Saturday 27 December 2014

New Parker Pearson Book on Stonehenge Announced

Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery (Cba Archaeology for All)

by Mike Parker Pearson (Author), Joshua Pollard (Author), Colin Richards (Author), Julian Thomas (Author), Kate Welham (Author) (to be published 28 April 2015)

Monday 15 December 2014

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below by Paul Burley

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below 

by Paul Burley

Paul kindly sent me a copy of his book.

My first impression was very positive, it is a handsome book, well printed and illustrated. This is surprisingly important, there are books on Stonehenge I refuse to read because of their shoddy feel and look.

The book is thoroughly researched and referenced though some of the diagrams don't aid understanding as well as they could. Which is a shame as Paul's thesis is monumental in scope and importance. Nowhere does he spell it out in a few simple phrases so my paraphrase of it is that the ancient landscape around Stonehenge, especially the Long Barrows and Cursus, were laid out as a large map or representation of the stars and constellations. This is analogous to other ancient civilisations' spiritual respect for the cosmos.

He analyses alignments and sightlines and angles to a great degree of precision, and this makes for a very interesting read. My regard for Stonehenge is more boringly mechanical than his lovingly told descriptions of rituals and how they may have been echoed at the site.

For me it was a bit too astronomically technical, but that would suit many researchers into Stonehenge. I found the lack of a clearly defined thesis made it hard to judge the claims being made and the potential counter arguments that the components of his astral map were too temporally distinct and diverse and so on, were not acknowledged. This left me with the feeling that the theory was only half argued and that I was unconvinced.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I learned a lot and it made me think of the landscape in a different way, even if I didn't immediately become a full flown convert at first reading. For anyone interested in archeoastronomy and Stonehenge I can recommend it.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Darvill and Wainwright on Carn Menyn

Beyond Stonehenge: Carn Menyn Quarry and the origin and date of bluestone extraction in the Preseli Hills of south-west Wales

Timothy Darvill and Geoff Wainwright

Antiquity Volume: 88 Number: 342 Page: 1099–1114

"Recent investigations at Stonehenge have been accompanied by new research on the origin of the famous ‘bluestones’, a mixed assemblage of rhyolites and dolerites that stand among the much taller sarsens. Some of the rhyolite debitage has been traced to a quarry site at Craig Rhosyfelin near the Pembrokeshire coast; but fieldwork on the upland outcrops of Carn Menyn has also provided evidence for dolerite extraction in the later third millennium BC, and for the production of pillar-like blocks that resemble the Stonehenge bluestones in shape and size. Quarrying at Carn Menyn began much earlier, however, during the seventh millennium BC, suggesting that Mesolithic communities were the first to exploit the geology of this remote upland location."

Brian John reviews the paper at somewhat unfavourably.

The final paragraph of the paper does seem to suggest a fancifulness to it, but I haven't yet had sight of it, so I wouldn't presume to offer any judgment on it.

"Many explanations as to why the bluestones were considered sufficiently important and meaningful to move from Wales to Wiltshire can be proposed, and there may be more than one reason. The demonstrable antiquity of stone extraction on Carn Menyn, long before the building of Stonehenge began, tells us something about the ancestral significance and power of the landscape from which the bluestones were taken. Perhaps Mynydd Preseli was the home of the gods: the Mount Olympus of Neolithic Britain. But we also believe that the association between bluestones and healing springs in the Preseli Hills was important (cf. Jones 1992), and something that resonates with long-standing oral traditions that were first written down in the thirteenth century AD (Piggott 1941). Springs were a significant and persistent feature of the Stonehenge landscape, as the recent work at Blick Mead shows (Jacques et al. 2012). Soon after the bluestones were installed at Stonehenge (Stage 2) the central structure was linked by an Avenue to Stonehenge Bottom and the River Avon (Stage 3), thereby fixing and formalising the relationship to water (Darvill et al. 2012a: 1035). The idea that powerful stones were moved from their source outcrops on a special, ancestral or sacred place to ‘franchise’ distant shrines and temples finds parallels in West African societies and elsewhere (Insoll 2006). We propose that, after the earthwork enclosure at Stonehenge ceased to be a major cremation cemetery sometime about 2500 BC, bluestones from Carn Menyn and other nearby outcrops in west Wales were brought to Stonehenge and set up within a temple whose structure had already been built from sarsen stones. From that time onwards, pilgrims and travellers were drawn to Stonehenge because of the special properties that had empowered Stonehenge to provide pastoral and medical care of both body and soul: tending the wounded, treating the sick, calming troubled minds, promoting fecundity, assisting and celebrating births and protecting people against malevolent forces in a dangerous and uncertain world. The bluestones hold the key to the meaning of Stonehenge,
and Preseli was the special place from whence they came at a high cost to society in labour and time, as befitted such important talismans."

Sunday 7 December 2014

An Anglo-Saxon decapitation and burial at Stonehenge.

Mike Pitts just uploaded a paper on

An Anglo-Saxon decapitation and burial at Stonehenge.

View the paper here:

Hawley's report of the 1922 burial

Hawley's report of the 1923 burial - click pictures to embiggen them.

And another similar one just north of Avebury:

Sunday 30 November 2014

Vexed Bluestones

Rob Ixer uploaded:

"Some of Stonehenge’s megaliths came from Wales.Exactly where remains one of the key issues about the monument open to scientific solution, yet not fully resolved. Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins are on the job"

Thursday 27 November 2014

Stonehenge and Underditch Hundred

A small curiosity: the ancient divisions of England, the hundreds seem not to respect natural or man made features when it cam to their boundaries. An example is the hundred of Underditch which used to contain Stonehenge.

Drawn up as they were before maps I always imagine they were described as "from this rock to that hill" etc, but maybe not.
Click to embiggen

The red lines denote the hundred boundaries - taken from Andrews' and Drury's Map of Wiltshire 1773 - Underditch Hundred runs up from the lower right.

More on the hundred of Underditch: Introduction', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (1962), pp. 195-198. URL:

Sunday 23 November 2014

West Kennet Palisade Enclosures

West Kennet Palisade Enclosures

Aerial Survey Report Series

Late Neolithic Palisade Enclosures at West Kennet Report on the Aerial PhotographicTranscription and Analysis

Surveyed: November 2002

Aerial Photographic Transcription and Analysis by Martyn Barber 

Fig 6. Plan of the palisade complex from Whittle (1997), showing extent of features asmapped from air photographs, geophysical survey and excavation. The variousexcavation trenches dug between 1987 and 1993 are also marked.

Avebury Aerial Archaeology

Barber, M (2012) Aerial Archaeology (Stonehenge and Avebury Revised Research Framework)

Stonehenge And Avebury Revised Research Framework
Figure 5: Vertical view of Avebury taken by the RAF on 2nd September 1929, a few years before Alexander Keiller set to work on the henge and village. (NMR Crawford Collection CCC 8952/02421).

Saturday 15 November 2014

Stonehenge experiment to be repeated with 'lost' stones

Another attempt is to be made to solve the mystery of how the largest stones used to build Stonehenge were moved.
In 1996, a BBC TV programme aimed to find out how the stones for the largest trilithon were put into place, and how the lintel was placed on top.
Since then the concrete replicas have remained untouched and forgotten about at an army base on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
They have now been rediscovered and the experiment will be repeated.
Archaeologist Julian Richards is teaming up with farmer Tim Daw see if modern techniques are any more efficient.
Mr Daw, who farms at All Cannings, near Devizes, and who created the first "Neolithic" long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,500 years, also works part-time at Stonehenge.
He said one of the most popular questions asked by visitors is 'how were the giant stones moved?'.
"When Julian Richards mentioned there was a life-sized replica of the largest stones at Stonehenge that were looking for a home that we could do some experiments on I said 'let's do it'."
The 45-tonne replicas were used in the BBC documentary Secrets of Lost Empires: Stonehenge, which was broadcast in 1996.
They have remained at Larkhill Camp, about a mile from Stonehenge ever since.
The experiment was partially successful, but now new theories have emerged about how the stones may have been moved.
Mr Richards said: "Over the last 20 years I've had lots of ideas come to me from different people from all over the world saying, 'there's a much better way of doing it, we know how it was done really, you've made it too complicated'."
He said the new project would get together some of the original team to test out the new theories.
"We're going to have to get at least 200 people together for about a week to make this happen."
Mr Daw added: "The first thing is to collect the stones from Salisbury Plain where they have been languishing for the past 20 years and get them back to my farm," said Mr Daw.
"Hopefully next year we'll get some teams of people [to take part in the experiment]"
Mr Daw said different theories had now emerged about how the huge stones could have been moved.
"The experts certainly think they know more. Whether they actually do know more is an interesting question.
"Without trying all the wonderful ideas of how you do it Neolithic style, just using man power - no wheels, no draught animals, no machinery - we can't tell what is practical and what is just fantasy."
It is hoped the result of the experiment will be turned into another television programme to air next year.

Monday 3 November 2014

Free Stonehenge Course

Stonehenge Online Course -

Learn about the most spectacular monument of the Neolithic in this exciting Online Course ✓ FREE ✓ University of Buckingham ✓ With Dr. Graeme Davis


I have signed up for it.....

Thursday 30 October 2014

Stonehenge - Cleal et al - Free Download

Stonehenge in its Landscape: Twentieth-century excavations

Montague, R., Cleal, R., Walker, K.

English Heritage (1999)

Abstract: Stonehenge in its Landscape: Twentieth-century excavations

This volume represents a detailed discussion of the structural history of Stonehenge, arrived at by the integration of evidence from primary records of excavations carried out between 1901 and 1964. These major campaigns of excavation and recording include those of Prof William Gowland (1901); Lt-Col William Hawley (1919-26); Profs Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson with J F Stone (1950, 53-5,56,58 and 64) and some smaller, previously unpublished campaigns as well as more recent, small-scale excavations which are already published. The evidence for the use of the monument from the Middle Neolithic to the present day is discussed in terms of its landscape and social settings. The evidence for the rephasing of the monument, including artefactual and ecofactual assemblages, details of the radiocarbon dating programme, geophysical surveys, transcripts of all available field plans, sections, and stone elevations is presented together with a variety of summary lists, concordances, and a guide to the site archive. A new suite of radiocarbon determinations has been obtained which redefines our understanding of the sequence of construction and use of the monument and augments the surviving archaeological evidence.

Download monograph

Stonehenge in its Landscape: Twentieth-century excavations, Montague, R.|Cleal, R.|Walker, K., English Heritage (1999), ISBN: 9781848022102 PDF 141 Mb

Stonehenge - A History of the National Heritage Collection

47/2014 - A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Three: Stonehenge

This is Volume Three in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national collection of ancient monuments and historic buildings from 1882 to 1983 in the context of legislation and other available means of protecting heritage. The report sets out the story relating to the acquisition and protection of Stonehenge, drawing upon the guardianship files and Pitt-Rivers papers held by English Heritage and the National Archives. An account is given of the efforts of the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Lieutenant General Augustus Pitt-Rivers, to secure the protection of Stonehenge following the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act. In the early 20th century the monument was enclosed for the first time. However during the First World War it suffered damage. Stonehenge was gifted to the Nation in 1918. Thereafter the Office of Works managed a series of excavations and restorations of the monument in the 1920s and 1950s. Consideration was also given to the setting of Stonehenge. The surrounding downland was purchased and vested in the National Trust in 1929. Thereafter efforts were made to restore Stonehenge to its former wilderness, although this was at constant conflict with its role as a visitor attraction.

Download  3mb

Other reports available:

A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume One: 1882-1900 Lt. General Augustus Pitt-Rivers and the First Ancient Monuments Act 
This is Volume One in a series of eight research reports, which describe the formation of the nation... 
A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Two: 1900-1913 The Offices of War, Woods and Works 
This is Volume Two in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national collec... 
A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Three: Stonehenge 
This is Volume Three in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national coll... 
A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Four: 1913-1931 The Ancient Monuments Branch under Peers and Baines 
This is Volume Four in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national colle... 
A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Five: 1931-1945: ‘Heritage Under Fire’: Hadrian’s Wall, Avebury and the Second World War 
This is Volume Five in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national colle... 

Long Barrow Solar Alignments

A very quick desktop survey of my local Long Barrow alignments:  The yellow line is sunrise, orange sunset. (Definitions of what constitute the moment of sunrise or sunset vary). They are taken from the excellent 

The new Long Barrow at All Cannings is designed to align to the midwinter solstitial sunrise, with the rising sun flooding the passageway with light.

Adam's Grave Dec 21st

Kitchen Barrow June 21st
West Kennet Sept 21st

And of course Stonehenge June 21st 
(note sunset along Great Trilithon)

Click any to enlarge - and follow link to SunCalc to play with the alignments.

Friday 17 October 2014

Stonehenge Magic Lantern Slides

A fine collection of Stonehenge Magic Lantern slides is (at the time of writing this) on sale on eBay:

Click to embiggen - there are more in the collection as well.

The top photo is intriguing as there is a line of chalk mounds outside stones 10 and 11, and they don't seem to match the track repairs that are recorded by Sharpe in hies aerial photos - - which would be of a similar date.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Winter Solstice 2014 - Stonehenge Managed Open Access

Managed Open Access

The celebration of the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge will take place at sunrise
on Monday 22nd December 2014 (approximately 08:09 hrs).

English Heritage is pleased to be offering ‘Managed Open Access’ for those
who wish to celebrate the Winter Solstice peacefully

Visitors will be allowed into the Monument when it is considered sufficiently
light to ensure safe access. Entry will be available from approximately 07:30
hrs until 09:00 hrs when visitors will be asked to vacate the site. All vehicles
must vacate the area by 09.30.

Access might not be possible if the ground conditions are poor or if it is felt
that access might result ¡n severe damage to the Monument.

More details on Parking and toilets etc to come


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 14 October 2014

Stonehenge - the simplest and most enduring features - Thoreau

(click to enlarge)

''Ossian reminds us of the most refined and rudest eras, of Homer, Pindar, Isaiah, and the American Indian. In his poetry, as in Homer's, only the simplest and most enduring features of humanity are seen, such essential parts of a man as Stonehenge exhibits of a temple; we see the circles of stone, and the upright shaft alone. The phenomena of life acquire almost an unreal and gigantic size seen through his mists. Like all older and grander poetry, it is distinguished by the few elements in the lives of its heroes. They stand on the heath, between the stars and the earth, shrunk to the bones and sinews. The earth is a boundless plain for their deeds. They lead such a simple, dry, and everlasting life, as hardly needs depart with the flesh, but is transmitted entire from age to age. There are but few objects to distract their sight, and their life is as unencumbered as the course of the stars they gaze at.''

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 1, p. 367, Houghton Mifflin (1906).

Sunday 12 October 2014

President Obama Stonehenge Quotes - Transcript of Video

These are some special stones.

I love the moss.

There's something here, it's wonderful, it's very cool. 

There's just something elemental about it.

There's something that where you got to feel like it should always be there.

But it comes out of something basic.


Yeah, I could come here every day, you know I would come here and just kind of sit, if it wasn't like a monument, I'd sit on one of these rocks and I'd just watch the sun rise. It would really cleanse your mind.


Ensure you use the CC option on Youtube on the official White House video to get the transcipt - auto transcript on other versions gives some strange results...

Thursday 9 October 2014

The New Visitor Centre, a hole in the ground and a £14million win.

The old  map resource at is a fantastic way to waste hours.

The ability to overlay old maps with modern aerial views is great.

As an example here is a shot of the area to the east of the New Visitor Centre at Stonehenge.

Click to enlarge.

Apart from hoping they properly capped the well that was under the well house and is now underneath the gift shop I was intrigued by the mysterious "post" near Fargo Plantation.

Many hours of thought and it struck me that as the field is known as "The Gallops" it is probably just a finishing post or turn marker for training race horses. The field is owned by the Druids Lodge estate.

Druid's Lodge was famous for training racehorses and infamous for the Druid's Lodge Confederacy and the betting coup at the 1913 Derby.

Their secretly trained horse Aboyeur won, after a Stewards Inquiry, at 100-1, and they had been backing it all over the country in small amounts for months so as not to frightened the odds makers.

£14 million at todays money is rumoured to be their winnings.

More at

Sunday 21 September 2014

Some thoughts on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape based BBC programme

These are some notes that Tim Robey posted on Facebook which I thought well worth posting here:

Some thoughts on news-feeds and the two BBC programmes:

The “Pink” stones from the Mesolithic:

You may have heard that at the “nearby” Mesolithic site excavations have revealed a source of flint which is dyed by the bog water there to a bright pink. This colour would have been very unusual at the time(Still is, on a rock) and may well have been given some magical or supernatural significance by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Fascinating though these are, I really feel that the link to Stonehenge is too tenuous to take seriously. If there had been a direct link, the Henge would have been built next to the source of the stone, not on a hill 3knm away. There are no pieces of pink flint found at the henge, nor even in any of the Mesolithic post-holes found underneath the old car park.

There is also the question of time -  all the Mesolithic activity pre-dates the construction of Stonehenge by 4 – 5 000 years,with not a sign of any activity in the intervening millennia.

No, nice idea but I’m not buying!
The Cursus as a Barrier, a Gateway, and a Solstice  Indicator:

The news is suggesting three different ideas here. The first, put forward as a current popular theory, is that the Cursus was a barrier. I doubt the popularity of the theory for a start, and I find myself asking “A barrier between what and what?” There have to be two entities or spaces that require separating for a barrier to be useful: what are they in this case? It can’t be Stonehenge – the Cursus was built 500 years before even the first phase cemetery on the site; and it can’t be that there was already an existing “zone of the dead” to be cordoned off – if that were so the barrier is completely inadequate, and anyway, the contemporary burial mounds (the Long Barrows) are all located on the edge of or outside the “zone” – indeed the cursus ends at one of them, so can hardly be separating it from anything else.Scratch that idea, too.

The new survey has shown gaps in the side ditches of the Cursus – hence it must have served as a Gateway! This again presupposes two separated areas and simply adds detail to the barrier theory rather than (as suggested on TV) debunking it.

The cursus may be long and narrow, but it is still essentially an enclosure. The space being cordoned off is inside the banks, and the entrances are just that. This was a sacred space in the same way as later henges and probably the earlier causewayed and palisaded enclosures – it was just a different shape for a different purpose, the most likely one being some form of processional rite linked to the Long Barrow at the end of the enclosure.

Then there are the two recently discovered pits, apparently forming site lines to the positions on the horizon of the summer solstice sunrise and sunset. Curiously, the site lines converge on the Heel Stone, not on the Stone Circle itself. They are clearly later than the Cursus, but without excavation it’s anybody’s guess to which phase of Stonehenge they belong. They are too wide for stone-holes but we have no idea how deep they are: are they fairly shallow fire-pits as someone has suggested, or are they shafts like the Wilsford shaft a couple of miles to the South?

Whatever their purpose it is likely (my theory, which is mine!) that they were dug within the Cursus enclosure so that it would provide a clear link between them – curiously there do not appear to be any direct  links between them and Stonehenge itself.Another time, perhaps, when we know more about them.

New Henges in the landscape:

Okay, well, it’s good to have something I can comment positively upon. I’m really pleased that they have found several new henges in the area: I wish I could say I’d been suggesting they must be there for years*,but sadly, I  hadn’t really given it a thought. Still, there they are, evidence that the whole area was used for rituals during the henge building era (+ 2800 – 2100 BC). What we need now are some dates: Do they co-exist with the Stone Circle, or are they earlier and thus superseded by the big temple?

There is also the possibility that these are just a new variant of burial mounds, perhaps with a ring of wooden posts around them &with complex sequences of events – rather like mini versions of the chambered tombs found in Ireland and Scotland.Although the finders are ebullient about them, Mike Pitts is more reserved:

(* Of course, they HAVE been there for years – but that wasn’t what I meant …)

Durrington Walls with stone settings:

Again, I’m very positive about this. For one thing, it finally shuts the coffin lid on Mike P P’s “wood for the living, stone for the dead” theory. Clearly life (and death) required more complex symbolism than that. It was always a dodgy analogy: coming as it did from practices and beliefs in modern Madagascar,and thus separated by 5000 years and even more miles from its application to Neolithic Wiltshire. Still, it’s done a brilliant job of making us all think alot more carefully about the symbolism of the stones. Well done for that, Mike.

And of course it opens up the whole discussion on what exactly WAS going on at Durrington Walls. I think MPP is right in that there has to be a connection between Durrrington and Stonehenge,and that the ceremonies at each were in some way complimentary. He could even still be right about the idea that the dead were given “farewell to life”feasts in their honour at the Walls, before a selected few were processed to be interred at Stonehenge (though I’m not convinced this is the main story, if it’s true at all). But the theory was mostly hung on the stone/timber opposition analogy ad if we lose that, the floor’s clear for anyone again …

The mysterious Welsh skeletons and the Bluestones:

I still need to do some research on this one from 2nd part of the TV documentary: Jackie McKinley mentioned this “family” of stiffs found “near” Stonehenge, dating to the time when the bluestones first arrived,and hailing from the West of England, perhaps from Wales. It would have been useful if we’d been told just WHERE they were excavated (though I expect to find that out fairly soon) but what puzzles me is this sudden knowledge of the date when the bluestones were brought from Wales(I note that, like the location of the burials, the actual date was not specified in the programme).

English Heritage has just produced a very expensive and informative exhibition and a new guidebook neither of which specifies the date– because we don’t know it! They could have arrived when the first bank and ditch were dug – c2950 BC (my money’s on this date) – or they could have been brought in at anytime up until a few months before the Sarsens went up in around 2550BC (we assume they were there by then because we are fairly sure they were put into the Q & R holes, a setting which just pre-dates the erection of the trilithons). It will be very interesting to find out the date of the burials – if indeed they are Welsh – they could well be linked to the elusive bluestone phase.

Comments and arguments welcome …

Friday 19 September 2014

Stonehenge As It Was

A still from the BBC programme Operation Stonehenge:

Clicke to enlarge

Note the correct (IMHO) recumbent Altar Stone, the Twisted Great Trilithon and stones around it as argued about at length on this blog. Has the consensus shifted?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Durrington Walls Dragon's Teeth

One of the latest and potentially most exciting results from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project is at Durrington Walls.

Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, which can ‘x-ray’ archaeological sites to a depth of up to four metres, investigators from Birmingham and Bradford universities and from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna have discovered a 330 metre long line of more than 50 massive stones, buried under part of the southern bank of Durrington Walls.
“Up till now, we had absolutely no idea that the stones were there,” said the co-director of the investigation Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University.
The geophysical evidence suggests that each buried stone is roughly three metres long and 1.5 metres wide and is positioned horizontally, not vertically, in its earthen matrix.
However, it’s conceivable that they originally stood vertically in the ground like other standing stones in Britain. It is thought that they were probably brought to the site shortly before 2500BC.
They seem to have formed the southern arm of a c-shaped ritual ‘enclosure’, the rest of which was made up of an artificially scarped natural elevation in the ground.
The c-shaped enclosure – more than 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long – faced directly towards the River Avon. The monument was later converted from a c-shaped to a roughly circular enclosure. (source)

I have indicated the approximate position of these hidden dragon's teeth with a line - click to enlarge.

It must be emphasised that these are only geophysical echoes at the moment - we have no idea what is actually buried there. It echoes like stones and they seem to be below the ancient bank but without actually digging down we won't know if what they are or from when. I just hope they aren't something the Army dug in during the last European Unpleasantness .

It is also worth noting the emphasis given to the C shaped  nature of Durrington Walls. This is based on the (enhanced?) scarp that surrounds the natural valley that runs up the middle of the henge, maybe to what was a winterbourne spring, The bank and ditch tend to be either side of this scarp to the north and west, and would seem to be later. As Vince Gaffney said Durrington Walls is a very three dimensional monument and flat maps deceive. The original map form the the 1960s excavations shows the  scarp and contours well.

Click for huge version

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, Press Release

New digital map reveals stunning hidden archaeology of Stonehenge

A host of previously unknown archaeological monuments have been discovered around Stonehenge as part of an unprecedented digital mapping project that will transform our knowledge of this iconic landscape – including remarkable new findings on the world’s largest ‘super henge’, Durrington Walls.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, is the largest project of its kind.
Remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys have discovered hundreds of new features which now form part of the most detailed archaeological digital map of the Stonehenge landscape ever produced. The startling results of the survey, unveiled in full at the British Science Festival, include 17 previously unknown ritual monuments dating to the period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape. Dozens of burial mounds have been mapped in minute detail, including a long barrow (a burial mound dating to before Stonehenge) which revealed a massive timber building, probably used for the ritual inhumation of the dead following a complicated sequence of exposure and excarnation (defleshing), and which was finally covered by an earthen mound.

(Comment - Note the following two paragraphs which may be the most significant!)
The project has also revealed exciting new – and completely unexpected – information on previously known monuments. Among the most significant relate to the Durrington Walls ‘super henge’, situated a short distance from Stonehenge. This immense ritual monument, probably the largest of its type in the world, has a circumference of more than 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles).  
A new survey reveals that this had an early phase when the monument was flanked with a row of massive posts or stones, perhaps up to three metres high and up to 60 in number – some of which may still survive beneath the massive banks surrounding the monument.  Only revealed by the cutting-edge technology used in the project, the survey has added yet another dimension to this vast and enigmatic structure.
Work also revealed novel types of monument including massive prehistoric pits, some of which appear to form astronomic alignments, plus new information on hundreds of burial mounds, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman settlements and fields at a level of detail never previously seen. Taken together, these results – which will be featured in a major new BBC Two series titled Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath – show that new technology is reshaping how archaeologists understand the landscape of Stonehenge and its development over a period of more than 11,000 years. 
In the year marking the centenary of the First World War, the new Stonehenge map even impacts on our knowledge of that momentous event. Surveys have produced detailed maps of the practice trenches dug around Stonehenge to prepare troops for battle on the western front, as well as maps of RAF/RFC Stonehenge – one of Britain’s first military airbases used by the Royal Flying Corps between 1917 and 1920.
British project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney, Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is unique at a global level. Not only has it revolutionised how archaeologists use new technologies to interpret the past, it has transformed how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.
‘Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita.
‘This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.
‘New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.
‘Stonehenge may never be the same again.’
Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, said: ‘Developing non-invasive methods to document our cultural heritage is one of the greatest challenges of our time and can only be accomplished by adapting the latest technology such as ground-penetrating radar arrays and high-resolution magnetometers. The developments of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro) offer Europe the opportunity to carry out fundamental archaeological research at a scale and precision never previously attempted.
‘No landscape deserves to benefit from a study at this level of detail more than Stonehenge. The terabytes of digital survey data collected, processed and visualised by LBI ArchPro provide the base for the precise mapping of the monuments and archaeological features buried in the subsurface or still visible in the landscape surrounding Stonehenge. After centuries of research, the analysis of all mapped features makes it possible, for the first time, to reconstruct the development of Stonehenge and its landscape through time.’ 
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham; Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, Vienna and its international partners; University of Bradford; University of St Andrews; and the ‘ORBit’ Research Group of the Department of Soil Management at the University of Ghent, Belgium.
The project operates under the auspices of the National Trust and English Heritage.
Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, said: ‘Using 21st-century techniques, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes team have transformed our knowledge of this ancient, precious and very special landscape. Their work has revealed a clutch of previously unsuspected sites and monuments showing how much of the story of this world-famous archaeological treasure house remains to be told.’
Dr Heather Sebire of English Heritage, Curator of Stonehenge, said: ‘This is such an exciting project. The surveys will help us form an understanding of possible new sites which have not been recorded before but which will need further investigation.’
Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath is due to be broadcast on BBC Two at 8pm BST on Thursday 11 September. The documentary will also be broadcast in the US (Smithsonian Channel), Canada (CBC), Austria (ORF), Germany (ZDF) and France (France 5).

Images are available to download here.
Video clips featuring interviews and general footage are available to download here and here.

Notes to editors
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project (2010–14)
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 Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford; the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of St Andrews; and the Soil Spatial Inventory Techniques Research Group at the University of Ghent.
This project aimed to address gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the Stonehenge landscape by conducting a cutting-edge geophysical and remote sensing survey at an unprecedented scale and resolution. Beginning in July 2010, the fieldwork took about 120 days, spread over four years. Cutting-edge geophysical technologies, applied at an unprecedented spatial scale and resolution using multiple motorized magnetometers, ground-penetrating radar arrays, electromagnetic induction sensors, earth resistance surveys and terrestrial 3D laser scanners, have revealed the landscape of Stonehenge through the largest and most detailed archaeological prospection project.
The results of the survey project are used to create a highly detailed archaeological map of the ‘invisible’ landscape, providing the basis for a full interpretative synthesis of all existing remote sensing and geophysical data from the study area. For the first time, it will therefore be possible to create total digital models of the Stonehenge landscape at a true ‘landscape scale’ that will not only transcend the immediate surrounds of individual monuments within the study area but will also tie them together within a seamless map of sub-surface and surface archaeological features and structures.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is supported by the work of numerous young researchers and remote sensing and archaeological specialists. These include Klaus Löcker, Mario Wallner and Dr Geert Verhoeven (Austria), and Eamonn Baldwin, Henry Chapman, Paul Garwood and Dr Eugene Ch’ng (UK).
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is a collaborative work carried out under the auspices of the National Trust and English Heritage.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Stonehenge Hosepipe Story

The parchmark revelations first revealed on this blog last year and followed up by a grown up publication of a paper in Antiquity this year turned into a global story. A Google search showed many hundreds of reports of it, many majoring on the serendipitous short hosepipe. All the stories fons et origo was a BBC website story.
(Click to embiggen)

President Obama at Stonehenge

As the last stop on his three-day trip to Estonia and the NATO Summit in Wales, President Obama visits the prehistoric monument Stonehenge.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Autumn Equinox Stonehenge Open Access Arrangements 2014

Access to Monument Field from c06:15 (or first light) until 08:30 on 23 September 2014
Parking is on both sides of Byway 12 – no parking on A344
Access to the Byway from 19:00 on 22 September 2014 via the A344
Exit via A344 closes at 09:00 on 23 September 2014
Disabled Parking: 8 spaces available in the VTS turning circle. These are permit-only and must be booked in advance by contacting Lucy Barker at

Saturday 30 August 2014

Stonehenge rings within rings

Parchmark plan from English Heritage as published on - Colour enhanced for clarity. Click any to enlarge.

In July 2013 various parchmarks were showing up at Stonehenge - as reported on this blog and professionally at The most noticeable were the stone hole marks between Stones 16 and 21.

But the Z and Y holes were also showing up well. Walking round them I noticed there seemed to be extra marks that were also in a circular pattern. They were jokingly called the Daw Holes as it seemed they were a product of my overheated imagination. But over the next week as the weather changed some became more noticeable and then they faded. As they were fading Mark Bowden and Sharon Souter from EH GPS mapped them as best we could. Some were more certain than others, some were quite doubtful but until the next spell of similar weather the plan above is as accurate as we will get of the phenomenon. 

It was noticeable that the Z and Y holes that had been excavated and those that hadn't appeared the same, and that the other parch marks were very similar to the known holes.

I realised that the marks might have more modern causes, the most obvious being the Fire Garden for the Olympics, but they didn't seem to coincide with any installations so I am certain that was not a cause.

One reason for some of the marks may be the larch poles used to prop the stones up in late Victorian times. Sharpe's aerial photograph shows them well and can be overlain to some degree of accuracy onto the plan (As stones were leaning it is not completely accurate.) 

Apart from the poles for Stone 7 they don't noticeably line up with the marks but I would treat any marks near where the poles were installed with scepticism.

But this still leaves a lot of unexplained marks forming a rough ring equidistant between the Z and Y holes.

The wobble in the ring of Y holes (outer ring of marks) in the south east corner might be explained by reassigning Y6, Y7 and Y8 to the middle "Daw hole" ring and noting the faint marks further out as possible Y holes that were missed by Hawley.

What the marks show and from when is a new mystery of Stonehenge.

The conclusion of the Antiquity paper is: “The new discoveries do tentatively allow further consideration of the multicircuit post settings envisaged by Gibson (1998: 41-44) and comparison with Woodhenge and the Sanctuary as well as Stanton Drew (David et al. 2004) but in the absence of dating evidence this remains speculative. The more diffuse marks around the periphery of the site might offer support for Pitts’ (1981) suggestion of an outer ring of stones. However, again, more research is needed to clarify this issue. This emphasises the potential for new discoveries about Stonehenge (one of the most widely researched monuments in the world) through non-invasive as well as invasive techniques.”