Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Stone Age

Last weekend we visited Stonehenge. The sun was lurking behind the clouds which created a more atmospheric experience. 
The large Heelstone
On the Wiltshire plains surrounding Stonehenge, ancient Barrows can be seen in the far distance (burial mounds).
courtesy Andrew Dunn via wikipedia
Neolithic man has left his mark all across the UK from the far south in Cornwall to the distant isles in northern Scotland. We live with our ancestors brooding presence, great megalith solitary stones, many weighing as much as 20 - 30 tons and much more.
courtesy Canadian Girl Scout via wikipedia
Standing stone from the Ring of Brodgar in Stenness, Orkney
Others are in groups, often in circular, oval, henge or horseshoe formation.
Geologists and Archaeologists now know that the stones at Stonehenge came from about 240 miles away in Pembrokeshire, Wales, to Wiltshire. How did they travel such a great distance 5000 years ago? We would be hard pressed to move such enormous stones today with all of our modern equipment. When the stones arrived, just to make things even more complex, they were lifted up on top of each other. There are many theories to explain them, but do we really know? It is thought these circles were for ancient religious ceremonies, sometimes containing burial chambers. Stonehenge is aligned northeast–southwest, and it has been suggested that particular significance was placed by its builders on the solstice and equinox points, so for example, on a midsummers  morning, the sun rose close to the Heelstone, and the sun's first rays went directly into the center of the monument between the horseshoe arrangement. It is unlikely that such an alignment is merely accidental. 
For 5000 years these stones have borne silent witness to storms, tempests, floods, war, and man's inhumanity to man.
Let us also not forget the many prehistoric mounds, and in particular Silbury Hill. At 40 metres (131ft) high it is the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe and one of the largest in the world; it is similar in size to some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids at Giza. Its original purpose is still highly debated; it is made of chalk and it is estimated that it took 18 million man-hours, or 500 men working for 15 years to make.
Silbury Hill courtesy Greg O'Beorme via wikipedia
Stonehenge was erected a few years after the Great Pyramids in Egypt, but recently a new complex has been found in Orkney that pre-dates Stonehenge and the Pyramids by 750 years, and it is altering our understanding of our ancestors.
Experts believe the site known as the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney was used for spiritual ceremonies. It had a 10ft wall surrounding a site which was the size of five football pitches. About 100 buildings made up the complex. They had thick stone walls, decorated with carvings and paintings and the roofs were made of stone tiles.
The discovery has turned our understanding of Neolithic man on its head, and it will take a long time to fully understand this new site.
Excavation at Ness of Brodgar
courtesy genevieveromier via wikipedia


  1. Your pictures make me want to time travel, not stay, mind you, just go back in time to watch, ask, and learn.

    1. Ah, wouldn't it be wonderful to be a fly on the wall and then pop back again when we knew all of the answers!

  2. I feel a visit to Orkney coming on. How can I leave that site unvisited? Fabulous post, Rosemary on one of my favourite areas. Prehistory is such a vast business to explore.

    1. We are fortunate Kate that we have so much Prehistory on our doorsteps. It provokes a strong stimulus to find out more. Orkney is definitely one for the visits list.
      Talking of visits I hope all is going well with the Ofsted inspection.

  3. Stonehedge is ( of course) a dream destination. It has always amazed me. How did they do ti? Why? and finally when? `cause as you mention the dates change all the time. it so much in this world we don`t know, so much we probably never find out. we can only speculate...

    1. Dear Demie - I think we are getting closer to understanding much more than we used to. Especially now that we have advanced Geophysical Instruments to help us and DNA skills to assist with the Anthropological side.

  4. I've have always wanted to visit Stonehenge because I find its mystery very romantic. Ness of Brodgar is all the more exciting, since I'm sure many more questions and answers will come from it. Who knows, perhaps Ness of Brodgar will be a key to the riddles of Stonehenge.

    1. Stonehenge is both a magical and a mysterious place to visit. Fortunately not many people were there last weekend. Too many people detracts from the atmosphere.
      Yes, I am sure you are right, Ness of Brodgar, will eventually give us more answers to the questions.

  5. It is such a mysterious place... I was there last year and even in the rain it has an incredible atmosphere.

    1. You are right Nat - your imagination works overtime when you are wandering round thinking about what might have been happening there all those thousands of years ago.

  6. A mysterious place, that i must one day visit.
    I have learnt some things i didnt know about Stonehenge.
    I will be taking a look at the Ness of Brodgar.. what an increbible dig.
    There is still so much we dont know.
    Thank you Rosmary.
    I enjoyed reading this blog.

    1. Dear Val - it is such a pleasure to know that you enjoyed reading this post, and that you are going to investigate more about Ness of Brodgar. It is somewhere that I would definitely like to visit.

  7. I once visited Stonehenge
    must be about 20-25 years ago
    while traveling around South-England on my own
    Stonehenge was one of the most
    mysterious places
    thank you for reminding!

    1. The mystery surrounding Stonehenge has us all captivated. Pleased that this post reminded you of your visit so many years ago.

  8. I've always been fascinated by Stonehenge, but I never had the chance to visit the place.
    Great post,loved it!
    Thanks for sharing.
    I'm so glad you'll look at the statue again when you're visiting Stavanger.
    Wish you a wonderful weekend.
    Greetings Mette

    1. Dear Mette - That was my first visit to Stonehenge. It has a very powerful atmosphere when you visit, particularly if you visit out of season - the less people present, the better.

  9. I have always been intrigued with the actuality that there are huge stone monuments around the world. There are pyramids in Asia, South America, Mexico, and Egypt. Here in the southern US there are large burial mounds like you have pictured. Many parts of the world have stone designs on the ground that cover many miles and can only be appreciated fully from the air. The Ancients knew about seasons and the sun effects on the earth in the western US and built monuments as you described to mark the passages of yearly events. It is like these different cultures were told of the same things to do but were given different although similar blueprints to come to the same results.

    It is truly amazing.

    Wonderful post, as usual, and about a place I would love to visit.

    Yours, Joe

    1. Dear Joe - human endeavour is an amazing thing. The achievements of these ancient societies is difficult to comprehend. I do not know whether you have ever visited any of these monuments from around the world, but they all have the power to overwhelm you with their monumental size, and the fact that they were made without any of the aids we take for granted today.
      So pleased that you enjoyed the post. Hopefully one day you will make a visit to Stonehenge.


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