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Stonehenge workers' village found


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Europa
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« on: January 30, 2007, 07:39:34 pm »

Stonehenge workers' village found
POSTED: 1:56 p.m. EST, January 30, 2007

 
Story Highlights
Village found about two miles from Stonehenge
Eight houses excavated at Durrington Walls
Stonehenge, village built around 2600 B.C.
Scientists think Durrington Walls was for living, Stonehenge was a memorial

 
 
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Archaeologists have uncovered what may have been a village for workers or festival-goers near the mysterious stone circle Stonehenge in England.

The village was located at Durrington Walls, about two miles from Stonehenge, and is also the location of a wooden version of the stone circle.

Eight houses have been excavated and the researchers believe there were at least 25 of them, archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson said Tuesday at a briefing held by the National Geographic Society.

The village was carbon dated to about 2600 B.C., about the same time Stonehenge was built. The Great Pyramid in Egypt was built at about the same time, said Parker Pearson of Sheffield University.

The small wooden houses had a central hearth, he said, and are almost identical to stone houses built at about the same time in the Orkney Islands.

The researchers speculated that Durrington Walls was a place for the living and Stonehenge -- where several cremated remains have been found -- was a cemetery and memorial.

Parker Pearson said remains of stone tools, animal bones, arrowheads and other artifacts were uncovered in the village.

Remains of pigs indicated they were about nine months old when killed, which would mark a midwinter festival, he said.
Parker Pearson said Stonehenge was oriented to face the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, while the wooden circle at Durrington Walls faced the midwinter sunrise and midsummer sunset.

Julian Thomas of Manchester University noted that both Stonehenge and Durrington Walls have avenues connecting them to the Avon River, indicating a pattern of movement between the sites.

"Clearly, this is a place that was of enormous importance," he said of the new find.
Two of the houses, found by Thomas, were separate from the others and may have been the dwellings of community leaders or perhaps were cult houses used for religious rituals. Those sites lacked the debris and household trash that was common in the other homes, he noted.

Durrington appears "very much a place of the living," Parker Pearson said. In contrast, no one ever lived at the stone circle at Stonehenge, which was the largest cemetery in Britain of its time. Stonehenge is thought to contain 250 cremations.

The research was supported by the National Geographic Society, Arts & Humanities Research Council, English Heritage and Wessex Archaeology.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/01/30/stonehenge.village.ap/index.html

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Europa
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2007, 07:45:41 pm »

Stonehenge builders' houses found 


 
The village would have housed hundreds of people (Image: National Geographic)
A huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge has been found, archaeologists have said.
Excavations at Durrington Walls, near the legendary Salisbury Plain monument, uncovered remains of ancient houses.

People seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.

In ancient times, this settlement would have housed hundreds of people, making it the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain.

The dwellings date back to 2,600-2,500 BC - according to the researchers, the same period that Stonehenge was built.

  This is where they went to party - you could say it was the first free festival

Mike Parker Pearson, Sheffield University
But some archaeologists point out that there are problems dating Stonehenge itself because the stone circle has been rebuilt many times.

Consequently, archaeological material has been dug up and reburied on numerous occasions, making it difficult to assign a date to the original construction.

But Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues are confident of a link.

"In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards," he explained.

The Sheffield University researcher said this was based on the fact that these abodes had exactly the same layout as Neolithic houses at Skara Brae, Orkney, which have survived intact because - unlike these dwellings - they were made of stone.



The researchers have excavated eight houses in total at Durrington. But they have identified many other probable dwellings using geophysical surveying equipment.

In fact, they think there could have been at least one hundred houses.

 

Animal bones were strewn on the floors of the houses (Image: National Geographic)
Each one measured about 5m (16ft) square, was made of timber, with a clay floor and central hearth. The archaeologists found 4,600-year-old rubbish covering the floors of the houses.

"It is the richest - by that I mean the filthiest - site of this period known in Britain," Professor Parker Pearson told BBC News.

"We've never seen such quantities of pottery and animal bone and flint."

The Sheffield University researcher thinks the settlement was probably not lived in all year round. Instead, he believes, Stonehenge and Durrington formed a religious complex used for funerary rituals.

  I see Stonehenge more as a living monument

Julian Richards, archaeologist and broadcaster
He believes it drew Neolithic people from all over the region, who came for massive feasts in the midwinter, where prodigious quantities of food were consumed. The bones were then tossed on the floors of the houses.

"The rubbish isn't your average domestic debris. There's a lack of craft-working equipment for cleaning animal hides and no evidence for crop-processing," he said.

"The animal bones are being thrown away half-eaten. It's what we call a feasting assemblage. This is where they went to party - you could say it was the first free festival."

Pigging out

Durrington has its own henge made of wood, which is strikingly similar in layout to Stonehenge. It was discovered in 1967 - long before any houses.

Both henges line up with events in the astronomical calendar - but not the same ones.

Stonehenge is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunset, while Durrington's timber circle is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunrise - they were complementary.


 

This seems to fit with the idea of a midwinter festival, in turn supported by analysis of pig teeth found at the site.
"One of the things we can tell from the pig teeth we've looked at is that most of them have been slaughtered at nine months. And we think they are farrowing in Spring," he said.

"It's likely there's a midwinter cull and that ties in with our midwinter solstice alignments at Durrington and Stonehenge."

Sacred monument

Professor Parker Pearson believes Durrington's purpose was to celebrate life and deposit the dead in the river for transport to the afterlife. Stonehenge was a memorial and final resting place for some of the dead.

After feasting, he speculated, people travelled down the timber circle's "avenue" to deposit their dead in the River Avon flowing towards Stonehenge. They then moved along Stonehenge's avenue to the circle, where they cremated and buried a select few of their dead.


 
The researchers say they will find many more houses (Image: National Geographic)
The Sheffield University archaeologist said Stonehenge was a place for these people, who worshipped their ancestors, to commune with the spirits of the departed.

But not all archaeologists agree: "I see Stonehenge more as a living monument," archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richards told BBC News 24.

"So in terms of broad understanding of the landscape I'm not in total agreement."

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, from Wessex Archaeology, who was not a member of the research team, commented: "There haven't been many excavations near Stonehenge in recent years and the new work will stimulate exciting new theories in coming years.

"But we shouldn't forget that Stonehenge became special when people brought the stones from Wales, 250km away. Some of the answers about Stonehenge aren't just to be found in Durrington, but further afield."

Stonehenge was the largest cemetery in Britain at the time, containing about 250 ashes from cremations.

In a separate area, further up the valley from Durrington Walls, Julian Thomas of Manchester University, discovered two other Neolithic houses. But these were free of rubbish.

The researchers think these dwellings were deliberately kept clean. They could have been home to community leaders, or they might have been sacred sites, where rituals were performed.



http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6311939.stm

 
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2007, 07:48:17 pm »



Archaeologists have discovered an ancient village of small houses in England where the builders of Stonehenge -- or festivalgoers to the mysterious circular monument -- may have lived. Eight houses have been excavated at Durrington Walls, about two miles from Stonehenge. Up to 25 houses may be at the site, Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University said at a briefing Tuesday organized by the National Geographic Society.

Sources: The Associated Press, National Geographic
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 07:51:16 pm by Europa » Report Spam   Logged
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2007, 07:50:18 pm »



Archaeologists work at the site of an ancient house. The hearth of the house is in the center, and holes at top left are all that remain of a fence that once surrounded the structure.

The wooden houses measured about 14 square feet, Parker Pearson said. The village was carbon-dated to about 2600 B.C., about the same time Stonehenge was built.
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2007, 07:52:30 pm »



Artifacts such as these Neolithic cow bones were unearthed at Durrington Walls as well as stone tools, arrowheads and other objects.
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2007, 07:54:07 pm »



Archaeological digging reveals clay floors of the old houses. Revelers at Durrington Walls may have used the avenue (at the rear) to carry the remains of their dead for funeral rites at the River Avon.
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