News, Updates, and Resources for Stonehenge
Virtual Stonehenge - Skyscape - https://www.stonehengeskyscape.co.uk
2021-02-11. England’s Stonehenge was erected in Wales first. By Andrew Curry, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Around 3200 B.C.E., Stone Age farmers in Wales’s Preseli Hills built a great monument: They carved columns of unspotted dolerite, or bluestone, from a nearby quarry, then thrust them upright in a great circle aligned with the Sun. Exactly what the circle meant to them remains a mystery. But new research reveals that several centuries later, their descendants took down many of the giant stones and hauled them 200 kilometers to the Salisbury Plain, where they created what is still the world’s most iconic prehistoric stone monument: Stonehenge. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/england-s-stonehenge-was-erected-wales-first. See also New York Times article Was Stonehenge a ‘Secondhand’ Monument?
2020-07-29. Long-lost relic may reveal origins of Stonehenge. By Michael Price, Science Magazine. Excerpt: As Robert Phillips neared his 90th birthday, the former diamond cutter decided to return a priceless piece of history to the United Kingdom: a 91-centimeter-long cylinder of rock from the heart of Stonehenge. Now, archaeologists working with the so-called Phillips core have all but conclusively shown that the famed monument’s largest building blocks came from a forest about 25 kilometers away, confirming a long-standing hypothesis. ...Knowing the stones’ origin could reveal future excavation sites in the region, shedding light on the ancient stoneworkers who constructed these mysterious monuments. Beginning around 3000 B.C.E., Stonehenge was built up over hundreds of years as a ceremonial spot by people hailing from what today is Wales. The monument includes 52 massive, 25-ton silica stones known as sarsens. For centuries, most researchers have assumed the stones came from the closest major boulder field, some 25 to 30 kilometers north of the site in a region called the Marlborough Downs. Others have pointed out that the monument’s mysterious masons weren’t necessarily sticklers for convenience. After all, Stonehenge’s smaller “bluestones”—which lie at its center and have been much more intensively studied than the sarsens—traveled some 150 kilometers from various sites around Wales. ...When the Phillips core re-emerged in 2018, David Nash, an archaeologist and geographer at the University of Brighton, and colleagues knew they finally had the missing piece they needed to pinpoint the sarsens’ origins. Today, destroying intact pieces of Stonehenge is forbidden, Nash says, but because it has already been removed, the Phillips core gave them a unique opportunity for analysis....
2020-06-22. Neolithic Site Near Stonehenge Yields an ‘Astonishing Discovery’. By Megan Specia, The New York Times. Excerpt: LONDON — A new archaeological discovery at the site of an ancient village near Stonehenge promises to offer significant clues about life more than 4,500 years ago in the Neolithic period, and could even “write a whole new chapter in the story” of the celebrated structure’s landscape, experts say. The find also makes the site the largest prehistoric structure in Britain and possibly in Europe, according to Vincent Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, an archaeologist involved in the analysis. ...The study [https://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue55/4/index.html], published online on Sunday, outlines the discovery of a large circle of shafts surrounding the ancient village — known as the Durrington Walls henge monument — about two miles from Stonehenge. The trenches, each of which is around 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, are thought to have been part of a ritual boundary area between the two sites.
2019-07-15. Ancient people may have used pig fat to build Stonehenge. By Eva Frederick, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/ancient-people-may-have-used-pig-fat-build-stonehenge] Excerpt: The 30-ton megaliths that make up Stonehenge in Wiltshire, U.K., might have been moved using more than just elbow grease. Pig fat residue on nearby pottery could support the idea that builders greased sledges with lard or tallow to transport the stones, a new analysis suggests. ...Stonehenge is comprised of megaliths ...transported from a site about 30 kilometers to the north, and smaller bluestones from about 140 kilometers away in the Preseli Hills in modern Wales. To move these stones such long distances, the builders likely maneuvered them onto timber sledges and rolled these over logs. The study supports the “greased sled” hypothesis....
2018-08-02. Stonehenge cremations shed light on where mysterious monument builders came from. By Garry Shaw, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Five thousand years ago, the people of Stonehenge buried cremated bodies under the ancient and mysterious site, near Amesbury, U.K. Archaeologists have long believed that the remains belonged to individuals connected with the monument, but for more than a century, they’ve been unable to figure out where they came from or why they were buried there. Now, a new analysis of these remains is providing some answers. ...The burials of 58 individuals were uncovered in 1919. The cremated bones had been interred in now vanished organic containers, perhaps leather bags, in round pits near the monument. Intriguingly, these pits may once have held standing stones, as well as the human remains. ...Dating of the remains later revealed that the cremations were interred during the earliest stages of the construction of Stonehenge, from 3000 to 2480 B.C.E. Experts still disagree on the purpose of Stonehenge; the prevailing hypothesis is that it was a temple connected with observing the movement of the sun. Others have argued it was a monument to the dead, where, as at nearby Durrington Walls, people from all over came together to feast. ...Scientists do know that the builders brought some of the monument’s giant rocks, known as bluestones, from quarries in the Preseli Hills—a range of hills 220 kilometers away in western Wales. ...Scientists have been unable to glean much information from the human remains because cremation destroys all organic matter, including DNA. In the new study, Christophe Snoeck, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, decided to look at the levels of a form—or isotope—of the element strontium in the bones, which can reveal where the deceased had lived in the decade or so before death. ...The team studied 25 of the cremated individuals interred around Stonehenge. The strontium in their bones suggests at least 10 lived in western Britain, most probably west Wales, before death, rather than near Stonehenge, the researchers conclude today in Scientific Reports. The remaining 15 individuals appear to have lived exclusively in the region local to Stonehenge, at least in the last decade of their lives.... http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/08/stonehenge-cremations-shed-light-where-mysterious-monument-builders-came
2016-12-14. A ‘Stonehenge,’ and a Mystery, in the Amazon. By Simon Romero, The New York Times. Excerpt: CALÇOENE, Brazil — As the foreman for a cattle ranch in the far reaches of the Brazilian Amazon, Lailson Camelo da Silva was razing trees to convert rain forest into pasture when he stumbled across a bizarre arrangement of towering granite blocks. “I had no idea that I was discovering the Amazon’s own Stonehenge,” said Mr. da Silva, 65, on a scorching October day as he gazed at the archaeological site located just north of the Equator. “It makes me wonder: What other secrets about our past are still hidden in Brazil’s jungles?” After conducting radiocarbon testing and carrying out measurements during the winter solstice, scholars in the field of archaeoastronomy determined that an indigenous culture arranged the megaliths into an astronomical observatory about 1,000 years ago, or five centuries before the European conquest of the Americas began. Their findings, along with other archaeological discoveries in Brazil in recent years — including giant land carvings, remains of fortified settlements and even complex road networks — are upending earlier views of archaeologists who argued that the Amazon had been relatively untouched by humans except for small, nomadic tribes.... http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/world/americas/brazil-amazon-megaliths-stonehenge.html
2015-11-09. Stonehenge Begins to Yield Its Secrets. By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. Excerpt: AMESBURY, England — About 6,300 years ago, a tree here toppled over. For the ancients in this part of southern England, it created a prime real estate opportunity — next to a spring and near attractive hunting grounds. According to David Jacques, an archaeologist at the University of Buckingham, mud was pressed into the pulled-up roots, turning them into a wall. Nearby, a post was inserted into a hole, and that may have held up a roof of reeds or animal skin. It was, he said, a house, one of the earliest in England ... a site known as Blick Mead.... For Mr. Jacques, the house is part of the story of Stonehenge, even though the occupants of the Blick Mead home never saw that assemblage of massive stones. The beginnings of Stonehenge were more than a millennium in the future. ...Archaeologists have...long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge. ...The story of Britain starts at the end of the last ice age. In the cold, Britain emptied of people. With so much ocean water frozen in glaciers, sea level was lower, and Britain was connected to the rest of Europe. As the world warmed, they walked back until rising waters severed the land bridge. Around 3800 B.C. the first large monuments appeared — rectangular mounds known as long barrows that served as burial chambers. Around 3500 B.C., a two-mile-long, 100-yard-wide ditch was dug close to the Stonehenge site, what is known as the Stonehenge Cursus. ...The first stage of Stonehenge itself, a circular foundation ditch, was carved around 2900 B.C., and rings of timbers were erected. About 400 years later came a heyday of henges. (The defining characteristic of a henge is not the rocks or timbers sticking upward, but a circular ditch surrounded by a raised bank. In this sense, Stonehenge today is not a true henge; its raised bank is inside the ditch.) Twenty miles north of Stonehenge is Avebury, with three stone circles, the outermost more than 1,000 feet in diameter, so large that the town of Avebury has spread into the henge; at the center is a pub, the Red Lion, founded four centuries ago. Closer to Stonehenge is Durrington Walls, a circular earthen structure about 1,600 feet in diameter.... http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/science/stonehenge-begins-to-yield-its-secrets.html
2014-09-09. Stonehenge Secrets Revealed by Underground Map. Excerpt: Archaeologists have unveiled the most detailed map ever produced of the earth beneath Stonehenge and its surrounds. Early results suggest that the iconic monument did not stand alone, but was accompanied by 17 neighbouring shrines.
2014-05-09. Stonehenge Discovery 'Blows Lid Off' Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument (VIDEO). Excerpt: From who built it to what it was used for, Stonehenge is surrounded by many enduring mysteries -- and researchers from the University of Buckingham in England now say they've solved one of them. ...David Jacques, an archaeology research fellow at the university... led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain. The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe. ...The researchers say evidence suggests that before erecting Stonehenge, people living in the area set up gigantic timbers between 8820 and 6590 B.C. -- a sort of wooden precursor to the stone monument.... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/stonehenge-area-inhabited-thousands-years_n_5289118.html. By Macrina Cooper-White, Huffington Post.
2013 Jun 1. Mahattanhenge - http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/manhattanhenge/
2012 Apr 24. Inflatable stonehenge: http://now.msn.com/living/0421-deller-inflatable-stonehenge.aspx
2008 May 22. 2 vandals attack Stonehenge with hammer. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. LONDON (AP) -- Two men attacked the ancient monument of Stonehenge with a hammer and chipped off a piece of stone the size of a large coin, a conservation group said Thursday.
Two men hacked the piece from the Heel Stone, the central megalith at the ancient site, English Heritage spokeswoman Debbie Holden said. ...''The damage is very, very slight because security guards spotted them straight away, but the whole thing is still upsetting,'' said Holden. ''This kind of thing has not happened for decades.'' Stonehenge ... has become popular with Druids, neo-Pagans and New Agers who attach mystical significance to the stones.
2008 Apr 1. The Lourdes of ancient Britain? Dig aims to reveal Stonehenge's purpose. by Maev Kennedy, The Guardian. Excerpt: The first excavation for more than a generation at Stonehenge began yesterday, looking for evidence that the most famous prehistoric monument in the world was the Lourdes of the bronze age, where the sick and troubled sought healing from the supernatural power of bluestones brought from west Wales.
Although the trench will be only 3.5 metres long and a metre deep, archaeologists expect to find the foundation holes of the very first stone circle, built more than 4,500 years ago and then altered over centuries. With luck they will find enough organic material, including pollen grains, snail shells and fragments of the antler tools of the builders, using techniques developed since the last excavations, to allow them to date the monument accurately.
... There is no longer any dispute about where the stones came from, only about how they travelled: Wainwright and Darvill believe they were dragged across land and carried by boat, and reject the rival theory that glaciers left them scattered across Salisbury plain.
... They believe that many bodies excavated from hundreds of later burial mounds in the surrounding landscape, including the "Amesbury Archer" found six years ago, show serious health problems such as contorted limbs or spines, supporting their theory.
In Wales, Wainwright said, people were still seeking cures at the springs near the bluestone quarry late into the last century. Stonehenge attracted sufferers who chipped fragments of the bluestones as healing charms right into the 19th century.
2006 Oct 15. Building Stonehenge - This Man can Move Anything. YouTube video of Wally Wallington showing how to move large blocks of concrete.
Hard Copy Articles
Nov 2000, Sky & Telescope magazine, p. 74, review of the book The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories, by J.L. Heilbron, Harvard University Press, 1999.
Oct 2002. An Astronomer Reads Archaeology's Message, by Patricia A. Kurtz. Article about archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni.
Hard Copy Books
Walker, Christopher, Astronomy Before the Telescope, St. Martin's Press, 1997.