August 22nd, 2015

Above is a photograph of the final Stonehenge Avenue approach to the monument from the northeast. English Heritage states  'Recent excavations have shown that the line of the Avenue follows the line of natural geological features -- gullies and banks in the surface of the chalk, formed at the end of the last ice age, but which could have been visible as shallow ridges to the builders of Stonehenge. The Avenue was probably constructed in about 2300 BC, more than a century after the great central stone structures had been built. It is interpreted as a ceremonial approach to Stonehenge. Following the solstice alignment in its first straight section, the ditches and banks then curve off to the east before sweeping off down to the ... Read More

The Winterbourne Stoke long barrow and Bronze Age barrow group at Stonehenge are an often overlooked site within the Stonehenge environs, west of the monument and immediately northeast of Winterbourne Stoke/Long barrow Roundabout on the A303. The location of the site, immediately north of the A303, and the constant accompaniment of passing road traffic, no doubt deter visitors. For those who do park up in the lay-by entrance area on the northbound side of the A303 (east of Longbarrow Roundabout), it does have a great deal to offer. Much is known of the prominent Neolithic 'leader' who was buried in this long barrow approximately 5500 years ago here, and the gentleman's bones are currently on display in the English Heritage visitor centre at Stonehenge, less than ... Read More

August 12th, 2015

The 2015 archaeological field excavations at West Kennet Avenue, Avebury, conducted by the National Trust, concluded in early August 2015 and their 18 daily blog updates of the excavations are here. A post hole was discovered this year and described on the Day 16 blog as: 'What we have is an absolute whopper of a post hole. It's getting on for 1.5 metres deep and originally contained a post approaching 0.6 metres in diameter. The post it contained is likely originally to have stood something in the region of 6 metres or more tall. It had been packed in place with large sarsen stones (some of which were as much as 0,5 metres wide). Then chalk had been rammed in between the gaps and water added ... Read More

August 8th, 2015

From earliest childhood memories, the chalk hill figure of the Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset has been welded into my consciousness. My first memory was of a family holiday, driving from Bournemouth to Cornwall in the West Country. My father hired a Morris Minor for the holiday and as we drove past the enigmatic hill figure, my brother and I sniggered together in the back of the car. To this day, by my mind it is the iconic image of Dorset, as Stonehenge is to Wiltshire and the White Horse of Uffington is to Oxfordshire. Many stories, legends, and of course folklore, have arisen among us Dorset folk over the generations relating to this gigantic figure (180 feet long and 167 feet wide). The round baby-like ... Read More

August 5th, 2015

The 2015 archaeological field excavations at Marden and Wilsford Henges in the Vale of Pewsey Wiltshire are now complete. Pete Glastonbury has kindly provided his photographs of some of this season's finds along with additional images from the 2010 excavations, which are included below, together with my own images taken during a number of site visits during July 2015. 'Marden is a Wiltshire village approaching midway between Avebury and Stonehenge. It has a huge henge that is larger than Avebury. The henge has a unique feature of two entrances at right angles to each other on north and east sides, and a ditch 40 feet wide. It had a 'Giant' mound that John Aubrey claimed was second only in size to Silbury Hill.' -  Brian ... Read More

On 22 July 2015, Pete Glastonbury guided me around ancient features in the archaeologically rich area of Devizes, Avebury, and the Vale of Pewsey. The tour included a visit to a long barrow. Long barrows are the oldest known architecture in the British Isles, dating from the early Neolithic, around 4000BC to 2500BC. This one, however, at All Cannings in Wiltshire, was created not by our distant Neolithic ancestors, but in the 21st century by Tim Daw, a local farmer, and is described in further detail here. Pete Glastonbury witnessed the construction of the All Cannings Long Barrow in Wiltshire during 2014 and has kindly provided the photographs above and below, taken during the construction process in April and May 2014, respectively. 'The first "Neolithic" long ... Read More

The above photograph by Pete Glastonbury is of a wheat field ready for harvest at Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. Lammas Day, 1 August, traditionally the first harvest festival of the year. Much is written elsewhere of Lammas Day and its traditions and folklore, which I do not propose to explore further here.  My father's first job on leaving school in the early 1950s was labouring on a farm near Dorchester in Dorset and I asked him this evening to share a few memories of harvest time from those times, less than 25 years after Thomas Hardy died. My father was employed as a farm labourer for the Voss family, who owned a 3000 acre farm near Dorchester in Dorset. The farm was based in the ... Read More

July 7th, 2015

Thank you Pete Glastonbury for the above aerial view of the site of Marden Henge. On 15 June 2015 the University of Reading announced in a press release: 'Archaeologists are embarking on an exciting three-year excavation in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire. Situated between the iconic prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is a barely explored archaeological region of huge international importance. The project will investigate Marden Henge. Built around 2400 BC, ‘Marden' is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain's most important but least understood prehistoric monuments.' The full press release is here, and prompted me to look a little more closely at earlier writings on the subject of Marden Henge. A previous two-year English Heritage excavation at ... Read More

Neil Wiseman, the author of Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos lives in Hyannis, Massachusetts, USA, thousands of miles from Stonehenge and the prehistoric monuments of Britain. However, his geographic location does not hamper his passion for and knowledge of these subjects. Neil probably knows more on the recorded history of each stone that remains at Stonehenge than any other person I know. Millions of words have been written on the subject of Stonehenge, frequently repeating facts that are readily available by searching the World Wide Web. It was refreshing to find in the first paragraph of his book the statement "Forty percent of the stones are now gone, leaving behind this crumbled death mask, frozen in a rictus of ragged gap-toothed ruin", a turn of ... Read More

June 1st, 2015

As Carl Sagan once said: 'Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.' The two chalk plaques below were discovered between King Barrow Wood and Stonehenge Bottom in the late 1960s by Major H.M. and Mrs. F. De M. Vatcher. They were found during the widening and lowering of the A303 road near Stonehenge in the chalk of the verge on the north side of the carriageway, 211 yards west of the wood. The larger plaque is approximately three inches square and seven-sixteenths of an inch thick. They were found near the base of the pit at a depth of a little under two feet from the surface. The upper part of the ditch filling was empty of finds ... Read More

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