Thursday, 25 June 2015

Stonehenge's sun-disc revealed: Rare 4,500-year-old gold decoration found in grave near sacred site goes on display

  • The 4,500 year old thin disc of gold is decorated with a cross and circle
  • It is one of just six sun-discs to have been found in Britain and may have belonged to a chieftain of a tribe living in the area around Stonehenge 
  • The golden disc is one of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain
  •  It was found in a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire in 1947
This sun-disk is made from a thin sheet of gold that has had the design of a cross and circle beaten into it. The indentations decorating each are thought to be intended to catch the sunlight. It is one of only six sun-disks to have been found in Britain and has now gone on display to the public for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum

One of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain, found just a few miles from Stonehenge, has gone on display to the public for the first time.
The gold sun-disc, which was forged around 4,500 years ago at around the same time the main circle of Stonehenge was erected, was discovered in the Bronze Age burial mound of a local chieftain.
Thought to represent the sun, the thin sheet of embossed gold features a cross at the centre surrounded by a circle. Each is decorated with dots that glint in the sunlight.

The disc, which is one of only six sun disc found in Britain, may have once formed part of a headdress or garment.

Experts believe the disc, which is around two inches (5cm) wide, may have been made with gold imported to England from Ireland, where there is evidence that gold was being mined at the time.
However, new research has raised the prospect that it could be made of Cornish gold as rich deposits in the area were being exported to Ireland and elsewhere at the time.

The mysterious sun-disc, which was discovered alongside the remains of a skeleton of an adult male at a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in 1947 , is now on public display for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice.
David Dawson, director of the Wiltshire Museum, said: 'This is an incredibly important object as it was one of the earliest pieces of metal to appear in Britain.
'Gold is precious to us, but to people at the time they had not seen metal at all and it would have been completely new and something far out of their experience.
'We think it was owned by a local chieftain and was buried with him when he died. His family clearly valued it enough to put it into his grave so he could carry it with him to the afterlife.'
The discovery of the sun-disc in the grave at Monkton Farleigh has helped to shed light not only on the wealth of people living at the time but also their relationship with death.
Sun worship is thought to have been common in the early bronze age and the highly reflective golden metal disk would have had special significance in that culture.
Stonehenge has long been associated with the sun as many of the stones appear to be aligned with phases of the sun. 
Thousands of people still descend on the ancient monument each year to watch the sun rise on the summer solstice.
At the time when the sun-disc found at Monkton Farleigh was made, the sarsen stones at Stonehenge had just been erected.

Read the full story here:

The Stonehenge Tourist Guide

Friday, 5 June 2015

Want to catch the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge this year?

This years (2015) summer solstice celebrations will be on Saturday 20th June and Sunday 21st June.

English Heritage will be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice Celebrations on 20th – 21st June 2015. 

Please help them to create a peaceful occasion by taking personal responsibility and following the Conditions of Entry and guidelines set out on these pages.

The Summer Solstice this year occurs on a Saturday/  Sunday, the roads around Stonehenge will be very busy. We strongly advise visitors to leave their cars at home and travel to Stonehenge using public transport.   The nearest train station is Salisbury and there will be a regular bus service from Salisbury to Stonehenge.


Stonehenge is located approximately 2½ miles (4 kms) from the town of Amesbury.  The nearest bus and railway stations are in Salisbury, which is 12 miles (19 kms) away from Stonehenge.

A high volume of traffic is anticipated in the Stonehenge area on the evening of Saturday 20th June.  The Summer Solstice parking facilities close to Stonehenge, although fairly extensive, are also finite. Traffic may be slow, as you approach Stonehenge, but please do not be tempted to abandon your vehicle and park it either on the A303 or other neighbouring roads and public rights of way.  Cars parked illegally or causing an obstruction will be towed away.

The local bus company, Salisbury Reds, will be running a special service from Salisbury railway station and Stand U in New Canal, to a drop-off point near Stonehenge.  The buses will also stop at any recognised bus stop along the line of the route, which is via Amesbury. Find out more about the Salisbury Reds solstice bus service.

Solstice Events UK will be offering their usual small group guided tours from London and Bath.

The Stonehenge Tourist Guide