Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Why was Stonehenge built? The eight most popular theories

Was it a spiritual temple, burial ground or even built by aliens? There are many theories about Stonehenge's purpose but here are the most popular ones.

Giant concert venue

(REX FEATURES)
A university professor with an expertise in sound (and who also happened to be a part-time DJ) said that he believed Stonehenge was created as a dance arena for listening to "trance-style" music.
Rupert Till said that the standing stones had the ideal acoustics to amplify a "repetitive trance rhythm".
He used a computer model to conduct experiments in sound, which he said revealed that the 5,000 year old monument may have been used for ancient raves. 

A long barrow near the stone circle at Stonehenge (REX FEATURES)
Earlier this year archaeologists found that Stonehenge could have been a graveyard for a community of elite families.
The British team analysed the ancient remains of 63 bodies buried around Stonehenge, finding that the first monument was originally a graveyard for a community of elite families, whose remains were brought to Stonehenge and buried over a period of more than 200 years.
However the team also discovered that the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.

Health spa

In 2008 archaeologists Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill said that there was evidence Stonehenge had been sought after by pilgrims for its healing properties.
They said that ancient chipping of the rocks helped to indicate that Stonehenge was the equivalent of Lourdes, a French commune framed for its supposed miraculous healing powers.
Wainwright and Darvill said that the state of skeletons which had been recovered from the area around Stonehenge, showed that many people were ailing when they went to the stone circle.

Team building exercise

Researchers from the University College London claimed that Stonehenge was built as part of an annual winter solstice ritual which resembled "Glastonbury festival and a motorway building scheme at the same time".
As many as 4,000 people may have gathered at the site each year, when the entire population numbered only tens of thousands.
Tests on remains found at the site revealed that people came to the site from as far as the Scottish Highlands at the same time every year to feast, and built the monument together.

Ancient calculator

In 1963 astronomer Gerald Hawkins proposed the theory that Stonehenge was a computer for predicting eclipses of the sun and moon.
He identified 165 key points in the Stonehenge complex and found that many of them very strongly correlated with the rising and setting positions of the sun and moon.
Stonehenge has long been studied for its connections with ancient astronomy. Some Archaeoastronomers have claimed that Stonehenge represents an "ancient observatory,"
Stonehenge has become an increasingly popular place for people to celebrate the summer solstice. However in 2005 findings indicated that our ancestors visited Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice.

Sex symbol

In 2003 a researcher at the University of British Columbia said that Stonehenge was, in fact, an ancient sex symbol constructed to look like the female sexual organ.
Anthony Perks said: "Stonehenge could represent, symbolically, the opening by which Earth Mother gave birth to the plants and animals on which the ancient people so depended."

Alien development

Swiss author Erich von Däniken claimed in his 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilisations were given to them by extraterrestrials.
This influenced the building of Stonehenge as well as the Egyptian pyramids and Easter Island.
On his website Vin Daniken calls himself the "world's most successful non-fiction writer of all time". Others may disagree but he has sold over 65 million copies of his books worldwide.

Druid temple

Many believed that Stonehenge was a Druid temple in the 17th and 18th centuries after antiquary John Aubrey first proposed the theory.
According to English Heritage he surveyed Stonehenge in the late 17th century, and his studies of stone circles in other parts of Britain led him to conclude that they were built by the native inhabitants.
Since the Druids were the only prehistoric British priests mentioned in the classical texts, he attributed Stonehenge to the Druids.
It is now much more likely that Stonehenge predated the Druids by hundreds of years.

Source: By  - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/10523016/Why-was-Stonehenge-built-The-eight-most-popular-theories.html

Stonehenge Tourist News

Sarsen.org: The Architects of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Ex...

Sarsen.org: The Architects of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Ex...: Here's the full press release from Denton Corker Marshall: New Stonehenge Visitor Centre Opens Denton Corker Marshall’s new Stoneh...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Stonehenge transformed

 The long-awaited Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre will open on 18 December. For the first time, visitors will have a proper introduction to one of the world’s most important prehistoric monuments.  
This is the first phase of English Heritage’s £27million project to transform the visitor experience of the iconic site, made possible by a £10m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and substantial gifts from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Linbury Trust and the Wolfson Foundation.
Stonehenge at sunrise.
Photo English Heritage
Visitors will be able to see original objects used in its construction and those connected with Neolithic and Bronze Age men and women, their lives, their rituals and daily struggles. The reconstructed face of a 5,500 year-old man buried in a long barrow 1.5 miles from Stonehenge – the most advanced reconstruction of a Neolithic man’s face to date - is a highlight.
A special exhibition will display important objects, never seen together before, that tell the story of the changing understanding of Stonehenge over centuries. These include two rare 14th-century manuscripts which are among the earliest known drawings of the monument, Roman coins and jewellery, and early surveying equipment.
A 360-degree virtual experience will let visitors ‘stand in the stones’ before they enter the gallery. This three-minute film, based on state-of-the-art laser scan images of the stone circle, will transport the viewer back in time through the millennia and enable them to experience the summer and winter solstices.  
Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive, English Heritage, said: “At last, visitors to Stonehenge will be able to get a sense of the people who built this monument, of their lives, their deaths and their ceremonies. Visitors will, for the first time, learn the astonishing history of the stones and will see objects, many never seen before, that will bring the stones to life.
“Instead of just a stopover or a quick photo opportunity, we want our visitors to step back in time and into the shoes of those who created and used this extraordinary place, to marvel at original everyday objects they used, to walk the surrounding landscape as they did, and to sit in the dwellings that they would have built. It makes the real encounter with the stones themselves so much more exciting.”
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: “Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most iconic sites, undeniably worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status attracting one million tourists every year from the UK and all over the world. So it’s only right that, after decades of indecision, we can now offer them the visitor experience and exhibition centre they deserve. A huge amount of work has gone into getting this right and making sure people can see the stones and their story in a whole new light.”
Bettany Hughes, award-wining author, historian and broadcaster, said: “I have no doubt that those who first constructed Stonehenge did so with awe and with a profound appreciation of the beauty and power of the world around. For millennia men and women have travelled to the site to try to share that experience. Now in the 21st century with the help of these developments, we can appreciate both the intriguing story of the site - and its mystery.”

Early Neolithic man - ancestor of Stonehenge creators
The reconstruction of the early Neolithic face, using forensic evidence derived from skeletal analysis, is the face of a man 25 – 40 years old, of slender build, born about 5,500 years ago - about 500 years before the circular ditch and banks, the first monument at Stonehenge, was built.
He was among those people who were active on Salisbury Plain in early Neolithic Britain and helped to explain why people chose this area to erect the stones a thousand years later: the area already held significance. His presence emphasises the fact that Stonehenge is part of a remarkable landscape of prehistoric monuments which visitors can now explore on foot as part of their visit.
Specially trained volunteers will embark on building a group of Neolithic houses in January, complete with furniture and fittings. These will be the highlight of an outdoor gallery, to open at Easter 2014, and are based on evidence of houses excavated at nearby Durrington Walls where the builders of Stonehenge most probably lived. 
Experience Stonehenge in a more dignified setting  Visitors will have a heightened sense of anticipation when they arrive at the visitor building as Stonehenge is not visible - it will only emerge slowly on the horizon during the ten-minute shuttle ride to the monument.
At the stone circle, there will be opportunities to walk and explore the surroundings of the monument including the Avenue, Stonehenge’s ancient processional approach, guided by new interpretation panels specially developed with the National Trust.
The Avenue has been reconnected to the stone circle after being severed by the A344 road for centuries. The whole area is now free of traffic, and newly sown grass is establishing on the former route of the road.
A sensitively designed modern building
Designed by leading practice Denton Corker Marshall, the exhibition and visitor centre appears light and unimposing, sensitive to its surroundings and deferential to the stones. The galleries, café, shop and toilets are housed in a pair of single-storey 'pods', sitting beneath an undulating canopy that evokes the gentle rolling plains nearby. Locally sourced, pre-weathered sweet chestnut and Salisbury limestone are among the materials used.
Improvements to visitor facilities include
  • full disability access;
  • dedicated education space;
  • a bright and spacious café with indoor and outdoor seating for up to 260;
  • a bigger shop with a wide range of specially commissioned merchandise;
  • a visitors’ carpark with space for 500 vehicles and 30 coaches; 
  • ample toilets;
  • a pre-booked timed ticket system to help minimise queues and avoid over-crowdedness at peak times; and
  • new, downloadable and hand held free audio guides in 10 languages 
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to tell the full story of Stonehenge’s past, its present and how it will be understood by future generations. The Heritage Lottery Fund has been working in close partnership with English Heritage and a myriad of other funders and donors to make these imaginative plans a reality. We’re proud to have invested £10m in the exhibition and visitor centre and hope it will capture people’s imaginations and inspire them to learn more about life in both Neolithic and Bronze Age times.”
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General, the National Trust, said: “As owners of much of the surrounding land, we have supported English Heritage in bringing the Stonehenge landscape together and developing visitors’ understanding of the World Heritage Site as a whole. The removal of the A344 reconnects the monument with the landscape, giving visitors an opportunity to once again appreciate the ancient processional approach up to the stones. The new centre, with its fresh interpretation and displays, will help visitors understand the stones and the Neolithic world of ancient Britain from a different perspective.”

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director, English Heritage, said: “This is a major milestone in a long journey to make the experience of Stonehenge worthy of its iconic world heritage status. When the restoration of the landscape is complete by summer 2014, visitors will be able to enjoy the special atmosphere of this place with far fewer distractions from modern-day sights and sounds. I’d like to thank our partners and the many individuals and organisations who have shared our vision and helped us to achieve this historic event.”
Notes to editors

All the permanent exhibits are on loan from Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, and the Duckworth Laboratory, University of Cambridge. All were found within the World Heritage Site. Temporary loans come from many sources including the British Museum, the British Library, Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford University.
The Stonehenge Environmental Improvements Project is the largest capital project ever undertaken by English Heritage. It is financed almost entirely by the HLF, English Heritage commercial income and philanthropic donations.
The building is sited 1.5 miles away from Stonehenge to enable the immediate area around the monument to be free of modern structures. Work to demolish the existing facilities and car park and return the area to grass will begin imminently. The restoration of the landscape around Stonehenge will be completed in summer 2014.
Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre, 1.5 miles from Stonehenge, Wiltshire, SP3 4DX. From 18th December, entrance will be managed through timed tickets and advance booking is strongly recommended. Adult £13.90, Concession £12.50 and Child £8.30 when pre-booked; and Adult £14.90, Concession £13.40 and Child £8.90 when bought at the door. For opening hours and online booking, please visit the Stonehenge website.

About English Heritage
English Heritage is the government’s statutory advisor on the historic environment. It is the custodian of over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites through which we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year.
Further information

For press information please contact English Heritage Press Office on +44 207 973 3250, communication.team@english-heritage.org.uk.
For HLF press office please contact Katie Owen, on 020 7591 6036, out of hours mobile 07973 613 820.
Link: http://www.hlf.org.uk/news/Pages/Stonehengetransformed.aspx#.Uq_2xJCYbIU
Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Stonehenge Unveils Its £27m Makeover

Towards the end of December the sun dips ever lower in the sky, almost seeming to disappear. Then, once again, the days begin to lengthen. But this year the winter solstice is a little different – at least for those who hope to mark it at Stonehenge.

The 2013 solstice, on Saturday 21 December, comes only three days after the opening of the first phase of a

£27m rebuild of facilities at the prehistoric site in Wiltshire. Demand to take part in the annual celebrations, which have already been attracting increasing numbers, is expected to beat all previous years.
English Heritage, which runs the site, is preparing to unveil its visitor centre – after 30 years of planning rows and archaeological controversy. Situated a mile-and-a-half to the west of the stones, the new building, designed by architects Denton Corker Marshall, will showcase hundreds of items originally found at Stonehenge, many of them not displayed in public before.

Although this is the most expensive capital project yet undertaken by English Heritage, the quango is concerned not to imply there is any greater capacity for visitors who want to join the druid and pagan ceremony among the stones. Three years ago, only 2,000 people attended winter solstice; in 2012 more than 5,000 turned up.

“We are delighted to offer a warm welcome to Stonehenge this winter solstice, but as facilities are limited we are not able to accommodate any more people than last year,” Kate Davies, Stonehenge general manager, has warned.
“We don’t have the luxury of using nearby fields in winter for parking and encourage people to make use of the special bus service running from Salisbury. We are working very closely with the local authorities and agencies plus the druid and pagan community to ensure that access to Stonehenge will once again be a success.”
Sunrise takes place at 8.09am that Saturday and people will be allowed rare access to the stones as soon as it is light enough to do so safely. Entrance is free and access will continue until 9am, when the site will close, before re-opening as usual to paying visitors at 9.30am.

The solstice, regarded as the beginning of the winter season, occurs when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun. This will actually happen at 17.11pm on the 21st, but celebrations customarily take place at dawn, so access is arranged for the morning.

The Wednesday prior to the solstice will see the first members of the public sampling long-awaited improvements to the site. A 360-degree virtual “immersive experience” will let visitors stand within a virtual recreation of the stone circles before they enter a gallery that sets out the facts and theories surrounding the monument. Nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts have been loaned to the centre by the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, the Wiltshire Museum, the Duckworth Collection and the University of Cambridge.
The first special exhibition at the centre will be “Set in Stone? How our ancestors saw Stonehenge.” It charts more than 800 years of theories and debate – from 12th-century legends, to radiocarbon dating reports in the 1950s.


Author: Vanessa Thorpe

Guest Blogger
Stonehenge Tour Guide

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stonehenge Empire Mini-Series Co-Pro Sells Worldwide

MONTREAL: Stonehenge Empire, a tentatively titled factual mini-series co-produced by October Films, Lightship Entertainment and Interspot Film, is headed to a handful of broadcasters around the globe.
Stonehenge Empire has been licensed by BBC Two in the U.K., Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Smithsonian Channel in the U.S., France 5, Austria's ORF and Germany's ZDF. The 2x1-hour special centers on an archeological project that has been taking place at Stonehenge for decades. It will use dramatic reconstructions and CGI to illustrate how the site looked back in the day.
Adam Bullmore, the creative director at October, said: "Stonehenge Empire will dramatically change the way we understand Stonehenge and the prehistoric culture that flourished around it. Instead of seeing Stonehenge as an extraordinary achievement of an otherwise relatively primitive, prehistoric people, it will reveal Stonehenge as the epicenter of a truly remarkable and highly sophisticated ancient civilization."
Martin Davidson, BBC's commissioning editor for history and business programming, added: "This is a really exciting project which will, using drama, CGI and the latest archeological discoveries, allow us to properly understand the achievements and character of the people that built it; people who mastered deep mining, sophisticated engineering, textile manufacturing, ship-building, 'micro' gold-working, metallurgy, glass making, overseas trade and complex astronomy and mathematics."
By Joanna Padovano

Guest Blogger
Stonehenge Tour Guide

Monday, 2 December 2013