Thursday 30 June 2016

Durrington Walls: Unearthing the Secrets of Stonehenge’s ‘Superhenge’

When it comes to the ancient and precious gem that is the Stonehenge Landscape it seems the harder we look the more we find. Over the course of the last five years a team of archaeologists from across Europe led by Professor Vince Gaffney of Bradford University have been carrying out a vast geophysical survey covering almost every blade of grass that the National Trust care for in the Stonehenge Landscape (about 2100 acres). They’ve made dozens of new discoveries, some of them entirely unknown sites. But possibly the most astonishing they’ve found is that something – in fact possibly as many as two hundred somethings – lie buried beneath the bank of Durrington Walls henge.

Their surveys have revealed an arc of large solid objects some as much as two or three metres long. But what are they? Vince and his Hidden Landscapes team think they’re the remains of standing stones. If they are they would be the remains of a stone monument so vast that it would only be rivalled by the great Outer Circle at Avebury. On the other hand Professor Mike Parker Pearson and his multi-university Stonehenge Riverside Project think that they may be pits dug to contain giant timber posts but then backfilled.

There’s only one way to find out - and that’s to dig! So the Hidden Landscapes team, the Stonehenge Riverside Project and the National Trust have joined forces to create an archaeological ‘superteam’.

 In the first two weeks of August this summer we will be excavating the ‘Superhenge’ to discover what the four thousand five hundred year old secret is that lies buried at Durrington Walls.

You can get daily updates from the trenches when we’re digging on our FragmeNTs blog http://ntarchaeostonehengeaveburywhs.word or follow our progress on the @DrNickNT Twitter feed. Better still come and take a look for yourself. Our crack team of volunteer guides will be down on the dig site ready to share all of our latest discoveries with you.

You’ll find Durrington Walls just off of the A345 about half a mile north of the Countess Roundabout – just follow the signs for Woodhenge. See you there!

From Megalith 2016

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Megalith 2016

Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS) are pleased to announce the release of the 2016 edition of their popular annual newsletter for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, Megalith.

This year’s edition of Megalith features updates from the many partners who help to manage the World Heritage Site including the National Trust, English Heritage, Natural England and Highways England.

This year is the 30th anniversary of Stonehenge and Avebury being designated as a World Heritage Site and there are several articles in Megalith reflecting on the achievements of the past thirty years and how we are celebrating this milestone throughout the year.

Find out about the 30 Objects project and how you can contribute.

A small number of printed Megalith‘s are available. Please contact us if you would like to receive one. They will be distributed at local libraries in the area and other community hubs.

Megalith 2016 can be found here:

Sunday 26 June 2016

Stonehenge - a Memory Code

An Australian Lynne Kelly has an intriguing theory that Stonehenge and other megalithic sites were "material mnemonic devices".

"How would the settlers avoid forgetting all their songs and stories and knowledge of the animals and plants if they were no longer visiting the memory locations their ancestors had spread across the broad countryside?
How clever of them, I decided. They’ve replicated a series of landscape sacred places in their local environment. What could be more perfect than a circle of stones, each stone representing a former sacred location, each stone acting as a memory aid?"

In Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture she expounded the theory:

"In this book, Lynne Kelly explores the role of formal knowledge systems in small-scale oral cultures in both historic and archaeological contexts. In the first part, she examines knowledge systems within historically recorded oral cultures, showing how the link between power and the control of knowledge is established. Analyzing the material mnemonic devices used by documented oral cultures, she demonstrates how early societies maintained a vast corpus of pragmatic information concerning animal behavior, plant properties, navigation, astronomy, genealogies, laws and trade agreements, among other matters. In the second part Kelly turns to the archaeological record of three sites, Chaco Canyon, Poverty Point and Stonehenge, offering new insights into the purpose of the monuments and associated decorated objects. This book demonstrates how an understanding of rational intellect, pragmatic knowledge and mnemonic technologies in prehistoric societies offers a new tool for analysis of monumental structures built by non-literate cultures."

In her new book The Memory Code: The Traditional Aboriginal Memory Technique That Unlocks the Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Ancient Monuments the World Over she furthers expands the theory : I have no doubt that the ideas about the purpose for Stonehenge will attract much of the attention, but it is only one chapter in 12. So I have put the Table of Contents below so you can see the extent of the book. It covers more ground than Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, but without all the academic justification.

"I have had a great deal of contact in recent weeks from the memory community, including memory champions on three continents! I have also been asked to write an academic essay for Rounded Globe on indigenous memory methods and implications for contemporary thinking. It will be titled Grounded: indigenous knowing in a concrete reality and free for all. This is part of the move for academics to communicate beyond the expensive academic journals and paywalls. Taxpayers pay for the research – taxpayers should have access to it."

Thursday 23 June 2016

Media Response to Summer Sunset Theory

A new theory that the tallest stone at Stonehenge points towards the midsummer sunset has been observed to be correct, it has been claimed.
Earlier this year Tim Daw, a steward at the site, said he had discovered the previously unknown alignment, involving a line of stones at 80 degrees to the axis of the monument.
The theory was tested when the solstice sun set at 21:26 BST on Saturday.
Mr Daw said he was "really thrilled" at the finding.
"It wasn't the best evening for a sunset picture as a bank of cloud came in at the wrong moment but it was close enough to prove the point," he added.
"I put forward this theory. I said 'this stone, the sun will set along its back' [on] Midsummer. Yes it did.
"[There was] a wonderful sunset last night. We could see the sun going down directly in line with... the back of this stone. It was fantastic."

Monday 22 June 2015 by Gary Stanton

New theory claims Stonehenge was ancient meeting point for bellends

Stonehenge knobheads
A stunning new theory proposes that Stonehenge was little more than a great place for annoying tossers to congregate.
Neolithic expert, Professor Simon Williams, bases his theory on repeated observations of ‘a vast assortment of dicks with nothing better to do turning up around this time of year, every year’.
Williams’ staggering new proposal demolishes previous theories that the sacred ring is some sort of freaky Stone Age calendar.
Armed with fancy measuring gear, Williams’ team could find no alignment whatsoever with celestial bodies, noting that the largest stone points towards the overpriced gift shop.
Williams said, “There’s a lot of shite talked about how the tallest stone is aligned with the midsummer sunset, but the only way you could think that is if you’re on drugs.”
“If it’s a calendar, then they forgot the fucking leap year,” he insisted.
The theory was tested when the solstice sun set at 21:26 BST on Saturday, when just as Williams predicted, an array of tedious dreadlocked hippies appeared and claimed the site for themselves.
Williams said he was “really thrilled” at the finding.
“Sure enough, as the sun began to set a troupe of arseholes came marching over the downs banging a fucking drum of some description,” he added.
“I’m afraid to say that ancient man had much in common with these New Age twats, even down to the frankly appalling personal hygiene.”
“There was a nice sunset, sure, but it was ruined by these legal-high snorting knobheads.”

Monday 20 June 2016

Long Barrow Summer Solstice Alignment

You may be aware that I built a Long Barrow at All Cannings a couple of years ago. It is aligned to the midwinter Solstice Sunrise, so that the sun shines down the passageway then. This means that at midsummer the solstice sunset is aligned along the Barrow the other way.

Tonight there is a full moon on Solstice evening, the first time since 1967 I believe, so the rising of the full moon should be aligned to the Long Barrow. I will attempt to witness this.

Nearby Adam's Grave neolithic Long Barrow is on the same alignment and the view from it across the Pewsey Vale is spectacular. Might well be worth a visit.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Stonehenge Protests 2016 Photo Archive

As part of the history of Stonehenge I thought it might be interesting to start archiving some of the photos of this summer's protests.

The background to the protests is English Heritage imposing new conditions for the Summer Solstice celebrations (paying to park and an alcohol ban) and then cancelling the Round Table meetings which have been the forum for all the "stakeholders" in the celebrations to work out their differences. English Heritage felt the planned meeting would be threatening to their staff, whether the meetings will resume is unclear. Arthur Pendragon is the leader of the protests and other "Free Stonehenge" groups have allied themselves to his cause. The protests have been using the A344 to prevent EH coaches from carrying visitors to and from the stones, making the visitors walk (exceptions have been made for the old and infirm).

Photos and comments welcomed.

O=={{::::Summer 2016::::::::>
Know this,
It is ‘our’ intention to attend the Managed Open Access at Stonehenge in order to celebrate the Summer Solstice as is our right under article 9 of The Human Rights act.
Whilst it is our intention to agree and adhere to The terms and conditions of previous years;
We have absolutely NO intention whatsoever of adhering to EH’s new ‘Pay to Pray’ policy.
Nor will we be told how we may or may not celebrate.
© King Arthur Pendragon /|\

Here is the Text of the notice Arthur Pendragon was handing out.
Well done to the Warband and to the Free Stonehengers who assisted.
I managed to 'Block' off one lane for a couple of hours but unfortunately they had four more.
We will be 'STEPPING UP' the protest as I was illegally refused entry and was thereby unable to manifest my religious beliefs on the occasion of the Summer Solstice at my place of worship.
I will NOT 'Pay to Pray' not this year NOT any year.....
Blessings from a place of Exile /|\
To be served on EH, Agents/and/or, Subcontractors, upon receipt of;
I/WE The Bearer of this notice do hereby state that;
(1) I/We accept all terms and condition issued by EH save for the Introduction of car-parking charges and the Prohibition of alcohol in the Monument/ Temple field, which we believe to be illegal, under both European and domestic law, and to be disproportionate in its implementation to the Pagan Community.
(2) I/We have been forced to enter EH’s temporary carpark facility because;
(A) English Heritage has ensured that they have the Monopoly on parking in and around the environs of Stonehenge by applying for and the granting of Traffic Restriction Orders on all The Adjacent By-ways Open to All Traffic.
(B) I/We were directed here by the Highways Agency signage,
(C) Wiltshire Police were and are, not re-directing those of us who refuse to pay against the flow of traffic and in doing so have effectively instructed EH not to restrict our progress into the temporary car-park for safety reasons, and in the interests of Traffic management.
(3) Therefore;
Any (Clamping) or tampering with this vehicle or any goods or chattels therein is illegal and we will prosecute English Heritage and/or their agents or subcontractors for any such tampering or removal of said vehicle without our express consent.
I/We shall rely on the following basis in law;
THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION and The Human Rights Act; Article 9;
(1) It is claimed both alone and in the community with others, both public and private, for Worship, Teaching, Practice and Observance, apply in this instance.
(2) None of the reasons listed in The Caveat or Codicil apply in this instance.
A rule of conduct, obligatory on those within its scope, established by long usage. A valid custom must be of immemorial antiquity, certain and reasonable, obligatory, not repugnant to statute law though it may derogate from common law.
Time Immemorial, Term used to denote a time before legal memory. The statute of Westminster 1275 fixed it at 1189
© King Arthur Pendragon /|\

Friday 17 June 2016

This little piggy went to the winter solstice

Age and season of pig slaughter at Late Neolithic Durrington Walls (Wiltshire, UK) as detected through a new system for recording tooth wear

Elizabeth Wright, Sarah Viner-Daniels, Mike Parker Pearson, Umberto Albarellaa


Available on

"In sum, pigs were brought to Durrington Walls to be slaughtered at a young age (short of a year) to provide meat for predominately winter-based feasting events. In addition, older pigs(mainly in their second year) were eaten and deposited in pits associated with the ritual closure of houses as they became abandoned. These older pigs may have been slaughtered throughout the year, though still preferentially in winter, suggesting that such closing rituals at the household level were not necessarily linked to the calendrical festivities of the wider community"

Thursday 16 June 2016

Prehistoric Calendar Revealed at Stonehenge - Press Release

LONDONJune 16, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
Summer solstice is fast approaching, and on the 20th June over 20,000 people are expected to gather at the world-famous Stonehenge to celebrate and watch the sun rise above the Heel Stone and shine on the central altar. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is a time when the sun's path stops moving northward in the sky, the days stop growing longer and will soon begin to shorten again.
Over 5000 years old, Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. Its full purpose remains unknown yet the mystery that surrounds Stonehenge is so enduring and popular that last year over 1.3 million visitors flocked to this ancient monument. There are even several man-made copies of the world-famous heritage site have been built around the world, including an impressive full-scale replica at the Maryhill Museum in Washington, USA.
Stonehenge famously aligns to the solstices, but for the rest of the year it seems strange that these ancient builders would not be aware of the current day, or for that matter how many days remained to the next solstice event. However, a new theory has been presented that suggests Stonehenge was used for more than just marking the winter and summer solstices, or as a sacred burial site.
Recently, Lloyd Matthews (scale modelling expert based in the UK) and Joan Rankin (a retired historian living in Canada), have made an ambitious attempt to rethink the purpose of Stonehenge. Their conclusion, after three years of extensive and laborious research, is that the entire structure was, in fact, a complex and significant prehistoric calendar that could actually count the individual days in a year. Not only did Stonehenge act as a solar calendar, similar to the western calendar used today, but it also acted as a lunar calendar and was important for a developing agricultural society to successfully plan for the seasons.
Lloyd Matthews spent 6 years meticulously researching and constructing two scale models of Stonehenge for display at The Maryhill Museum of Art. The models show Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked when built.
During its construction, Mr Matthews identified three distinct carvings on three of the large stones known as Trilithons. Curiosity piqued, Mr Matthews approached several experts at the time who were unable to provide an explanation as to what these symbols meant. Dissatisfied with the responses, Mr Matthews decided to continue his research into this ancient puzzle with the help of Joan Rankin, an authority in prehistory.
Together, they may have not only successfully cracked the mystery of these three symbols but also discovered the original purpose of 56 unusual holes that were dug around Stonehenge during the very first phase of its construction, famously known as the Aubrey Holes. It appears that these holes could likely have been used as a calendar counting system used to keep track of each passing day, with six and a half revolutions around Stonehenge marking a full year, and using the rising of the Summer Solstice sun as a way of astronomically marking the starting point of each new year.
As for the mysterious shapes carved into the Trilithons, they have shown how these symbols may have been deliberately positioned to allow the ancient astronomers at Stonehenge keep track of other significant astronomical cycles, including its use not only as a solar calendar but also as a lunar calendar.
Dr Derek Cunningham, an established archaeological expert has even embraced this new theory himself, saying that "the idea is based on some solid observations. Not only can Lloyd now explain his three shapes, Joan's ideas help explain the layout and also the number of Aubrey Holes seen at the site. Neither had been satisfactorily explained before."
Dr Cunningham goes on to say, "Further work is expected, but it now appears that Stonehenge may finally be giving up some of its secrets."

SOURCE The Office of Lloyd Matthews
(Note - I haven't read or studied all the source material or claims and to their credit they supply a lot of material but some of the conclusions from details such as the "carvings on the stones" seem far fetched to me.) 

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Stonehenge TRO question - When did the notices go up?

Wiltshire Council is applying Temporary Traffic Restriction orders around Stonehenge as usual this solstice.

Some notices have now gone up of the TROs. This photo of one was taken 15 June 2016 by Austin Kinsley - thanks Austin.

The rules for applying for a TRO are quite clear:

The procedure for making temporary orders is set out in the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Procedure Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/1215), as amended.
The procedure is as follows:
Not less than seven days before making an order the authority must publish a notice of their intention to make an order in a local newspaper and in the vicinity of the affected area and inform the police...
The notice is dated 9th June 2016 and the order starts 00:01 on Friday 17th June 2016 so for the TRO to be legal the notices had to be put up on the 9th.

I have asked Wiltshire Council, and am awaiting a reply, the question I am asking you.

When did the notices go up? I didn't spot them on Monday but I may have missed them.

UPDATE = Wiltshire Council say the notices were put up on Mon 14th June and the notice was in the Salisbury Journal on 2nd June (The notice is dated 9th June on the website).The online searchable Public Notices of the Salisbury Journal doesn't have it so it must have been in the print edition only. They also say they no longer have to put notices up on site and they put them up on their website. 

If you spotted them or saw them being put up please tell us.

And can anyone tell me which local newspaper the notices were published in - searching the Gazette and Herald, Swindon Advertiser,, Salisbury Journal, the national data base (the Western Daily Press is covered by this) and the London Gazette fails to find it.

UPDATE: Austin has sent me a picture of the post which the TRO is pictured on above taken on Sat 11th June 2016 showing this notice wasn't posted then.

Click to enlarge pictures. The notice is now on the right hand side of the post in the foreground, the remains of a previous stapled notice can be seen in both pictures. 

Tuesday 14 June 2016

The Stonehenge Silo

North of the New Visitor Centre near Stonehenge and very visible as one waits for a bus on the platform there is a grey concrete tower on the near horizon. It stands alone within a group of barrows and the nearest farm buildings are a couple of hundred yards away.

Many wonder as to its purpose. It is now abandoned but it used to be a silo for the conservation of grass for cattle and sheep feeding in the winter.

There are very few such silos remaining, they became outdated technology and as they tended to be in the farmyard the space they stood on was valuable.

Historic England describes them:

Airtight containers for the storage of freshly cut grass and
its conversion into silage were first developed in the 1880s,
after its initial use elsewhere in Europe. Silage afforded the
opportunity to cut and store grass for bulk fodder without
the risk of poor weather or storage conditions spoiling the
hay or root crop.
Typical features
• Silage clamp – An airtight container for the storage of
freshly cut grass and its conversion into silage. Silage
clamps were brick or concrete walled structures, in which
the silage would be placed and then covered over.
• Silage tower – A tower for the airtight storage of freshly
cut grass and its conversion into silage. A silage tower
is recognisable as a tall structure. Tower silos were
introduced from the United States in 1901, but were not
in general use until after the Second World War.
• There is at least one example of a silage clamp in mass
concrete of the 1880s, otherwise they are modest
• Intact examples of silage towers of 1940 or earlier,
using concrete or displaying a degree of architectural
elaboration, are rare.

(There is a silage clamp at the nearby buildings constructed of reused concrete railway sleepers which is the replacement for the silo.)

The grass was loaded in to the top of the silo by either an elevator as this colour wartime photo shows  or chopped and blown up a tube. It was consolidated to make it anaerobic, usually by being trampled down as the level rose. Molasses or acid was added to create the right conditions for butyric fermentation to pickle the grass.

One side of the silo had small doors all the way down, the frames can still just be seen at the Stonehenge silo. Whilst some silos had mechanical unloaders most relied on a farmworker cutting it out and pitching it down through the door at the level of the silage.

Click photos to embiggen

The Stonehenge silo looks to be 1940s or even earlier and is a rare example and worthy of interest and preservation

Sunday 12 June 2016

Choir Gaure, vulgarly called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, described, restored, and explained

Mr Tom W Flowers has produced a book Stonehenge 1740 AD: John Wood's 1740 survey and report, transcribed and analyzed on C.A.D.which is a transcribed and annotated version John Wood's 1740 book, or as it was described "letter", known as "Choir Gaure, vulgarly called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, described, restored, and explained".

Mr Flowers has some strong views on Stonehenge and its history which needn't bother us now but as a faithful and useful modern printing of this work it is welcome. It is only spoilt by the lack of the large scale plan which so much of the book references as John Wood explains how and where he surveyed it from. The smaller scale plans printed and on the associated website are useful but a touch inadequate. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a better alternative of the actual plans on the web. Mr Flowers also is a great believer in the Megalithic Yard, at 32.664 inches, and uses it as the scale on his plans. I have built a megalithic monument and I doubt we managed to get any large stone to within two inches of where we wanted it to go except by chance. I discover that there is a term and Wikipedia entry that covers it. Pseudoscientific metrology.

The annotations added to the actual book are a light and helpful touch and are useful, and the advert for his upcoming book and websites ( and are kept to an endnote.

The original book is available as a free download from Google books and is within the window below, but it seems to lack the original large plan.

But I like a printed book and so am pleased to add this to my Stonehenge library.

Thursday 9 June 2016

Neolithic Flint Mines - Rybury Camp?

I was lucky enough to visit Grimes Graves last weekend (highly recommended) and was astonished how the hollows were so reminiscent of the hollows on Rybury Camp which I had been on the previous day. Cissbury Ring seems to be also very similar to Rybury Camp.

Grimes Graves

Rybury Camp

Cissbury Ring
Click any to embiggen

The flint mines at Cissbury and Grimes Graves are acknowledged to be of neolithic age. At Rybury, as far as I know the hollows have never been excavated. When a trench was dug across the ditch by Desmond Bonney in 1963 the silts contained over 600 flint flakes. 

The hollows on Rybury are variously described as Post Medieval chalk or flint extraction" - See the listing documentation

Full details from Pastscape are below:

A C Smith in 1884 recorded that chalk for chimneys was excavated from them.

The magisterial report on  The Neolithic Flint Mines Of England Martyn Barber, David Field, Peter Topping 1999 makes no mention of Rybury Camp.  

British Archaeology magazine for July August 2016  has an extensive article on Neolithic Flint Mines and Mike Pitts has made available a paper he wrote some time ago.

With all this interest I wonder if it is time to look again at Rybury..

Pastscape has three different record for Rybury Camp:

MONUMENT NO. 1093453 - The excavation pits on Rybury



(SU 0832 6397; 0847 6372)
In 1995, RCHME carried out an analytical earthwork survey of the causewayed enclosure on Rybury Hill (SU 06 SE 14), as part of a national project to record industry and enclosure in the neolithic period (1). The overlying Iron Age hillfort and presumed Post Medieval chalk or flint extraction pits were allocated new NMR numbers (respectively SU 06 SE 63 and 64), to enhance the record.

The main areas of the extraction pits were not surveyed, but those pits which impinge upon the prehistoric earthworks were recorded. The pits are generally circular, but intercut each other. They range from 0.3m to 1.5m deep. The freshness of the earthworks suggests that a Post-medieval date is probable, though earlier activity cannot be ruled out. The form and location of the pits suggests that flint was being quarried for building material.

For further information, see Level 3 archive report and earthwork plan at 1:1000 scale, held in the Archive. A number of colour photographs were taken, subsequent to the field survey, but as part of the same project; these are also available through the Archive. (1)

The Post Medieval extractive pits described by the previous
authorities have also been mapped at 1:10,000 scale from aerial
photographs. The quarried areas to the south of the hillfort, which
are centred at SU 0847 6372, appear to encroach upon or be surrounded
by three sides of a possible enclosure. It measures 100m by 70m and
it is very difficult to say if it predates or is a result of the
quarrying. Only the west side of the enclosure appears to survive.
(1) Field Investigators Comments
RCHME: Industry and Enclosure in the neolithic: Rybury Camp Survey

(2) Vertical aerial photograph reference number
RAF CPE/UK/1821 6156 04-NOV-1946

Paul Tubb has written extensively on his blog about Rybury and Flint mines which I quote below to keep all the information together.
The causewayed enclosures of the Vale of Pewsey also share an artefactual association with the extraction and knapping of flint. Knap Hill is immediately adjacent to Golden Ball Hill where evidence of extensive Mesolithic and Neolithic flint extraction from the clay-with-flints and primary knapping has been uncovered. The excavations carried out by Connah at Knap Hill in 1961 produced a flint assemblage dominated by debitage (Connah 1965: 14–7) and mole activity on the northern slope of the hill has turned up a large spread of debitage including axe thinning flakes (J Pollard: pers. comm.) Bonney’s excavation of a segment of the outer ditch at Rybury revealed over 600 flint flakes but no finished tools (Anon 1964: 185). Lobb’s excavation at Crofton, although small in extent, revealed a flint assemblage from the primary ditch fill that can be best described as debitage. Harding (Lobb 1995: 20) described it as knapping waste derived from core preparation relating to “small-scale activity for domestic purposes”.
Thomas (1999: 41) and others (Edmonds, 1995: 69 & 73) note an apparent association between causewayed enclosures and lithic sources and stone working and suggest their liminal nature enabled the regulation of lithic production. Certainly the liminality of all three causewayed enclosures in the Vale of Pewsey has been established but as Barber et al. (1999: 53) point out, the choice of location for flint mines or quarries is necessarily constrained by the availability of the raw material and so the two enclosures most likely to be associated with flint extraction and processing are Rybury and Knap Hill. Of those two sites, only Knap Hill is located close to known sources of flint used in the prehistoric period at Golden Ball Hill.
The exploitation of flint sources at Golden Ball Hill concur with a number of observations made by Barber et al. (1999). They note that although the choice of location is constrained by the presence of flint, many mines do not “slavishly” follow the course of flint strata nor is the most accessible or best quality stone always extracted (Barber et al., 1999: 53). They argue the site of extraction must have already possessed a significance or meaning to the groups that chose to extract flint from that location either because it was a prominent landscape feature or a place of import in seasonal or cyclical activities either for raw materials or gathering places. Of course a combination of all three reasons is entirely possible and this may be the case at Golden Ball and Knap Hill (see below). Barber et al. (1999: 57) claim that there are two general locations for flint mines, based on a survey of sites from the South Downs, and they are prominent locations with a high degree of visibility and, secondly, more discrete sites which are hidden by the topography. Certainly the first choice of location would apply to Golden Ball Hill and it is interesting to note an observation by Barber et al. that in Sussex, downland mines tended to be located close to Clay-with-flints and that there would be a strong visual contrast between the dense woodland of the Clay-with-flints and the more open scrub and woodland of the lower chalk slopes. Furthermore, the white of the spoilheaps composed of chalk would form a strong visual counterpoint to the dark of the woodlands. These observations of Barber et al. do bear a strong resemblance to the situation at Golden Ball Hill where a cap of Clay-with-flints covers the top of the ridge, a ridge that can be clearly seen from the rise immediately north of Durrington Walls some 20km south. The flint extraction seems to have taken place on either side of the summit of the hill but later flint extraction has obscured many of the Mesolithic and Neolithic sites.

 Background source.
The Creation of Monuments - Neolithic Causewayed Enclosures in the British Isles
Alastair Oswald, Carolyn Dyer and Martyn Barber

Stonehenge and Avebury Summer Solstice Road and Byway Closures

Summer Solstice event - rights of way temporary closures/restrictions

Temporary Traffic Orders for byways Amesbury 11 and 12 (parts) and Durrington 10 (part) and A360 and B3086 (part) and Various Roads, Avebury will be in place for various periods during the Summer Solstice events in the interests of public safety, full details are in the documents below.

Wiltshire Council Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Various Temporary Traffic Restrictions: Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2016 (Ref: TTRO 4251) 

Notice is hereby given that the Wiltshire Council has made Orders to:

Temporarily close to all vehicles, Pedestrians and Equestrians:

(a) Byway 10 (Part), Durrington; from its junction with Fargo Road to its junction with Byway 12, Amesbury / A344.

(b) Byway 12 (Part), Amesbury; from its junction with Byway 10, Durrington / A344 to its junction with A303 (T).

(c) Byway 12 (Part), Amesbury; from its junction with A303 (T) in a southerly direction for a distance of approximately 500 metres to its junction with Byway 1, Wilsford cum Lake.

(d) Byway 11 (Part), Amesbury; from its junction with A303 (T) in a southerly direction for a distance of approximately 500 metres.

And to introduce a temporary No Waiting at Any Time restriction on the following lengths of road:

(e) A360 (Part) Winterbourne Stoke; from its junction with A303 Longbarrow Roundabout to its junction with A344 (Airman’s Corner).

(f) A360 (Part) Winterbourne Stoke; from its junction with A344 (Airman’s Corner) in a westerly direction towards Shrewton for a distance of approximately 1 kilometre.

(g) B3086 (Part) Winterbourne Stoke / Shrewton; from its junction with A360 / A344 (Airman’s Corner) in a northerly direction to its junction with The Packway (Rollestone Crossroads).

These Orders are made to ensure public safety during the period of the Stonehenge Summer Solstice.

Sections (a) - (d) will come into operation at 00:01 on Friday 17th June 2016 and will remain in force until 00:01 on Thursday 23rd June 2016. Sections (e) - (g) will come into operation at 06:00 on Monday 20th June 2016 and will remain in force until 12 noon on Wednesday 22nd June 2016.

Entry to the sections of byway indicated by (a) to (d) will be conditional upon permits to be issued by English Heritage. The Orders for sections (a) – (d) will have a maximum duration of six months. The Order for sections (e) – (g) will have a maximum duration of 18 months.

For further information please contact Simon Rowe (Wiltshire Council) on 0300 456 0100. Sustainable Transport Group, County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge BA14 8JN 9th June 2016

Wednesday 8 June 2016

It's been emotional, it's been a real journey...

Gillings, Mark and Pollard, Joshua (2016) Making megaliths: shifting and unstable stones in the Neolithic of the Avebury landscape. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 26, 1-32.

"This paper focuses upon the web of practices and transformations bound up in the extraction and movement of megaliths during the Neolithic of southern Britain. The focus is on the Avebury landscape of Wiltshire, where over 700 individual megaliths were employed in the construction of ceremonial and funerary monuments. Locally-sourced, little consideration has been given to the process of acquisition and movement of sarsen stones that make up key monuments such as the Avebury henge and its avenues; attention instead focussing on the middle-distance transportation of sarsen out of this region to Stonehenge. Though stone movements were local, we argue they were far from lacking in significance, as indicated by the subsequent monumentalization of at least two locations from which they were likely acquired. We argue that since such stones embodied place(s);their removal, movement and resetting represented a remarkably dynamic and potentially disruptive reconfiguration of the world as it was known. Megaliths were never inert or stable matter, and we need to embrace this in our interpretative accounts if we are to understand the very different types of monument that emerged in prehistory as a result "

We are hearing more recently that the transport of th eStonehenge  Bluestones from Wales overland "would have required significant manpower and organisation, but would have emphasized the special nature of the task being undertaken. In some ways, the journey of  the bluestones may have been similar to the journey of the Olympic Torch through Britain  in 2012, in terms of promoting a sense of communal celebration and pride." (An Archaeological History of Britain: Continuity and Change from Prehistory to the Present. Jonathan Mark Eaton 2014) It is also worth noting as Julian Richards reminded me yesterday that the "Bluestones" are a motley collection of stones from several different sources. The reason for them being chosen is obviously not the quality or beauty of the stones.

I cringe when I think that the X Factor cliché of the importance of the "journey" is coming to the fore but Mark and Joshua's paper is very thought provoking. They acknowledge how Colin Richards work on the Orkney stone circles is a background to this idea and how as Richards puts it :"the focus on risk (physical, reputational and spiritual) inherent in extracting and moving large stones; the social performance of construction and the way it offers context for negotiation and reaffirmation; and the transformative dimensions of such work".

We also have the very base of Silbury Hill where a plausible interpretation of the mixture of fill material is that different families brought baskets of their own particular soil from some distance away to start the mound off.

So maybe the stones can lay claim to the cliché that they have been on a long/tough/real/interesting/emotional “journey” and that part of their story is as important as the final settings of them.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Stonehenge Solstice Asbestos Warning

"Between 1917 and 1921, Stonehenge had an aerodrome for a near-neighbour. Initially a Royal Flying Corps training establishment, from January 1918 it became the No. 1 School of Aerial Navigation and Bomb Dropping, home to a contingent of RNAS Handley Page bombers. The aerodrome featured two camps either side of a take-off and landing ground, the first located close to Fargo Plantation, and a subsequent and more substantial technical and domestic site situated either side of what is now the A303, a few hundred yards west of Stonehenge... Following a public appeal, the aerodrome and neighbouring farmland was purchased, the buildings dismantled and removed, and the land handed to the National Trust.”

This description is from the excellent report by Martyn Barber - Stonehenge Aerodrome and the Stonehenge Landscape; English Heritage Research Dept Report 007/2014 also available on  (The byway between Stonehenge and the buildings in the photograph has been moved so that the site of some of the buildings is now within the triangular monument field.)

One unfortunate reminder of the Aerodrome buildings is that building rubble, including what appear to be asbestos cement sheet fragments, is present on the surface. The monument field is open to visitors at the solstice so it worth noting the following points. (English Heritage were made aware of the presence of asbestos in the field at last summer's solstice.)

Left untouched these fragments present minimal danger, however harrowing of the field has further broken them and probably released asbestos fibres. These fibres will have mainly bound with soil particles but in dry conditions they can become airborne when disturbed. For complete safety do NOT enter this part of the field.

Do not pick up any fragment. As a protected site nothing should be disturbed anyway but it is very important not to pick up an asbestos cement fragment. It may look like an interesting ancient bit of pottery but it could be deadly.

Asbestos cement board fragments are thin, 3-4mm. light grey and dusty looking. But they may have been painted or combined with other materials.

One of the asbestos cement fragments

The fragment as photographed from Byway 12 with Stonehenge in the background (28 April 2016)
Click pictures to enlarge them

Left alone there is no danger, so enjoy Solstice!

UPDATE : Oct 2016 English Heritage seem to have fenced off the area with rope. Excellent.