, and 3 feet deep.
Here the ground below the turf was all earthy chalk rubble. The chalk rock was not reached. There were but very few chippings of the stones, and they were accidentally thrown away.
A hammerstone of compact sarsen weighing 15 ounces was also found.
The position of B & C is marked on this plan from Cleal et al.

Cleal et al’s position of Hole C doesn't quite match Gowland’s original plan - this is a comparison of a sketch of the parch marks, Gowland’s (from his 1901 report)  and Cleal’s.

The positions of  Excavation B is quite clear in the foreground of this photograph taken on 19/7/13 by Tim Daw. B was into what was undisturbed ground.

This demonstrates that the parch marks are showing excavations. 

Excavation C was into rubble down to its full depth of three feet, the chalk rock wasn't found. From its position, description and how it fits in with the other parch marks it seems that Gowland unknowingly excavated into the stone hole for Stone 20.

This photo taken by Simon Banton on the same date may be showing the outline of Excavation C within the line of other marks.

(Click any plan or picture to enlarge)






Two ditches belonging to the Stonehenge Avenue buried beneath the modern roadbed of the A344 have been uncovered during works to decommission the road as part of English Heritage's project to transform the setting and visitor experience of Stonehenge.
Aerial view of Stonehenge
The Avenue, severed by the A344, will be reconnected to Stonehenge soon
The two ditches represent either side of The Avenue, a long linear feature to the north-east of Stonehenge linking it with the River Avon. It has long been considered as the formal processional approach to the monument and is aligned with the solstice axis of Stonehenge. But its connection with Stonehenge had been severed by the A344 for centuries as the road cut through the delicate earthwork at an almost perpendicular angle.
The two ditches were found in excavations undertaken by Wessex Archaeology in their expected positions near to the Heel Stone, about 24 metres from the entrance to monument.

Missing Piece in the Jigsaw

Heather Sebire, properties curator and archaeologist at English Heritage, said: "The part of the Avenue that was cut through by the road has obviously been destroyed forever, but we were hopeful that archaeology below the road would survive.  And here we have it - the missing piece in the jigsaw.  It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for."
Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the World Heritage Site, said "This is a once in several life time's opportunity to investigate the Avenue beneath the old road surface.  It has enabled us to confirm with total certainty for the first time that Stonehenge and its Avenue were once linked and will be so again shortly."
The Avenue is difficult to identify on the ground but is clearly visible on aerial photographs. Once the A344 has been restored to grass in the summer of 2014, interpretation features will be put in place to clearly mark out the solstice alignment to enable visitors to appreciate the position of the Avenue and its intimate connection with and significance to Stonehenge.

Parchmarks at the Stone Circle

The recent prolonged spell of dry weather has also led to some exciting discoveries within the stone circle. Two eagle-eyed members of staff spotted some dry areas of grass, or parchmarks, amongst the stone circle in July. After investigation by English Heritage experts they seem to be positions of three holes where stones 17, 18 and 19 might have stood on the south-west side of the outer sarsen circle.
Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said: "There is still debate among archaeologists whether Stonehenge was a full or incomplete circle, and the discovery of these holes for missing stones has strengthened the case for it being a full circle, albeit uneven and less perfectly formed in the south-west quadrant."
Parchmarks discovered at Stonehenge
Parchmarks discovered at Stonehenge by staff Simon Banton and Timothy Daw
© Simon Banton/English Heritage
NOTE: This story as reported in the Guardian on 9 September contains a number of inaccuracies. The article, including the headline, failed to distinguish between fact and interpretation, and presented one expert’s view as established fact. It also gives the impression that the expert’s view has been adopted by English Heritage. This is very confusing. English Heritage is firmly of the view that Stonehenge was built as a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun, contrary to what was implied in the article.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson’s theory about the naturally formed ridges is interesting, but is by no means established. English Heritage’s role was to record any archaeology that survived under the A344 and present the results of the recent discoveries clearly to the public. English Heritage’s interpretation of Stonehenge in general will be presented at the new visitor centre due to open in December 2013.

A Year at Stonehenge - James O. Davies

A Year at Stonehenge 

Mike Pitts (Introduction), James O. Davies (Photographer) 

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2013

More than 4000 years old, the true meaning of this ancient, awe-inspiring creation and the secrets of its construction have been lost in the mists of time. Surrounded by mystery, Stonehenge never fails to impress. 

Over the last five years James Davies has been photographing Stonehenge at all times of the day and night, and all through the seasons. With privileged access to the stone circle he has built up a unique portfolio. A Year at Stonehenge brings together the best of his work, while a short expert text summarises our current understanding.

Published to coincide with the opening of a new environmentally sensitive visitor centre and the restoration of the surrounding ceremonial landscape, this is the most visually stunning book available on this most fascinating world heritage site.


.....Even those who are familiar with Stonehenge will be blown away by James Davies’ photographs. He gets the macro (from a balloon!), the obscure (runnels on the Slaughter Stone), and the micro (close-ups of the sarsens so clear you can see individual grains of sand that make them up). All types of weather are covered (except heavy fog or rain which would just obscure the trilithons), and even though the book is not set up with a progression of seasons (as the title might suggest), the reader will get a very good idea at how the look and feel of Stonehenge changes with the barometer and seasonal angle of light.

 Actually a more accurate title of the book would have been “A Day at Stonehenge,” as Davies is particularly obsessed with shooting the stones at dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset, and night.... 

 ....This is a book to be treasured, but not put away. A Year at Stonehenge, like the Stone Sanctuary that it attempts to capture, is meant to be marveled at and studied at one’s leisure. James Davies’ masterpiece is a coffee-table book that will be left out on the coffee-table.

It’s too mesmerizing to put on a shelf!...

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Darvill and Wainwright's Excavation Report 2008

Timothy Darvill, VPSA, and Geoffrey Wainwright, PSA

The Antiquaries Journal, 89, 2009, pp 1–19 r
The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2009
First published online 21 April 2009

The report doesn't contain a plan so I have been lent some old photographs which with the ones in the report enables me to add an indicative outline to the Cleal et al plan.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

A Last Look Under The A344

Click to enlarge - a last look at chalk surface that was under the A344 from by the Heelstone before it is covered in.

Monday 2 September 2013

Stonehenge Avenue Ditches Under The Road

Click photo for much larger version

This photo is from Hawley’s Fifth report of his diggings in 1923, published Jan 1925 in the Antiquaries Journal Vol V No 1. Not only does it seem to show the eastern ditch in the road, but also a dark mark where the shallow anomaly near the heel stone was found. There is also a hint of peri-glacial stripes near the east ditch leading up to the heel stone ditch, the nearer stripes may be track marks. I wonder if there are other photos from the same era.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Chalk Floor Under The A344

Spotted by many people was this "chalk" floor found under the A344 by the car park at Stonehenge. I have not heard anything officially but I believe it is actually made of soft greensand stone and is thought to be only a couple of hundred years old, not a neolithic hut base unfortunately.