The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

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Sittaford (Stone Circle) — Links

Video of Sittaford stone circle from the air

Orkney — News

Riddle of the red deer: Orkney deer arrived by Neolithic ship, study reveals

Research has found that red deer were brought to the Scottish islands by humans, but the question remains: where did the Neolithic colonists come from?

The riddle of the red deer of Orkney and the Outer Hebrides has just become even more baffling. Stags and hinds arrived with humans – but not from Scandinavia, nor from the British mainland.

And they can only have arrived by ship: transported by enterprising Neolithic colonists who had learned to treat deer as livestock, long ago and far away in Europe.

Full The Guardian article:

And from BBC News :
'Mystery voyage' of Scottish islands' red deer

Science Magazine:
Red deer came to Scottish islands from unexpected places

The original paper published by The Royal Society:
Colonization of the Scottish islands via long-distance Neolithic transport of red deer

Soulbury (Standing Stone / Menhir) — News

Ancient landmark in middle of road could be dug up after accident claim

A huge boulder which a road was bizarrely constructed around decades ago – could finally be removed after a motorist crashed into it.

The prospect of the ancient stone, thought to have been located in Chapel Hill, Soulbury, for millions of years, being taken away has prompted outrage from villagers as Bucks County Council finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Read more from Leighton Buzzard Online:

And from The Guardian:

Update from BBC News:
Soulbury stone: White lines 'horrific' and 'an eyesore'

White lines painted around a boulder, thought to have been in place 11,000 years in an attempt to make it safer, have been described as an "eyesore" and "horrific" on social media.

Lindholm Høje (Megalithic Cemetery) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Lindholm Høje</b>Posted by baza

Le Dolmen de Mont Ube (Passage Grave) — News

Vandals target Neolithic Dolmen

From the Jersey Evening Post:

"A DOLMEN that has stood for thousands of years in St Clement has been vandalised.

The Société Jersiaise is appealing for information after Dolmen de Mont Ubé was daubed in spray paint.

The Neolithic passage grave was built around 6,000 years ago and can be found in trees around 100 metres from Rue de la Blinerie."

Full story with picture

Pystyll Gwyn (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Pystyll Gwyn</b>Posted by baza

Y Garreg Goch (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Y Garreg Goch</b>Posted by baza

The Calderstones (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — News

Schoolboy makes amazing historical discovery

From the Liverpool Echo:

Liverpool schoolboy Connor Hannaway has made history after discovering a carving which had somehow escaped the notice of archaeologists for hundreds of years.

The 13-year-old only spotted the etching during a school trip to Calderstones Park by chance – after dropping his pencil on the floor while he was making some notes!

Connor, who lives in Aigburth and attends Calderstones School, saw the bird carving at the bottom of one of the six Neolithic calderstones his school is named after – but, initially, no one believed him.

He recalls: “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t dropped my pencil. Because of the light I could only see the head of the bird, but then its back and tail became visible. I just thought that everyone must know it was there.”

Full Story:

Fingal's Rock (Natural Rock Feature) — Images

<b>Fingal's Rock</b>Posted by baza

Dhiseig (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Dhiseig</b>Posted by baza<b>Dhiseig</b>Posted by baza

Torralbet (Naveta) — Images

<b>Torralbet</b>Posted by baza<b>Torralbet</b>Posted by baza<b>Torralbet</b>Posted by baza

Cap de Forma (Promontory Fort) — Images

<b>Cap de Forma</b>Posted by baza<b>Cap de Forma</b>Posted by baza<b>Cap de Forma</b>Posted by baza

des Figueralet (Naveta) — Images

<b>des Figueralet</b>Posted by baza<b>des Figueralet</b>Posted by baza<b>des Figueralet</b>Posted by baza

Ses Arenes de Baix (Naveta) — Images

<b>Ses Arenes de Baix</b>Posted by baza<b>Ses Arenes de Baix</b>Posted by baza<b>Ses Arenes de Baix</b>Posted by baza

Cotaina de Can Rebasso (Naveta) — Images

<b>Cotaina de Can Rebasso</b>Posted by baza<b>Cotaina de Can Rebasso</b>Posted by baza<b>Cotaina de Can Rebasso</b>Posted by baza

Montple (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

<b>Montple</b>Posted by baza<b>Montple</b>Posted by baza

Giant's Grave (Burial Chamber) — Images

<b>Giant's Grave</b>Posted by baza

Cloven Stones (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>Cloven Stones</b>Posted by baza<b>Cloven Stones</b>Posted by baza

Cloven Stones (Passage Grave) — Links

Google Street View

Google Street Map view of the Cloven Stones


Ancient farmers manured the land

'We're increasingly realising that there was a lot of violence in these early farming communities - they weren't peaceful hippie types,' says Amy Bogaard an archaeologist at the University of Oxford.

From Planet Earth Online

Europe's first farmers used sophisticated muckspreading techniques to keep their land fertile some eight millennia ago, according to new research. And this revolution in agriculture may have played an important part in the genesis of the violence between communities that's blighted human society ever since.

It seems people were manuring and watering their crops as long as 6000BC. Until recently, the consensus has been that farmers only started using animal dung during Iron Age or Roman times, and that more ancient farmers of the Neolithic used a slash-and-burn approach involving working a patch of land for a few years and then moving on once they'd exhausted its nutrients.

But a team of researchers has analysed charred pulse seeds and cereal grains from 13 Neolithic sites around Europe, looking at the relative proportions of several different forms of nitrogen, known as isotopes. They looked in particular at the relative abundance of the heavier nitrogen-15 isotope relative to its lighter sibling nitrogen-14.

Experiments on modern farms show that the more muck you spread on a field, and the more often you do it, the higher the ratio of N-15 to N-14 climbs. In crops across Europe, the paper's authors found clear evidence of that the locals were spreading the dung of goats, cattle, sheep and pigs on their fields much earlier than we'd assumed.

This suggests they understood how important the land's fertility was and tried to preserve or even increase it for the next generation, having noticed that animal dung let them grow bigger, healthier plants. This involved long-term investments of the time and effort needed to collect, transport and spread manure that would then slowly release its nutrients over years and decades.

This could have led to important social transformations; as farmers started to pass down fertile land to their children, some of the earliest divisions between rich and poor might have started to emerge. If heavy manuring had made one group's land unusually fertile, their neighbours might have been tempted to resort to violence to get it.

'The fact that farmers made long-term investments such as manuring their land sheds new light on the nature of the early farming landscapes in Neolithic times ,' says Dr Amy Bogaard, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford and lead author of the paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'The idea that farmland could be cared for by the same family for generations seems quite an advanced notion, but rich fertile land would have been viewed as extremely valuable for growing crops,' she adds. 'We believe that as land was viewed as a commodity to be inherited, social differences in early European farming communities started to emerge between the haves and the have-nots.'

She cites the example of the Neolithic mass burial at Talheim in Germany, which holds the remains of a whole community who were massacred – men, women and children – with blows to the head from the stone axes that farmers used to clear land, arguing that this could have resulted from a raid intended to seize the community's land. 'We're increasingly realising that there was a lot of violence in these early farming communities - they weren't peaceful hippie types,' says Bogaard. 'Some of that violence was probably in the form of sporting or ritual contests between communities. But some of it was very deadly, like what we see at Talheim, where it looks like the attackers went in by night and killed everyone.'

The 124 samples of charred barley, wheat, lentils and peas the team examined came from harvested crops that were stored in buildings that then burned down. They came from sites dating from between 6000BC and 2400BC, and are taken from places across Europe including Hambledon Hill in Dorset and Lismore Fields in Derbyshire.

The NERC-funded study even suggests farmers understood which crops would benefit most from manure and concentrated their resources on them, leaving relatively hardy crops unfertilised; in one site in southern Greece, naked wheat had been heavily manured while barley had received very little fertilisation. Pulse crops, meanwhile, had received both manure and lots of water. 'Subsistence farmers are very observant of what we would see as very small differences in plant growth,' Bogaard explains. 'They would have noticed quickly that their middens and dung heaps produced much bigger, healthier plants, and later realised that certain crops benefited more from manure than others.'

Castle Old Fort (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Castle Old Fort</b>Posted by baza

Aldridge Mound (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

<b>Aldridge Mound</b>Posted by baza

Cladh Hallan Round Houses (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

Prehistoric mummy puzzle

From Planet Earth Online:

Mummified bodies made of chopped up people? It's not a legend from ancient Egypt but a find from the Outer Hebrides. Tamera Jones finds out how the latest forensic techniques were applied to the mystery of Britain's first prehistoric mummies.

When Professor Mike Parker Pearson from the University of Sheffield started excavating the Bronze Age Cladh Hallan settlement on South Uist, one of the first things his team found was a row of three roundhouses. Radio-carbon dating showed they were built around 1100 BC.

Further digging revealed several burials directly under the houses. Not so unusual in itself, but the archaeologists were surprised by the contorted and scrunched-up positions of the skeletons, which looked similar to mummy bundles found in Peru.

'We also noticed that the male skeleton had a full set of teeth in his lower jaw, but the upper set was completely missing,' says Pearson. 'Our first thought was that this was some kind of Bronze Age torture victim.'

But forensic pathology showed the two jaws didn't match at all. Several months of painstaking analysis revealed that in fact the man's skull, mandible and torso came from three different people.

'It looked like these individuals had been cut up and put back together to look like one person,' says Pearson.

Then the mystery deepened even further. When the bodies were dated they turned out to be several hundred years older than the houses, which meant they had been stored for several generations before they were buried.

The position of the bones in both adult skeletons suggested they had still been held together by soft tissue when they were buried, so they had been stored with particular care.

Pearson and biomedical archaeologist Professor Terry Brown from the University of Manchester, took the remains to NERC's Isotope Geosciences Laboratory where scientists used a range of techniques to work out where the bodies might have been kept. These included the rather grisly mercury intrusion porosimetry, which shows how far gut bacteria has eaten into the surrounding bones after death. In this case, not very far; decay had started in the male's torso but then something had stopped it, and there was no sign of decay in the female corpse at all.

Other techniques showed Pearson and his colleagues that the surfaces of the bones had become demineralised, something that happens in an acidic environment. All the forensic evidence suggested that the bodies had been preserved in a peat bog for several months before being taken out and dried. They must then have been stored above ground for hundreds of years before being merged with other mummified individuals and finally buried.

'At the time this was the first ever evidence of mummification outside of South America and Egypt,' says Pearson. 'Before this, mummification in the British Bronze Age was unheard of.'

Most recently, DNA from the female's skull, jaw, arm and thigh bones has shown that, just like the male, the woman's skeleton was made up of at least three individuals - and the cranium and mandible were male.

What led our ancestors to mummify and combine these bodies is anyone's guess. But Pearson thinks it has something to do with merging ancestries.

'Lots of fields and ditches were being built across Britain in the middle Bronze Age', he says. 'An obvious thing to do would be to coalesce ancestors' remains as a way of asserting rights over this newly enclosed land.'


German Archaeologists Discover World’s Oldest Wooden Wells

7,000-year-old water wells unearthed in eastern Germany suggest that prehistoric farmers in Europe were skilled carpenters long before metal was discovered or used for tools, made water wells out of oak timbers.

The finds, reported in a paper in the journal PLoS ONE, contradict the common belief that metal tools were required to make complex wooden structures.

The wooden water wells discovered in Germany by the team led by Dr Willy Tegel of the University of Freiburg are over 7,000 years old, and suggest that early farmers had unexpectedly refined carpentry skills.

“This early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters,” the archeologists said.

These first Central European farmers migrated from the Great Hungarian Plain approximately 7,500 years ago, and left an archeological trail of settlements, ceramics and stone tools across the fertile regions of the continent, a record named Linear Pottery Culture.

Full news story from Sci-news here

Original article on PLoS ONE here

New light on the Nazca Lines

Archaeologists gain insight into ancient desert drawings – by walking them

The first findings of the most detailed study yet by two British archaeologists into the Nazca Lines – enigmatic drawings created between 2,100 and 1,300 years ago in the Peruvian desert – have been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

As part of a five-year investigation, Professor Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History and Dr Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology have walked 1,500 km of desert in southern Peru, tracing the lines and geometric figures created by the Nasca people between 100 BC and AD 700.

The confusing palimpsest of ‘geoglyphs'—desert drawings—has attracted a host of theories purporting to explain them ever since they were discovered during the 1920s – including the bizarre ideas of Erich Von Däniken who supposed they were made by visiting extra-terrestrials.

Professor Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University, and Dr Saunders combined the experience and knowledge gained by walking the lines with scientific data obtained from satellite digital mapping, studying the layering where designs are superimposed, and examining the associated pottery. The result is the most detailed such study to date.

In the midst of their study area is a unique labyrinth originally discovered by Ruggles when he spent a few days on the Nazca desert back in 1984. Its existence came as a complete surprise. Professor Ruggles recounts: “When I set out along the labyrinth from its centre, I didn’t have the slightest idea of its true nature. Only gradually did I realize that here was a figure set out on a huge scale and still traceable, that it was clearly intended for walking, and that I was almost certainly the first person to have recognized it for what it was, and walked it from end to end, for some 1500 years. Factors beyond my control brought the 1984 expedition to an abrupt halt and it was only 20 years later that I eventually had the opportunity to return to Nazca, relocate the figure and study it fully”.

Invisible in its entirety to the naked eye, the only way to become aware of the labyrinth is to walk its 4.4km length, experiencing a series of disorienting direction changes and other expected features.

As Professor Ruggles explains: “The labyrinth is completely hidden in the landscape, which is flat and virtually featureless. As you walk it, only the path stretching ahead of you is visible at any given point. Similarly, if you map it from the air its form makes no sense at all.

“But if you walk it, ‘discovering’ it as you go, you have a set of experiences that in many respects would have been the same for anyone walking it in the past. The ancient Nasca peoples created the geoglyphs, and used them, by walking on the ground. ‘Sharing’ some of those experiences by walking the lines ourselves is an important source of information that complements the ‘hard’ scientific and archaeological evidence and can really aid our attempts to make anthropological sense of it.”

The arid conditions have ensured the remarkable preservation of Nazca's fragile geoglyphs for a millennium and a half. Nonetheless, segments of nearly all of the lines and figures—including the labyrinth—have been washed away by flash floods that occurred from time to time in the past. And, of course, people through the ages have walked across the desert plateau to cross from one valley to another.

Professor Ruggles and Dr Saunders have studied the integrity of many lines and figures within their 80km2 study area. Dr Saunders says: "Meandering and well-worn trans-desert pathways served functional purposes but they are quite different from the arrow-straight lines and geometric shapes which seem more likely to have had a spiritual and ritual purpose. It may be, we suggest, that the real importance of some of these desert drawings was in their creation rather than any subsequent physical use."

Certainly, the pristine state and well-preserved edges of the labyrinth suggest that it was never walked by more than a few people in single file. In fact, the survival of many geoglyphs seems remarkable given the proximity of the area to the pilgrimage centre of Cahuachi, in the nearby Nazca valley, and the fact that people carried on walking across the pampa during the ensuing centuries right up to modern times.

Even if the labyrinth was not unique when it was built, it may well be the only such construction whose integrity has been preserved to the extent that it still can be recognized in today's landscape. As Professor Ruggles observes: “Excavations commonly uncover objects undisturbed for centuries and even millennia. But it is hard to conceive many places on the planet were you could still “discover” a human construction that has lain hidden on the surface of the ground for as long as 1500 years, simply by walking along it and seeing where your feet take you.”

Issud by University of Leicester Press Office on 10 December 2012

Bedd Morris (Standing Stone / Menhir) — News

Bronze Age stone back after car crash

A Bronze Age standing stone that was knocked down by a reversing car last year has been returned to its original position in Pembrokeshire.

The Bedd Morris stone on Dinas Mountain near Newport has been a landmark for around 3,500 years.

Standing at 6ft (1.8m) it is thought the vehicle accidentally knocked over the stone, crushing a fence.

Full story from the BBC

Central London — News

The British Museum - Ice Age art exhibition

Ice Age art - arrival of the modern mind

An exhibition 40,000 years in the making

7 February - 26 May 2013

Discover masterpieces from the last Ice Age drawn from across Europe in this ground-breaking show. Created between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago by artists with modern minds like our own, this is a unique opportunity to see the world's oldest known sculptures, drawings and portraits.

Book online

Cornwall — News

Bogged down in history

Peat bogs reveal only sporadic exploitation of South-west England's tin deposits in the Bronze Age, suggesting only limited tin mining and bronze production in the area at that time.

From Planet Earth Online:

Britain was a major source of tin in the ancient world but details of how this important commodity was exploited were sketchy at best - until Andy Meharg and colleagues Kevin Edwards and Ed Schofield got stuck into two West Country peat bogs.

Tin has played an important role in the development of human society. Either on its own or mixed with copper to form bronze, it had a place in everything from coins and jewellery to armour and weapons. But unlike copper, tin deposits are extremely rare, and ancient Mediterranean cultures (from the Bronze Age through to Roman times) had to look to the remote Atlantic fringes of Europe for their closest supplies.

South-west Britain was home to the largest European tin deposits, and this mineral wealth must have been a significant source of economic and cultural contact between Britain and mainland Europe. But there is not much evidence, archaeological or historical, for how the tin trade developed.

Around 440BC, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about tin sources in the ancient world: 'I cannot speak with certainty, however, about the marginal regions which lie toward the west, in Europe...Nor am I certain of the existence of the Cassiterides Islands, from which we get our tin.' Pytheas of Massalia (modern Marseilles), who is credited with being the first person to circumnavigate Britain around 300BC, also talked of a tin-bearing island named Mictus within six days' sail of Britain.

Cornwall, particularly St Michael's Mount, has long been associated with the 'tin islands' - the Cassiterides - to which Herodotus referred, but it's not much to go on.

In an attempt to add to the body of evidence, myself and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen looked to the peat bogs of the south-west. These bogs have been soaking up atmospheric pollution for centuries and we hoped that pollution would include traces of tin released into the atmosphere from mining and tinworking. The sites we chose - Tor Royal on Dartmoor and Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor - are themselves better known as the location for Sherlock Holmes' encounter with the Hound of the Baskervilles, and the place where King Arthur deposited Excalibur, respectively. More pertinent to our study, though, is that both lie undisturbed in the middle of an ancient tin-mining region, and both are ombrotrophic - they get all their water from rainfall rather than from springs or streams. This is important because it means any minerals they contain must have been deposited from the atmosphere rather than carried from surrounding rocks or soils.

Our approach was based on the fact that minute particles of tin are released when ore is crushed and smelted, and these eventually fall back to the ground or are washed out of the atmosphere by rain. Assuming these particles had accumulated and lain undisturbed in the bogs, analysing the amount of tin at different depths would give us a sequence of tin exploitation, with greater concentrations representing periods of more intense mining and smelting. And because the bogs are made up of organic material, we could radiocarbon date the layers associated with different phases of tin deposition to find out when they had occurred.

Our specialised equipment enabled us to core 4m down through the peat, so we were able to work out a chronology of tin deposition and, by analogy, of tin mining and smelting, going back thousands of years.

This chronology adds so much detail to what we know about this period that it will allow us to rewrite the story of ancient Britain's trade links with Europe.

Analysis of the Himmelsscheibe, a bronze disk found near Leipzig, Germany, which is inlayed with a gold map of the heavens and dates to around 1600BC, indicates that it contains tin ores from south-west Britain. So British tin was undoubtedly traded to some extent during the Bronze Age, but our findings suggest that production was low.

The cores showed that, at most, there was only sporadic atmospheric deposition of tin into the peat during the Bronze Age, between around 2500 and 800BC, and this pattern continued until early Roman colonisation, around AD100. This confirms what we had already gleaned from archaeological and fragmentary documentary evidence; that there may have been only limited tin mining and bronze production in south-west Britain over this period.

Full Article

Belas Knap (Long Barrow) — Images

<b>Belas Knap</b>Posted by baza

Avening Burial Chambers — Images

<b>Avening Burial Chambers</b>Posted by baza<b>Avening Burial Chambers</b>Posted by baza<b>Avening Burial Chambers</b>Posted by baza<b>Avening Burial Chambers</b>Posted by baza<b>Avening Burial Chambers</b>Posted by baza

Priddy Circles (Henge) — News

Damage prosecution decision imminent

From thisissomerset:

Investigations into the damage to Priddy Circles on the Mendip hills have been completed.

A 72-year-old man has been released from police bail and the case has been passed to the jurisdiction of English Heritage who are expecting to decide what action, if any, to take in the next few weeks.

The Priddy Circles are one of the most important neolithic monuments in the country.

The circles, which are contemporary with the first stages of Stonehenge, are a scheduled monument.

One of them was damaged at some point between May 1 and June 23 last year and the damage to the circle outraged the archeological community.

There have been calls for the damaged sections to be reinstated by archeologists at the expense of those responsible.

If convicted those responsible could be fined anything up to £20,000.

They could also be jailed for up to six months and could have to pay to have it reinstated.

The circles could also be compulsorily purchased by the government in order to protect it.

Anyone accused of damaging a monument can say in their defence that they tried to protect the monument while carrying out work. They can also say that they had to carry out the work for safety reasons or did not know that the monument was within the area affected by the works or that it was a scheduled monument.

An English Heritage spokesman said: "A detailed investigation has been carried out by English Heritage in partnership with Avon and Somerset Police into the circumstances surrounding damage to one of the Priddy Circles.

"The evidence gathered in the course of the investigation is now with English Heritage to consider and a decision as to any further action will be taken in the near future."

County Cavan — News

A warning to others

From the Irish Independent

Sean Quinn's downfall is fairies' revenge say locals in Cavan

He was once Ireland's richest man, with a fortune of €4.7bn, before his huge gamble on Anglo Irish Bank shares toppled him into bankruptcy.

But for some in his heartland on the Cavan/Fermanagh border, the downfall of Sean Quinn has more to do with the wrath of the fairies than risky business moves.

According to these locals, it was the decision to move a megalithic burial tomb 20 years ago which led to the fall of his cement, hotels, and insurance empire.

The Aughrim Wedge Tomb stood for 4,000 years in the townland after which it is named, two miles outside Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.

But when it got in the way of the expansion of a massive quarry for Quinn Concrete in 1992, permission was granted by the Office of Public Works to move it.

Following a full excavation of the site, it was moved -- stone by stone -- and relocated in the grounds of Mr Quinn's Slieve Russell Hotel on the other side of the village.

Mr Quinn has since lost the cement works, the hotel, a raft of other businesses and his multi-billion euro fortune. According to bankruptcy documents, he now claims to have just €11,000 in the bank.

Some locals have linked the movement of the tomb to Mr Quinn's financial woes.

"I'm a big supporter of Sean Quinn because of what he has done for this area but that tomb should never have been moved," said publican Toirbhealach Lyons, the owner of Molly Maguire's pub in Ballyconnell.

"There would be a lot of people who would think you could never have any luck after moving an ancient tombstone."

Such superstitions are common and widely believed according to University of Ulster folklore expert Seamus MacFlionn.

"Cavan is full of ancient sites like these and therefore many people there would be more superstitious about moving any ancient rath, tomb or fairy tree," he said.

"People do genuinely believe that to do so brings bad luck. It's part of our ancient Irish history," he added.

However, not everyone in the area subscribes to the view that the movement of the tomb brought Mr Quinn his bad luck. One sceptic is Ballyconnell butcher Gerard Crowe, "It's a load of auld rubbish. . . Simple as that," he said.

Stonehenge and its Environs — News

Stonehenge byways to remain open

From the Salisbury Journal

A Planning inspector has ruled that byways surrounding Stonehenge will remain open.

The decision follows inquiries into proposals to close the byways as well as parts of the A344 and the inspector has decided that although the road will close, the byways should remain open.

English Heritage plans to return the area to grass as part of plans for a new visitors' centre at Airman's Corner.

Planning inspector Alan Boyland said: "I accept that Wiltshire has a considerably greater length of byways than any other county. This is not however, in itself, a reason for allowing a further loss for recreational motor vehicle users.

"In this case, the loss of a further 7km, particularly given the strategic importance of those routes, and without similar alternative routes being available, would in my view be significantly detrimental to the current users."

At the inquiry, Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon objected to the proposals to close the byways as he said it is a violation of his human rights not to be able to access the area, particularly during Pagan ceremonies such as celebrations of the solstices and equinox.

Mr Pendragon said: "It appears that the inspector has erred on the side of common sense and found himself in agreement with the points made."

The new visitor centre has got planning permission and despite funding problems English Heritage hopes the it can be completed by 2013.
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