Friday, 17 February 2012

Stonehenge 'built to worship sound rather than light'

Giant stones may have been placed to emphasise volume during dances and rituals

Stonehenge could have been built to worship sound rather than light, a bizarre new theory claims.
The giant stones may have been carefully placed to recreate magical quiet spots or loud areas during dances and rituals.
Scientist Steven Waller walked around a pair of flutes playing the same tone and recorded different areas of loudness and softness caused by “an interference pattern” of sound waves.
He believes prehistoric Britons could have heard and felt the same effect and come to believe it was caused by a mystery force from another world.
They could have erected Stonehenge with its strange ring of giant stones to represent the pattern of mysterious sounds they heard.
Mr Waller, an independent scientist,  said: “Stonehenge is a mystery as to why our ancestors bothered to haul tons of stones and build this strange structure. I thought I would approach it to see if it had anything to do with sound.

“What was really interesting was that when I walked around this pair of flutes to experience the interference pattern myself I did feel that pattern of quiet and loud, quiet and loud.”
To test his theory he took blindfolded people into a field to walk around where flutes were playing.
“I had them draw what they thought was between them and the noise. The drawings that they made in response to the interference patterns resembled Stonehenge.
“Stonehenge is itself kind of unique because it has lintels on top. One person actually drew archways and thought of it more like a wall with gaps in it.
“So I believe that could have happened 5,000 years ago just as it can be demonstrated today.
“That's if these people in the past were dancing in a circle around two pipers who were playing the flute, or whistle, or whatever they had back then and they were experiencing the loud and soft and loud and soft regions that happen when an interference pattern is set up they would have felt that there were these massive objects arranged in a ring.
“And it would have been this completely baffling experience - they would not have been able to explain it.
“Anything that was mysterious like that in the past was considered to be magic and supernatural.
“I think that was what motivated them to build the actual structure that matched this virtual impression. It was like a vision they had received from the other world.”
Mr Waller studies the science of archeoachoustics which attempts to reveal the sounds which would have been heard in ancient monuments and caves thousands of years ago.
He began researching the acoustics of ancient caves in 1987 before turning his attention to Stonehenge.
He presented his research to the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver today.

More theories about Stonehenge, from the fantastic to the archaelogical to the paranormal
- According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, Merlin used magic to move circle from Ireland to Wiltshire for an appropriate burial place for Britain's dead princes
- In 1655, architect John Webb argued that Stonehenge was a Roman temple dedicated to Caelus, the god of the sky
- Some archaeologists have suggested that bringing together igneous bluestones and sedimentary sandstone blocks symbolised a union between two cultures from different landscapes
- One current view is that glacier ice transported the stones from the Preseli Hills, a hill range in north Pembrokeshire, West Wales all the way as far as Somerset during the Pleistocene period. The builder of Stonehenge then moved them from there to their current location
- It has also been claimed that Stonehenge site was the ultimate destination of a long, ritualised funerary procession for treating the dead. It is said that this ceremony began in the east at sunrise at Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, moved down the Avon and then along the Avenue reaching Stonehenge in the west at sunset. The journey from wood to stone by water was considered a symbolic journey from life to death
-  A recently analysis highlights that the stones display mirrored symmetry and that the only alignment to be found is that of the solstices, regarded as the axis of that symmetry. This interpretation views the monument as having been designed off-site, mostly prefabricated and built to conform to location marks according to an exact geometric plan


Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Stonehenge as you've never seen it

Archaeologists reveal a new way of viewing Stonehenge using Google Earth software

Millions of people have used Google Earth's geo-modelling software to take a tour of the moon, Mars, foreign countries, or – let's be honest – to compare their homes with those of their neighbours. But now a new project developed by Bournemouth University academics is giving surfers access to a virtual prehistoric landscape: Stonehenge.

The World Heritage site near Salisbury is now more accessible than ever, archaeologists claim, thanks to Google's Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge project. Their last few years of findings, combined with the search giant's technology, allows surfers to visit the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls, to scout around prehistoric houses, to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and to explore the great timber monument called the Southern Circle. The sites look as they would have appeared more than 4,000 years ago – and all from the comfort of your desk.

The project was inspired by public responses to Bournemouth academics' own digs at Stonehenge, according to Kate Welham, head of archaeology at the university. "When we were in the field, our excavations were visited by thousands of members of the public," she explains.

So the Bournemouth archaeologists decided to use their field data together with that gathered by academics from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton and London. It was all part of the six-year-long Stonehenge Riverside Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which involved digging more than 60 trenches. Running from 2003 to 2009, it was one of the largest research excavations ever run in Europe, involving over 150 students, volunteers and professional at the same time. "And we wanted to bring all our digital data together, including the pictures and reconstructions of the monuments we found," Welham adds. "We wanted to make our discoveries even more accessible and put the exciting archaeological findings into a virtual environment so that even if people couldn't visit Stonehenge, they could fly around it from their living room."

The aim is for site users to feel as if they're involved in Stonehenge fieldwork, but they can at least avoid its major drawbacks. "Fieldwork is hard work," says Welham, "and it's safe to say we kept the local bakery in business, probably managing to eat the weight of the stones in ice cream and pasties!"

Through the site, "you're not just looking at the monument, but seeing Stonehenge within its wider prehistoric landscape," Welham adds. The Riverside project included discoveries that changed archaeologists' thoughts about Stonehenge, including finds such as a new stone circle at the end of the Avenue and the houses in a Neolithic Village at Durrington Walls.

The software allows users to see where archaeologists excavated those new houses in the landscape, and includes photos and details of what they found in each of their trenches, as well as reconstructions. "In many places we have put in 360-degree panoramas that you can zoom in and out of so that you get a real feeling of being in the landscape," says Welham. "It means the hard work of our archaeology students, who worked with us to gather the research, can be seen by millions around the world."

The academics want their Google Under-the-Earth project to become an important historical tool. "It could be the start of a whole new layer in Google Earth showing the excavations and finds of the world's greatest archaeological sites," says Welham. "It could include details of centuries' worth of excavations, as well as technical data from geophysical and remote sensing surveys gathered in the last 20 years. I'm currently looking at the underground findings in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) – it's a place that holds a fascination for many people, but being so remote, visiting is a serious expedition. It would be wonderful to do a similar type of project with the results of our new research."

As for the audience, so far history teachers have been particularly interested in the Under the Earth site. "It's a great way to engage their pupils with the past in a really interesting and visual context," says Welham.

But interest goes far wider. "Our research shows that the majority of people downloading the application seem to have no specific interest in archaeology or history, but just want to learn more about the past and enjoy the Stonehenge landscape." Downloads aren't just in the UK either; there is interest in the US, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Turkey, Spain, Australia, Korea and the Philippines.

Still, the site might be taking people closer to – and deeper underneath – the site than ever before, but it doesn't solve its mysteries. The age-old question as to whether it was a temple for sun worship, a burial site, healing centre or enormous calendar remain unanswered – as does the issue as to how our predecessors moved the enormous stones. "People always ask me what I think the true Stonehenge story is, but this is the great thing about the application," says Welham, cunningly dodging the question. "You can download it, take a look at the monument and landscape – and decide for yourself."

• Download the application from

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Roadworks close section of A303 near Stonehenge

A section of the A303 near Stonehenge in Wiltshire will be closed for roadworks over the next several weeks.

A six-mile stretch of road between Amesbury's Countess Roundabout and the dual carriageway at Deptford will be shut between 2000 and 0600 GMT.

The Highways Agency is carrying out the work to install a quieter surface on the single carriageway road .

Spokesman Dave Sledge said: "This will improve the environment around those areas, especially Stonehenge itself."

Traffic will be diverted on to other routes while the roadworks are being carried out.

This DOES NOT effect people visiting Stonehehenge during normal hours

Stonehenge Tour Guide