What we learned about Stonehenge this week is that it wasn’t built for summer celebrations.
Stonehenge Photo: Alamy
In his book Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos, North showed by meticulous calculation how the alignment of Stonehenge was not, as was long supposed, to the Midsummer sunrise, but to its setting on the day of the Winter Solstice: in other words, to that very moment when the old year dies before nature begins its return to new life. For our Neolithic ancestors, it was thus a midwinter festival equivalent to our Christmas or the Roman Saturnalia.
A line of huge megaliths that once acted as a site for rituals carried out during the building of Stonehenge has been discovered. Here is how to visit the site
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a massive stone monument buried under the bank of a stone-age enclosure known as Durrington Walls, just two miles from Stonehenge.
A new line of stones has been found under Durrington Walls super-henge
Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators from Birmingham and Bradford universities, alongside an international team of experts, have uncovered a 330m-long line of more than 50 massive stones, buried under part of the bank of Britain’s largest pre-historic henge.
Professor Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist on the project, said that the discovery has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting.
“Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier,” he said.
What is it
Gaffney said that the stones are thought to have been erected more than 4,500 years ago to form a dramatic ritual arena. The monuments were grand, built to give the impression of authority to the living and the dead.
However, as the megaliths are buried underground, visitors to the area will not be able to see them for themselves.
Yet you can still get a great sense of their majesty if you use a bit of imagination, and Durrington Walls, the village where Stonehenge’s builders lived, is itself an interesting site.
The henge at Durrington Walls has long mystified archaeologists because one side is straight while the rest of it is curved. It surrounds several smaller enclosures and timber circles, and is connected to a newly excavated later Neolithic settlement. Thousands of people travelled great distances to gather here and feast on roast pork and apples in midwinter. The area outside the ditch and bank was once a settlement, possibly housing hundreds of homes, making Durrington Walls the biggest village in north-west Europe at the time.
The earliest phase of Durrington Walls with its line of megaliths
How to see the site on a guided walk
The National Trust is hosting a Discover Durrington Walls event on October 10. On this 3-mile walk, you’ll explore the secrets of Durrington Walls – once home to the builders of Stonehenge – and discover 6,000 years of hidden history with National Trust’s landscape guides.
To book: Call the estate office on 01980 664780 or email email@example.com
How to see the site on an independent walk
Download a National Trust map for one of the following routes and explore for yourself.
1. Ramble around on a Durrington Walls and Landscape walk and explore the connection between two of the most important henge enclosures in the country in a less-known part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. To view the route: nationaltrust.org.uk/wra-1356324449264/view-page/item463554/
2. Go on a Durrington Walls to Stonehenge walk and discover the landscape in its full glory from the Bronze Age barrow First World War military railway track, as well as its diverse wildlife and plants. To view the route: nationaltrust.org.uk/stonehenge-landscape/things-to-see-and-do/view-page/item937063/
Join a guided tour from London or Salisbury
Stonehenge Guided Tours operate daily tours of Stonehenge and many of their small group tours explore the greater landscape including Woodhenge and Durrington Walls. Exclusive private guided tours can be arranged for individuals, families and small groups with local experts. They also specialise in Stonehenge special access tours. To view their tours: http://www.StonehengeTours.com
– Picnic area (not NT) and information panel at Woodhenge car park
– Outdoor café
– Picnic area (not NT) at Stonehenge car park, 0.75 miles from this walking route.
How to get there
Bike: National Cycle Network route 45 runs south-east of the property. See sustrans.org.uk
Bus: Wilts & Dorset 5 or 6, between Salisbury, Pewsey, Marlborough and Swindon. Service 16 from Amesbury, request stop at Woodhenge
Rail: Salisbury station, 9 miles from Woodhenge car park
Road: Woodhenge car park is 1¾ miles north of Amesbury, follow signs from A345
This article was written by Trisha Andres (Telegraph Mail)
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