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Stonehenge was constructed more than 4,600 years ago, but its mysterious aura continues to fascinate scientists and Druids alike. Now, new research finds that the story of this ancient site is far deeper than we thought — literally.

stonehenge

British researchers used high-tech archaeological sensing techniques to reveal hundreds of new features hidden beneath the dirt in lands surrounding Stonehenge, including 17 previously unknown circular monuments. Far from a solitary structure, Stonehenge appears to have been just one part of a much larger landscape of shrines. The results are being announced in a BBC feature to air tonight.

Going Deep Without Digging

The archaeological team used six different techniques to scan a 4.5-square-mile swath of land around Stonehenge, both by air and land, beginning in 2010. Magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar allowed researchers to compile three-dimensional information about structures hidden beneath the dirt. From the sky, laser scanning built precise topographic maps of the ground’s surface.

monument distribution

Seventeen smaller neolithic shrines were found scattered throughout the search area. Researchers’ data also revealed 60 huge stones and pillars that formed part of the previously identified “super henge” called Durrington Walls, Britain’s largest henge. Some of these stones were roughly 10 feet tall and likely stood upright like the iconic structure we all know. Durrington Walls is located roughly 2 miles northeast of Stonehenge.

They also found evidence of uses that predated Stonehenge itself. Prehistoric pits, burial mounds and a long “barrow” (a wooden building likely used for “defleshing” the dead in preparation for burial) were among the features discovered underground. You can learn more about their project and findings online.

Researchers believe the entire Stonehenge landscape developed over the past 11,000 years. They plan to continue poring over data to further understand the history and evolution of one of the world’s most intriguing sites.

Not-So-Ancient History

In addition to the stuff of ancient history, their investigation also revealed a few modern relics. Surveys produced detailed maps of practice trenches dug around Stonehenge by troops preparing for World War I, as well as the remnants of a military airbase used by the Royal Flying Corps.

Stonehenge, the 4,600-year-old gift that keeps on giving.

barrow

Top photo credit: Kiev.Victor/Shutterstock

By Carl Engelkin http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/09/11/lasers-reveal-underground-secrets-of-stonehenge/#.VBRsb_ldXwg

Wessex Guided Tours
Explore Stonehenge and the ancient landscape with a local expert

http://www.HisTOURies.co.uk

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This Saturday marks the point at which the sun rises directly over the equator – the Spring Equinox. And while most of us will be wrapped up warm in bed at 5am, up to five thousand hardy souls will be braving the Wiltshire weather to welcome in the equinox at Stonehenge – including us.

This is the second of the four ‘sky points’ in our Wheel of the Year and it is when the sun does a perfect balancing act in the heavens.

At the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox the sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours and then sets exactly in the west. So all over the world, at this special moment, day and night are of equal length hence the word equinox which means ‘equal night’.

Of course, for those of us here in the northern hemisphere it is this equinox that brings us out of our winter.

For those in the southern hemisphere, this time is the autumnal equinox that is taking you in to your winter. And this is very much how I think of the equinoxes – as the ‘edges’ of winter. This is why they can be quite hard on our bodies as it is a major climatic shift, so it is a good time to give a boost to your immune system with natural remedies and cleansing foods.

Here in Wiltshire (as with the rest of rural Britain), it was traditional to drink dandelion and burdock cordials at this time as these herbs help to cleanse the blood and are a good tonic for the body after its winter hardships.

As the Vernal Equinox heralds the arrival of spring, it is a time of renewal in both nature and the home, so time for some spring-cleaning!

This is more than just a physical activity, it also helps to remove any old or negative energies accumulated over the dark, heavy winter months preparing the way for the positive growing energy of spring and summer.

As with all the other key festivals of the year, there are both Pagan and Christian associations with the Spring Equinox.

To Pagans, this is the time of the ancient Saxon goddess, Eostre, who stands for new beginnings and fertility.

This is why she is symbolized by eggs (new life) and rabbits/hares (fertility).

Her name is also the root of the term we give to the female hormone, oestrogen.By now, you may be beginning to see the Christian celebration derived from this festival – Easter.

And this is the reason why the ‘Easter Bunny’ brings us coloured eggs (and if you’re lucky chocolate ones!) at this time of year.

So, as nature starts to sprout the seeds that have been gestating in her belly throughout the winter, maybe you can start to think about what you want to ‘sprout’ in your life now and start to take action.

The Celtic Wheel

Have you ever wondered why we feel full of energy in the summer but slow down and want to stay-in in the winter? And why does Nature burst with life in the spring yet start to ‘go to sleep’ in the autumn?

It’s because we are all responding to the changing energies of the different seasons and our Celtic ancestors were exquisitely aware of this.

They followed this seasonal flow of energy around a ‘Wheel of the Year’, honouring the changes with celebrations that kept them in touch with heaven and earth.

There are eight key points in the year – four Quarter days that mark changes in the sky, and four Cross-quarter days that celebrate changes in the land.

The Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year
© Apogee

I find it helps to think of the year as a clock face with mid-winter, the first Quarter day, at 12 ‘o clock.

This is the Winter Solstice (Dec 20th-23rd), which is also known as the shortest day and is the darkest point of the year. The Solstices are when the sun seems to ‘stand still’ in the sky.

Opposite this at 6 ‘o’ clock is the Summer Solstice (June 20th-23rd) – the longest day of the year and the point of highest energy.

 

At 3 ‘o clock is the Spring Equinox (March 20th-23rd) and, at 9 ‘o clock, the Autumn Equinox (Sept 20th-23rd).

 

An equinox is when night and day are of equal length.

These are like the edges of winter and often take a hard toll on our bodies.

In between these ‘sky points’ are the Cross-quarter days which mark ‘gear shifts’ in the energy of the earth. These times are also important agriculturally.

Imbolc (Beginning of February) is when the first lambs are born and ewe’s milk is available again after the long winter. The year is beginning to stir and wake-up.

Beltane (Beginning of May) is the transition from spring to summer when Nature is pumping with life-force and fertility.

Lammas (Beginning of August) is the time of ripeness and when the earth starts to give up her harvest.

Samhain (Beginning of November) is the end/beginning of the Celtic year. It is a time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest and it is possible to commune with the ancestors.

There is great joy in being aware of the seasons in this way and celebrating them in simple ways.

As the year unfolds, we will look in detail at the eight energy-points of the year and the ways in which they affect us.

We will also look at how these festivals have been celebrated in Wiltshire, both past and present.

Nicholas – Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

 

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