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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Stonehenge and the Aurochs Migration Route

Forget about ancient ancestors, healing stones, solar solstice alignments and periglacial stripes.  Stonehenge is where it is because it's on an aurochs migration route.  The OU team that was involved in the latest investigations of the Mesolithic traces near Amesbury has been putting this press release out and about, and now it's all over the internet......  some of the headlines are quite splendid.  Aurochs-burgers, anybody?


 This is typical......

New Stonehenge Theory Suggests Ancient Hunting Site

Posted: April 24, 2013

A new Stonehenge theory suggests that the ancient ruins may have been a hunting site. The new theory comes after archaeologists discovered a site with evidence dating roughly 5,000 years before the structure was built.

The site, which was occupied continuously for more than 3,000 years, also had evidence of burning, thousands of flint tool fragments, and the bones of wild aurochs.

Together, the data suggests that the area around Stonehenge could have been an auroch migration route. The site could have been for feasting in ancient times, with the migration route drawing different cultures in the region together for the purpose of hunting the extinct giant cows.

Lead researcher David Jacques of the Open University in the United Kingdom, stated, “We may have found the cradle of Stonehenge, the reason why it is here.”

The mystery surrounding the ancient stone structure has existed for decades and new Stonehenge theories are ruthlessly debated among scholars. The stone structure was erected about 5,000 years ago in the plains of Wiltshire, England. But no one can definitively say why the giant stone structure was built.

Some theories for its existence include a burial ground, a place of worship, a sun calendar, a symbol of unity, or even that Stonehenge was created because of a sound illusion. The structure consists of large megaliths, also called sarsens. They are up to 30 feet tall and weigh upwards of 25 tons.

It also includes smaller bluesones, which weigh up to four tons. Researchers believe the massive boulders came from a quarry near Marlborough Downs, which is 20 miles from the mysterious site. The bluestones likely came from Preseli Hills in Wales. The hills are almost 156 miles from it.

The new Stonehenge theory could also help identify the people who first built the massive structure. Aside from a few giant pine posts that could be totem poles, which were raised between 8,500 and 10,000 years ago, there has been little evidence of occupation predating Stonehenge. The new research also suggests that the ancient boulders could have been raised in honor of the sacred hunting ground.


Constantinos Ragazas said...


If you want to experience the “echo chamber effect” in prehistory archeology try reading Gobekli Tepe along side Stonehenge.


geocur said...

Maybe the local auroch burials will finally get the exposure they deserve .

BRIAN JOHN said...

You read it here first -- they were sacred cows.

geocur said...

A 20th C Indian bloke , Mahatma Gandhi said , of the cow "I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world," . So maybe you are right about neolithic sacred cows .Whoever buried the Boscombe Down auroch may have had other reasons than sacredness. There are depictions of aurochs in Lascaux and countless examples of bucrania from around the world from prehistory to the present day . It looks like the auroch was extinct in Britain by the BA .

Dave Maynard said...

I'm a bit sceptical about this link between the Mesolithic and Stonehenge. The Mesolithic people had free range over the whole of the landscape. That landscape has been heavily modified since then so it is difficult to reconstruct what happened between the two events, and show a relationship.

As an example, some years ago I worked on the excavation of Coneybury henge, which overlooks Stonehenge. We camped in the valley beside Vespasian's Camp and I'm from North Pembrokeshire. Are all those facts connected?

I'm separated in time from the final phase of Stonehenge by something like the same that the Mesolithic is from Stonehenge. So what led me there? a desire to work near Stonehenge? Perhaps, but I think there were many other factors that influenced me to go there.

The Vespasian's Camp meso site has a long way to go before it can show that it was a factor in the intense later use of the area.


GCU.intwominds said...

Is it all related?
Send a couple of your milk teeth or molars. I will wave the mass spec over them and tell you.
For an extra ten bob I will tell your future.

Dave Maynard said...

I wonder if that works?

Up to the age of four in the Southampton area, then West Wales (plenty of milk), after 18 all over the British Isles with big chunks in Pembrokeshire, then abroad after 35 in the Caucasus, eastern central Europe and Pembrokeshire.

Wonder if any of that is reflected in my teeth and bones? Does the Caspian sturgeon counteract the laverbread?

Dave said...

To Dave Maynard.

The magnetometer plot showed the Coneybury henge to have an azimuth of 40-degrees, whereas Richard's excavation report shows it to be 70

Do archaeologists know where north is?

From poor quality aerial photos I make it 60-degrees and therefore pointing at the minor moon and overlooking the Avon.

This earlier astronomical route to Stonehenge defies MPP's journey from life to death

What did you or perhaps a colleague find the azimuth to be Dave?

Thankyou Tom

TonyH said...

Get 'em up
Move 'em out
Ride 'em in, let 'em out
Get your aurochs off, honey
Down, deep down to the future site of Amesbury Town.

TonyH said...

Geo/ Dave Maynard. Do you know anything about purported ancient [ie Old Stone Age or Mesolithic] hunting routes in Southern England, possibly connected to Northern France etc? Has this appeared in the archie literature, or am I mistaken/ dreaming? Possibly including writing by Mark Edmonds?

TonyH said...

Perhaps another Mark, Mark Roberts, who has written, among other things, about Old Stone Age Boxgrove in West Sussex, might be the person I was thinking of.

geocur said...

Sorry Tony , don't know anything about Meso hunting routes .
Doubt if it is Mark Edmonds related .

geocur said...

True, the two Coneybury plans I have seen differ by about 30 degrees .It's certainly not the solstice alignment as is often mentioned ,even by Ruggles ,although MPP did not mention in the recent book .I rarely trust northings from archaeo plans ,there have been some real howlers in the past ,Newgrange springs to mind .Things are improving slowly .

Dave Maynard said...

Sorry, I only dug the holes, someone else did the drawings. I'm also afraid to say I've not read the reports.


Dave Maynard said...


Sorry, don't know anything in the the literature about migration routes. There must be a lot to be found. I can remember something about Palaeolithic hunting of reindeer in Germany that involved annual migration of the deer.

The only other thing was something about movement of Mesolithic in northern Britain (maybe Star Carr) where the model suggested was an annual movement from the high ground down to the coast in order to exploit different resources at the appropriate season.

The other big factor in this will be the loss of land through the marine transgression. This means that most of the early Mesolithic sites are now underwater, or at least those that are one part of an annual migration.


BRIAN JOHN said...

It makes perfectly good sense to me that here was transhumance in Mesolithic and Neolithic times -- and maybe even as late as the Iron Age. I have pondered on the link between the Carn Ingli Iron Age fort and the Castell Henllys Iron Age "village" lower down in the woods. Some of those hill summit forts must have been horribly bleak in the winter -- I think the inhabitants must have moved down into the lowlands and the woods in the winter time and then gone up into the breezy heights in the summer, where animal grazing must have been easier. Similar seasonal movements might even have taken place on the English Lowlands -- including Salisbury Plain.

TonyH said...

Brian and all lovers of Welsh border archaeology:
Interesting piece in Mike Pitts' latest (May/ June) issue of 'British Archaeology', talking about the Neolithic etc features found at Walton in relatively recent times, written up here by Bill Britnell.
He says "one of the most remarkable a cluster of 7 Neolithic enclosures, built during the milennium and a half between about 3800 and 2300 BC. There are 2 cursus monuments, a causewayed enclosure, 3 palisaded enclosure (one of which is Britain's largest),and finally a super-sized penannular ring ditch, approaching the diameter of the eathwork encircling Stonehenge."

Britnell goes on: "there are similar complexes of neolithic monuments elsewhere in Britain, but undoubtely the key to undersatnding this particular group is its distinct topographical setting - in particular its location on the well - trodden path between the extensive uplands of central Wales and the lowlands of midland England; between Radnor Forest to the west, and Herefordshire to the east, Since time immemorial people within this region have been able to exploit two quite different worlds, the lower-lying river valleys throughout the year and, during spring and summer, the neighbouring uplands......"

"What role did these [neolithic] enclosures play in this momentous transition from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles?"

Dave Maynard said...

Hafod and hendre

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so, Dave. There is a beautiful Hafod called Hafod Tydfil on the north side of Preseli, not far from Carn Goedog. RM Lockley was one of the last people to farm there -- now it is long since abandoned, although still visible -- several old fields, a copse of trees, and a ruined cottage. I got caught in a thunderstorm there once, and was scared out of my wits by lightning strikes too close for comfort.

Now here's a nice new fantasy, since we just LOVE fantasies on this site. Maybe Stonehenge was originally names Stone-hendre by the original Anglo-Welsh inhabitants around the time of political unification (nice gesture there to MPP) -- and the name was later distorted / garbled, as is the way with ancient names........ so people from West Wales used to come over with their gigantic domesticated herds of aurochs, for the summer grazing on Salisbury Plain?

Well, it's as good as any other fantasy....

TonyH said...

Well, could this be a Marriage of Convenience between the Two Tribes of opposing Bluestone Transport Camps, Brian? Might do your bank balance a deal of good! And I recall BK Roberts back at Durham Uni telling us about 'hafod and hendre' when studying Historical Geography as an option all those years ago... Incidentally, avid MPP readers are able to see his take on the Walton Anglo- Welsh borderland and how he relates it to his notion that there was a migration of people out of Pembrokeshire/ Preseli and Strumble (have you got his U.S. version of his "Stonehenge" book yet, Kostas, it would improve our debates here and we'd all appreciate it this side of the Pond).

TonyH said...

"Bizarrely, the oldest suspected cow bone from Britain - and potentially the earliest evidence for farming in Britain - comes from Stonehenge itself. When scientists radiocarbon-dated a long bone of a cow-sized animal from the packing deposit of one of the stones in the sarsen circle at Stonehenge, they were amazed to discover that it dated to within the period 4360-3990 BC. Given that the sarsen circle was not actually erected until some 1500 years later, this bone is clearly problematic. It could be an "antique" brought to Stonehenge when the sarsens were put up but it is more likely that it had become buried below the grass on this spot before 4000 BC and then ended up incorporated into the hole dug for the sarsen. Until future research can confirm that this anomalous bone bone really is from a domesticated cow as opposed to an AUROCHS or a large red deer, it remains a tantalising find. Even if this bone had been lying around for hundreds of years before it eventually ended up in a sarsen stonehole, the possible presence of a cow in the area at such an early date raises the prospect of people having visited this particular spot when farming first came to Britain.

pp 23-24, Stonehenge, MPP. Worth reading properly!

Dave Maynard said...

So where is Cerrig-Henge? and what about the Little Hafod on the (Salisbury) Plain?

Constantinos Ragazas said...


You value books and stories in them. I value facts and reasons for them.

You're well read. Do you know the answers to the following?

Why the Avenue stripes run diagonally down slope?

Why Stonehenge is incomplete?

Why are there so many empty pits in the chalk bedrock at Stonehenge?

Why the ditch was dug in sections that were not connected?

Why stone fragments from Wales do not match any of the megaliths at Stonehenge?

I will spare you more …


TonyH said...

I have no idea where those places are you mention. I probably know a man who does know where the Little Hafod on the Salisbury Plain may be, if it's there. But do tell us all. Have they both been thus named for generations, or did a man from Wales christen them thus recently? [Evans or Atkinson, for instance? Or yourself?].

TonyH said...

You do not have a monopoly on "valuing facts and reasons for them". I do not have a monopoly on being able to read. A blend is good, and recommended. It seems to benefit effective reasoning.But perhaps you are a Greek God.Even Greek Gods sometimes come down to earth, with varying results...

GCU:Intwominds said...

Beware. Sublime Apollo is listening.
Nearly finished the stone well 70% done.

Constantinos Ragazas said...


You are too good a guy to pick an argument with. I wont!

My comment, “You value books and stories in them. I value facts and reasons for them.“ meant to place relative emphasis. Not absolute attitude.

Sorry if you took it otherwise.


TonyH said...

Having listened recently to an entertaining and hilarious talk from the owner, I can fully recommend a trip to the Rare Breeds Farm at Cholderton, near Andover (not far from Vespasian's Camp in Amesbury). He may not have any reconstituted aurochsen (this is not Jurassic Park) but is sounds a good place to visit.

TonyH said...


Fair enough, thanks for explaining that. My team lost crucially yesterday, tribal pride at stake (manager also at stake soon) thus more tetchy than usual.

GCU:intwominds:- whoops, take no offence please and send no thunderbolts to Wiltshire.

chris johnson said...

I imagine the Causeway Camps were used to bring the bands of herders together before the winter. Surplus animals could be traded and feasted upon before splitting up and heading for more sheltered winter quarters.

The cursus monuments have a uncanny resemblance to the Caribou marshalling areas constructed by Native Americans in North America/Canada until a few hundred years ago.

The Vespasians Camp story is pointing to an earlier time but illustrates that the symbiotic relationship between people and animal herds goes back to before the "farmers".

TonyH said...

The Stonehenge Riverside Project boys make some interesting observations, in relation to the Greater Cursus near Stonehenge, about the possibility that this cursus perhaps retains in the landscape a memory of routes possibly made earlier [ during the Mesolithic transitional period into the Neolithic] between the watersheds of the rivers Till and Avon, west-east. Check it out in MPP's Stonehenge if you're not prejudiced.

TonyH said...

Incidentally, following on from my just-made comment, Robin Hood's Ball causewayed camp as well as the Lesser Cursus lie slightly north of the Greater Cursus (as does a good deal of Salisbury Plain). This may tie in with Chris' recent point on the causewayed enclosures.

TonyH said...

An aurochs skull was found at the eminent Bronze Age burial group of Snail Down, on the downs east of the Avon at NGR SU 2252, very approx 6 miles NE OF Durrington.

AG said...

Tony H
If you want a real laugh, you should visit the Noah's Ark Farm in Wraxall North Somerset.

The geological and cosmological data presented there, really screws up the Stonehenge chronology.


chris johnson said...

For the real story about who built Stonehenge we need look no further than the History of Welsh Baptists. The book opens as follows:

"THE Welsh, properly called Cumry, the inhabitants of the Principality of Wales, are generally believed to be the descendants of Gomer, the eldest son of Japheth, who was the eldest son of Noah. The general opinion is, that they landed on the Isle of Britain from France, about three hundred years after the flood.

About eleven hundred years before the Christian era, Brutus and his men emigrated from Troy in Asia, and were cordially received by the Welsh. They soon became one people and spake the same language, which was the Gomeraeg, or Welsh; hence the Welsh people are sometimes called the Ancient Britons.

About four hundred years before Christ, other emigrants came from Spain, and were permitted by Gwrgan, the Welsh king, to settle in Ireland, among the Ancient Britons, who were in that country already. They, also, soon became one people, but have not retained either the Welsh or the Spanish language; for the Irish language, to this day, is a mixture of both."

BRIAN JOHN said...

I like it, Chris! of course, the Welsh Baptists are uniquely in possession of the truth about absolutely everything. No doubt handed down, written in Welsh, on stone slabs from Heaven......

Helen said...

Welsh Baptists, pfft! In 1954, the BBC broadcast the only true story of how Stonehenge was built!

This iPlayer recording called 'Buried Treasure' is just glorious:

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree, Helen -- that comedy sketch brought to our attention by Pete is one of the funniest things I have seen in ages. Why don't people speak like that any more? All tthree of those guys are real stars. And the computer graphics are amazing.....

Dave Maynard said...

That programme tells us everything! Moving the bluestones was (relatively)easy, it was the sarsens that were the real task.

So perhaps bluestones got used first to build the earlier henge as they were more convenient to move, and the sarsens came after as they developed their hauling skills

Francis Rayner said...

I wonder if aurochs were the reason for the cursus monuments which have no astronomical allignment as a rule. It could be these were traps located in the migration route.

Tom Flowers said...

Tom Flowers said:
So, after killing off all the aurochs, they invented a system of measurement, which, together with Pythagorean triangles, proceeded to build hundreds of stone circles and rings based on them.
As if as like, as my ex used to say!