Wednesday 5 June 2024

Stonehenge Multicircuit Parch Marks Update

It is reported that since 2013 there has been further investigations into the parch marks at Stonehenge, see:

This image shows a terrain-flattened Digital Elevation Model of Stonehenge derived from UAS survey....
Analysis and interpretation of the results with Heather Sebire and Mark Bowden are ongoingText: Adam Stanford / Image: Survey data: Adam Stanford, GIS Analysis: Dr Scott Williams, SUMO GeoSurveys"

More at the link above, and for a full size version of the image:

One of the most interesting aspects of the Model is how it shows the bank between the Y and Z holes clearly. It is the irregular orange circle outside the stones between the blue dots which are the Y and Z holes. (Orange is a bank, blue a hole)

This bank was described in  Field, D. et al. (2014) ‘Analytical Surveys of Stonehenge and its Immediate Environs, 2009–2013: Part 1 – the Landscape and Earthworks’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 80, pp. 1–32. doi:10.1017/ppr.2014.6.

"Immediately within each circuit of depressions is an extremely low bank identified as both a surface expression and GPR response. As with the depressions this feature is not precisely circular in plan but has a series of sinuous bulges and relatively sharp angles. The nature of these banks cannot at present be determined."

When we were investigating the parch marks in 2013 I noticed marks in a circle in this area and wrote a post, copied below about them.

From the model it seems that the bank isn't a continuous bank but a series of mounds and the parch marks we plotted are between the mounds. In this portion the  orange mounds can be seen to be in line between the z and Y holes. 

Fascinating, I look forward to the results of the analysis of the model and other data.


Original Post from 30 August 2014:

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

In July 2013 various parch marks 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.”

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