Ancient Britons


Aerial archaeologist Ben Robinson visits Amesbury in Wiltshire where excavations have revealed that the history of people living in this location dates back much further than previously thought.

Photo: English Heritage

Photo: English Heritage

New evidence from the dig, at a site called Vespasian’s Camp, has revealed traces of human settlement 3,000 years before nearby Stonehenge was built. A team of archaeologists has uncovered evidence of sustained hunter gatherer activity which dates to 8,000 years ago – long before Stonehenge
David Jacques explains why the discovery is of international importance and what it means in terms of unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge, located less than a mile away.

The Flying Archaeologist – Stonehenge is broadcast on Friday, 19 April at 19:30 BST on BBC One West and South. The series is broadcast nationwide from Wednesday, 1 May at 20:30 BST on BBC Four Watch a clip here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-22019089
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Thousands of people came from across Britain to help build Stonehenge, experts investigating the origins of the monument have said.

They said people travelled from as far afield as the Scottish Highlands.

The latest findings about Stonehenge come after a decade of research

The latest findings about Stonehenge come after a decade of research

Researchers from University College London said their findings overturned what was thought about the origins of the monument.

Until now it had been thought that Stonehenge was built as an astronomical calendar or observatory.

The latest findings, which came after a decade of research, suggested it was the act of building the monument rather than its purpose that was key.

The researchers believed as many as 4,000 people gathered at the site, at a time when Britain’s population was only tens of thousands.

‘Not all fun’

Analysis of animal teeth found at a nearby settlement suggested people travelled the length of the country to help with the building.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from University College London, said the scene would have resembled a cross between the Glastonbury Festival and a motorway building scheme.

He said a settlement at nearby Durrington Walls had about 1,000 homes, the “largest Neolithic settlement in the whole of northern Europe”.

Prof Parker Pearson said: “What we have discovered is it’s in building the thing that’s important. It’s not that they’re coming to worship, they’re coming to construct it.”

He added: “It’s something that’s Glastonbury Festival and a motorway building scheme at the same time. It’s not all fun, there’s work too.”

The academics suggested that Stonehenge was built about 200 years earlier than previously thought, some 4,500 years ago.

Their findings will be revealed in a Channel 4 documentary, Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons.

Full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21724084

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Explore thousands of years of mystic, historic happenings and ye olde English eccentricity

Simon Heptinstall from London’s TNT Travel Magazine visits Wiltshire.

Wiltshire is surely an epicentre of oddities. From inexplicable crop circles to mysterious prehistoric sites, this quintessential slice of unspoiled England is one of the most baffling and interesting places on the planet.

Photos: David Williams, Keith Chaloner/Visit Wiltshire, Britainonview, Getty  Read more: Weird Wiltshire: From mystical Stonehenge to crop cricles and ancient burial sites - TNT Magazine  Follow us: @tntmagazine on Twitter | tntmag on Facebook

Photos: David Williams, Keith Chaloner/Visit Wiltshire, Britainonview, Getty

I’m intrigued by the countless tall tales I’ve heard, and decide the best place to start a tour of weird Wiltshire has got to be Stonehenge.

Theories abound as to how the massive stones – some weighing as much as 50 tonnes – came to be arranged in ancient times. Were they gifts from extraterrestrial beings?

Magically transported through a wave of Merlin’s wizardly wand in the times of King Arthur?

Or simply heaved into place by tough primeval men, for use as an astrological calendar?

However the circle was formed, these mammoth rocks standing on an empty hilltop like the discarded stone lego of giants, are still one of the most imposing sights I’ve ever clapped eyes on

A £7.80 ticket buys you access to the perimeter of the stones, but rather than stump up that cash, I find a signposted National Trust walk, which loops around the surrounding fields.

From here I can still see the famous stone circle and also get a satisfying sense of its place in the ancient landscape of avenues and fields.

A short drive from Stonehenge, through rolling chalky hills, takes me to its lesser-known Stone Age neighbour, Avebury, one of the biggest prehistoric sites in Europe.

Photos: David Williams, Keith Chaloner/Visit Wiltshire, Britainonview, Getty

Photos: David Williams, Keith Chaloner/Visit Wiltshire, Britainonview, Getty

Its sprawling inner and outer stone circles were formed for some long-forgotten purpose, and are connected to the nearby town via a grassy ‘avenue’. This is marked by pairs of large grey stones and leads past ramparts, ditches and tombs.

Naturally, such a mystical scene attracts all the nutters, and I pass groups of beardy druid-types hanging around the various rocks, muttering what sound like charms or spells to themselves.

One old hippy tells me a local legend: if you press your ear to a stone you can hear voices from the past.

I test his theory and strain to catch a whisper from anyone, a Pagan god perhaps, or just a long-deceased worshipper, but eventually give up – his hearing must be better than mine.

Avebury is a real hotbed of quirky old sites.

A short walk away is Silbury Hill – a chalk lump of 40m high, it’s the tallest man-made mound in Europe, comparable in size and age to some Egyptian pyramids.

Its purpose is again unknown – there’s a definite trend here – but legend has it there’s a man on horseback and covered in gold buried in its heart.

Archaeologists have been tunnelling into the mound for years, though, and haven’t found anything yet.

From one burial site to another, the next place on my list to explore is West Kennet Long Barrow – an underground chambered Neolithic tomb

West Kennet Long Barrow

Photos: David Williams, Keith Chaloner/Visit Wiltshire, Britainonview, Getty

Constructed around 3650BC, this atmospheric chamber was in use for at least 1000 years, until it was sealed with chalk rubble and boulders.

Some archaeologists believe this happened at the same time the stone circles at Avebury were built, indicating a dramatic change in beliefs or religion.

Deep inside the chamber, I can’t resist letting out a ghostly “woooh”, which echoes around the old stones.

I’m quickly shushed by a serious-looking spiritualist kneeling on the ground nearby. Time to call it a day.

The next morning I check out Wiltshire’s eight white horses, landmark figures carved into the side of chalk hills. No mystery here though, they were formed by eccentric landowners just a few hundred years ago.

One of the most spectacular, at Cherhill, was designed in 1780 by Dr Christopher Alsop, known as ‘the mad doctor’, who shouted directions to its makers through a megaphone from the bottom of the hill.

Finally, I clamber to the top of Westbury Hill to get a view of the intricate crop circles in the fields below.

From geometric patterns to swirling circles, some of these appeared as recently as last month, yet as little is known about their origin as about Stonehenge’s.

One thing is clear though – Wiltshire shows no signs of getting any less weird over time.

Eat, sleep, drink

For top-notch veggie fare, head to the Circle Restaurant (High St, Marlborough, tel.             01672 539514      ). Sandwiches, soups and cream teas are the order of the day. Mains from about £5.

The Red Lion is a classic old thatched country pub within Avebury’s stone circle.

The pub grub is affordable with main courses from £8.89.

For one of the best selections of real ale in the county, visit The Inn With The Well, a pub with plenty of character. Pints from £3.15.

Quaint Tudor wood panelling and roaring fires set the scene at The Sun Inn, where pints start from about £3.

Avebury Life is a budget B&B embracing Wiltshire eccentricity. It advertises to those coming to “experience the strength and energy of the stones” or “connect with the crop circles”. Double room with en suite from £70pn.

Stay in a grand farmhouse a short drive from Avebury at Blounts Court Farm near Devizes. From £35pppn, it’s a bargain.

Getting there

Take the train from London Paddington to Swindon from £46.30 return. Then take the number 49 bus from Swindon to Avebury (doesn’t run on Sundays).

Links:
http://stonehengetours.com/weird-wiltshire-stonehenge-crop-circle-tour.htm (Weird Wiltshire Tour 2012)
http://www.weirdwiltshire.co.uk/
http://www.tntmagazine.com
http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk
thetrainline.com
english-heritage.org.uk

Needless to say we operate dily tours from London visiting all the locations mentioned. – www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge Guided Tours

Olympic project was almost scuppered by discovery of similar inflatable monument created two years previously

Two thousand people a day have come to frolic on Jeremy Deller’s latest artwork – a bouncy castle that is a precise replica of Stonehenge. Men, women, children: all leap, stride and somersault on Glasgow’s new favourite playground before it travels south to become one of the attractions of the London 2012 festival.

A neat idea, you might think. Sacrilege, as Deller has called his work, is not only a lot of fun (it is impossible not to smile when you shed your shoes, dignity, and understanding of gravity), but also thought-provoking.

The artist has transformed a great symbol of British history into a party. In real life, you cannot get near Stonehenge. Open to myriad interpretations and fantasies over its long history, it has now been given yet another existence through Deller’s impish version of a grand public sculpture

It turns out that Deller is not the first artist to have made an inflatable megalithic monument. In 2010, two years before Deller’s work was launched at the Glasgow International art festival, Jim Ricks, a California-born artist, Galway-based, unveiled his Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen – a precise, double-size replica of a megalithic table tomb built around 6,000 years ago in the Burren, Co Clare. The work toured various locations in Ireland last summer.

So is this a case of plagiarism? Or sheer coincidence? Are bouncy castles having what in fashion is known as a “moment”? Why, after several millennia of human creativity, have two inflatable megalithic monuments come along at once?

Deller became aware of Ricks’ sculpture, he said, while researching a manufacturer for Sacrilege. According to Ricks: “Jeremy contacted me in October and I didn’t think much of it … I didn’t register who it was.”

“I consider it an identical concept,” Ricks told the Guardian. “In terms of the description of the work, they are incredibly similar,” admitted Deller.

But Deller said that the idea for a bouncy Stonehenge had long pre-dated Ricks’s Dolmen. He had originally thought of submitting an idea for bouncy-castle versions of historic sites to an Arts Council England-run public-art competition in 2009, but was too busy at the time. Finally, he decided to realise the idea for Glasgow International, with the London mayor’s office as co-funders.

“The Olympics people got really nervous in case Jim decided to sue us,” said Deller.

Happily for them, he was not minded to. In fact Ricks forgot all about it, until: “I spoke to the manufacturer by chance about six weeks ago and it dawned on me, so I decided to go over to Glasgow. Part of me was like, ‘I’m ruined!’ It was the same idea done bigger and more visibly. But another part of me is delighted because Sacrilege is awesome, Jeremy was a cool down-to-earth guy, and it’s nice to know we’re on the same wavelength … in a ‘great minds think alike, fools seldom differ’ way.”

“You can be generous about it,” said Deller, “and realise that two people can have a very similar idea. It is, after all, a very simple idea.”

According to Ricks: “Jeremy is a lovely man, and I have no reason to doubt his story.”

Where the works differ, perhaps, is in the nuance. “Sacrilege is a way for people – not just kids – to enjoy a historical monument that is supposed to be revered,” said Deller. “It’s comedic, it’s absurd. It could be something you’d see in a satire on the Olympics or on art. I like to think of it as beyond parody.”

Ricks said that his sculpture had come out of observing the power of the Poulnabrone Dolmen as a regional and national symbol. He added: “At the height of the Celtic Tiger period, on every special occasion there seemed to be a bouncy castle around. Bouncy castles became a sort of vernacular monumental sculpture. So I decided to bring those two things together, and create a sort of hybrid version of Irish identity.”

The story of the megalithic bouncy castles is not yet at an end. Deller hopes that Sacrilege will travel to Northern Ireland as part of its Cultural Olympiad tour. If it does, he will invite Jim Ricks to bring his Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen over the border to visit. Let the bounce-off commence.

Full article in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/may/02/bouncy-stonehenge-glasgow?newsfeed=true

The Stonehenge Tour Companywww.StonehengeTours.com

Children were walking on air today after Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller unveiled his life-size bouncy castle… of Stonehenge.

The 20ft-high inflatable, called Sacrilege, is modelled on the prehistoric monoliths and was opened to the public on Glasgow Green as part of the 18-day Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts Festival.

It was designed using detailed plans of the Salisbury monument and took two months to make thanks to the efforts of workers at Inflatable World Leisure, who Mr Deller said built the first ever bouncy castles in the UK.

King of the bouncy castle ... Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege at Glasgow Green is part of the Glasgow international festival of visual arts. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

King of the bouncy castle ... Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege at Glasgow Green is part of the Glasgow international festival of visual arts. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

 

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The 20ft-high inflatable, called Sacrilege, is modelled on the prehistoric monoliths and was opened to the public on Glasgow GreenThe 20ft-high inflatable, called Sacrilege, is modelled on the prehistoric monoliths and was opened to the public on Glasgow Green

Children were walking on air today after Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller unveiled his life-size bouncy castleChildren were walking on air today after Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller unveiled his life-size bouncy castle

His giant inflatable is one of the highlights of a festival programme featuring more than 130 artists at almost 50 venues across the city.

Mr Deller, who won the Turner Prize in 2004, said: ‘It has taken two months to put together so it is wonderful to finally see it up and being used by the public.

‘Stonehenge is a part of our history and it is such an iconic structure that I wanted to recreate it as accurately as I could.

‘We haven’t done it exactly but it is as close as we could get it. People should come down – it’s here for two weeks and it’s free.’

After appearing in Glasgow, the castle – the artist’s first major work in Scotland – will be taken on a tour of the UK.

Artist Jeremy Deller has a go on his installation in ScotlandArtist Jeremy Deller has a go on his installation in Scotland

The giant inflatable took two months to build and is one of the highlights of a festival programme featuring more than 130 artists at almost 50 venues across the cityThe giant inflatable took two months to build and is one of the highlights of a festival programme featuring more than 130 artists at almost 50 venues across the city

 

After appearing in Glasgow, the castle - the artist's first major work in Scotland - will be taken on a tour of the UKAfter appearing in Glasgow, the castle – the artist’s first major work in Scotland – will be taken on a tour of the UK

Other highlights at the Glasgow festival include solo shows by Glasgow-based 2009 Turner Prize winner Richard Wright, Adrian Wiszniewski and Karla Black.

Mr Deller added: ‘I couldn’t have done it without the help of Inflatable World Leisure who built the first bouncy castle in the UK, so they are good company to be in.’

The festival also includes the first UK show called Triumph, an installation of more than 2,500 discarded sporting trophies collected by Polish-born Aleksandra Mir, and an exhibition focused on Glasgow’s Socialist Sunday School movement that flourished in the early 20th century.

More than 90 per cent of the work on show during the 18-day festival is either new or previously unseen in the UK.

'Stonehenge is a part of our history and it is such an iconic structure that I wanted to recreate it as accurately as I could,' Mr Deller said‘Stonehenge is a part of our history and it is such an iconic structure that I wanted to recreate it as accurately as I could,’ Mr Deller said

There will also be a range of newly commissioned works drawing on other artistic disciplines such as dance, film and music.

Teacher Lynda Darrock, 31, visited the bouncy castle with children from Annette Street Primary School in Govan, Glasgow.

She said: ‘The children thought it was absolutely amazing. They were talking about it all day, I even had a go myself.

‘They keep asking if we are going back.

‘Jeremy spent lots of time talking to the children beforehand and afterwards asking if they enjoyed it. He was brilliant.

‘Some of the children have been to Stonhenge and they were blow away with how similar it is to the real thing. They had a great day.’

AND HERE’S THE REAL THING… THE MAGIC AND MYSTERY OF STONEHENGE

The Wiltshire monument was completed around 4,500 years ago and is believed to have taken around 35 years to complete.

The largest of the gigantic upright stones weighs about 40 tons – the equivalent of an articulated lorry.

A Time Team dig (for the Channel 4 show) in 2009 established that Stonehenge was built around the same time as Durrington Walls, another henge, or circular earthwork, two miles away.

The two adjacent henges were part of the same complex, with Durrington Walls the location for a massive Neolithic village that housed the workers who built Stonehenge.

The Time Team suggested that this site housed up to 4,000 people, which would have made it the largest Neolithic settlement in north-west Europe.

The Wiltshire monument was completed around 4,500 years ago and is believed to have taken around 35 years to completeThe Wiltshire monument was completed around 4,500 years ago and is believed to have taken around 35 years to complete

While the circle at Durrington Walls represented life and the land of the living, Stonehenge, encircled by burial mounds, represented the land of the dead, the team claimed.

The two were connected by the River Avon and the procession route from one to the other represented the transition from life to death.

It is thought that the stones used at Stonehenge were moved from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles to the north.

Digs suggest that the area around the stone circle was used to bury the cremated remains of hundreds of people.

Other experts believe that it was a place for healing.

Meanwhile, a study earlier this week suggested Stonehenge could have been designed with acoustics in mind like a Greek or Roman theatre.

A team of researchers from the University of Salford spent four years studying the historic site’s acoustic properties in a bid to crack the mystery of why it was built.

While they could not confirm the exact purpose of the stones, the researchers did find the space reacted to acoustic activity in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man.

‘Stonehenge is very well known, but people are still trying to find out what it was built for and we thought that doing this research would bring an element of archaeology that so far hasn’t been looked at,’ lead researcher, Bruno Fazenda said.

He added the new area of acoustic science, named archaeoacoustics, could be helpful in the archaeological interpretation of important buildings and heritage sites, some of which may not exist in their original form, such as in the case of Stonehenge.

Because the site in Wiltshire is in a derelict state, researchers travelled to Maryhill in the U.S. where a full-sized concrete reconstruction of Stonehenge was built in 1929 as a memorial to the soldiers of WWI.

They were able to make proper acoustic measurements that allowed an investigation into striking acoustic effects such as echoes, resonances and whispering gallery effects.

The second phase consisted in the creation of a full 3D audio-rendition of the space using a system comprised of 64 audio channels and loudspeakers especially developed at the University of Salford based on Wave Field Synthesis.

This system enables an accurate and immersive recreation of what Stonehenge would have sounded like.

SOURCE – Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2132789/Stonehenge-bouncy-castle-comes-Glasgow.html#ixzz1sgMI1wJF

The Stonhenge Tour Company
www.StonehengeTours.com

Whatever went on there, it would have impressed the ancient Britons. Even if it was only whispering

Stonehenge

Bits missing. But when it was all in place, there’d have been booms, rumbles, echoes and reverberations. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty

Salford‘s clever academics, who once took me shopping in a virtual supermarket – you sat in an armchair wearing a helmet and a glove – have now recreated the sound of Stonehenge.

We are nowhere nearer cracking the mystery of the monument as a result; but who would want to be? Apart from all the mountains of remaindered books of theories, a puzzle solved is never as gripping as a conundrum still under way.

But the four-year project by Dr Bruno Fazenda and colleagues atHuddersfield and Bristol universities, has established how the shouts, speeches, songs or sacrificial screams would have sounded, whatever material they may have contained. The method has been a painstaking piece of ‘archaeoacoustics’, a relatively new discipline which reveals the sound quality of buildings from the past.

Fazenda says:

Stonehenge MemorialStonehenge is very well known, but people are still trying to find out what it was built for and we thought that doing this research would add an element of archaeology that so far hasn’t been looked at. It’s a new area of acoustic science and it could be very helpful in the archaeological interpretation of important buildings and heritage sites, some of which may not exist in their original form, such as in the case of Stonehenge.

The number of missing bits at the famous stone circle by the A303 in Wiltshire was an obvious problem, and tests there by the team produced only a limited number of weak echoes and no noticeable reverberation. Ancient Britons would not have been terribly overawed by this, if the monument was built to impress. But luckily there is a full-sized replica in the United States.

Built out of concrete and erected at Maryhill, Washington state, as a memorial to US soldiers killed in the First World War, this revealed a wealth of special effects. Fazenda found:

It was possible to make proper acoustic measurements that allow an investigation into striking effects such as echoes, resonances and whispering gallery effects. The data gathered does not unequivocally reveal whether the site was designed with acoustics in mind, like Greek or Roman theatres. It nevertheless shows that the space reacted to acoustic activity in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man.

The next stage, in the tradition of my virtual supermarket foray, was to create an ‘audio 3D rendition’ of the recorded sounds, using 64 audio channels and bespoke loudspeakers from Salford university based on wave field synthesis. Fazenda says:

This system give us an accurate and immersive recreation of what Stonehenge would have sounded like. We can not only see ourselves surrounded by the stones using virtual reality, but we can also listen how the stone structure would have enveloped people in a sonic experience. It is as if we can travel back in time and experience the space in a more holistic way.

There’s more on the subject on a separate and excellent website called Sonic Wonders which has all manner of acoustic revelations. Here’s a clapping experiment on YouTube courtesy of them – background details are here.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2012/apr/19/stonehenge-acoustics-archaeology-salford-university-bruno-fazenda

Join a guided tour of Stonehenge and hear about the many new theories
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