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Archive for the ‘stonehenge cusus’ Category

Tour: Fri 31st Aug – Sun 2nd Sept 2012
Henges, burial mounds of all shapes and sizes, causewayed camps, early field systems and ‘cursus’ monuments are scattered everywhere in Wessex, forming a landscape which hints at its past, but whose story is unintelligible to the untrained eye.

Our experts have been introducing people to this, one of the richest prehistoric landscapes in the world, which lies on our very doorstep, since Andante’s inception.

Day One
Meet in the evening for an introductory lecture and dinner together in a local restaurant. Overnight in Sarum College in the beautiful Cathedral Close.

Day Two
By coach to Avebury for a full exploration of the huge Neolithic henge, so large that part of the village lies within it. It is one of the largest and best preserved of 1300 stone circles known in the British Isles. Morning walk around the henge and along the ceremonial Avenue.  We approach the stones of Avebury just as one would have done in prehistoric times.

Afternoon circular walk (2 hours) past Silbury Hill, the largest man-made mound in Europe.  The most famous of its excavators crawled into an earlier excavation chamber and recorded later:
“the sides of the open chamber provided one of the most astonishing sights that I have ever seen…it was clear that this innermost mound had been covered by a series of conical shells or cappings…the effect was of finding oneself in an enormously complicated and highly coloured layer cake of gigantic size..”
The walk continues to the Long Barrow at West Kennet and a chance to explore the chambered tomb within.  This kind of monument is the earliest known to have been built in Britain – in commemoration of the dead. Continue to the ‘Sanctuary’, a small, complex timber and stone circle on the top of Overton hill. Walking in our ancestors’ footsteps helps us try to understand their motives and methods.

Day Three
Stonehenge for an early (7.30am) visit inside the stone circle before the public arrives. This will be followed by a walk (2 hours) through the wider religious landscape – the cursus, King Barrows and Stonehenge Avenue.
A short drive takes us to Woodhenge, where the remains of wooden post settings have been found – now marked by concrete. From here there is a good view over the huge henge at Durrington Walls, site of exciting recent excavations which revealed the settlement which may have housed the builders of Stonehenge.

Return to Salisbury Museum for a visit to the Stonehenge and Prehistory Galleries. We have arranged a private demonstration of flint-knapping in the gardens here, which is not only much enjoyed, but adds considerably to your understanding of the way in which our prehistoric forebears were able to fashion all manner of implements and tools from our good local flint supplies.  In a world without metal technology this was a critical and highly sophisticated art.
Disperse about 5pm.

Should you choose to arrive earlier or stay later, you might like to visit Old Sarum, the hillfort to the north of Salisbury which was later chosen as the site of our first cathedral, or, of course,  our beautiful Gothic cathedral – straight in front of the College.

NB Most of every day will be spent walking, and you must be prepared for this, with suitable footwear and weatherproof clothing. You will also have to carry your own water, and negotiate a variety of stiles.

  • The original Andante Tour – accept no imitations!
  • We have been introducing guests to these monumental prehistoric landscapes for 26 years
  • Accommodation spectacularly situated within Salisbury cathedral close
  • Bring your hiking boots!
  • Several good cross-country walks
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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

Stonehenge Special Acess Tours  – beyond the fences: http://www.histouries.co.uk/stonehenge/private-access-tour.htm

Tours of Stonehenge and Wessex
HisTOURies UK – Mystical Landscape, Magical Tours

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What was there before Stonehenge?

Stonehenge is a multiphased monument ie built in phases over a long period of time. It was built between 3000 and 2000 BC, but is part of a much larger ceremonial landscape which dates back somewhere up to 10,500 years ago. The earliest monuments in the landscape are markedSite of mesolithic post holes in the car park at Stonehenge by 3 small white discs on the tarmac at the lower end of the car-park. Chances are you will drive over them if you visit! The white discs mark where wooden postholes stood during the early mesolithic – the hunter gatherers – at least 3,500 years before the first phase of Stonehenge.Later features which predate Stonehenge that can still be seen are the Cursus and barrows or burial mounds. You will need more time or to go on a specialist tour to see these features.

Early ditch and bank at Stonehenge.

Though people had been meeting and using the landscape for some considerable time beforehand, the first phase of Stonehenge dates to between 3000 and 2920 BC with the creation of a ditch with internal bank. The bank has the appearance of a ‘…string of sausages’ and may have been upto 2m high though it is now much eroded.The dating of this part of the monument is believed to be fairly accurate because of the large amount of good dating evidence from antler and bone found in the ditch. After that the date for every other stage of Stonehenge is somewhat tenuous and subject to great debate.

Was there a timber phase at Stonehenge?

At the moment the theory is that from its beginnings to around 2600 BC there was a timber phase at Stonehenge. This included 56 timber posts just inside the bank and the post holes were later filled with cremated human remains and now known as Aubrey holes.In 2008 Aubrey hole 7 was opened by the Stonehenge Riverside Project and it looks more like a hole for a stone rather than timber. It may be that stones were here from the start rather than later. The results from the most recent dig are due out in 2011 so we may have the 3rd major rewrite of the Stonehenge story within 20 years!

Early stone phase.

Current dating assumptions suggest the first stones to arrive were the ‘bluestones’ from the Preseli Hills in west Wales. Bluestones inside StonehengeBluestone is a generic term for several types of volcanic rocks and each of them at Stonehenge weighs 4 – 6 tons.They are the ones that stand about man height as one looks into the stones. They don’t look blue until dressed (ie shaped) and the outer covering of the stone removed.You can how blue on a tour out of hours to the inner circle.
The bluestones were originally set in double concentric arcs with the open end facing the south/southwest. When removed they were filled are now known as Q & R holes.
Artist's impression of bluestone henge discovered in September 2009.In its final layout there are estimated to be 79 or 80 bluestones. An exciting discovery in September 2009 at the end of the Avenue where it meets the River Avon was a series of stone holes possibly holding bluestones. This ‘Bluestone’ henge may have held 24 stones. If the 56 Aubrey holes held stone rather than timbers it may be that there were two separate monuments that became united as the finishing phase of Stonehenge.

Late stone phase.

Around 2400 BC sees the arrival from 19 miles to the north of 75 sarsen stones. A very hard form of silicified sandstone it lies on or just below the ground surface. A circle of 30 uprights were erected in the outer circle each weighing around 25 tonnes. These were topped with 30 lintels each weighing 6 – 7 tonnes. Jointing to sarsens at Stonehenge.The lintels don’t rely on gravity to keep them in place they have mortice & tenon, and tongue & groove joints that we would normally find in a wood setting, but in stone. Each of the lintels also has some shaping on the inner and outer circular face to produce not far off a perfect circle.

The 5 trilithons (tri=3, lithon=stone) stand like a set of croquet hoops arranged in a horshoe shape in the centre of the circle. They step up in height as they go from the outer two to the remains of the Great Trilithon in the centre. Only 3 of the 5 trilithons still stand.

Final phase.

Around 2000BC the bluestones were re-erected. The altar stone was placed in the circle. Some realignments of external stones took place.

What is Stonehenge for?

Hundreds if not thousands of theories abound. A temple to the sun? Probably, but more about winter solstice sunset after which the days get lighter and warmer, rather than the more popularly attended summer solstice sunrise. A necropolis? Certainly. There are probably more than a tousand burials in the immediate area. Druidic temple? Probably not. They were a later ‘priesthood’ and the neo druids are an 18th century invention. A mystery?. Certainly.

Links:  http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
http://www.StonehengeTours.com#

Stonehenge Guided Tours
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Ancient History

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Start: Avebury |Finish: Old Sarum
Distance: Approximately 42 miles

Wiltshire is a county of history and mystery set in a dramatic landscape. The combination of heritage and scenery provides a truly memorable day out. So come with us on a journey through the countryside and across the ages as we go back to the time of our prehistoric ancestors. Hundreds of thousands of years may have passed but all over the county there’s evidence of human activity from the end of the Ice Age through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to the invasion of the Romans in AD43.

Click here for audio / visual tour

This driving tour will take you through the heart of Wiltshire. En route you’ll discover more about how our enigmatic and mysterious ancestors lived, worked, fought and died.

This tour can be undertaken in a variety of ways; as a day-long journey, in short sections or you can use the information as a guide to individual visits.

You might also consider embarking on the tour using public transport but keeping up to date with bus service and timetable changes will require plenty of preparation.

Before you set off make sure that you’re properly equipped. Nothing beats a really good Ordnance Survey map, marked with contours and ancient monuments. A compass and a torch would also be useful. Some of these historical gems are in fields and away from roads or footpaths, so good walking boots are a must. Some sites have few or no facilities and it’s also worth noting that mobile phone coverage can’t be guaranteed in parts of rural Wiltshire. For news of road works or route closures, check BBC Local Radio and bbc.co.uk/travelnews

This guide has been produced with the generous assistance of Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, Bob Clarke, Martin Kellett, David Dawson and the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

Stonehenge and Avebury Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wiltshire

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