Friday 26 August 2016

The Stonehenge Barrow Map

From  Simon Banton, the renown Stonehenge expert, writes:

"In 1812, Sir Richard Colt Hoare (henceforth RCH) published "The Ancient History of Wiltshire, Vol. 1" - a magnificent work (one of a pair - volume 2 followed later) which detailed the work he sponsored and William Cunnington supervised in the years before and after the turn of the 19th century.

Aided by Stephen and John Parker, this ensemble excavated many hundreds of burial mounds across Wiltshire. It was one of the earliest attempts at scientific archaeological recording as opposed to simple treasure hunting. Many of the finds ultimately ended up in Wiltshire Museum and the descriptions of the barrows' excavations are a valuable resource.

There is a map in Ancient Wiltshire labelled "Stonehenge and its Environs", drawn by Philip Crocker, that depicts the landscape around the monument together with the barrows that had been investigated and numbered by RCH during this work. RCH also grouped the barrows into several areas in his "Stations" and "Itineraries" in the text, but not totally consistently in all cases.

These days, we don't use RCH's barrow numbers.

Instead there are several different standards such as the Goddard/Grinsell Parish Numbers (eg Amesbury G15), the National Monuments Record Number (eg SU 14 SW 104), the Historic England Monument Number (eg 219732) or the Wiltshire & Swindon Historic Environment Record Number (eg MWI12998 SU14SW835).

All of the above refer to the same barrow - one called "Sun Barrow" - which is RCH's barrow number 164 in his Amesbury grouping.

It can be a real challenge to correlate information that uses one system with other information that uses a different system. What's more, there isn't (or wasn't) anything online that allowed you to find a barrow via any of these systems and see the reference numbers (and links to) the other systems alongside.

That sort of thing tends to frustrate someone like me so I created a Google Map backed by a Google Spreadsheet and set about matching up the data into a single reference work for the barrows shown on RCH's famous map. It took about 6 months to achieve - two days to do the coding, the rest of the time going through each of the sources carefully matching records together. Unsurprisingly, there are some errors in each of the reference sources so I sent in reports of discrepancies along the way and the custodians of those sources have been able to update the information in them to fix things.

There are still inconsistencies - it's inevitable. In the time between RCH's excavation and numbering of a barrow and Goddard and Grinsell's work in the early and mid 20th century, mechanized ploughing has obliterated many previously upstanding earthworks. Since RCH didn't have GPS or even decent OS maps to go by, determining exactly which slight rise in the ground matches which particular one of his barrows can be a huge problem.

Nonetheless, the end result is useful I hope. "

Friday 19 August 2016

Durrington Walls - Post Removal Thoughts.

I have linked before to Gillings, Mark and Pollard, Joshua (2016) Making megaliths: shifting and unstable stones in the Neolithic of the Avebury landscape. Cambridge Archaeological Journal261-32.
where they discuss "the web of practices and transformations bound up in the extraction and movement of megaliths during the Neolithic of southern Britain....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 "

The discovery that the anomalies under the bank at Durrington Walls were postholes which seem to have only held posts for a short period before they were removed is being interpreted as  that it was "a time of particularly intense religious and political rivalry" with a change of organiser who demanded the posts be removed and a bank erected.

That the posts were carefully removed and not just burnt, chopped or slighted suggests to me that they were treated with some reverence, and as others have suggested were then reused. It may well be that the raising and removal of the posts were all part of the same tradition and yet again we see the evidence of hard work being a demonstration of devotion.

Link to the earlier discussion:

Thursday 18 August 2016

Astronomy shown to be set in standing stone - PR

University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago. 

The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, details the use of innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the patterns of alignment of the standing stones.

“Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” says project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.

Examining the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland (Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney ─ both predating Stonehenge’s standing stones by about 500 years), the researchers found a great concentration of alignments towards the Sun and Moon at different times of their cycles. And 2000 years later in Scotland, much simpler monuments were still being built that had at least one of the same astronomical alignments found at the great circles.

The stones, however, are not just connected with the Sun and the Moon. The researchers discovered a complex relationship between the alignment of the stones, the surrounding landscape and horizon, and the movements of the Sun and the Moon across that landscape. 

“This research is finally proof that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2000 years,” says Dr Higginbottom.

Examining sites in detail, it was found that about half the sites were surrounded by one landscape pattern and the other half by the complete reverse.

“These chosen surroundings would have influenced the way the Sun and Moon were seen, particularly in the timing of their rising and setting at special times, like when the Moon appears at its most northerly position on the horizon, which only happens every 18.6 years,” Dr Higginbottom says.

“For example, at 50% of the sites, the northern horizon is relatively higher and closer than the southern and the summer solstice Sun rises out of the highest peak in the north. At the other 50% of sites, the southern horizon is higher and closer than the northern, with the winter solstice Sun rising out of these highest horizons.

“These people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew. They invested a tremendous amount of effort and work to do so. It tells us about their strong connection with their environment, and how important it must have been to them, for their culture and for their culture’s survival.”

The research is part of the Western Scotland Megalithic Landscape Project carried out by Dr Higginbottom and Professor Roger Clay, astrophysicist at the University of Adelaide.

Monday 15 August 2016

Autumn Equinox Stonehenge Open Access Arrangements Thursday 22nd September 2016

Thursday 22nd September from 0615, or when it is light or safe enough to enter the monument field. Access will end at 0830 that morning.

More details as we get them.

Sunday 14 August 2016

The New Visitor Centre - The Dream and The Reality

The pre-build architect visualisations and the same scenes as best as could be taken, 15 August 2016

Saturday 13 August 2016

Stonehenge Visitor numbers

An Edward Shepherd put in an FOI request to obtain the number of visitors to Stonehenge, or perhaps more accurately the number of people processed through the tills at the New Visitor Centre.nearby.

2013/14 Financial Year 1,265,104 
2014/15 Financial Year 1,364,519 
2015/16 Financial Year 1,359,448 

2013 Calendar Year 1,241,296 
2014 Calendar Year 1,346,177 
2015 Calendar Year 1,366,765 

EH/HE refused to supply the daily figures: "Re your request for visitor numbers for ‘each day for the years 2013,2014,2015 and 2016 ’, this information is not readily available. Having looked in to this part of the request for you I am sorry to inform you that I am unable to provide the information under Regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR: Manifestly unreasonable requests- contained within the EIR, as I believe that the cost of compliance with your request is too great. " 

As a daily figure is put into a spreadsheet I would have thought the figure was easily found, but what do I know? 

Mr.Shepherd obviously thinks similarly so he has put in another FOI request for just one year's figures. Dealing with that FOI request will take longer than just digging out the spreadsheets....

The New Model for English Heritage states that:
The assumptions behind this projection are:
• First, that there will be an increase of 11% in visits to Stonehenge between 13/14 and 15/16 as a result of the investments there which will be complete in spring 2014, and that the 15/16 visit figures will be maintained on an on-going basis.

An extra 11% in visits on the 13/14 financial year visitors would mean the expectation was for 1,404,265 visitors in 15/16 - looks like Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge may be missing her target..

Friday 12 August 2016

Durrington Walls - No Stones Found

The news is out now as the dig has finished:

'New Stonehenge' at Durrington Walls 'had no standing stones'

Mike Parker Pearson and Vince Gaffney on the site before the dig started.

A 4,500-year-old monument experts thought was "another Stonehenge" is now understood to have not contained any standing stones at all.

Archaeologists digging at Durrington Walls - about two miles from Stonehenge - said they now believed the Neolithic site was surrounded by timber posts.

Last year they said a survey showed evidence of "a Superhenge" of more than 100 buried stones at the site.

But no evidence of stones was found during an excavation.

Pits that contained wooden posts have been found.....

Monday 8 August 2016

Durrington Walls 3D model

From Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam comes a wonderful 3D model of Durrington Walls.

Embeded version of the model below to fly around - or click on the link to go to it at Sketchfab.

A Remotely Piloted Aircraft photogrammetric survey of the henge and its immediate landscape, August 2016. Part of a project to investigate an arc of large anomalies beneath the 4,500 year old bank of Durrington Walls, discovered by a Eurpean team led by Professor Vince Gaffney of Bradford University who have been carrying out a series of geophysical surveys over a large part of the Stonehenge landscape. The excavation involves the combined forces of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, the Hidden Landscapes team and the National Trust.
Prior to the aerial survey being carried out, permissions were obtained from the MOD, as Durrington Walls and just about all of the Stonehenge landscape is within Danger Areas with regular low flying routes. Also Land owners and gaurdians such as the National Trust and English Heritage, had to give permission.

Saturday 6 August 2016

A344 Permissive Path - Letter to Wiltshire Council Planning Department

FAO Louise Porter

I have an interest in the various planning applications around Stonehenge and would ask that I’m kept informed as the progress of the provision of the permissive path on the route of the stopped up A344 which is due to be delivered in “Summer 2016”.  With the weather feeling autumnal already it would seem to be overdue especially as on inspection the re-vegetated bed of the old road appears to be in good shape.

This path is important to promote sustainable access to the stones by foot and bicycle from Amesbury and public transport hubs and was an integral part of the planning application which lead to the stopping up of the A344. The use of this route to pass and view Stonehenge is in itself an historic part of our heritage,  the poignancy of photographs of troops marching past on their way to war a hundred years ago are an example of the importance of maintaining this link.

I note that the Council officers have been instructed to work to achieve this path and that the gating at the end of the path at Byway 12 is to remain on the route of the old A344.

Thank you.

Tim Daw

I attach a few notes from the various relevant documents so that I have a collated collection of them.

Full details are in the Wiltshire Council planning application S/2009/1527

The Phasing of Works Document 
( has these details:


This phase involves the release of the re-vegetated A344 area. 

The existing/temporary stock fence and gates to the north of the original A344 are to be removed and turf used to patch any resulting disturbances in the grass surface. The areas of the permissible route that are formed using the ground reinforcement system are to be removed and patched using turf grown off site.

The permissible route is now along the northern edge of the re-vegetated A344.


This phase involves the release of the re-vegetated A344 area.  

The existing bridge over The Avenue and areas of reinforced grass to the west and east of the bridge are to be removed and patched using species rich chalk grass turf grown off site.
The temporary barriers/fence, such as rope barriers, to the grassed A344 is removed.

The existing stock fence to the north of the A344 and around the former car park and hub facilities is removed and grass is patched with turf as needed to make the grass surface good.”

And from Planning Application 16/03988/FUL 

“Notwithstanding the submitted drawings showing the proposals for directing pedestrian arrivals in the vicinity of the A344 junction with Byway 12, prior to the commencement of the development hereby approved further details shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority demonstrating how pedestrians using the signed and lined route on the southern side of the A344 can access the Stones without having to cross the A344 or to walk within the route used by the Visitor Transit System to the east side of Byway 12. The approved details shall be implemented before the proposed bus turning arrangements are brought into effect."

And under “Other issues raised that are not material planning considerations:”

“Some aspects of the original planning permission for the Visitor Centre are still not completed/conditions not complied with, e.g. the Right of Way from the Stock Bottom (A303) to the Stones, along the path of the old A344 is still not open for use, and there is no landscaped walk to the Stones from the Visitor Centre – [There is an ongoing enforcement case regarding some issues from the previous consent, however this is not of relevance to the current proposal].”

With regard to the promised path on the route of the grassed over A344 they had this to say:

“It was noted that the permissive path agreed as part of a legal agreement when the A344 was originally closed, was further down the site and did not form part of this application.....Although the location of the pathway connected to the A344 promise was outside of the application area, it was felt that Officers should work to achieve it. “

ADDED 15/8/16

Q: When does EH apply for closures to the A344 diversion?
A: The A344 has been permanently closed for the past 3 years, this occurred when the visitor centre was relocated. The right of way will be opened when the surface of the grassed over section can withstand the footfall, as agreed in the planning permission.

Friday 5 August 2016

Neolithic Flint Shattering Using Thermal Shock.

Looking at a flint scatter under the bank material of the excavation at Durrington Walls set me thinking, and these are only the most preliminary thoughts that I would welcome feedback on.

The shattered flint was mainly very fine shards and would seem to have been part of a cricket ball sized nodule that broke where it was found. Whether some shards were removed further examination will reveal.

Under the shards was a broken (in situ) flint nodule, commonly known as a pot boiler, that showed the crazing and colouration of having been heated to a high temperature.  It was thought its position was coincidental to the shards, which did not show obvious signs of having been heated.

UPDATE 5/816 - A second, larger but very similar scatter has been found in the same trench resting on a bed of charcoal.

The flint shards were so fine and so contained in a small area it didn’t appear that they had been knapped in the usual manner with the debitage falling onto the ground from a thigh, for instance.

As an experiment, I have heated a flint nodule in an enclosed wooden fire to a high temperature and then placed a cold fracture-free piece of flint on top of the hot nodule as soon as it had been removed from the fire.

There was a cracking sound and the cold flint appeared to have developed a fracture, and on gentling tapping it the flint broke in half.

(Before and after inset)

I believe there is possibility that “pot boiler” heated nodules were used to induce fracturing in flints and the production of shards in the culture and age of the building of the banks of Durrington Walls,  Note I'm not suggesting they were used to fashion flint tools, just to bust open nodules to produce flakes that could then be knapped.

John C. Whittaker  in FLINTKNAPPING: MAKING AND USING STONE TOOLS, Second Edition. Austin: University of Texas Press (1995) is disparaging about the use of heat in the production of flint flakes but it may be that he is only considering it for the production of finished articles rather than a preliminary breaking of nodules to produce raw materials to be further worked.

Many of the cryptocrystalline silicates can be improved by heat- treatment. This may in fact be the source of that absurd old story about making arrowheads by heating the stone and dripping cold water on it to crack off flakes (Eames 1915; Fraser 1908; Nagle 1914). Enough serious knappers have tried this (e.g., Ellis 1939) to show that it does not work, never did work, and could not work, but you will still hear it. Courtesy inhibits us from calling people liars, but if someone claims to have seen arrowheads made by fire and water or to have done it themselves, don't invest in any real estate with them.
Nevertheless, heat can be used in stone working, although not for flaking.

References cited by Whittaker:
EAMES, FRANK. 1915. The fashioning of flint. 27th Annual Archaeological Report, Appendix to the Report of the Minister of Education, Toronto, Ontario
ELLIS, HOWARD HOLMES. 1939. Flint-working techniques of the American Indians: An experimental study. Columbus: Lithic Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Ohio State Museum.
FRASER, THOMAS H. 1908. Touching Aboriginal History. Sports Afield 40:67-69
NAGLE, Ed. 1914 Arrow-chipping by Means of Fire and Water. American Anthropologist 16:140

A more comprehensive review of the use of heat on flints for flaking them suggests that, certainly in America, there is evidence for its use and practicality.  Three references for preliminary use:

A History of Flint-Knapping Experimentation, 1838-1976 [and Comments and Reply]
L. Lewis Johnson; Jeffery A. Behm; François Bordes; Daniel Cahen; Don E. Crabtree; Dena F. Dincauze; Conran A. Hay; Brian Hayden; Thomas R. Hester; Paul R. Katz; Ruthann Knudson; Francis P. McManamon; S. C. Malik; Hansjürgen Müller-Beck; Mark H. Newcomer; K. Paddayya; Patricia Price-Beggerly; Anthony J. Ranere; H. D. Sankalia; Payson D. Sheets
Current Anthropology, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Jun., 1978), pp. 337-372.

Alison Mercieca.  Burnt and Broken: An Experimental Study of Heat Fracturing in Silcrete.
Australian Archaeology No. 51 (Dec., 2000), pp. 40-47

Gregg, L. , and Richard J. Grybush. 1976.  
Thermally Altered Silicious Stone from Prehistoric Contexts: Intentional Versus Unintentional Alteration.
American Antiquity 189-192. 

Thursday 4 August 2016

Durrington Walls "Superhenge" Excavation - First Days Update

"At the start of our dig our best guesses were that they could be one of two things.

They might be the remains of standing stones – now lying flat or;

They might be pits dug to hold giant timber posts but then backfilled, similar to some unearthed by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and the multi-university Stonehenge Riverside Project near the southern entrance of the henge.

The work has progressed incredibly quickly and we’ve already been able to answer the first part of our conundrum. We have what appears to be one very definite pit and another taking shape on the opposite side of the trench."

"These pits were originally dug before the construction of the bank and ditch of Durrington Walls henge; therefore the material of the bank overlies these pits."

The story is more complicated, but still posts or intended posts not stones.

Monday 1 August 2016

River Basins and Watersheds in the UK

Just to the north of Devizes in the Leipzig Plantation is where there is a triple watershed where water can either go to the North Sea via the Kennet and Thames, or the Channel via the Hampshire Avon or out to the Atlantic down the Bristol Avon. I was asked to find the spot and with some difficulty found a website which has all the information of all the major river basins and watersheds that are at least partly in England (parts of Scotland and Wales are included) in a zoomable map format -

Durrington Walls Excavations 2016

Last year there was considerable media interest in a line of anomalies discovered by ground sensing techniques beneath the bank at Durrington Walls.

Mike Parker Pearson and Vince Gaffney on the bank of Durrington Walls

They have been interpreted as buried stones by the team lead by Vince Gaffney who discovered them, others such as Mike Parker Pearson believe they are empty post holes or compact chalk masses.

During the first three weeks of August 2016 they have combined forces to excavate an area to find out what is there.

The dig is open to the public, do go along.