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Stonehenge Builders' Village Found

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« on: May 05, 2007, 05:12:28 am »

A prehistoric village has been discovered in southern England that was likely home to the builders of Stonehenge, archaeologists announced in January 30, 2007.

The village, located 1.75 miles (2.8 kilometers) from the famous stone circle, includes eight wooden houses dated back to around 2500 B.C.

The remains of a cluster of homes include the outlines of floors, beds, and cupboards. Tools, jewelry, pottery, and human and animal bones were also found.

The excavated houses formed part of a much bigger settlement dating back to the Late Stone Age, according to project leader Mike Parker Pearson of England's Sheffield University.

"We could have many hundreds of houses here," Parker Pearson added. "Our dates for the building of Stonehenge are identical to the dates for this very large settlement."

The village stood next to a newly revealed stone avenue, partly visible in the excavation ditch at top right, which once led from a large timber circle to the nearby River Avon.

The site was excavated in 2006 as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2007, 05:14:15 am »

Two of the eight Stone Age buildings uncovered near Stonehenge were set apart from the main settlement, surrounded by a timber fence and a substantial ditch.
The sites of the two houses—one of which is pictured above—were discovered by Julian Thomas of Manchester University, who says there is evidence for three or four other, similar structures nearby.

The excavation team speculates that these imposing buildings may have been the dwellings of chiefs or priests who lived separately from the rest of the community. Another theory is that the buildings were uninhabited and used only for rituals, because the dig team found no traces of household items inside them.

"They may have been more like shrines or cult houses" where people went to invoke the spirits of ancestors, Thomas said, "or to conduct negotiations of some kind or to have out-of-body or trance experiences."
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« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2007, 05:16:02 am »

A reconstruction made in 2005 depicts one of two timber circles first discovered 40 years ago near Stonehenge.
The timber circles were uncovered at Durrington Walls, the prehistoric earthwork that is the site of the newly discovered Stone Age village.

The dig revealed that two timber circles once stood within Durrington Walls around 2500 B.C., the same period in which Stonehenge was built.

At the south of the Durrington site, archaeologists found evidence of five concentric rings measuring 130 feet (40 meters) across and a smaller circle with two timber rings to the north.

Mike Parker Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project believes Durrington Walls and nearby Stonehenge were intimately connected.

Parker Pearson believes that the wooden and stone circles represented the domains of the living and the dead, respectively.
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« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2007, 05:18:03 am »

Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in southern England, is perhaps the world's best known prehistoric monument, attracting nearly a million visitors a year.
The Stonehenge Riverside Project is a joint initiative run by six English universities with the aim of understanding how the iconic structure relates to the broader landscape and surrounding Stone Age sites.

Recent excavations suggest Durrington Walls closely mirrored Stonehenge, having its own impressive standing circle made of timber and an avenue that linked it to the River Avon.

Stonehenge is aligned with the sunset on the winter solstice, whereas Durrington Walls' large timber circle was aligned with the sunrise on the same day, scientists say.

"Stonehenge isn't a monument in isolation. It is actually one of a pair—one in stone, one in timber, with this shared relationship with the river, each with their solstice-aligned avenues and circles," said archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson, leader of the project.

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« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2007, 05:19:49 am »

This map shows the location of Durrington Walls and its position in relation to Stonehenge.
The latest excavations in the area suggest Stonehenge formed part of a much larger ritual complex that was spread across the surrounding landscape.

The newly found avenue at Durrington Walls connects the monument to the River Avon, which in turn links to another avenue downstream, which leads to Stonehenge.

Mike Parker Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project argues that the course of the river between the two ancient monuments symbolized the passage to the afterlife.

Durrington Walls was used for feasts and rituals that celebrated life, while Stonehenge was both a memorial and final resting place for the dead, the archaeologist speculates.
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2007, 05:22:29 am »

Stonehenge Didn't Stand Alone, Excavations Show
James Owen
for National Geographic News

January 12, 2007
Recent excavations of Salisbury Plain in southern England have revealed at least two other large stone formations close by the world-famous prehistoric monument.

One of the megalithic finds is a sandstone formation that marked a ritual burial mound; the other, a group of stones at the site of an ancient timber circle.

The new discoveries suggest that many similar monuments may have been erected in the shadow of Stonehenge, possibly forming part of a much larger complex, experts say.

Cremation Mound

The first monument—a 9.2-foot-long (2.8-meter-long) sarsen stone—was found lying in a field next to the River Avon, 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) east of Stonehenge, which is located near the modern-day city of Salisbury (United Kingdom map).

The riverside sarsen—large sandstone blocks that occur naturally in southern England—had been stood upright, archaeologists say, like the blocks that form the main structure of Stonehenge.

A team lead by Colin Richards of Manchester University and Joshua Pollard of Bristol University found the hole that originally held the stone, dug between 2500 and 2000 B.C., as well as human remains and artifacts that date to the same period.

The partially cremated remains of two people were buried next to the stone, Pollard said. One was a large male whose unburned vertebrae suggest he was at least 6 feet (182 centimeters) tall.

"Seemingly he was so big they weren't able to cremate him properly," the archaeologist noted. "The unburnt bone is the product of that poor process of cremation."

Stone knives and arrowheads, a piece of limestone carved into the shape of a megalith, two pottery bowls, and a rare rock crystal were also unearthed near the burial site.

The rock crystal find is the earliest known example from Britain and possibly came from as far away as the Alps, Pollard said.

Archaeologists have suggested that other prehistoric burials in the area were connected to mainland Europe, Pollard added.
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2007, 05:25:15 am »

Such a connection ties in with theories that Stonehenge was an important pilgrimage destination or a place where people traveled in the hope of miracle cures. (Related: "Pagans Get Support in Battle Over Stonehenge" [October 31, 2002].)

The megalithic burial site could also support theories that link Stonehenge and other standing stones to ancestor worship and commemorating the dead, Pollard added.


Circle of Stone

Pollard's team also found new evidence for stone settings at Woodhenge, a site 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) northeast of Stonehenge where a timber circle was constructed in about 2200 B.C.

Pollard said excavations in the 1920s hinted a stone monument may once have been present at the site.

"We were able to confirm last summer that there had been standing stones—some very considerable stones—at Woodhenge," he said.

While only fragments of the formation were found, the holes the stones were set in suggest the blocks stood up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall, Pollard said.

The team also found evidence for two phases of stone settings that probably came after the timber circle had rotted, he added.

"Four smaller stones were replaced by two much bigger sarsen settings," he said. "So it goes from a timber monument to being a megalithic monument, albeit not on the same scale as Stonehenge."

What happened to the stones at Woodhenge remains a mystery, Pollard added, though one possibility is that they were added to Stonehenge.

Network of Monuments

The research team says there is evidence from old maps and ancient sources for other similar monuments near Stonehenge.

"There may have been many smaller megalithic settings across this landscape," Pollard said.

"I think it's extremely likely there would have been other standing stones," particularly to the east, added Julian Thomas, professor of archaeology at Manchester University.

Such monuments would have had an important connection to Stonehenge, Thomas said. The stones and artifacts buried alongside the satellite monuments may have also played a symbolic role in spreading the authority of Stonehenge into the wider landscape.

"It was a way of referring to its powerfulness and to the importance and significance of the activities that are taking place at the henge and the people who are officiating," Thomas said.

He added that these latest finds show that Stonehenge shouldn't be seen in isolation.

"There's an overarching scheme of things which links Stonehenge to the broader landscape."
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