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Archive for November, 2011

A TRADITION dating back 5,000 years is to be recreated in Amesbury to mark the mid-winter solstice.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

The town is holding its first lantern parade for centuries and hundreds of people are expected to take part.

The procession will take place on Wednesday, December 21 and walkers will set off from Stonehenge as the sun sets at about 4pm.

Carrying glowing lanterns, they will follow the original processional route of the Avenue away from the stones and walk across farmland before entering Amesbury and arriving in the town centre at 5.30pm.

Mulled wine, mince pies, craft stalls and plenty of festive cheer will be there to greet the walkers as they arrive.

Art students at Avon Valley College have teamed up with Amesbury based A&R Metalcraft to produce a lantern to lead the procession.

The lantern, which will be carried by a Solstice Fairy, will be kept burning through the night before being retured to Stonehenge at sunrise on the mid winter solstice.

It will then go on show at the Forge Gallery in Amesbury where people will be able to display their photographs, poems and pictures of the lantern parade in a large community collage.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” said Michelle Topps from the gallery. “Salisbury has its cathedral, Bath its waters and Amesbury has its ancestors.

“By remembering them we can establish a real sense of place for both locals and visitors alike. People have settled in Amesbury for 8,000 years and their influence is everywhere”. Mayor Andy Rhind-Tutt said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our community to come together for this magical experience, recreating a 5,000 year old tradition and especially during the build up to the Olympics, when we will see the real torch travel through our town. I hope this will create a legacy for the future at this festive time of year and as many people as possible join in.”

Everyone is invited to take part in the parade and lantern kits and vouchers are available from the Bowman Centre, community shop or the Forge Gallery for £5 from Wednesday, December 7.

The voucher will entitle you to a lift to Stonehenge from Amesbury town centre on a Wilts & Dorset bus and refreshments after the parade. They are available to buy separately for £2 if people already have a lantern.

Full article: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk

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Two previously undiscovered pits have been found at Stonehenge which point to it once being used as a place of sun worship before the stones were erected.

The pits are positioned on celestial alignment at the site and may have contained stones

The pits are positioned on celestial alignment at the site and may have contained stones

The pits are positioned on celestial alignment at the site and may have contained stones, posts or fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun.

An international archaeological survey team found the pits as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.

The team is using geophysical imaging techniques to investigate the site.

The archaeologists from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection in Vienna have been surveying the subsurface at the landmark since summer 2010.

Procession route

It is thought the pits, positioned within the Neolithic Cursus pathway, could have formed a procession route for ancient rituals celebrating the sun moving across the sky at the midsummer solstice.

A Cursus comprises two parallel linear ditches with banks either side closed off at the end.

Also discovered was a gap in the northern side of the Cursus, which may have been an entrance and exit point for processions taking place within the pathway.

These discoveries hint that the site was already being used as an ancient centre of ritual prior to the stones being erected more than 5,000 years ago, the team said.

Archaeologist and project leader at Birmingham University, Professor Vince Gaffney, said: “This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape.”

More on this story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-15917921

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An exciting new Bronze Age hoard discovered in west Wiltshire (near Stonehenge)  has just gone on display at Salisbury Museum. It was found a month ago in a field near Tisbury by a metal detectorist. He reported the first object, a spearhead, to the Wiltshire Finds Liaison Officer. A team of archaeologists then excavated the remaining objects and recorded how they lay in the ground.

The hoard of over 100 copper alloy objects is over 2,700 years old and dates to the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. It consists of tools – axe heads, chisels, sickles, gouges, and weapons – spearheads, daggers, knives, swords and scabbard fittings. It is the most important hoard to have been found in Wiltshire since the discovery of the Salisbury Hoard in the 1980s.

It is very unusual for a hoard of this significance to be on display in a regional museum before it has been assessed by the experts at the British Museum. The hoard will only be on display until Saturday 26 November – it will then go to the British Museum for assessment and the local coroner will need to hold an inquest to determine whether it is Treasure Trove.

See the Salisbury Journal for an article about the hoard.

 The hoard will only be on display until Saturday 26 November

Salisbury Museum – http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/

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Out of Earth Exhibition

Out of Earth Exhibition

Renowned potter Chris Carter and archaeologist Martin Green share their fascination with the prehistoric past of Cranborne Chase.  Through art and artefact, they reveal a story of the humans that occupied the landscape before history was written.

Out of the Earth explores a dialogue between artist and archaeologist as they respond to the objects excavated from flint-rich soils of Cranborne Chase.  Artefacts from Martin’s own museum, which displays the finds he has discovered over the years, will be on display alongside Chris’s artwork and objects from Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Heritage Museum.  Together, the objects describe and uncover the imprints left by farming, community and ritual activities in the past.

Chris and Martin describe themselves as ‘sons of the soil’, both having been raised on farms in the countrysides of Warwickshire and Dorset.  They met following a BBC4 radio show ‘Open Country’ which featured Down Farm on Cranborne Chase.  Martin had been excavating there since he inherited it in 1979 and Chris’s interest in the Chase landscape soon developed into a passion for exploring it through his art.

The exhibition shows new developments in Chris’s work and is itself a testimony to the continuing influence of prehistoric people on us today as their artistry, communities and ritual activities are re-discovered through archaeology.  Chris describes the way he searches for his pots in the clay as akin to the archaeologist’s search for an object in the earth.  Cranborne Chase has encouraged his art to take new routes which have seen him sculpting from flint and creating 2D collage works.  A deep-seated influence of the landscape and farming is apparent in his work; his pots suggest the sinuous twist of the plough and the symmetry of the stone axe, whilst the surface textures reflect the processes of people and nature on the landscape.

Both pot and artefact have a power and contemplative quality that makes Out of the Earth an exhibition not to be missed.  Here, the passion for the Cranborne landscape and for the people who lived on and moulded it, is deep-seated, inherent and heartfelt.  The stories revealed are told by two people who know the landscape intimately, both inside and out, and can tell those stories with an authority and understanding that cannot be disputed. 

Link: http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/exhibitions/174-out-of-the-earth.html
Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com

Well worth a visit!

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The detailed route for the Olympic torch announced today sees the flame visiting more than 50 West Country communities, and passing historic landmarks including Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor.

Olympic FlameMore than 95 per cent of the population will be within ten miles of the torch as it makes a snaking journey from Cornwall to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Torchbearers will carry it in relay. On parts of the journey it will go via horseback, bicycle, tram and steam-train.

People in Somerset will have plenty of opportunity to see the torch, despite the fact that back in 2009 the Conservative-led County Council refused to bid for it to pass through.

Resources portfolio holder Councillor David Huxtable said at the time that the cost in traffic management and disruption would be too high. But the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games had an ambition to ensure that it reached most people. Many thousands of people are expected to welcome the flame along the route each day and celebrate the achievements of the torchbearers in parks, squares and streets.

Lord Coe, chairman of the Games organising committee, said: “I’m delighted that the Olympic torch relay will take the 2012 Games to almost every corner of the UK and that we have achieved our ambition to take the flame to within an hour’s journey of 95 per cent of the population.”

The route in the West

On May 21 the torch will travel to Porlock, Minehead, Dunster, Carhampton, Washford, Williton and Taunton.

May 22: Ilminster, Yeovil, Ilchester, Somerton, Street, Glastonbury, Coxley, Wells, Croscombe, Shepton Mallet, Frome, Southwick, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon, Bath, Bitton, Longwell Green, Hanham, and Bristol.

May 23: Flax Bourton, Backwell Farleigh, Backwell West Town, Nailsea, Failand, Leigh Woods, back to Bristol, then on to Chippenham, Calne, Marlborough, Chiseldon, Wroughton, Royal Wootton Bassett, Swindon, Stroud, Painswick, Brockworth, Shurdington and Cheltenham.

May 24: Gloucester, Maisemore, Hartpury, Corse and Staunton and on to Ledbury, Bartestree, Lugwardine and Hereford.

July 11: Ludgershall, Tidworth, Amesbury, The Winterbournes and Salisbury.

July 12: Salisbury, Wilton, Barford St Martin, Fovant, Ludwell, Shaftesbury, Fontmell Magna, Iwerne Minster, Stourpaine, Blandford Forum, Winterborne Whitechurch, Milborne St Andrew, Puddletown, Dorchester, Winterbourne Abbas, Bridport, Chideock, Lyme Regis, Burton Bradstock, Abbotsbury, Portesham, Chickerell, Wyke Regis, Osprey Quay, Portland, Weymouth.

July 13: Portland Bill, Southwell, Weston, Easton, Fortuneswell, Weymouth, Preston, Osmington, Winfrith Newburgh, Wool, Corfe Castle, Swanage, Stoborough, and Wareham.

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A metal detector enthusiast located more than 100 bronze items, thought to be about 2,700 years old, on a farmland site which is being kept secret.

Having first found a spearhead, he decided not to disturb the ground and notified archaeologists, who were able to conduct a meticulous excavation.

The finds, from the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age, include tools such as chisels, axe heads and gouges, and weapons including fragments of a sword and scabbard and more spearheads.

Experts are hugely excited about the hoard, which is still being catalogued. They are not prepared to guess at its value yet but say it is the biggest in the area since the Salisbury Hoard – now in the British Museum – was discovered in the 1990s.

Salisbury & South Wilts Museum director Adrian Green said: “It’s a very rare and important find, and it’s still fresh out of the ground. This was not previously a known archaeological site. The guy was just metal detecting as a hobby.

“What was significant about it was that he very responsibly told the finds liaison officer for the county, Katie Hinds, who is paid by the British Museum to record finds made by chance like this, rather than just digging it up himself and potentially losing valuable archaeological information.

“This was brilliant, and exactly what we want detectorists to do. She was able to arrange a specialist team to go and dig it up. That’s very important from an academic point of view.

“You could count on two hands the number of Bronze Age hoards which have been recorded professionally by archaeologists in this way.”

The hoard will go to the British Museum to be assessed and there will be an inquest to determine whether it is treasure trove.

If so, Salisbury Museum will have a chance to raise funds to buy it.

Neither the finder nor the landowner wish to be identified
Link : http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/9336972.Ancient_artefacts_unearthed_in_Tisbury/

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The jawbone which has caused so much excitement

The jawbone which has caused so much excitement

Could a piece of jawbone found at Torquay’s famous Kents Cavern caves be the oldest part of modern human to be unearthed in Europe?

A piece of jawbone excavated from a prehistoric cave in England is the earliest evidence for modern humans in Europe, according to an international team of scientists. The bone first was believed to be about 35,000 years old, but the new research study shows it to be significantly older — between 41,000 and 44,000 years old, according to the findings that will be published in the journal Nature. The new dating of the bone is expected to help scientists pin down how quickly the modern humans spread across Europe during the last Ice Age. It also helps confirm the much-debated theory that early humans coexisted with Neanderthals. Beth Shapiro, the Shaffer Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State University and a member of the research team, explained that the fragment of maxilla — the upper jaw — containing three teeth was unearthed in 1927 in a prehistoric limestone cave called Kent’s Cavern in southwestern England. Records from the original excavations, undertaken by the Torquay Natural History Society located in Devon, England, indicate that the jawbone was discovered 10 feet 6 inches beneath the surface and was sealed by stalagmite deposits. “In 1989, scientists at Oxford University dated the bone as being about 35,000 years old. However, doubts were later raised about the reliability of the date because traces of modern glue, which was used to conserve the bone after discovery, were found on the surface,” Shapiro said. “We knew we were going to have to do additional testing to re-date the bone.” Because the remaining uncontaminated area of bone was deemed too small to re-date, the research team searched through the excavation archives and collections in the Torquay Museum to obtain samples of other animal bones from recorded depths both above and below the spot where the maxilla was found.

Members of the research team then obtained radiocarbon dates for the bones of wolf, deer, cave bear, and woolly rhinoceros, all of which were found close to the maxilla, and all of which could be dated at between 50,000 and 26,000 years old. Using a Bayesian statistical-modelling method, the scientists then were able to calculate an age for the maxilla. The new date indicates that the bone is between 41,000 and 44,000 years old.

Tom Higham, Deputy Director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit and a member of the research team, said “Radiocarbon dating of ancient bones is very difficult to do. Because the initial date from this fragment of jawbone was affected by traces of modern glue, the initial measurement made in 1989 was too young. The new dating evidence we have obtained allows us, for the first time, to pinpoint the real age of this key specimen. We believe this piece of jawbone is the earliest direct evidence we have of modern humans in northwestern Europe.”

Shapiro explained that the new and more-accurate date is especially important because it provides clearer evidence about the coexistence of Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans. “If the jawbone is, in fact, 41,000 to 44,000 years old, that means it was from a time when Neanderthals were still present in Europe, so we first had to confirm that the bone was from an anatomically modern human, and not a Neanderthal,” Shapiro said. Shapiro and her team first tried to extract mitochondrial DNA from one of the teeth, but there were insufficient amounts for valid DNA sequencing. Eventually, team members were able to use a virtual three-dimensional model based on a CT scan of the jawbone to carry out a detailed analysis of the fossil. They compared the external and internal shapes of the teeth with those of modern human and Neanderthal fossils from a number of different sites. They found early modern human characteristics in all but three of the 16 dental characteristics.

Studies of the maxilla have been under way for the last decade, but it was only with the application of the latest investigative and dating techniques that the research team was able to make this breakthrough in identifying the jawbone as the earliest modern human so far known from Europe.

“Comparative data were lacking for some of the traits our team was studying,” Shapiro said. “So, thankfully, our team member Tim Compton of the Natural History Museum in England helped by building a completely new database to help discriminate modern features from Neanderthal features. While the dominant characteristics are certainly modern, there are some that are ambiguous, or that fall into the Neanderthal range.” The research team believe that these ambiguous features may reflect inadequate sampling of modern human variation, shared primitive features between early modern humans and Neanderthals, or even interbreeding between the two species. “We’ll have to delve a little deeper and do more work to resolve these questions,” Shapiro said.

Another exciting feature of the new study is that it could help solve the apparent discrepancy about the known dates of the Aurignacian period — a time of cultural development in Europe and southwest Asia that lasted from around 45,000 to 35,000 years ago. Previous researchers have discovered artefacts and tools from this period that are thought to have been produced by the earliest modern humans in Europe. However, strangely, these artifacts have been found to be much older than the rare skeletal remains found in the same vicinity. While Aurignacian tools and ornaments have been dated at as old as 44,000 years, tests to pinpoint the age of relevant human remains have resulted in dates that reach no further than between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago, indicating a significant gap.

“The new date and identification of this bone from Kent’s Cavern is very important, as we now have direct evidence that modern humans were in northwest Europe about 42,500 years ago,” Higham said. “It confirms the presence of modern humans at the time of the earliest Aurignacian culture, and tells us a great deal about the dispersal speed of our species across Europe during the last Ice Age. It also means that early humans coexisted with Neanderthals in this part of the world, something that a number of researchers have doubted.”

In addition to Shapiro, Higham, and Compton, other members of the research team include Chris Stringer, Roger Jacobi, and Chris Collins of the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom; Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in the United States; Barry Chandler of the Torquay Museum in the United Kingdom; Flora Gröning, Paul O’Higgins, and Michael Fagan of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom; Simon Hillson of University College London in the United Kingdom; and Charles FitzGerald of McMaster University in Canada.

The research was funded by two organizations in the United Kingdom: the Leverhulme Trust, established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, and the Natural Environment Research Council.
Link: http://esciencenews.com

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