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archive is about the various discoveries in 1997 which have helped to
create the ‘paradigm shift’
in the historical sciences that characterises the ‘new
appreciation’ of the ancient world …
“Stonehenge built by Bretons?”
the enigmatic Aubrey Burl, one of the world’s leading authorities on stone
circles, started a controversy in March 1997
when he proposed that Stonehenge showed good indications of Breton influence
in its design. Publishing in the magazine Wessex Arch?ology, the story
was picked up by the Daily Mail, where Burl was quoted as saying that
Stonehenge was built by “visiting engineers
to mark the northern outpost of a Breton empire”.
And the controversy continues
It has generally been assumed that the builders of Stonehenge were Britons, and
“I always assumed that as well. But Stonehenge has several features
alien to Britain, and I now believe it may have been the work of a powerful
and intrusive Breton aristocracy.”
What has brought
him to these conclusions is the horseshoe pattern of stones at the centre
of the monument. It is common across the Channel but unique in Britain,
as are the figures (axes and daggers)
carved into the stones, which are also common in Brittany. Burl said:
“The carvings are religious symbols, but finding them here is
like finding a crucifix in a mosque”.
English Heritage, which looks after the monument, were not impressed, and a
“There is nothing that comes close to Stonehenge anywhere else
– certainly not in France I think if it were proved to be French
it would undermine the English people’s pride in it.”
discoveries news archive
“Woodhenge find rivals
full-page article in The
Times on November 11 1997
did some justice to the recent discovery ‘under’
the stone circle at Stanton Drew (Stonetown
Druid) in Somerset, England. Reporting that arch?ologists
from English Heritage, while conducting a routine survey, had discovered
the remains of a huge wooden structure some 5,000 years old, the story
told that the evdience showed it to have been one of the most important
‘ceremonial’ sites in England,
comparable in significance to Stonehenge.
they found that nine concentric rings of oak pillars once stood on the
site, and that these in turn were surrounded by an emormous circular ditch.
Science Editor, Nigel Hawkes, using units of measurement not around in
those times, told that:
“Each upright would have been up to a metre across and probably stood
eight metres above the ground. All that can be seen today is a later stone
circle. Such wooden henges are unique to Britain, and this one is twice
as large as any of the other seven known.”
that can detect small magnetic anomalies in the soil without disturbing
the surface, the arch?ologists deployed a technique that makes use of
the fact that any disturbance of soil tends to affect its magnetism. If
wooden posts, or even megalithic stones, were at one time in the distant
past placed into holes dug into the ground to hold them upright, then
the disturbed soil will show their original location.
at English Heritage, Geoffrey Wainright, told The Times:
“To our surprise and delight what emerged was a timber temple of about
3,000 BC. There is now no timber left – it would have decayed long ago.
But the disturbance of the soil when the pits were dug to take the upright
While some wooden henges had a roof, this one is said to have been too large to support one. But it is believed to have been an important sacred centre 5,000 years ago, and in a comment that brought to mind the ceremonial breaking and scattering of pots along the pathways of the enigmatic Nazca geoglyphs in Peru, Dr Wainright said that:
“By this period, a social structure was developing, with distinct tribal
areas. The temples were focal points for these tribes, where they gathered
and held feasts. Other wooden henges contain masses of pig bones, along
with decorated fragments of pottery. It looks as if the people deliberately
broke the pots and scattered them around.”
The Times writer speculated that at that time the population of Britain may have been as great as one million people, and quoted Dr Wainright as saying in an unusually enlightened way:
“It’s a great mistake to think the people who built this place were
rude, untutored, starving individuals. They were very sophisticated with
successful agriculture and made beautiful items such as carved stone axes
more information and images of this discovery on our Stanton
Drew page …
discoveries news archive
“The hole in the henge: was it an early warning?”
The Sunday Telegraph 16.11.1997 had an interesting article by Robert Mathews regarding the recent discovery of a wooden henge monument twice the size of Stonehenge ‘beneath’ the famous Bronze Age stone circles at Stanton Drew in Somerset, England. Reported to be “Britain’s greatest neolithic temple”, the writer expressed the opinion that the dsicvoery is sure to spark renewed interest in the original purpose behind the building of “… such enigmatic relics”. He then went to list some of the ideas and explanations that have surfaced over many decades in answer to this question of original usage:
“Eclipse predictors, Druid meeting places, agrarian temples, UFO landing sites: over the years all manner of ideas have been put forward to explain Britain’s henges.”
The Great Circle of Stanton Drew is located just south of Bristol, and the ancient mysteries and legends regarding the stones is well known locally, where they are traditionally believed to have been “the guests at a wedding party who were turned to stone”. Three stones in the beer garden of the Druid’s Arms at Stanton Drew are said by locals to have been the bride, bridegroom and best man, and one of them stands over 12 feet tall.
Considered to be the third most important prehistoric monument in Wessex after Stonehenge and Avebury, the legend of the wedding party was first recorded in 1664 by the antiquary John Aubrey. According to Aubrey, the fiddler went home before midnight in order to avoid playing on the Sabbath, and the bride announced that she would “go to hell for another fiddler”. Another fiddler appeared and played until dawn, when he revealed himself as the Devil and truned the wedding party to stone.
Such stories are common in megalithic folklore, but increasingly over the last few decades an astronomical interpretation has been favoured by many in the field of prehistory, as evidence of the pre-occupation with events in the ancient skies is resulting from a recent round of inter-dsicplinary approaches to our distant past. Mathews continues:
“Although the site of the nine-ringed wood henge – which lies under the later Bronze Age ring of stones – has yet to be fully explored, one feature has already become apparent: a gap in an outer ditch in the direction of midsummer sunrise.
Clearly, this is good news for all those whose theories link the henges to the summer solstice. But the precise location of the gap may prove to be especially important for perhaps the most dramatic theory yet put forward for the henges: that they formed an early-warning system for cosmic impacts.”
Such suggestions would have been dismissed out-of-hand by both archaeologists and other main-stream scientists until quite recently, but following the fragmentation of the Comet Shoemaker/Levi 9, and the subsequent bombarding of Jupiter by the debris just three years ago in July 1994, there has been a growing realisation that our own planet Earth has also been the subject of devastating cosmic impacts in the not too distant past.
Dates that occur in the dendrochronology (tree-ring) record suggest that many of the observed ‘narrowest ring events’ caused by periods of poor annual growth coincide with the collapse of many early civilisations during the Bronze Age, and the Sunday Telegraph writer interviewed Dr Duncan Steel, a leading advocate of the theory that these climatic downturns are likely caused by bombardments of cometary debris. This debris, espeiclly sub-micron dust which can ‘dust-load’ the upper atmosphere, is believed to have pre-occupied ancient peoples, and Mathews commented that:
“Indeed this new role for the henges seems to fit in well with a broad theory about cosmic impacts advocated by a number of British astronomers. This suggests that around 20,000 years ago a giant comet entered the solar system and began disintegrating, leaving a debris-strewn orbit into which the Earth periodically blunders.
Most of the time, the only visible sign of our passage through this debris is a slight increase in the number of ‘shooting stars’ emerging from the constellation Tauris in June and November. But every so often, the Earth runs into a much denser part of the debris – triggering an apocalyptic storm of impacts and devastation.”
Talking to Dr Steel of Spaceguard Australia, whose analysis of the bi-annual Taurid meteor showers suggests they originated in the break-up of a large fragment of a comet sometime around 6,000 years ago, Mathews commented that this was around the same time that neolithic structures like Stonehenge began to appear. Did Dr Steel believe this to be just a coincidence? He most certainly did not, and argues that the henges were built by people who lived in costant fear of annihalation by the debris impacting the Earth, and so devised these early-warning systems to protect themselves by observation of the periodic returns of these meteor storms:
“To do it, they came up with a series of constructions which tracked the trail of comet fragments across the sky, and showed when the Earth was about to pass across it. Detailed calculations by Dr Steel show that around 3,500 BC this trail would have risen a few degrees north of due east. This is the orientation of the Great Cursus, a mysterious flat ‘runway’ that lies a mile north of Stonehenge which was built around this time.
When a storm of meteors appeared out of the part of the sky at the end of the Great Cursus, the Bronze Age inhabitants would have known the Earth was passing through the densest part of the comet debris – and that it was time to take cover.”
The article went on to explain that by about 3,100 BC the trail of cometary debris would have risen in the north-east, slightly to the north of the Sun in early June, which is precisely the orientation and date of the earliest constructions at Stonehenge -the ditch and bank of the henge itself. And the same goes for the new discovery at Stanton Drew, which may yet turn out to be not so much an ancient temple for observing the midsummer sunrise, but part of a network of ancient sites for meteor storm prediction:
“So how does one explain the famous link between the henges and the summer solstice? Dr Steel believes this is something of a red herring, an accidental coincidence between the point of the rising mid-summer sun 5,000 odd years ago and the comet debris trail as it cuts across the Earth’s orbit. What makes Dr Steels’s expanation scientifically more interesting than most of its rivals is that it leads to a prediction. The newly found Stanton Drew wooden circles have an opening towards the north-east, similar to that of the first Stonehenge construction.
If Stanton Drew were also a part of an impact early-warning system, the location of its opening implies that it must date from around 3,100 BC – when it would have been pointing in the right direrction to observe the meteors.”
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