The publication Monumenta Britannica by John Aubrey is described as 'in four parts, chiefly written in about 1665-93, with notes added by John Evelyn and Dr. Thomas Gale. These volumes contain a large amount of curious observations and original work, and are of considerable value from the numerous illustrations and the first-hand information relating to British antiquities.' The manuscript is available to view via a link on Tim Daw's blog here. On page n23 of the manuscript available to view on the link above, after describing a visit to Nine Stones stone circle near Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset, Aubrey adds: 'In this roade, halfe a mile farther westwards stand three stones as in fig. 2. These stones are four foot high+. From A to B eight paces. ... Read More

Of Kingston Russell stone circle in Dorset, Historic England state on their Pastscape record that it 'is a large irregular circle of Late Neolithic or Bronze Age date, consisting of eighteen fallen conglomerate or sarsen stones situated on a chalk ridge 750 metres northeast of Gorwell Farm. In 1815 one stone to the south was still standing. The circle appears to retain its full number of stones, although many of them may not be in their original positions. Two stones of a similar kind to those comprising the circle lie by the side of an adjoining fence (see record 450259). The circle has a diameter of 30 metres and has 18 visible stones. The stones vary in size from 2 metres by 0.5 metres to ... Read More

March 11th, 2017

The abbey of Cerne Abbas in Dorset was founded in 987 AD, as confirmed in its charter written in the 12th or 13th century. A summary of the history of this house of Benedictine monks is here at British History Online. Below is an artist's impression of how the original abbey may have looked. The North Gate entrance (no longer in existence) opened onto the main road from Sherbourne, which passes below the Giant on the farm track currently known as Eastfield Drove. It would have been used by wagons taking produce between the farm and barns. Cartloads of firewood would have regularly passed through this entrance, brought in from the abbey lands at Middlemarsh. The South Gate, with its porter's lodge, leads directly via Abbey ... Read More

On 20 November 2016, after visiting a secondhand books fair at Dorchester County  Museum, as it had turned out a gloriously sunny afternoon and on the spur of the moment, Patricia and I decided to complete our day out with an autumnal visit to St. Augustine's Well or The Silver Well at Cerne Abbas in Dorset. On a wall (and unfortunately without credit to the author) close to the location of the well is a highly informative description of the Legends, truth and superstitions of this most ancient and sacred well, which are reproduced with thanks below: Legend Legend says that St. Augustine once visited Dorset. While there, he met some shepherds grazing their flocks and asked them whether they would prefer beer or water to ... Read More

February 11th, 2017

Last year, N.D. Wiseman, the Stonehenge expert and author of Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos  kindly sent me a detailed illustration he has crafted of the features, stones and post holes that existed at Stonehenge approximately 5000 years ago. Of this time, Aubrey Burl writes, 'The beginning of Stonehenge is an introduction to confusion. It is a kaleidoscope of shifting images, of which only one can be correct ... The early site is as insubstantial as a garden cobweb after rain, shimmeringly attractive but broken with holes and torn threads'. A good starting point for an analysis of what is known of the monument on the site at this time is the overview provided on English Heritage's website, which states: 'It is possible that features ... Read More

January 10th, 2017

The modern story of restorations at Stonehenge begins in 1880 when the site was surveyed by William Flinders-Petrie, who also established the numbering system for the stones that is in use to this day. The very first documented intervention to prevent stone collapse at Stonehenge happened in 1881 and is described here by Simon Banton.  In 1893, the Inspector of Ancient Monuments determined that several stones were in in danger of falling and he was subsequently proved correct when stone 22 collapsed in a New Year's Eve storm on 31 December 1900. The stone remained intact and was not damaged, but lintel-122 broke into two pieces with such a shock that a fragment was found 81 ft away. They were the first stones to fall ... Read More

December 30th, 2016

On Sunday 18 December 2016, I set off with Terence Meaden from our base in Rosscarbery Co. Cork, Ireland to Sheep's Head Peninsula in West Cork in search of the Caherurlagh Prehistoric holed stone. After arrival at the old butterhouse building at the Black Gate in Kilcrohane, it took us approximately an hour to locate the elusive stone, signposted 20 metres south of the Sheep's Head Way walking trail, arriving shortly before sunset. The setting sun, which had earlier been revealed in all its glory for a few short minutes, was to be obscured by cloud during our visit.     The hole in the stone is narrower on one side than the other. The man with a bigger hand put his through the wider side and the ... Read More

A guest review of Dr. Terence Meaden's recently published book Stonehenge, Avebury and Drombeg Stone Circles Deciphered, by Simon Banton the archaeoastronomer. Dr G. Terence Meaden, M.A., M.Sc. D.Phil., F.R.Met.S. is a professional physicist, meteorologist and archaeologist with undergraduate and doctoral degrees in physics from Oxford University and an MSc in archaeology from Oxford University. He has made significant contributions to research in solid state physics (1957-1972), tornado climatology (1972-2014) and Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology (1981-2016), with  over 200 papers and numerous books published.     The complex interplay of light and shadow at megalithic monuments is a mostly unremarked phenomenon. For those people who gather at these sites on significant days of the year, the focus -- and the direction of their gaze -- ... Read More

I visited Stoney Littleton Long Barrow near the village of Wellow in Somerset for the first time on a leaden-skied Sunday afternoon on 13th December 2015 and described that visit in some detail here. In chapter 2 on pages 25 and 26 of his recently published book 'Stonehenge, Avebury and Drombeg Stone Circles Deciphered', professor Terence Meaden describes the alignment of the long barrow to the southeastern sun rising in the sky on midwinter's day. He has kindly provided an additional photograph and diagrams below to further illustrate the explanation. The above book argues that a simple method of tally stick counting was sufficient to keep note of the days during the passing year, one of the oldest methods of proto-writing, dating from at least the last Ice Age. ... Read More

On Friday 29 July 2016, I was given the opportunity to take a flight over the Stonehenge landscape in an Ikarus C42 microlight airplane from Clench Common airfield south of  Marlborough with GS Aviation. Below: Approaching from the north in the late afternoon, the first feature north of Amesbury and to the northeast of Stonehenge that comes into view is the enormous ditch and bank of Durrington Walls where excavations were carried out by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008, outlined here. The patch of chalk to the lower left of this photograph is a trench being dug in anticipation of excavations carried out during August 2016, which are described in a series of National Trust blog posts here.   [caption id="attachment_3106" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Durrington Walls[/caption] ... Read More