Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wanted: manager to look after Stonehenge - the world's most famous stone circle

The ancient monument presents a unique challenge, as Charlie Cooper discovers

Job seekers of an archaeological persuasion, pay attention: the holy grail of heritage jobs could be yours. Stonehenge needs a new manager and if there were ever a workplace with “a unique set of demands”, this is it. The salary is around £65,000 and the closing date is 5 May.
The new general manager, employed by English Heritage, will be the chief custodian of Britain’s oldest national monument. It is the first time the site has had an overall manager and the new man or woman at the top will be responsible for the biggest changes at the site in a generation, with a state-of-the-art visitor’s centre set to open at the end of the year.

Artcle by: Charlie Cooper

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mesolithic life before Stonehenge found at Amesbury

Aerial archaeologist Ben Robinson visits Amesbury in Wiltshire where excavations have revealed that the history of people living in this location dates back much further than previously thought.

New evidence from the dig, at a site called Vespasian's Camp, has revealed traces of human settlement 3,000 years before nearby Stonehenge was built.
A team of archaeologists has uncovered evidence of sustained hunter gatherer activity which dates to 8,000 years ago - long before Stonehenge

David Jacques explains why the discovery is of international importance and what it means in terms of unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge, located less than a mile away.
The Flying Archaeologist - Stonehenge is broadcast on Friday, 19 April at 19:30 BST on BBC One West and South. The series is broadcast nationwide from Wednesday, 1 May at 20:30 BST on BBC Four
Watch a clip here:

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Neolithic homes reconstructed for new Stonehenge visitor centre

English Heritage recreates prehistoric houses in Wiltshire based on local excavations that will be rebuilt for outdoor gallery

Volunteers construct one of three Neolithic houses near Salisbury, Wiltshire. English Heritage is using the experiment to decide how they will construct an outdoor gallery for visitors at Stonehenge. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
A small housing estate of deceptively spacious detached dwellings, with excellent rural views and many period features – including central hearth and convenient smoke hole – is under construction in Wiltshire.Strictly speaking it is a brownfield rather than a greenfield site, but there have been no nimbys to complain since the city of Salisbury upped sticks and moved from the windy hilltop of Old Sarum to the plain below, more than 700 years ago.
The wattle and daub reed thatched houses, based on excavations of the dwellings believed to have been occupied by the Neolithic tribes who built the later stages of Stonehenge 4,500 years ago, are being reconstructed by volunteers for English Heritage, and will be rebuilt as an outdoor gallery for the long-promised new visitor centre for the world's most famous prehistoric monument.
While fierce argument continues to rage about the purpose of Stonehenge – status symbol, astrological calendar or cemetery – most sides agree that prehistoric peoples came there on special occasions but did not live there.
The low rectangular houses being built at Old Sarum are based on hut sites excavated by Prof Mike Parker Pearson a few miles from Stonehenge, at Durrington Walls, which he believes were occupied by the monument builders and also the scene of great mid-winter and mid-summer feasts that lasted for rollicking days and nights.
Post holes give good evidence for the timber hammered into the chalky clay which formed the frames of the houses, and also indicate the door openings. Scorched marks of hearths remain, but the building materials, probably willow woven between the posts and then made wind and watertight by plastering with clay, rotted away millennia ago – except for the base of one wall, believed to be the earliest example of chalk cob as a building material.
The upper levels, and the shape of the roofs thatched with straw or sedge, are conjecture, so several different styles are being tried out, included thatching over steeper ridges and shallow curved hazel hoops.
Susan Greaney, a buildings historian with English Heritage, said the evidence from Durrington Walls allowed them to try something special at the visitor centre. "The reconstructed houses will be an immediate and sensory link with the distant past."
The 60 volunteers started work, using flint axes, 12 tonnes of chalk and 2,500 bundles of hazel and willow rods, in the coldest March in a lifetime.
They expect to finish in May, and their work will be open to the public on 5-6 and 25-27 May.,               

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 12 April 2013

Could Mid Wales have been home to a 'neolithic theme park' used for rituals and feasts?

A dig at a site in Mid Wales is lending weight to the theory that there may have been a Neolithic tribal centre based in the area.

Mid Wales could have been home to a “Neolithic theme park” used for gatherings, religious rituals and feasts, archaeologists suggest.

How the Walton Basin neolithic palisaded enclosure might have looked

A dig at the Walton Basin in Radnorshire is lending weight to the theory that there may have been a Neolithic tribal centre based in the area.
The site has been dated back to between 3800 and 2300BC and shows remains of palisades, cursuses (lengths of bank) and enclosures that all bear some resemblance to monuments found at Stonehenge.
The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust has been carrying out intermittent excavations on the site for close to 40 years.
The findings show that Wales is at least home to the remains of one of the largest neolithic timber constructions in the whole of Europe.
Buried in the soil are seven monuments that experts believe could have been the sites for tribal ceremonies that were held at certain times of the year.
Among the monuments is the Walton Neolithic palisaded enclosure made from a circular perimeter of 1100-1200 four-metre-high timber logs and a similar monumental Hindwell palisdaded enclosure that would have accommodated five London Olympic stadia within its foundation.
Bill Britnell, director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust and part of the digging team at the Walton Basin, said he was stunned by the magnitude of the structures
“You look at the man power that will have gone into making them and it must have been massive because they are absolutely huge. You’ve got enormous communities of people from some kind of tribal gathering where thousands gathered to build these monuments,” he said.
“If we want to find out what people were doing in the past, the information is out there and it’s invaluable.
“It increases people’s awareness in the places they are living in and it’s interesting in terms of the changes humanity goes through.”
During the digs, pottery, flint tools and plant and food remains have all been found.
But in order to delve deeper, archaeologists must find a waterlogged area in the landscape that may well contain artifacts that have been preserved to a much greater extent.
Mr Britnell said the size of the archaeological sites means the project is unfinished and believes there could well be more to find.
He said: “There perhaps are deposits out there in the basin and if we find that it would produce an enormous amount of information.
“We will need to take stock of where we are and try and think of some of those big questions and find out how we can answer them.
“There are just so many fundamental questions to be asked about the past.”
Archaeologists in Wales have noted the similarities between sites like this and those in Stonehenge.
Mr Britnell said the basin could have been one of many places used as a neolithic meeting point by thousands of people and tribes from across the UK.
Its location on a heavily used path near to Radnor Forest and between the uplands of central Wales and the lowlands of the Midlands of England placed it in a prime spot for visits from nomadic travellers.
He said: “There has to be big gatherings of people throughout the year. It tells you something about society, that at certain times of year there was one big group of society gathering together. We just need to find out why they were gathering.

“It’s like discovering a whole new part of civilisation and it has changed our whole opinion in terms of what we thought neolithic Wales was like.
“What we’ve found here in Wales is not happening everywhere. We can say with certainty that there must have been an important tribal centre in Wales for many years.”

Full article:

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pagans and druids could get time off work to celebrate solstices and equinoxes at Stonehenge

Pagans and druids could be allowed time off to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes at Stonehenge and Avebury, while nurses in West hospitals could be allowed to ask to pray for their patients as well as care for them, under new guidance for bosses published yesterday.

Need time off work to celebrate the solstice? New guidance suggests this should be possible for pagans and druids
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new document comes after a series of high-profile cases involving largely Christian workers disciplined or fired for claiming they were discriminated against because of their religion. but one lost those cases, but the new guidance follows that single victory, which involved a Christian woman working for British Airways being allowed to wear a cross. The EHRC’s guidance states that employers should respect the beliefs of their employees and “consider seriously” adapting work practices to suit those beliefs.
In practice, that could mean anything from allowing workers to wear Christian symbols to giving pagans time off at the time of the key dates in their calendars.

Thousands of pagans and druids flock to Stonehenge and Avebury for sunrise on December 21 and on June 21, with a regular turn-out at Avebury for a dozen or more pagan festivals throughout the year.
But the EHRC guidance was criticised yesterday for suggesting going even further in employers’ rights.
It states that vegetarians or vegans could legitimately refuse to handle meat, or even sit on leather chairs, while eco-warriors could refuse to fly in an aeroplane if their beliefs are that strong that they refuse on environmental grounds.
The guidance insists that such beliefs should be “more than an opinion or a viewpoint”, and should be “genuinely and sincerely held and worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
What the guidelines could also do is give greater weight to some employees requests for longer holidays – particularly Muslims to attend the Haj pilgrimage, or for other workers from around the world to return for festivals.
A recent case, which is still to be settled, involved Goan Indian workers at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon claiming, among other things, that bosses discriminated against them by not allowing them enough time off in one go to return to Goa for festivals.
The guidance document included a set of hypothetical situations, including that a Christian nurse should not be disciplined for asking a patient if they could pray for them – as long as it is made clear that there is no pressure on the patient to agree.
The EHRC says that requests for religious observance – like a Jew leaving early on a Friday or a Muslim praying five times a day – should be allowed if it does not adversely affect other team members.
Full story:

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 5 April 2013

April Fool! 'Plans' to beam advertising onto Stonehenge circle at night

This morning TravelMail revealed a 'plan' for adverts to be projected onto Stonehenge in a bid to generate extra revenue for the prehistoric attraction. But of course, it was all in the spirit of April Fool's.
A new visitor centre is currently being built at the 5,000-year-old World Heritage site in a £27 million upgrade which aims to "restore a sense of dignity to the setting of one of the world’s most loved ancient monuments."
And we said advertising during the site's out-of-hours Stone Circle Access visits was one avenue officials were considering to create additional income.

Night falls: When it starts to get dark, could visitors be bombarded with adverts
The special one-hour experience occurs either early in the morning or late in the evening when a maximum of 26 people can enter the circle, set in the Wiltshire countryside. During regular opening hours visitors can only skirt the perimeter of the stone configuration.
We said proposals being discussed could see adverts projected onto the stones as night falls in a bid to take advantage of the increased footfall and joked that while talks were ongoing, officials said "nothing had been set in stone".
The clue was in our 'angry local', Allis Porof - a fictional name created from April Fool's - of the Stand up for the Stones conservation society, who 'said': "I just can't believe that a site so sacred is going to be desecrated in this way.

"A symbol of the ingenuity of our ancestors is being sacrificed on the altar of 21st century greed and consumerism."
However, it was true that the attraction's new visitor centre is set to open later this year with a raft of "environmental improvements" to follow next summer. The A344 will be closed as part of the upgrade, with traffic diverted.
A permanent exhibition will be on display to tell the story of the stones and test building work has begun on three Neolithic houses which will be part of an outdoor gallery.

English Heritage, which manages the site near Salisbury, says that the scheme "fulfils a long standing ambition to improve the facilities on offer to the many hundreds of thousands who visit each year."
Stonehenge is shrouded in mystery and its original meaning has been invariably attributed to a place of sun worship or burial, among other theories.
Experts have long tried to deduce exactly how these gigantic stones were brought to the site.
Despite the building work, the attraction is still open to visitors.

By Sebastian Lander

Stonehenge tour Guide