Monday, 19 December 2011

Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle

Discovery reignites debate over transportation of smaller standing stones

Scientists have succeeded in locating the exact source of some of the rock believed to have been used 5000 years ago to create Stonehenge's first stone circle.

By comparing fragments of stone found at and around Stonehenge with rocks in south-west Wales, they have been able to identify the original rock outcrop that some of the Stonehenge material came from.

The work - carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales - has pinpointed the source as a 70 metre long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It's the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

The discovery has re-invigorated one of academia's longest running debates - whether the smaller standing stones of Stonehenge were quarried and brought all the way there from Pembrokeshire by prehistoric humans or whether they had already been plucked out of ancient rock outcrops and carried all or part of the way to Wiltshire by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

Archaeologists tend to subscribe to the 'human transport' theory, while some geomorphologists favour the glacial one. The debate is solely about Stonehenge's early/smaller standing stones (often known collectively as 'bluestones') - not about the larger ones (most of the so-called 'sarsens') which were incorporated into the monument several centuries later.

The Leicester University and National Museum of Wales scientists' discovery - reported in the journal, Archaeology in Wales - does not solve the mystery of how Stonehenge's Welsh-originating stones ended up in England, but it does potentially open up the possibility of finding archaeological evidence of quarrying activity that could indicate a human rather than a glacial explanation (indeed that archaeological search has already been launched by archaeologists from Sheffield and other universities). Conversely, any lack of such evidence would help those scholars arguing in the opposite direction. As the geological research continues, it's likely that numerous other rock outcrops in various parts of Pembrokeshire will be positively identified as sources of other stones used to build early versions of Stonehenge. Over past decades, the approximate area they came from has been identified - and the ongoing research will almost certainly succeed in pinpointing additional exact sources.

But although the stone fragments from Stonehenge will allow the scientists to track down where the material originally came from, those same fragments represent an altogether different mystery.

Literally thousands of fragments of rock - almost certainly from monoliths used at or around Stonehenge - have, over the years, been found in or near the world famous monument.

These fragments (mostly less than 50 grams each) appear to have been deliberately chipped off ancient monoliths at some stage in antiquity - many of them probably in the Neolithic.

However, most of the fragments examined so far are from particular types of rock which were used for less than 10% of the early (i.e. Welsh originating) Stonehenge monoliths. The fragments - found not just at Stonehenge itself but also elsewhere in the Stonehenge landscape - tend to be of a different geological character to the vast majority of early Stonehenge standing stones (which are mostly made of a different type of Pembrokeshire-originating rock). Indeed the rock type from Craig Rhos-y-Felin (just pinpointed by the new scientific research) was probably used for just one of the Stonehenge monoliths (a now buried stone, last seen in the 1950s).

This suggests that there may have been other stone circles or other 'standing stone' monuments in the landscape which have now vanished, but could in the future be found by other scientists (from Birmingham and other universities) who are carrying out an ongoing program of geophysical survey work throughout that landscape.

A further unsolved mystery is why prehistoric people were chipping fragments off probable monoliths. It's possible that they were chipped off in order to give monoliths a better shape. Alternatively, some monoliths or other rock material may have been broken up and re-cycled as stone axes - potentially imbued with particularly high status or conceivably perceived as having magical powers.

The detective work, that the University of Leicester and the National Museum of Wales scientists had to carry out to pinpoint the precise Pembrokeshire source of many of these fragments, was extremely complex.

First of all the geologists needed to sort through thousands of tiny fragments of Pembrokeshire-originating rock found by archaeologists at and around Stonehenge over the past 70 years.

Then the two scientists began to look particularly closely at around 700 of them which were made of a specific type of volcanically-originating rock (geologically, dating back some 460 million years) known as 'foliated rhyolite'.

They then succeeded in tentatively locating the approximate area of north Pembrokeshire which those 700 fragments originated from.

This was subsequently confirmed by comparing the chemical signature of tiny crystals (each one-five-hundredths of a millimetre in diameter) in the Stonehenge fragments with similar rocks in north Pembrokeshire.

Finally, by examining the detailed inter-relationships between minerals in samples from Stonehenge and north Pembrokeshire, they succeeded in pinpointing the precise rock outcrop.

If the stones were brought to Stonehenge from Pembrokeshire by human effort, the location of the newly discovered source (Craig Rhos-y-Felin) has interesting cultural implications.

For the newly discovered source is around five miles away from a wider area already known to have been the source for some of Stonehenge's other monoliths.

If humans were responsible for quarrying and transporting the stones from Pembrokeshire, then it would suggest that Stonehenge's Neolithic designers were extremely choosy and very specific as to where they got their stones from.

Research over recent years by Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University and Geoffrey Wainwright, a former chief archaeologist at English Heritage, suggests that the Pembrokeshire stones may have had a particular ideological or magical significance.

The outcrops where some of the stones come from are thought to have been associated with sacred springs and local Welsh stone circles.

It's argued that, by importing those particular rocks the 160 miles from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire, the builders of Stonehenge thought they were taking possession of more than just plain rock. They may have regarded them as extremely important - and could even have seen them as possessing supernatural powers.

The newly discovered source is also significant because of its location. It lies on low ground to the north of the Preseli Mountains. This would have made transport to Wiltshire much more difficult than it would have been for other Pembrokeshire rocks used in Stonehenge and, known to have come from the High Preseli several miles to the south.

Transporting the north Pembrokeshire stones by sea would have required sailing round St. David's Head, a particularly difficult and dangerous route for a Neolithic boat. Alternatively the prehistoric quarrymen and their colleagues would have had to haul the stones over the top of the nearby Preseli Mountains. However, if humans took the stones to Stonehenge, it is also possible that the stones had already been used to construct circles in Pembrokeshire - and were therefore moved from those locations to Stonehenge, rather than from the original sources themselves.


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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Yule – Winter Solstice

21st / 22nd December
Yule or the Midwinter Solstice is the time of year when we experience our shortest day and longest night – the sun is at its lowest point in the sky at noon. Yule meaning ‘wheel’ is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
In Wiltshire the winter solstice is still celebrated by the lighting up of the white horse at Alton Barnes. Tea lights in jars are placed on the chalk, so that the horse glows with candlelight.


New Year’s Eve was the traditional time that this ceremony took place, and was originally held around the oldest tree in the apple orchard. The first cider crop was poured on the roots of the apple tree to thank the tree spirits for the crop of apples, and to ensure a good harvest next year.

Drumming and bamging sticks would beat away any bad spirits, and the wassail cup would be passed around. Toast dipped in cider would then be hung on the oldest tree, as an offering to the tree dryads.

‘Wassail’ was Saxon for ‘good health’.

In the eleventh-century, the Danish rule over England brought the Scandinavian term for Christmas – Yule. Christmastide was the time to bring out the wassail bowl or cup. The leader of the celebrations would call ‘Wassail’, which was Old English for ‘your health’, and the answer was ‘Drinkhail’, at which the bowl was passed round so everyone took took a drink and handed it on with a kiss

Symbolism of Yule:
Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.

Symbols of Yule:

Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, christmas cactus.

Herbs of Yule:

Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.

Foods of Yule:

Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).

Incense of Yule:

Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.

Colors of Yule:

Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.

Stones of Yule:

Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds.

Activities of Yule:

Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honoring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule
Spellworkings of Yule:

Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.

Deities of Yule:

Goddesses-Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.

Symbolism of Yule:

Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.

Symbols of Yule:

Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, christmas cactus.
Herbs of Yule:

Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.

Foods of Yule:

Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples)
Incense of Yule:

Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.

Colors of Yule:

Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange

Stones of Yule:

Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds
Activities of Yule:

Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honoring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule

Spellworkings of Yule:

Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.

Deities of Yule:

Goddesses-Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon
Our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Sun god at Yule, and the expulsion of the evil winter spirits. The winter solstice was considered a mysterious and powerful time, for it is at this point the sun begins to make the return journey across our skies. After the longest night of the year the sun is seen as growing stronger and the return of the warmer season is welcomed – the concept of rebirth became strongly associated with the Winter Solstice.
Three days after Yule many people exchange gifts and celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus, as our ancestors celebrated the return of light and the sun growing in strength. The well-known figure of Father Christmas may have derived from the Pagan god, Herne the Hunter.

Yule was celebrated with bonfires to stimulate the ascent of the sun, and lamps illuminated houses decorated with evergreens to simulate summer.

It is a time to look on the past year’s achievements. The days will now grow longer up to the mid summer solstice.

Yule Traditions
The Yule Log – during medieval times, the decorated log was ceremoniously carried into the home on Christmas Eve, and placed in the fireplace. Traditionally the Yule log was lit with the saved stump of last year’s log, and then it was burnt over the twelve days of the winter celebration, and its ashes and stump were kept until the following year to sprinkle on the new log, so that the fortune would be passed on from year to year.

In France and Germany ashes from the Yule log were mixed with the cattle feed to ensure their health and in other regions the ash was sprinkled around fruit trees to increase their yield of fruit.

Yule wreaths were traditionally made of evergreens and holly and ivy. Holly represents the female and ivy the male and the wreath’s circle symbolizes the wheel of the year. Both holly and ivy were used as protection in the home against bad spirits making a Yuletide wreath solstice wreath making

Links: English Heritage
Stonehenge and Solstice News:
Visit Wiltshire Tourism:
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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Stonehenge 'sun worship' rituals discovered by archaeologists

Once upon a time Stonehenge, some 500 years before its stones were erected, was used as a place of sun worship. This reminder of magical ancient Britain comes from an international archaeological survey team from Birmingham and Vienna, that has surveyed the subsurface using geophysical imaging techniques. It has discovered two new Cursus pits at Stonehenge – one towards the enclosure’s eastern end while the other is nearer its western end.
What is remarkable about the location of these newly discovered pits is that, when they are seen from the “Heel Stone” at Stonehenge, they are perfectly aligned with sunrise and sunset on the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.

Celestial alignment

The remarkable findings of this celestial alignment, from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, indicate that the site was an ancient sacred site for ritual far earlier than previously thought, and long before the stones were erected more than 5,000 years ago. They suggest that the primary original purpose of the site was that of a sacred place of sun worship.

It is thought that stones, posts or fires may well have marked the rising and setting points of the sun.

Birmingham University project leader, 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.”

Three key solar alignments

On midsummer’s day there are three key solar alignments – the obvious ones are, of course, sunrise and sunset but additionally there is also midday which is the highest point that the sun reaches in its annual cycle. In making the calculations for a possible religious procession or other annual ritual to the north of Stonehenge, it was realised that the noon point aligned directly with the centre of Stonehenge, precisely due south!

Professor Gaffney says that the project, the largest of its type undertaken anywhere in the world, will take another two years to complete. A five square mile radius will be comprehensively examined to a depth of two metres.

How many more unknown sites will be found? Dozens or who knows even hundreds could emerge, which will add immeasurably to our knowledge of the origins, meanings and mysteries of Stonehenge.

Illumination at night?

Just as this news has emerged, so too has a new campaign to have the monument lit up at nighttime started. Lady Mimi Pakenham of Warminster in a letter to the Times, suggested that Stonehenge be illuminated “like the pyramids in Egypt or Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.” Pakenham claimed that lighting would mean “the monumental power of ancient man’s achievement in another age would inspire all who pass by.”

Well not everyone agrees. Many believe that the evening sky, the moon and the stars form a key backdrop to the mystery of Stonehenge. A number of astronomical groups have in fact been working with English Heritage to preserve as dark a night sky as possible in the area.

Amidst the maelstrom of modern 21st Century life, the power of ancient Britain to stir the passions within is still very much alive.


Stonehenge Tour Guide

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stonehenge - Should monuments be lit at night?

Calls for Stonehenge to be lit up at night are being resisted by stargazers who say it will spoil their view. Many of the world's most famous monuments are illuminated but is it necessary?

Stonehenge is one of the most recognisable ancient monuments in the world. But if you're driving along the A303 at night, the site is shrouded in darkness.

A debate has opened up on the letters pages of the Times over whether or not Stonehenge should be lit up in the evening. Many other World Heritage Sites, such as the Acropolis in Greece and the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt, do not hide their lights under a bushel.

Some might think that Stonehenge's setting is far from ideal - in 1993, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee concluded that its presentation was a "national disgrace".

And Lady Mimi Pakenham, who sparked the discussion in the Times, says not much has changed since then. "It's not a pristine site because of that A303. Lights would give it dignity," she argues. The site was lit for a period, in the 1970s and 1980s, but has been dark since then.

The illuminated dome of St Paul's is part of the London skyline Increasing its visibility would also spark people's interest, she says.

"You are trying to educate the public and trying to interest schoolchildren in the mysteries of the ancient world, and if you want to do that you have to add some magic."

Lights can bring a bit of magic to certain settings. They can be used to highlight architectural features or deflect attention away from less attractive properties. Floodlit buildings can also make glorious vistas.

Last year, it emerged the producers of ITV's morning show Daybreak paid St Paul's Cathedral to keep the lights on for an extra three hours every weekday to enhance the backdrop of the show.
Many landmark churches around the UK, such as Salisbury Cathedral and York Minster, capitalise on their appeal with lights. The Church of England does not have any laws on lighting but the principal objectives for floodlighting are purely aesthetic and symbolic, and have nothing to do with security.

Let there be light: York Minster The Church says floodlighting makes a church a "living building" and can show off "the visible aspirations of centuries of masons and architects, including their towers and spires, built to the glory of God, to their best advantage".

In the case of Stonehenge though, there are people who think that lighting is unnecessary. Stargazers say lights would destroy their view and cut the visual connection between the ancient monument and the night sky.

A number of groups, including the Royal Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union, have been working for several years to try to preserve as dark a night sky as possible in the vicinity of Stonehenge.

"If you ask people about prehistoric monuments and ancient astronomy in one breath, chances are they will think Stonehenge," says Clive Ruggles, professor of archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester.

"There's been loads of effort recently to restore Stonehenge to its landscape and part and parcel of that is restoring Stonehenge to its sky, to keeping it as dark as possible."

And when it comes to monuments more generally, there are plenty of people who worry about the energy bills and the environmental impact of lighting things up at night.

Like many organisations, the Church of England has become environmentally conscious and is trying to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2050.

If churches are committed to lowering their energy usage, then lighting and heating is an obvious consideration, a spokesman suggests.

One way around the sticky dilemma of energy wastage versus pretty lights would be for churches to have their own energy supply, and Bradford Cathedral is opting for solar panels.

The National Trust says there is a "special joy" at seeing spectacular places lit up at night when normally they'd be closed, and the experience encourages the visitor to look at these places in a different way.
"The decision whether or not to illuminate places in our care will in most cases be made at a local level and these decisions will take into account local people, cost implications and energy consumption," says Sarah Staniforth, museums and collections director.

Lighting the way: The National Trust's Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire When it comes to illuminating Stonehenge, it seems safety is also a factor.
English Heritage, which manages Stonehenge, says it was lit up at night for a period in the 1970s and early 1980s but that was stopped due to an increase in road accidents caused by cars and lorries slowing down to have a look.
"As there is even more traffic today on the A303, there are on a purely practical level, some serious safety issues to consider," says a spokesman.

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Stonehenge may have been a Sun-worship site

Stonehenge, the UK's most famous ancient site, may have been a place of worship some 500 years before the first stone was erected, a research has claimed. Archaeologists from the universities of Birmingham, Bradford and Vienna claim that the sanctity of Stonehenge's location may have determined the layout of key aspects of the surrounding sacred landscape.

The research increases the likelihood that the site was originally and primarily associated with sun worship, 'The Independent' reported. The research has also enabled the archaeologists to reconstruct the detailed route of a possible religious congregation or other ritual event which they suspect may have taken place annually to the north of Stonehenge.

In their research, the archaeologists discovered two great pits, one towards the enclosure's eastern end, the other nearer its western end. When they modelled the relationship between these newly discovered Cursus pits and Stonehenge on their computer system, they realized that, viewed from the so-called "Heel Stone" at Stonehenge, the pits were aligned with sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year. The chances of those two alignments being purely coincidental are extremely low.

Aricle from:

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

London 2012: Olympic torch relay to visit Stonehenge

The Olympic torch will visit Stonehenge as it passes through Wiltshire.

It will arrive in Southwick on 22 May before heading to Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon.
The procession will visit Chippenham, Calne, Marlborough, Chiseldon, Wroughton, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon on 23 May.

On 11 July it will visit Amesbury, The Winterbournes and Salisbury. It will visit Stonehenge, Wilton, Barford St Martin and Fovant on 12 July.
A special celebratory event will also take place in Salisbury on 11 July.
Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge, where the torch will appear early in the morning, said it was particularly relevant for the relay to visit the site as it had played a part in showing the culture and history of the UK during London's bid for the Olympic Games.
"We're delighted that having been part of this for the past seven years, the torch will come and visit us," he said.
Councillor Keith Williams, of Swindon Borough Council, said: "It's great that Swindon is one of the places that's being visited and we've got plenty of Olympic-themed events being planned in the run-up to the Games."
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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Carnac, France: Where tradition and beauty are set in stone

Carnac, in the very south of France, isn't as well known as Stonehenge. But its megaliths are just as mysterious

Reporting from Carnac, France— St. Cornelius, known as Cornély in France, opens his arms in blessing from a niche above the old stone church in Carnac. Legend has it that he was persecuted by Rome for his opposition to animal sacrifice and chased by soldiers all the way to the Brittany coast. Trapped, he turned around and changed them into 3,000 rough-hewn stones that still stand in military rows on a chain of fields just north of here.

There are other hypotheses about the Carnac boulders, carbon dated to 4000 to 2000 BC. They mark one of Caesar's camps during the Gallic Wars from 58 to 50 BC. Or they were snake worship sites for ancient Celts whose territory included parts of England and Ireland as well as Brittany. Or maybe they were goblin lairs and fairy treasures. But St. Cornelius works for me.

It's the same story with other prehistoric monuments in Western Europe. No one knows for sure who built them or why, although sites have been found, from Scandinavia to Spain, that have various configurations: upright stones, known as menhirs or megaliths, standing alone or in groups, as at Stonehenge, England; dolmens, Neolithic tombs made of massive boulders, laid on top of one another; and tumuli, or artificial mounds, where ancient man buried the departed under heaps of rubble.

My first encounter with these mysteries was at Avebury on the Wiltshire moors in England, a medieval village surrounded by concentric circles of standing stones. When Christianity arrived, villagers desecrated the megaliths, believing them evil. But on a recent trip to Brittany — whose coast must have fit together with that of England like a puzzle piece before a lowering sea created the English Channel — I discovered that the Carnac megaliths fared better. Although sometimes mined for building material or marked with Christian crosses, they have otherwise escaped the wrath of superstitious zealots in one of the earliest instances of French laissez faire.

It takes about four hours to drive from Paris to Carnac, which occupies a segment of the ragged Brittany coast near Quiberon Island and the mouth of the Morbihan Bay. Once one of the poorest, most isolated corners of France, it is now one of the most chic, not because of the megaliths but because of the beaches colonized almost equally by French and English vacationers.

Carnac's old port, La Trinité-sur-Mer, is as full of sails and topsiders as Hyannis, Mass., reached along a waterfront road lined by handsome summer houses, thalassotherapy spas, nature preserves, salt marshes and sandy Atlantic Ocean shores. A tourist train takes sightseers along the Carnac Riviera and through the town center with its Museum of Prehistory, market square and 17th century church dedicated to St. Cornelius.

The first thing I saw when I drove into town was the whitewashed chapel of St. Michel atop a 30-foot tumulus that covered a tomb that contained prehistoric axes and ornaments. At its foot is the Hôtel Tumulus, built as a residence in 1900 by St. Michel excavator Zacharie Le Rouzic. It's still run by family members and thus an ideal place for amateur archaeologists. I checked into a simple, sunny room under a gable, swam in the pool and dined on fresh fish in the veranda restaurant.

The next morning I started at the Maison des Mégalithes, an interpretive center for the Carnac stone alignments. This would have delighted Prosper Mérimée, the inspector-general of French historical monuments who encouraged scientific study of the site in the early 1800s.

The center's exhibitions and video presentation clarify important facts. For instance, four to six millenniums ago the forest-bounded fields where the stones stand would have been an empty moor, like those around Avebury. At that time, man had learned to farm and domesticate animals, placing him in the stage of development known to archaeologists as the Neolithic, which occurred between the hunter-gatherer Mesolithic and the Bronze Age. This corner of Brittany is thought to have supported 30,000 to 50,000 Neoliths, who, their remains suggest, were at least a foot shorter than modern man. Besides farming, they traded widely, importing decorative objects found in tombs from as far away as Italy and Spain.

But it's what Neolithic man did at the Carnac alignments, which begin just north of the interpretive center. Altogether, there are seven fields of standing stone, stretching northeast for about two miles. To see them, most visitors drive slowly along the country road that parallels them, pausing at specific alignments for closer inspection, though most are surrounded by chain-link fence.
I made my first stop at Kermario, which has 982 menhirs laid in straight rows, increasing in size from east to west where some are almost 10 feet tall, and the ranks give way to what is thought to have been a temple compound. On a stormy night the stones might have struck me as eerie, but on a dewy spring morning, with fields carpeted in new grass and dandelions, I felt only awe at the engineering and some fellow feeling for Neolithic man who, although pagan, was clearly religious.

An old mill and lake separate Kermario from Le Manio, a smaller alignment that includes the Manio Giant, a lichen-covered granite slab 18 feet tall on which snake engravings are dimly visible near the base.

The Manio Giant is not the biggest megalith in the region. That honor belongs to the Grand Menhir, erected around 4500 BC on the nearby Locmariaquer Peninsula, which I visited later that day. It stood 60 feet high before broken into the four massive pieces now lying in a field near another tumulus and decorated dolmen. Archaeologists think the granite slab, weighing about 280 metric tons — more than 600,000 pounds — came from quarries about six miles away. To put the feat of its transportation in perspective, an experiment in 1979 showed it would take 200 people to drag a 10-tonne block (about 22,000 pounds) 300 feet in a day.

Monoliths like the Grand Menhir, tumuli and dolmens are scattered around southwestern Brittany. I saw signs marking them wherever I drove. But to see the great burial mound of Gavrinis you have to take a sightseeing cruise on Morbihan Bay, as I did, because the site is on a small, uninhabited island that would have been a hill in the Neolithic era when the sea level was about 20 feet lower than it is today.

The boat rounded the point where Gavrinis stands but did not stop, a pity because the walls of the excavated chamber inside are richly engraved with emblems that resemble writing, according to "Notes From a Journey in the West of France," by monuments minister Mérimée.

And then there are my favorite megaliths, hardly prehistoric. They appear in two panels on the western portal of the Carnac church, flanking Cornelius. He was the patron saint of cattle, which is why the paintings feature cows, placidly waiting for milking time among fields of prehistoric stone

Article - LA-Tines:,0,7199479.story
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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Permission given for section of A344 to be closed at Stonehenge

Hanna White from the Salisbury Journal writes:
A PLANNING inspector has granted permission for a section of the A344 at Stonehenge to be closed and returned to grass.

English Heritage wants to return the area to grass as part of plans for a new visitors’ centre at Airman’s Corner and an inquiry was held in June.
Inspector Alan Boyland attached two conditions to the permission, to improve Longbarrow Roundabout and for confirmation of details regarding pedestrian and cycle routes along the A344.
A separate inquiry was held in September to consider Wiltshire Council’s proposals to close byways surrounding Stonehenge and another section of the A344 to all vehicles and a decision is expected later this year.
The new visitor centre has got planning permission and despite funding problems English Heritage hopes the centre can be completed by 2013.

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ancient Wessex Tour.

Erected between 3000 and 1600 BC, Stonehenge is the most eloquent testimony to the once dominant civilisations of the Stone and Bronze Ages. And what better way to unravel the mysteries of Stonehenge’s innermost circle than on a private tour in the company of an expert from English Heritage?

As well as inspecting Stonehenge's antique trilithons at close hand, our early morning visit will reveal how recent excavations have radically altered interpretations about this most monumental of temples.

The ceremonial landscape that lies around Stonehenge is richly suggestive of Wessex’s ancient patrimony: we will explore the Great Cursus, the henges of Durrington Wall and Woodhenge, and a handful of the great Bronze Age barrows that bestride the surrounding hills.

The majestic façade of West Kennet chambered long barrow, framed by two enormous quarry ditches, was constructed around 3650 BC – some four centuries before the first stones were raised at Stonehenge. Immediately to the west lies Avebury, the world’s largest pre-historic stone circle, further graphic confirmation of the outstanding engineering skills of our megalithic ancestors.

We stay in Salisbury at the 17th century three-star White Hart Hotel overlooking the famous mediaeval cathedral


Day 1 Course assembles 1600 for two nights at Mercure White Hart Hotel, Salisbury. Evening: sherry reception followed by course introduction.

Day 2 Early morning privileged visit to Stonehenge (inner circle) followed by Neolithic henge monuments of Durrington Walls and Woodhenge, Stonehenge Cursus, King Barrows (unexplored Bronze Age barrows), Stonehenge Avenue (ceremonial approach). Evening talk.

Day 3 Avebury Henge (huge earthwork enclosing three stone circles), Silbury Hill (largest man-made mound in Europe), West Kennet long barrow (early Neolithic chambered tomb). Course disperses 1700 at hotel.


Cost of £490 includes: accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, drinks reception, breakfast, two packed lunches & two dinners, special entry to Stonehenge, excursions & admissions (except English Heritage properties for non-members).

Not included: travel insurance, single room supplement £110.

This tour is operated by the Engish Heritage and Ace cultural Tours

Wessex Tour Guide

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Stonehenge traffic inquiry begins. Pendragon and Druids gives evidence

A public inquiry into plans to prohibit the use of motor vehicles at Stonehenge has begun.
The proposals, by Wiltshire Council, would see various byways closed to vehicles, with certain exceptions, within the site and part of the A344.
The reason given for the plans is to "improve the amenity of the area".
The proposals have met with opposition from various people and groups including Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon.
The inquiry, at Salisbury Rugby Football Club, is due to run until 5 October.
The inspector will then make recommendations to Wiltshire Council, which will make the final decision.

Druids and Pagans
Mr Pendragon is one of those due to give evidence at the inquiry.
He said the closure of the Netheravon Coach Road in Amesbury would prevent people from holding the three-day solstice and equinox celebrations.
"By prohibiting all people from celebrating at Stonehenge, Druids and Pagans would be disproportionately discriminated against, since the solstices and equinoxes have particular significance for our beliefs," he said.
An earlier inquiry into plans by English Heritage to close the main road east of Stonehenge and return it to grass was held in June.
English Heritage wants to stop traffic from travelling close to the stones and "restore the dignity" of the World Heritage Site by closing the A344.
The report has been submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport, who will make a final decision.

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 16 September 2011

UK Votes Stonehenge as the World's Must-See Destination in Intel's Seven Visual Wonders of the World Poll

Stonehenge Rocks Travellers' Socks to Land Top Spot
From the ancient and mysterious to the grandiose and awe inspiring, voters in Intel's Visual Wonders of the World poll[1] have chosen the world's most visually stunning locations. The poll formed part of Intel's campaign to find out what matters most to the UK in their Visual Life.


The top seven must-see locations, in the order of ranking, as chosen by voters from all over the UK are:
  1. Stonehenge, England
  2. Rome, Italy
  3. Chatsworth House, England
  4. Cape Town, South Africa
  5. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
  6. Sahara, North Africa
  7. Aurora Borealis, Sweden
  8. New York City, USA
  9. Gower Peninsula, Wales
  10. Machu Picchu, Peru

The poll also showed how patriotic we are in the UK, selecting two UK locations within our top three. This was mirrored by the likes of the US, who voted for the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge, Germany, who opted for Neuschwanstein Castle, and the Netherlands, whose Canals in Amsterdam topped both their country poll and the votes across Europe.

Natural beauty

The Visual Wonders poll also captured how male and female voters cast their favourites. Both men and women voted for Stonehenge as the must-see location in the UK, whereas mostly women voters opted for the romance and atmosphere of Rome, while mainly men chose the history and scenery of Chatsworth House.

The poll also had five categories: ancient, man-made, natural, religious and urban and interestingly the results show that the UK as a whole prefers natural beauty over the draw of urban life.

Partnering with Intel to create the Visual Wonders poll, travel deal experts Travelzoo confirmed the significance of aesthetic attraction for travellers and holiday makers. "What's really interesting in Intel's poll is the UK's thirst to discover the landmarks of history that are near to them, and in some cases right on their doorstep," said Joel Brandon-Bravo, managing director of Travelzoo in the UK. "The perfect getaway is no longer solely about the faraway beach; the rise of staycationing appears to have reignited our passion for the UK in recent years."

"Intel's Visual Wonders of the World poll has shown the passion that the UK has for our own visual landmarks", says Gail Hanlon, marketing director Intel UK. "As part of our Visual Life campaign this year, which encouraged using technology to get the best out of the great things that surround us every day, the enthusiasm for each of the top ten results proves how important technology can be in sharing everyday experiences."

The Winners

The mysterious structure of Stonehenge claimed top spot in the poll of must-see locations. This ancient creation is visited by thousands of people a year in the South of England and its popularity could be down to its imposing presence, or the shroud of mystery surrounding its purpose as 'experts' remain undecided as to whether it was used for human sacrifices or for charting the movement of the Sun, Moon and stars.

Rome, the city of 'romance' and ancient wonders came in at a close second place with the vast majority of UK female voters choosing its stunning architecture and romantic atmosphere as the reasons for choosing it as one of the world's most desirable locations.

Set in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire, Chatsworth House landed third place in the poll. Construction of the first house at Chatsworth began in 1552 and the current site offers the captivating history of the house, scenic gardens as well as a farmyard and adventure playground, making it a consistently popular choice for men and women of the UK.

In fourth place was the sun-drenched city of beautiful people, Cape Town, in South Africa. A city famed for its near-perfect weather, Cape Town is a location surrounded by sea and mountains, including the legendary flat-topped Table Mountain.

Other top locations from across the world that proved the most popular among UK voters include the architectural brilliance of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the sweeping sands of the Sahara in North Africa.

The spectral beauty of Sweden's Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) were also in the top 10, alongside the vibrant buzz of New York City, USA; Gower Peninsula in Wales and the breathtaking views of Machu Picchu, Peru.

Survey Information

This survey was conducted in June/ July 2011 via Intel's Facebook pages. A total of 1,715 votes were cast globally: 67 in Germany, 237 in Hungary, 38 in Ireland, 130 in Italy, 246 in the Netherlands, 136 in Southern Africa, 133 in UAE, 99 in the US, 365 in UK and 264 in the rest of the world

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Stonehenge: Researchers recreate the sound of a ritual heard there 4,000 years ago

“Visitors to Stonehenge in Wiltshire rarely experience the historic site without the rumble of traffic noise from the nearby A303. But UK researchers have managed to recreate the sound of a ritual there, as heard by our ancestors 4,000 years ago. The research – which starts in an echo-free recording chamber and uses latest computer modelling techniques – has also been used to recreate the acoustics of Coventry Cathedral before it was destroyed in World War II.”

Hearing the Past can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 1102 BST on Monday 12 September, and on BBC iPlayer.

More here –

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Stonehenge Tour - September 14th - 17th 2011This break really is special! Not only do we have the renowned archaeologist Julian Richards spending time with us we also have our own private visit to Stonehenge!

Highlights Included in Your Tour

Woodhenge and Durrington Walls where we will discuss the results of the recent excavations which have produced startling new discoveries.

Stonehenge Cursus, a great ceremonial Neolithic enclosure that predates Stonehenge.

King Barrow Ridge, with its spectacular Bronze Age burial mounds, some excavated some untouched.

Winterbourne Stoke that contains every known type of southern British round barrow.

Stonehenge via The Avenue. Finally we have our special visit to Stonehenge for the rare privilege of walking amongst the stones - a wonderful way to end the day.

West Kennet long Barrow, Silbury Hill & Avebury stone circle. On day three we will continue our prehistoric investigations by exploring the Avebury area - all under the expert guidance of Julian Richards.

This tour is operated by Lindum Heritage Tours -

Other guided tours of Stonehenge can be booked through the long established 'Stonehenge Tour company'

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 2 September 2011

Stonehenge mystery offered clue by Welsh burial chamber

Archaeologists believe key figure involved in construction of Wiltshire ancient monument is buried at Preseli mountains site

Archaeologists are researching the grave of an important figure they believe may have played a crucial role in the construction of Stonehenge.

The burial chamber is sited above a ceremonial stone circle in the Preseli hills in west Wales, where it is believed bluestone was quarried before being taken to Stonehenge.

More research will be done to establish if the important person buried there played a role in the moving of bluestone 190 miles from west Wales to the Wiltshire monument.

The find has been made by professors Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright, who have spent the last 10 years trying to establish how and why the bluestones – or spotted dolerite – were transported from the Preseli hills to Stonehenge.

In 2008, following the first excavation at Stonehenge in more than 40 years, the professors said they had established that the bluestones – the size of a man or smaller – arrived at Stonehenge about 4,500 years ago.

Their hypothesis was that the bluestones – rather than the much larger sarsen stones that give Stonehenge its familiar shape – were the real draw because they were believed to have healing powers.

Wainwright said: "We went back to the Preselis and started doing excavations up there. The first site we explored was a big burial cairn in the shadow of Carn Menyn, where the Stonehenge bluestones come from."

The team found a circle underneath the cairn built of bluestone, the same material taken to Stonehenge, and work is being carried out to date this. But Wainwright said he would be surprised if the circle had not been created at about the same time that the bluestones were taken to Stonehenge, strengthening the link between west Wales and Stonehenge in the theory.

"Then this stone circle was covered with the huge burial cairn with a chamber in the middle. The space turned from a public ceremonial space defined by the stone circle into the burial spot of a very important person."

Wainwright said it was a "jump" to claim the person buried there was an architect of Stonehenge. "It's a hypothesis but it could well be true. There is certainly something very significant about the grave."

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

King Arthur leads Stonehenge ceremony

DRUIDS held a multi-faith ceremony at Stonehenge yesterday to mark the third anniversary of the removal of Human remains from the site.

King Arthur Pendragon is leading a ‘day of action’ at the site of the ancient stones just a week after losing a High Court bid to have the cremated bones reburied.

Mr Pendragon is fighting a Ministry of Justice decision made last year which enabled scientists at Sheffield University to analyse samples removed from the site for five more years.

Mr Pendragon, 57, wants the remains to be reburied immediately.

His bid was rejected at a High Court hearing in London on August 23 by Mr Justice Wyn Williams who ruled there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice had acted unreasonably.

The cremated remains of more than 40 bodies, thought to be at least 5,000 years old, were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave permission for the bones to be examined at the university until 2015.

Mr Pendragon said: “These Human remains have lain there as the guardians of Stonehenge for more than 5,000 years and we believe they should be returned. We don’t believe they should be treated with such disrespect.

We’re holding a multi-faith picnic as we believe this is not just a Pagan issue – it’s about common decency.”

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 12 August 2011

Did Dinosaurs Build Stonehenge?

A short funny video of Eric Idle on the 1981 broadcast of “Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever” debating whether Dinosaurs built Stonehenge.

Must be a quiet 'Stonehenge news' week.  Its not all serious.................

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Underwater Stonehenge discovered ?

Has a crashed UFO been found on ocean floor?

A Millennium Falcon style UFO has been discovered on the bottom of the ocean between Finland and Sweden… maybe… probably not.

But that's exactly what some people are claiming sonar images of a 60ft disc-shaped object, taken by ship-wreck hunters, reveal.
The bizarre discovery was made by a team from Ocean Explorer as they scanned the 300ft deep ocean floor for a sunken wreck containing several cases of expensive champagne.

Lead researcher Peter Lindberg says the round object could is surrounded by scars on the earth which could be where the craft landed and skidded along… slightly more sensibly he also suggests it could be an underwater Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Solving Stonehenge - The New Key to an Ancient Enigma

If you are going to visit Stonehenge then I highly recommend reading this book first
Solving Stonehenge - The New Key to an Ancient Enigma
Astronomy or Architecture?
The construction of Stonehenge reflects the empirical discovery of mathematical truths. Its design embodies the elegant and universal symbolism of numbers and geometry. 4,500 years ago Neolithic surveyors and engineers understood and employed the relationships between squares and circles. They accurately created polygons which included hexagons pentagons decagons; the classic 30 sided figure which determined the positions of the Sarsen Circle (a 'triacontagon') is itself a product of these fundamental shapes.

The 'horseshoe' form of the central array was derived from the same markers that determined the position of the Sarsen Circle. Beyond the circle, the four 'Station Stones' sit in perfect spatial and geometric relationship with the central group. A modern preoccupation with 'alignments' has masked the elegantly simple formulae used by the prehistoric designers.

" This is a wonderful book--the most attractive, readable, sensible, and most comprehensive exploration of Stonehenge available. Happily, it rises above the arcane astronomical theories so fashionable in recent years, emphasizing what can be truly seen on the ground, not on what some claim to see in the sky. It is a haunting, graceful tribute to prehistoric genius, Neolithic administrative expertise, premeditated geometric design, and careful peg and cord surveying. For 15 centuries, the actual experience of creating and recreating Stonehenge was probably equal to the glory of the final product itself. Johnson (Oxford) finds his evidence in both the existing monument and in early British sketches, particularly the meticulous 1740 work of John Wood. In April 2008, for the first time in four decades, a tiny archaeological excavation was permitted at Stonehenge. Its full results have not yet
been published, but they will be minor adjustments. Johnson's present synthesis will stand the test of time. The book is a tribute to him and to the high standards of Thames & Hudson, and should be profitable, delightful reading for everyone.

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Monday, 18 July 2011

Tours from Antiquity - Stonehenge Archaeology Tours

Tours from Antiquity – Stonehenge Archaeology Tours

A new London tour operator has launched guided tours that depart frequently from London.  Tours from Antiquity offers a unique opportunity to explore the awe inspiring world famous Stonehenge and Avebury Prehistoric Landscapes with an expert service, guided by a qualified archaeologist. Offering a superb day long tour from the centre of London to these fantastic prehistoric wonders.

The tour includes -
West Kennet Long Barrow - One of the largest Neolithic burial tombs in Britain. The West Kennet Long Barrow was constructed about 3700 BC, and was in continual use for well over 1000 years.
Silbury Hill - The largest man-made mound in ancient Europe, Silbury Hill was constructed c2800 BC. Even after centuries of research, archaeologists have still not discovered the original purpose of the Hill - ideas include it use as a territorial marker, burial mound and as a cenotaph.
Avebury Henge, Stone Circle and West Kennet Avenue - The largest stone circle in Europe, Avebury formed the centre of one of the most impressive Neolithic ceremonial landscapes in Britain. The great circles, 200 standing stones arranged in an outer and 2 inner circles, surrounded by a massive bank and ditch, were the focal point of the area. They were connected by the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones to other locales in the region, including the Sanctuary on Overton Hill - the site of a postulated temple. Hundreds of great sarsen stones from the downland around, often weighing over 20 tonnes, were used in the construction of the site, some 2500-2200 BC.

Durrington Walls - is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure. It is 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge. Recent excavation at Durrington Walls, support an estimate of a community of several thousand, thought to be the largest one of its age in north-west Europe. At 500m in diameter, the henge is the largest in Britain and recent evidence suggests that it was a complementary monument to Stonehenge
Woodhenge - Neolithic monument, dating from about 2300 BC, six concentric rings, once possibly supported a ring-shaped building
Stonehenge Cursus - (sometimes known as the Greater Cursus) is a large Neolithic cursus monument next to Stonehenge. It is roughly 3km long and between 100 and 150m wide. Excavations by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2007 dated the construction of the earthwork to between 3630 and 3375 BC. This makes the monument several hundred years older than the earliest phase of Stonehenge in 3000 BC.
Bronze Age round barrows - The Stonehenge UNESCO world heritage site is said to contain the most concentrated collection of prehistoric sites and monuments in the world. One monument type missed by the casual observer is that of the Bronze Age round barrow (burial mounds). As we walk through this landscape, you will come into contact with these intriguing ancient burial sites and through the expertise of our tour leaders, you will come face to face with the customs and people of Bronze Age society buried in close proximity to the unique stone circle of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Avenue - Walk along the Stonehenge Avenue and approach this unique stone circle as was the intended route experienced by the Stonehenge's contempories.

Admission to Stonehenge - The great and ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is an exceptional survival from a prehistoric culture now lost to us. The monument evolved between 3000 BC - 1600 BC and is aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices.
You will enjoy the passion and enthusiasm expressed by our professional Archaeologist tour leaders.

Why choose Tours From Antiquity?

Tours From Antiquity conduct ONLY Archaeology Tours, and as a result we believe we offer an excellent up-to-date specialist service; giving you the opportunity to learn in great detail about these amazing prehistoric sites, but also leaving you time to explore your surroundings by yourself.

Tours From Antiquity is owned by qualified archaeologists and our tourleaders are all qualified archaeologists, offering the most professional service possible.

On our tours you will be travelling with no more than 17 other people - guaranteed. With smaller group sizes comes a more personalised excursion experience.

Our tour coaches offer luxury transport, with good air circulation and clear PA system.

Our itineraries are carefully planned offering the very best experience while you discover as much as possible.

Alternatively you could use the  'The Stonehenge Tour Company' (established 1995) who offer a wide range of Stonehenge and Avebury Tours -
Or 'Salisbury Guided Tours -
or HisTOURies UK for private tours of Stonehenge and Avebury -

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Australian Stonehenge - Close to completion........

JILLIAN and Kim Beale’s construction of what is thought to be the world’s only life-size replica of the ancient Stonehenge ruins on their 1,066 acre Merivale Road property has taken another step forward with the addition of a new outer circle.

The Esperance couple took on the challenge of what they have called StoneHengeEsperance after the stones, which were originally cut for a similar project which was planned for Margaret River, became available when that project fell through.

Until three weeks ago, the build had included ten horseshoe stones – the highest being 7.7 metres and weighing anywhere from 38-55 tonnes – set with an 18 tonne lintel on top of each pair.

Following a brief construction lapse, the Beales have now erected an outer circle of 19 trilithon stones, surrounded by a circle of 30 sarsen stones weighing 28 tonnes.
“We have already had the most fantastic response from visitors,” Jillian Beale said

Stonehenge (UK) Tour Guide

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Traditional British downpour for ancient Stonehenge midsummer rituals

Traditional British weather was unable to dampen the spirits of 18,000 revellers who thronged Stonehenge at dawn today to celebrate the summer solstice

Police praised the crowds who descended on the monument on Salisbury plain in Wiltshire after a night of “good natured” festivities with only 20 arrests.

Clouds blocked out the sight of the sun rising in line with the ancient stone circle at 4.51am.

But dawn on the longest day of the year was nevertheless greeted by ecstatic cheers from the crowd.

An eclectic mix of devoted neo-pagans, travelling eco-warriors, party-goers and curious onlookers shrugged off the rain to converge on the monument, near Amesbury, for a night of singing and dancing.

The festivities, which included two pagan marriage ceremonies, were led by the self-styled King Arthur Pendragon, a veteran Druid.

“We didn't get a great sunrise but it was dry,” said Mr Pendragon, formerly known as John Rothwell.

On midsummer morning the sun rises in exact alignment above the Heelstone, which sits outside the main rings.

It remains unclear whether this was because those who built Stonehenge came from a sun-worshipping culture or because it was part of a huge astronomical calendar.

Once the setting for bitter stand-offs between police and adherents of a modern form of Druidism, midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge has become a popular spectacle for thousands in recent years.

Usually roped off for conservation reasons, the centre of the circle is open to visitors who are free to explore the ancient structure.

Wiltshire Police said 11 people had been arrested on suspicion of drug related offences and five on public order matters with a handful of others accused of being drunk and disorderly or drink-driving.

Superintendent Gavin Williams said: “18,000 people attended Solstice and the vast majority behaved very well and came to see the sunrise in the spirit of the event.

“We were clear about our intention to police Solstice as we would the night time economy and although it was disappointing that some individuals chose to bring drugs with them, they were dealt with robustly.

“We worked closely with English Heritage and other partners to ensure that the event was peaceful and enjoyable for all.”

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 17 June 2011

Thousands expected at the 'Stonehenge Summer Solstice' celebrations

THOUSANDS of revellers are expected to descend upon Stonehenge for this year’s Summer Solstice.

Sunrise will occur at about 4.45am on June 21, which is the longest day of the year.
English Heritage is opening Stonehenge to the public from 7pm on Monday, June 20, to 8am the following day.

The Solstice car park, just off the A303, will open from 7pm on Monday, June 20, with last admission at 6am on Tuesday, June 21.

Access to the stones and car park will be free of charge but organisers have advised people to use public transport where possible.

Wilts and Dorset bus company will be running a regular service from Salisbury railway station, via the bus station, from 6.30pm on the Monday evening through to 1.15am on Tuesday.

A return service will operate frequently from 4am to 9.45am on Tuesday – with buses stopping at any recognised bus stop along the Amesbury route.  I belive the Stonehenge Tour Company are offering their usuual transport from London

Have a great Solstice, please respect the site.
Stonehenge tour guide

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Stonehenge: analysis of zircon crystals

“Scientists in Wales have made a major discovery that could provide the key to unlocking the mysteries of Stonehenge. Using new technologies they have been able to prove the precise origins of some of the stones that make up the monument. Their discoveries are now fuelling debate about how the stones were moved and how the stone circle was constructed.”

Their research includes that conducted by the geochemist Dr Nick Pearce, of the University of Aberystwyth, who has analysed the zircon crystals that are embedded in some of the stones; he employs a technique that uses a laser to vaporize small samples of the crystals so that their chemical make up can be scrutinized.
Article from Heritage Action -
See also –
Photo credit  - The Stonehenge Tour Company

Stonegenge Tour Guide

Friday, 22 April 2011

Standing Stones?

Why do archaeologists and historians keep telling us that ancient Neolithic monuments were built so that the farmers knew when to plant their crops?

If you had decided to give up the old “hunt it, kill it, eat it, move on” lifestyle and had opted for keeping your slippers by your own regular fireplace, it seems to me that you would have more important things to do than drag massive blocks of stone from all over the country to some windswept, rain-sodden plain, knock the things into some kind of shape with your piece of stone or your copper hammer if you were lucky enough to be in an advanced civilization, then lift the things so that they stood upright in some kind of formation? Just so you knew when to plant the cabbages next year. Not something you could knock together over the weekend, is it?

These megalithic structures must have taken years and years to construct if we accept the methods that are “proven” to us in documentaries. Hundreds if not thousands of people would have worked day in and day out to get these things built. Workers would grow old and die and the next generation would step in and continue the massive task. When was there even time to tend the crops and look after their meagre herds of animals?

Stone is not easy to work without modern tools, yet many of these structures feature joins and edges that would be difficult to replicate using today’s technologies. The perfect astronomical alignments that turn up over and over again surely speak of people who were concerned with much more than plotting the rising and setting of the Sun so they could plant their crops in the spring.
Is it really too fanciful to suggest that all of this effort was for another purpose beyond our current understanding and that, perhaps, the ancient builders used technologies that we have not yet “rediscovered”?

Stonehenge Tour GuideThe Stonehenge Tour Company

Monday, 4 April 2011

After ‘decades of dithering’, Government steps in to help secure future for Stonehenge

'End in sight' as Minister hails new Big Society approach to funding major capital projects.

The long-awaited transformation of the Stonehenge landscape is finally within grasp, John Penrose, Minister for Tourism and Heritage said today, as government support was announced putting the project back on track.

The plans, which will improve infrastructure and remove the current disfiguring visitor facilities from the vicinity of the stones, have been given a huge boost following Government moves to help English Heritage secure a unique funding mix to achieve the project.
The funding package, which mixes private philanthropy, lottery cash and commercial funding, has been supported by today’s Government announcement about English Heritage reserves and road improvements.
In a move to cut red tape, John Penrose has confirmed that English Heritage will be allowed to access £2m of historic reserves raised from philanthropic sources, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to philanthropic support for major cultural projects

Roads Minister Mike Penning has agreed funding of around £3.5 million will be made available for improvements to Highways Agency roads close to Stonehenge, subject to the completion of statutory processes and confirmed go-ahead of the Stonehenge improvements. This will provide increased capacity on a key roundabout near the site of the new visitor centre.

Iconic symbol of our prehistoric past

Speaking at Stonehenge today, John Penrose said:
“This is fantastic news for everyone involved in the project. It is a real step forward in making sure this World Heritage Site – a unique and iconic symbol of our prehistoric past - is not simply preserved, but also presented in the best possible light for visitors in the future. Stonehenge is also an important draw for tourists from all over the world. But for too long the way it has been presented to visitors has been woefully inadequate – decades of dithering and indecision have got us nowhere. So it’s only right – and long overdue - that new thinking and cooperation between parties come together to ensure the whole visitor experience is world-class too.
“It was bitterly disappointing when the country’s dire financial state meant we had to withdraw government funding for the visitor centre here last June. But I - along with English Heritage and my colleagues across government - have been committed to finding other ways to support the project. The fact that we have now almost secured private funding is an example of the Big Society in action, with everyone working together to ensure a mix of funding solutions.
“The plans announced today mean that a successful outcome for this project is now a lot closer. There may still be a bit further to go, but we are optimistic English Heritage will be successful in securing the remaining funding that is required.”
Transport transformation

Mike Penning added:
"I fully recognise the importance of preserving this iconic heritage site and am delighted to help the Stonehenge improvements take an important step forward.

"I have agreed around £3.5 million funding to allow the Highways Agency to close the junction of the A303/A344 - improving the setting of one of the world's most popular ancient monuments and aiding its conservation. This is subject to successful completion of statutory processes to remove traffic from the Wiltshire Council controlled A344.

"The funding would also allow the HA to increase capacity on the A360/A303 at Longbarrow Crossroads which will help ease congestion around Stonehenge, including for those travelling to the new visitors' centre."

Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage said:

“These are crucial steps which bring closer the transformation of the currently blighted Stonehenge landscape. We are grateful to the government for their forthright support for this important project particularly at a time when money is so tight. We now need to secure the last permissions and raise the final elements of funding. I am confident that we will be able to do both in time to start work next year.”

Sponsors:  The Stonehenge Tour Company
Stonehenge Tour Guide

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Spring Equinox at Stonehenge - March 21st

The March Equinox Explained

This illustration, which shows an example only of the March equinox, is not to scale.
The March equinox will occur on March 20 in 2011, marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall (autumn) in the southern hemisphere from an astronomical viewpoint. The March equinox will occur at 23:21 (or 11:21pm) at Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on this date.

Twice a year, around March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world. These two days are known as the March(vernal or spring in the northern hemisphere) equinox and the September equinox.

What does equinox mean?

The word “equinox” derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. At such times, day and night are everywhere of nearly equal length everywhere in the world.
It is important to note that while the March equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, it is the start of autumn in many parts of the southern hemisphere.
March Equinox Explained

The March equinox is the movement when the sun crosses the true celestial equator – or the line in the sky above the earth’s equator – from south to north, around March 20 (or March 21) of each year. At that time, day and night are balanced to nearly 12 hours each all over the world and the earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the earth and the sun.
In gyroscopic motion, the earth’s rotational axis migrates in a slow circle based as a consequence of the moon’s pull on a nonspherical earth. This nearly uniform motion causes the position of the equinoxes to move backwards along the ecliptic in a period of about 25,725 years.

Nearly Equal?

During the equinox, the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. This is because the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator, and because the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations. Furthermore, the sun takes longer to rise and set farther from the equator because it does not set straight down - it moves in a horizontal direction.

Moreover, there is an atmospheric refraction that causes the sun's disk to appear higher in the sky than it would if earth had no atmosphere. has a more detailed explanation on this topic. has more information on why day and night are not exactly of equal length during the equinoxes.

During the March equinox, the length of daylight is about 12 hours and eight to nine minutes in areas that are about 30 degrees north or south of the equator, while areas that are 60 degrees north or south of the equator observe daylight for about 12 hours and 16 minutes. Many regions around the equator have a daylight length about 12 hours and six-and-a-half minutes during the March equinox.
Moreover, one day does not last for the exact same 24 hours across the world and due to time zone differences, there could be a small difference in the daylight length between a far-eastern and far-western location on the same latitude, as the sun moves further north during 24 hours. For more information, find out the length of day in a particular city. Select a location in the drop-down menu below to find out the length of day around the time of the March equinox.
Vernal Equinox vs. Autumnal Equinox

The vernal equinox occurs in the spring while the autumnal equinox occurs during fall (autumn). These terms are derivatives of Latin. It is important to note that the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox is in March while its autumnal equinox is in September. In contrast, the southern hemisphere’s vernal equinox is in September and its autumnal equinox is in March.

This distinction reflects the seasonal differences when comparing the two hemispheres. refers to the two equinoxes simply as the March and September equinoxes to avoid false assumptions that spring is in March and fall (autumn) is in September worldwide. This is simply not the case.

Historical Fact

A Greek astronomer and mathematician named Hipparchus (ca. 190-ca.120 BCE) was attributed by various sources to have discovered the precession of the equinoxes, the slow movement among the stars of the two opposite places where the sun crosses the celestial equator. Hipparchus made observations of the equinox and solstice. However, the difference between the sidereal and tropical years (the precession equivalent) was known to Aristarchus of Samos (around 280 BCE) prior to this.

Astronomers use the spring equinoctial point to define their frame of reference, and the movement of this point implies that the measured position of a star varies with the date of measurement. Hipparchus also compiled a star catalogue, but this has been lost.

March Equinox across Cultures

In the northern hemisphere the March equinox marks the start of spring and has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth. Many cultures and religions celebrate or observe holidays and festivals around the time of the March equinox, such as the Easter holiday period.

The astronomical Persian calendar begins its New Year on the day when the March equinox occurs before apparent noon (the midpoint of the day, sundial time, not clock time) in Tehran. The start of the New Year is postponed to the next day if the equinox is after noon.

Stonehenge Tour Guide
(Open Access at Stonehenge will be 6am - 8am on March 21st 2011)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

William Stukeley (1687 - 1765) - died on this day London on 3 March 1765.

Stukeley was an English antiquary and one of the founders of field archaeology, who pioneered the investigation of Stonehenge.
William Stukeley was born at Holbeach in Lincolnshire, and studied medicine at Cambridge University. While still a student he began making topographical and architectural drawings as well as sketches of historical artefacts. He continued with this alongside his career as a doctor, and published the results of his travels around Britain in 'Itinerarium Curiosum' in 1724.
It may be his medical training that gave him his acute eye for detailed observation - a characteristic that makes the 'Itinerarium' a valuable record of monuments, buildings and towns before they were subjected to the ravages of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. He deplored the destruction of monuments and realised the importance of recording accurately what he saw as a way of preserving information about the past.
In 1718, he became the first secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. His activities in the field included excavations at Stonehenge and Avebury, the results of which were published in two books in 1740 and 1743. Stukeley mistakenly attributed them to the Druids. He was fascinated by the Druids and developed elaborate and fanciful descriptions of their practices and beliefs. He was also the first to recognise the alignment of Stonehenge on the solstices, and saw the value of exploring the wider relationship between monuments and putting them into their landscape context.

In true Enlightenment fashion, Stukeley's interests were wide. He was interested in other aspects of British history, including the story of Robin Hood, wrote music for the flute and produced treatises on earthquakes and medical subjects. In 1730, he changed career and was ordained as vicar of All Saints Church in Stamford in Lincolnshire.

Stukeley died in London on 3 March 1765.

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Stonehenge - Admission Ticket, avoid the queues.

Avoid Queues - Instant Vouchers  - Low Low PricesFor an unforgettable family day out, visit the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge. Located near Salisbury in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, it is a highlight of the South West.
The true meaning of this ancient, awe-inspiring creation has been lost in the mists of time. Was it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? How did our ancestors manage to carry the mighty stones from so far away and then, using only the most primitive of tools, build this amazing structure? Surrounded by mystery, Stonehenge never fails to impress.


· Includes complimentary audio tour and learn more about the mysteries surrounding Stonehenge

· The superb shop for souvenirs of your visit and unusual gifts

· A walk in the prehistoric landscape around Stonehenge to see some of the other monuments in the World Heritage Site

Stonehenge Information
Mystery surrounds this 5,000 year old World Heritage Site. Visit this pre-historic South West monument and decide for yourself whether Stonehenge was designed as a place of sun worship, or as part of a huge astronomical calendar, or something different altogether! An awe-inspiring family visit, Stonehenge is a powerful reminder of the once-great Stone and Bronze Ages. Each phase of Stonehenge was a circular structure, aligned with the rising sun at the solstice. Erected between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, the stones were carried hundreds of miles over land and sea, while antlers and bones were used to dig the pits that hold the stones. Modern techniques in archaeology, and the series of recent digs, have helped to shape new theories about the stones, but their ultimate purpose remains a fascinating and enduring mystery.

Note for Seniors and Students

The Staff at Stonehenge ask that any persons carrying vouchers for Student and/or Senior concessions please also carry valid identification. This is to avoid any unecessary embarrasment or misunderstanding if you are asked for proof on arrival.

Opening Times 16 Mar - 31 May 09:30 - 18:00

01 Jun - 31 Aug 09:00 - 19:00

01 Sep - 15 Oct 09:30 - 18:00

16 Oct - 15 Mar 09:30 - 16:00

26 Dec & 01 Jan 10:00 - 16:00

24 Dec - 25 Dec Closed

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Stonehenge Tour Guide