Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Monday, 7 September 2015

A hundred standing stones at Durrington?


 Computer generated images of what the stones might have looked like before they were shoved over and buried. At present, there is no reason to think that they were anything other than standing sarsens -- and nothing to do with bluestones.  But one never knows......

“Everything previously written about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written.......”   Now how many times have we heard that before?  Vince Gaffney and his team have gone into overdrive with their latest research announcement -- but this is interesting.  The revelations about 100 standing stones (and maybe a lot more) having once stood at Durrington Walls adds another component to another complex story on Salisbury Plain.  Further info awaited.  But for now, the media are full of it -- it will probably be all over the BBC News today.

Stonehenge researchers 'may have found largest prehistoric site'

The find has been dubbed a "superhenge" because the site is five times the area of Stonehenge, as Victoria Gill reports

Standing stones found buried near Stonehenge could be the "largest" intact prehistoric monument ever built in Britain, archaeologists believe.

Using ground-penetrating radar, some 100 stones were found at the Durrington Walls "superhenge", a later bank built close to Stonehenge.

The Stonehenge Living Landscapes team has been researching the ancient monument site in a five-year project.

Finding the stones was "fantastically lucky", researchers said.

The stones may have originally measured up to 4.5m (14ft) in height and had been pushed over the edge of Durrington Walls.

The site, which is thought to have been built about 4,500 years ago, is about 1.8 miles (3km) from Stonehenge, Wiltshire.

The stones were found on the edge of the Durrington Walls "henge", or bank, an area which had not yet been studied by researchers.

Lead researcher, Vince Gaffney said the stones were "lost to archaeology" but found thanks to modern technology.

National Trust archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall said: "In the field that lies to the south we know there's a standing stone which is now the only standing stone, now fallen, that you can go up to and touch in the whole of the Stonehenge landscape," he said.

"It's called the Cuckoo Stone.

"If there are stones beneath the bank... they're probably looking at stones of pretty much the same size as the Cuckoo Stone."

Dr Snashall added there was a "sense" of one area set aside for the living and another for the dead at Durrington Walls - and that had changed over time.

The findings are being announced later on the first day of the British Science Festival being held at the University of Bradford.


Huge ritual monument found hidden near Stonehenge

The super-henge of Durrington Walls has been hiding a secret for thousands of years. A huge row of megalithic stones buried beneath.

A new line of stones has been found under Durrington Walls super-henge

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

A huge ritual monument which dates from the time of Stonehenge has been discovered hidden under the bank of a nearby stone-age enclosure.

Durrington Walls, a roundish ‘super-henge’ has long puzzled archaeologists because one side is straight while the rest of the structure is curved.

As early as 1810, historian Richard Colt Hoare suggested that its shape had been left ‘much mutilated’ by centuries of agriculture.

But now ground penetrating radar has found that the straight edge is actually aligned over a row of 90 massive standing stones which once stood 15ft high, and formed a c-shaped arena which has not been seen for thousands of years.

The stone line, which curves into a c-shape towards one end, is likely to have marked a ritual procession route, and is thought to date from the same time as the sarsen circle at Stonehenge.

The earliest phase of Durrington Walls with its line of megaliths

Archaeologists believe the stones were pushed over and a bank built on top, but they are still trying to work out exactly why they were built. Nothing exists like it in the world.

“It’s utterly remarkable,” said Professor Vince Gaffney, of the University of Bradford. “It’s just enormous. It is definitely one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and is completely unique. We’ve never seen anything like this in the world.

“We can’t tell what the stones are made of, but they are the same height as the sarsens in the Stonehenge circle, so they may be the same kind.

“It was probably for a ritual of some sort, or it could have marked out an arena. These monuments were very theatrical. This a design to impress and empower.

“Not only does the new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier.”

The completed super-henge after the stones were toppled over and buried under the right bank

Durrington Walls, which sits in a depression not far from the River Avon, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, is one of the largest known henge monuments, measuring around 1,640 feet in diameter and built around 4,500 years ago in the Neolithic, or new stone age.

It is surrounded by a ditch of up to 54ft wide and a bank of more than three foot high and is built on the same summer solstice alignment as Stonehenge. Some archaeoolgists have suggested that the builders of Stonehenge lived at Durrington. A nearby wooden structure, called Wood Henge was thought to represent the land of the living while Stonehenge represented the realm of the dead.

But the discovery of the stones suggests that Durrington Walls had a far earlier and less domestic history than has previously been supposed.

Durrington Walls is around 1.5 miles from Stonehenge

The Bradford archaeologists have been working alongside an international team of experts as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project which has been mapping the entire area around with the latest technology.

“Everything previously written about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written,” said Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham and principle prehistorian on the project.

The stones would have been as tall as some of those at Stonehenge

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, said the new results were providing ‘unexpected twists in the age old tale.’

“These latest results have produced tantalising evidence of what lies beneath the ancient earthworks at Durrington Walls. The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story.”

The research will be presented at the British Science Festival in Bradford this week.



chris johnson said...

Thanks for pulling this together. Another big mystery and more confirmation if any is needed that they were very handy at man-handling very large stones around.

Myris of Alexandria said...

If it helps pottery sherds associated with The Cuckoo Stone are EBA heavily grogged Collared Urns.

Geo Cur said...

Ther's not much more info than was available this time last year from the Bradford bash .
Hopefully more this afternoon .

Evergreen said...

Was going to say, this is old news isn't it? Fantastic find, obviously. Has there been any indication of stone holes from the surveys?

Geo Cur said...

There's also early Neolithic pottery from a pit just to the north of the stone and an antler and scapula (dated 2900 BC ) in another pit nearby .

chris johnson said...

It is disappointing that not much has been discovered in the meantime, not even whether the stones are sarsen.

The dating is a puzzle. Collared urns would point to the Bronze Age, while Geo points to early neolithic. Is there an association with the Cuckoo Stone?

It would seem that the stones were deliberately buried, which is a major effort in itself. This might point to a repurposing of the site. But why?

For once I would welcome some speculation from the archaeologists closest to the work.

Geo Cur said...

Sorry Chris ,should have clarified that the pits with contents from different periods are close to the Cuckoo stone not DW .

As for DW ,some of the houses are considered Neolithic and they underlie the bank .
Speculation: iconocalsm ? as has been found at BA sites built on , or alongside , former Neolithic sites, e.g. Sion and le Petit Chasseur in Switzerland, Berrybrae and more locally Mount Pleasant and possibly Stonehenge .

Geo Cur said...

Should have mentioned that the speculation is predicated upon the survey and guess being coreect and that the findings are that of toppled stones predating the bank .
The Bradford tema do have a history of leaping to conclusions ,some demonstrably wrong and daft .

Tom Flowers said...

And there was I thinking that Professor Pearson might forget his life to death theory of Stonehenge now that Professor Gaffney claims to have found a STONE palisade at Durrington - Silly me.
I am quite amazed at peoples willingness to take Gaffney's report at its face value. Personally, I will only believe in these stones, if and when I am allowed to be present when some of them are dug up. And that is never!

Here is something that will change our understanding of Stonehenge for book "Stonehenge Before Stonehenge."

TonyH said...

Little did we know when we at Wiltshire County Council Environmental Department were responsible for the car park and its Interpretation Panels adjacent to Woodhenge, and thus very close to Durrington Walls henge, that deep penetration radar would come along a couple of decades later to map this sub - surface landscape.

Incidentally, Preselli's own "Bluestone King" Geoffrey Wainwright did the mega - dig necessitated at Durrington Walls when the Highways Authority ploughed an "improved" road through it in the late '60s. He also mega - dug Mount Pleasant at Dorchester, and Pewsey Vale's Marden amongst others. Of course he made his come - back with Tim D inside Stonehenge. Watch out, Brian, he may have his eyes on territory near Angel Mountain for his last hurrah!

TonyH said...

If the stones beneath the land turn out to be sarsens, what will that say about the percentage odds on Incredible Hulks, knuckles trailing due to the inevitable lengthening of their arms, humping them all the way from at least Marlborough, or are the percentage odds likely to RISE that they were much more locally provenance? Is this a CIRCULAR argument, yet again, folks?! Who's for a virtuous circle of reasoning, and who prefers an adrenalin - increasing vicious circle? Psychology comes into every aspect of the discussions about prehistoric archaeology, does it not?! A friend of Dr Ixer's told us a short while ago that it is rather hard to provenance sarsen - a pity.

Myris of Alexandria said...

But there are lots of people trying to provenance sarsen, it depends on the amount of time and money you spend.
Provenance jackpots like the Jovian-blessed rhyolite allowing for discrete metre scale provenancing are truly an Olympian gift and extraordinary rare.
Read Ixer Founded or foundered on Rock for a gentle ramble on provenancing. On his academia website.
Not keeping up is a danger recently when asked about obsidian provenancing he said it would not worth doing as too difficult, but they provenance to individual Greek islands.
Think of the Italian jade work wonderful exact provenance but what cost in money time and skill.
Wonderful sublime work. Read the literature on prehistoric gold provenancing to see the cost of coming near to provenancing.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Comment received by Email:

Maybe this is evidence of how the stones were transported across the landscape ( see post on the megalithic forum!

An excavation of the site would no doubt prove or disprove Professor Gaffney's theory on whether or not the stones were at one time standing.


Geo Cur said...

Apologies , the over interpretation and demonstrable errors were from the Birmingham team not Bradford , as I had written earlier .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Over-interpretation? Heaven forbid!! Do archaeologists really do such a thing?

Geo Cur said...

In the Birmingham case there are also demonstrable errors . But over interpreation is not confined to archaeology,

Glaciologists who don't have to concern themselves with the huge amount of variables found with potential human agency should be on firmer ,if slowly shifting ground .Yet it doesn't stop them over intrepreting too.

ND Wiseman said...

Hi gang

My questions involve the perimeter and that the stones stand outside the bank.

Do/did the stones completely surround the site? Unknown.
Geo mentions the assumption that they pre-date the ditch. This makes no sense to me. I think the stones follow the contour of the bank - not the other way around. They definitely had a thing for enclosing the sites with stone, but at Avebury and Stonehenge we see the perimeter interior, around the henge field.

So this harks to the perennial discussion of whether an embankment was intended to keep things In or keep them Out. I always thought that the answer would be found in where it was positioned - but now we have another factor with these anterior stones.


TonyH said...

The Geoffrey Wainwright of summer 1967 (when I was just about to sit at the knees of geomorphologist Dr Brian John) used "a fleet of mechanical diggers" to strip off soil to the chalk bedrock within the interior of Durrington Walls. MPP says this was considered "frankly scandalous" by some archaeologists at the time, but, "in retrospect..was one of the biggest revolutions in modern archaeology" [Stonehenge, MPP,page 86, chapter 5: "Putting the trench in the right place"]

I wonder if the Lottery Fund or similar will eventually be used to facilitate the careful study and/or/removal of some of the Durrington Walls material in order to obtain sitings of the buried stones?

Flint mines have been found near Durrington Walls.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Of course -- we probably all have a tendency to over-interpret! But you underestimate the complexities of glaciology -- glacial processes are still very imperfectly understood, and although we don't have to bother with the "human" factor, what causes great difficulty is the sheer problem of observing glacial processes in operation under a variety of different regimes. Not easy to work out what's going on under 2000m of ice......

Geo Cur said...

Brian , I wasn't underestimating the complexities of glaciology ,merely pointing out that absence of the human agency and all that it entails , including the nefarious ,and almost worldwide spread is a welcome absent factor in any interpretation of nature .

Neil . I don't know ,but assume , that the "stones"/readings mentioned are the only ones that have been found and there are no others in the rest of the perimeter which was alos investigated .
They do follow , like Avebury , one of the relatively straight sections of the bank , but then , both are made up of ,mostly ,long straight sections whereas Stonehenge being on a much smaller scale minimises the effect of the much shorter and numerous straightish segments to produce a fair circle .

chris johnson said...

"enclosing the sites with stone" - I don't see it this way, also not at Avebury. The stones are within the monuments, not enclosing them.
At Durrington the walls are keeping something in; either that or built for theatrical effect for people looking outwards. It is not easy to tell today about the complete cicumference as the road runs through. The site is built on a gentle slope down to the Avon so it might be that the observers were well down in the valley.
From what I read the stones do not enclose the site. Other areas have been thoroughly excavated with no stones appearing. At first site it looks more like some alignments in Brittany but the data I have is very little.

TonyH said...

Ten thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire....
And though the holes were very small
They had to count them all....
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall...
I'd love to turn you on....

FROM SERGEANT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND,contemporaneous with, and quite possibly sung during Geoffrey Wainwright's mega - dig at Durrington Walls, or in the evenings at the Stonehenge Inn, Durrington by the assembled digging team (take a look at MPP's account of the Dig in his 2012 Stonehenge book for evidence!

Myris of Alexandria said...

I have heard better stories of our Goeff in his younger days on digs by eye witnesses.
However with replacement hips he is surely more sedate now.

chris johnson said...

In FT today an article by Tom Holland states that there could up to 200 stones in the row. Does anybody know if this doubling of the number has any basis in fact?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Did you really expect a journalist to get ANYTHING right, Chris? That's not what they do......

TonyH said...

Yes, there IS definitely a basis in fact insofar as I heard the above - mentioned Professor Vince Gaffney from Bradford University say that the 200 figure was made evident to his research operation as recently as last week. The National Trust's Nick Snashall (also mentioned in the article Brian has Posted above) also repeated it on BBC Points West. She is the lead archaeologist for the N.T. in the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site.

TonyH said...

Project initiator Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Vienna - based Ludwig Bultzmann Institute ArchPro, described the discovery as "A very important and fantastic finding" and said the monument could originally have comprised up to 200 stones.

"The missing stones might be the stone material which was used later to build Stonehenge" he explained, adding that those left in place were probably broken during attempts to move them.

Although none of the stones have yet been excavated, archaeologists believe they may be locally sourced stones similar to the Cuckoo Stone in an adjacent field.

SOURCE [etc etc]