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London Stone to go on show in museum
An ancient and obscured piece of limestone has long guarded Cannon Street. It's called simply London Stone (never 'the' London Stone). It might be a Roman milestone or druidic monument. Nobody knows. Very few people ever notice the venerable rock, which has long languished in a woefully unworthy niche opposite the station.
From this Friday, the mysterious artefact will finally get some attention when it goes on show as part of the the Museum of London's War, Plague & Fire gallery.
London Stone was once much larger and more prominently positioned. The monument is mentioned in Shakespeare, and was first referenced in the 12th century. It is undoubtedly much older, and has been incorporated in the foundation myths of our city.
Display at the museum will finally bring London Stone back into public awareness after its long slumber. It will remain at the museum while work is carried out to rebuild its existing home.
The stone is shifting to the museum for temporary display, while its existing home is knocked down and rebuilt.
See London Stone at the Museum of London from Friday 13 May 2016. Entrance is free.
Nan Shepherd to appear on Scottish bank note
Great news! Scientist Mary Somerville too.
Robert Macfarlane, writer and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, welcomed the choice of Ms Shepherd for the £5 note.
He said: "It is thrilling to see Nan Shepherd celebrated and commemorated in this way.
"Nan was a blazingly brilliant writer, a true original whose novels, poems and non-fiction broke new ground in Scottish literature, and her influence lives on powerfully today."
5,000 years of history unearthed on MOD land in Bulford
“The archaeological work that uncovered these exciting remains was undertaken as part of the normal planning process and we are pleased that, as a result, it has been agreed some of the most significant archaeology will be preserved within the planned open space. The remains date from the prehistoric to the modern periods and add new chapters to the story of Bulford. These finds are a great example of the fantastic range of archaeology that lies unseen under our county waiting to be rediscovered, and how sustainable development can help to tell us more about our past.”
A further phase of excavation is planned to examine the two prehistoric monuments beside which the Saxon cemetery was established. These appear to consist of Early Bronze Age round barrows that may have earlier, Neolithic origins. They are likely to be granted scheduled monument protection by Historic England and will be preserved in situ in a part of the site that will remain undeveloped. Neolithic pits outside the monuments contained decorated ‘Grooved Ware’ pottery, stone and flint axes, a finely made disc-shaped flint knife, a chalk bowl, and the bones of red deer, roe deer and aurochs (extinct wild cattle).
Booze banned from summer solstice celebrations
BOOZE will be banned from summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, English Heritage has confirmed.
And drivers will have to fork out £15 to park at the Stones, in a bid to reduce the number of cars at the event.
When the plans were unveiled in February it led to a "pay to pray policy" accusation from senior druid King Arthur Pendragon.
Bosses at Stonehenge say the reason behind introducing a £15 parking charge is encourage more people to car share and use public transport.
They also believe that banning alcohol will "reduce the risk to those attending and to the monument itself". Drinking will not be allowed anywhere in the monument field.
Part of the reasons for the changes is the increase in numbers to Stonehenge for the summer solstice. In 2000, approximately 10,000 people attended while in 2014, the figure was close to 40,000. That same year, the stones were vandalised during both the summer and winter solstice celebrations.
Money raised from the new charges would go towards supporting £60,000 a year cost of maintaining the visitor centre car park. Kate Davies, Stonehenge’s General Manager, said: “Over the last 15 years we have seen a huge increase in the number of people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge. We have limited parking facilities and we believe the parking charge will encourage more people to car share or travel by bus.
“We’ve also seen more drunken and disrespectful behaviour. Something has to be done or we risk losing what makes solstice at Stonehenge so special.
“These changes will help us to better look after both those attending the solstice and the ancient monument itself.
“Since we proposed these changes, we’ve had a lot of support from the public and from across all the different groups who help to organise the solstice celebrations.”
English Heritage also said it was mindful of how alcohol was used by some druids during ceremonial practice and would be consulting with the community on how moderate use of ritual alcohol.
Bronze Age burial near Stonehenge discovered after being dug up by badger
"A Bronze Age cremation burial has been discovered near Stonehenge after being accidentally dug up by a badger. Objects found in a burial mound at Netheravon, Wiltshire, include a bronze saw, an archer's wrist guard, a copper chisel and cremated human remains.
Experts believe the burial may have been that of an archer or a person who made archery equipment.
The artefacts date back to 2,200-2,000BC, senior archaeologist Richard Osgood, of the MOD, said."
These will be displayed in the Wiltshire Museum at Devizes later in the year.
English Heritage to consider banning alcohol ...
English Heritage look set to ban alcohol and charge for parking at future Summer and Winter Solstice Gatherings.
Revellers at Stonehenge could face a ban on alcohol and parking charges at this year's solstice celebrations. English Heritage, which manages the ancient site, wants to introduce "significant changes" in response to "repeated and consistent" feedback. Stonehenge manager Kate Davies, said an alcohol ban would "help everyone to have a better experience of solstice".
But senior druid, King Arthur Pendragon, said English Heritage was "looking for confrontation".
In December, large crowds gathered at the ancient monument in Wiltshire to watch the sunrise and mark the winter solstice.
And an estimated 23,000 people descended on the site to celebrate the summer solstice last June.
Despite it being illegal to damage the monument, last year the Heritage Journal wanted revellers banned from getting close to the stones in a bid to prevent the "annual vandalism".
West Kennett Long Barrow re-opened.
A beautiful winter's day, the fairground ride of Christmas over - sigh of relief for another year. So today ventured out to Avebury to walk over to West Kennett Long Barrow. Having heard it was open to the public again, wanted to see the improvements. The ground levels inside the barrow have been raised slightly and covered with a sandy gravel. The unsightly sky-light has been sealed and replaced with two port holes in the middle and at the end of the barrow. I bumped into an old friend over there (as you do) who told me the plan was for water to drain out through a small gap in the entrance stones.
Just at the moment the walk up to the barrow is very muddy as a vehicle has churned the rubber meshing.
Out of control hunt damages hill fort and long barrow
The National Trust has written to the Portman Hunt amid claims its horses and hounds damaged Hambledon Hill, one of the finest examples of an iron age hill fort in Dorset. It is claimed the hunt left the recognised bridleway and came across the hill during a half term hunt last month.
National Trust volunteer Jerry Broadway, who believes this is the second time the hunt has damaged the hill fort, added: "After leaving the bridleway the hunt scattered livestock which were panicked by the hounds who were completely out of control.
"On this occasion extensive damage was done by the horses to the hill generally, and most worryingly the Neolithic Longbarrow which is over 3,000 years old. They have now twice been guilty of blatant and wilful damage to a scheduled ancient monument. What, I wonder will it take to make them actually take real notice?"
Meanwhile, National Trust West & North Dorset general manager Helen Mann confirmed complaints had been received that a hunt crossed Hambledon Hill. She said: "It appears that the hunt, while crossing the hill on a bridleway, left the track to round up some dogs which had got out of control.
"Hambledon Hill is a remarkable and important site for both wildlife and archaeology and we have written to the hunt to remind them that they must stay on the bridleway when crossing the hill. Any horses being ridden off the bridleway risk damage and erosion to the fragile Iron Age ramparts which give the hill its distinctive appearance."
Hambledon Hill was acquired by the National Trust last year. Built over 2,000 years ago, the massive earthwork defences lay over one of the most significant early Neolithic landscapes in Western Europe, dating back almost 6,000 years, and is a place half of British butterfly species call home.
The Portman Hunt was unavailable for comment.
WKLB closed for conservation work
West Kennett Long Barrow is currently closed for conservation work. The entrance is fenced off while a small team of what looked like three people work on the drainage and 1950s concrete skylight. I was over there earlier today and spoke to someone who said he was an archaeology-engineer. The work, being carried out with care and precision, has been jointly commissioned by NT and EH.
A very strong plastic webbing 'road' has been laid up to the barrow and a portacabin is up there behind the fencing.
Mesolithic hazel nut shells found
Hazelnut shells have been uncovered at a Mesolithic site on the Isle of Skye by archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands, members of the Staffin Community Trust, schoolchildren, and volunteers. “We have found lots of fragments of charred hazelnut shells in the lower soil samples. They are the ideal thing to date as they have a short life span and were a Mesolithic favorite,” archaeologist Dan Lee told BBC News. The team also recovered flints and a piece of bone that may have been used as a toggle or a bead.
Ancient burial discovered during restoration/excavation work
Excavations of what is thought to be the oldest surviving structure in Kerry have uncovered a burial site which dates back almost 6,000 years.
The dolmen or portal tomb at Killaclohane, Milltown is the oldest such structure still intact anywhere in Kerry according to the county archaeologist, Michael Connolly.
The tomb, on a site between Milltown and Castlemaine, dates from around 3,800 BC and had never been excavated before.
A team of archaeologists recently undertook conservation works to ensure that the capstone on the tomb – which had slipped off its supporting portal stones – would not fall completely and irreparably damage the two upright pillars.
Excavations of what is thought to be the oldest surviving structure in Kerry have uncovered a burial site which dates back almost 6,000 years.
According to archaeologist Michael Connolly "during the excavations, the cremated remains of at least two people were discovered along with a number of arrowheads, scrapers, neolithic pottery and a flint javelin head".
The precise dating of those objects may take several months but they are believed to be from the early Neolithic period. The discovery suggests that one of the earliest settlements in the county was in the Milltown area when people began to farm and develop ties to the land. Connolly has described the discovery as "very important".
Destruction of 3,000 year old bog road
"While Irish heritage is being celebrated and promoted this week, the destruction of a major archaeological monument, a major timber-built road of European significance at Mayne Bog, Coole, County Westmeath is continuing.
Although the National Monuments Service (NMS, the responsibility of Minister Heather Humphreys) has known since 2005 about the existence of the monument, they have failed to act to preserve it.
The road or Togher was discovered in 2005 and was reported by a concerned local resident, rather than the landowner or the industrial peat company Westland Horticulture who are extracting compost from the site.
The National Monuments Service subsequently instigated the excavation of a few meters of the 657m long roadway, which established that:
The monument was a substantial transversely laid plank built roadway. It was no mere trackway, it measured from 4.3m to 6m in width. The recorded length of the road was 675m, but it was seen to extend beyond both recorded limits.
A carbon 14 date of 1200-820 BC was obtained from the timbers, making it a remarkable structure of Bronze Age date, 1000 years older than the celebrated Corlea Bog roadway in neighbouring County Longford.
The excavators recommended further archaeological work but this was never acted upon. What did happen was that peat extraction work continued unabated. What is worse is that the monument was never even properly listed or given any legal protection ..."
News from Rupert Soskin: stone pillar is blueschist
I don't know whether Rupert Soskin posts here any more (if he does come on to discuss this I will delete this entry). I've just read this on the Facebook "Standing with Stones" page and, having not long since visited Bryn Celli Ddu, found it Very Interesting indeed.
Below is Rupert's FB post:
"Hi folks, Rupert here.
I thought it important to share this as many of you have expressed an interest. I was contacted last night on Twitter by Ffion Reynolds who had been to Bryn Celli Ddu with a geologist who identified the 'tree' pillar as blueschist - i.e rock, not fossil.
Now, the interesting thing about blueschist is that it is a metamorphic rock which only forms in extremely particular circumstances, best explained by this quote from the United States Geological Survey's website:
For many years geologists have been able to relate individual facies to the pressure and temperature conditions of metamorphism.
But they had no satisfactory explanation for the geologic processes that form metamorphic rocks, that is, until the theory of plate tectonics emerged.
One good example is this relatively rare metamorphic rock called "blue schist."
Experimental work had shown that the minerals in blue schist form only under very unusual metamorphic conditions.
These conditions are a pressure range equivalent to a depth of 15 to 30 kilometers in the crust and a very cool temperature, only 200 to 400 degrees centigrade.
That's the approximate cooking temperature of a kitchen oven or toaster.
At a depth of 15 to 30 kilometers, however, the temperature is normally about twice as hot, 500 to 750 degrees centigrade.
So the only way that rocks can be metamorphosed to blue schist facies , is to be quickly shoved down to those extreme depths and then rapidly brought back up before the rocks have time to heat up completely.
And that's exactly what happens where two tectonic plates are colliding in a subduction zone.
In fact, blue schist bearing rocks normally occur in long linear zones that mark ancient plate subduction boundaries.
One of the principal reasons I clung to the fossil theory was the cylindrical tree-trunk shape which had clearly not been cut, despite all previous descriptions of it being 'carefully worked'.
The formation of blueschist could allow a seam of cooling rock to literally roll up between the tectonic plates rather like a piece of seaside rock.
This leaves us with two, rather lovely points:
One: The builders of Bryn Celli Ddu would know no difference, it was still a magical stone tree.
And Two: Metamorphic rock does not form in conveniently sized pieces. There must be more."
Exploring ancient life in the Vale of Pewsey
The Vale of Pewsey is not only rich in Neolithic archaeology. It is home to a variety of other fascinating historical monuments from various periods in history, including Roman settlements, a deserted medieval village and post-medieval water meadows. A suite of other investigations along the River Avon will explore the vital role of the Vale's environment throughout history.
Dr Leary continued: "One of the many wonderful opportunities this excavation presents is to reveal the secret of the Vale itself. Communities throughout time settled and thrived there - a key aim of the dig is to further our understanding of how the use of the landscape evolved - from prehistory to history."
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, added: "Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment."
The Vale of Pewsey excavation also marks the start of the new University of Reading Archaeology Field School. Previously run at the world-famous Roman town site of Silchester, the Field School will see archaeology students and enthusiasts from Reading and across the globe join the excavation.
The six week dig runs from 15th June to 25th July. Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 5pm. Groups must book in advance
Steve Marshall will be giving a talk on springs, rivers & the Avebury monuments in Swindon!
Friday 26th Sept, 7.30pm, Swindon Museum & Art Gallery, Bath Road.
Museum Friends £3.50, Non-members £4.50
Obama visits Stonehenge
"How cool is this" - BBC Points West publish a photo of President Obama strolling around Stonehenge this evening.
On Facebook under Points West.
Update on second year dig at Avebury WK Avenue
Archaeology students mostly from Southampton and Leicester universities have re-opened one trench from last year’s dig and opened another major area of investigation in West Kennet Avenue. This involves moving tons of turf and soil and getting down to a level of soil that has never been ploughed (“intact soil”) and so holds flints and other artefacts such as pottery shards, where they were dropped.
This part of the Avenue was chosen because it had been investigated by the marmalade millionaire Alexander Keiller in the 1930s and he had located a gap in Avenue’s stones. Such a gap must have been left for a reason – perhaps because there was a building or other special structure that had to be preserved.
Among these finds are several flint arrowheads – including one miniature barbed and tanged arrowhead (photo left) which the project's experts say is deliberately miniaturised. Whether it was made as a gift, a toy or for a ritual purpose is another matter altogether. Whatever the reason for making it, the workmanship is extraordinary.
This dig is part of the long term Between the Monuments programme which aims, as National Trust archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall puts it, “to put the people back into the Avebury site.” Finding out more about the routine lives and residence of the people who built and used Avebury’s henge and avenues should help understand why these monuments were made and why this site was chosen.
It is a collaborative research project between the University of Southampton (Dr Josh Pollard), University of Leicester (Dr Mark Gillings), Allen Environmental Archaeology (Dr Mike Allen) and the National Trust (Dr Ros Cleal & Dr Nick Snashall.)
On Tuesday (August 5), with only two full days to go before the dig had to finish and with some rain showers during the morning, people from the surrounding villages were shown over the site and heard about the project’s progress.
Despite the buckets, wheelbarrows and spades (there was even someone spotted wielding a pick axe – albeit on the upper layers of soil), archaeology makes use of all the latest technology. This year laser measuring equipment has been used on the site.
Dr Mark Gillings & soil samplesDr Mark Gillings & soil samplesAnd those plastic bags behind Dr Gillings (photo left) contain soil samples which will be analysed and may reveal tell-tale signs of plant life, what animals were about and so on. This is important as the soil is so acidic that snail shells and bones are not found – but pollen and chemical residues will be preserved and identified in the analysis.
Another recently available technique allows scientists to tell what different sizes and shapes of flint cutting tools were used for. This high-magnification process has shown one tool found last year was used to cut nettles – from which string and cords were made.
Another exciting find in one of last year’s trenches is what looks to the experts like the remains of a ‘possible hearth’. It was nearby in this trench that they discovered in 2013 twelve certain or probable stake-holes in a pattern that could justify the theory that they were part of a dwelling of some sort: it is very tempting to add two such finds together to make a dwelling.
And then, just when the students thought they had unearthed some really good and significant finds from many centuries BC, someone finds a mediaeval coin. Mind you, this coin far smaller than our five pence piece and paper thin, so spotting it amidst the soil and recognising that it was anything at all worth keeping from the spoil heap, is a testament to these students’ growing expertise and enthusiasm.
As ever, it is a matter of funding being available to allow a third year’s dig to reveal even more of the evidence of the human lives that flourished in between Avebury’s stones.
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Nature; stone circles and all ancient sites that involve walking through unspoilt countryside/being near the sea; islands around the the British Isles, especially those with ancient monuments.