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Fwd: Ancient complex discovered near Stonehenge

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  • PJ
    Sorry for any re-posts. I thought this was interesting and that others may want to read it. This story was sent to you by: Peter Butler ... Ancient complex
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 30, 2007
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      Sorry for any re-posts. I thought this was interesting and that
      others may want to read it.


      This story was sent to you by: Peter Butler

      --------------------
      Ancient complex discovered near Stonehenge
      --------------------

      Ancient complex discovered near Stonehenge
      By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer
      3:02 PM PST, January 30, 2007



      Photo Gallery
      New DiscoveryArcheologists working near Stonehenge in England have
      discovered an ancient religious complex containing a treasure trove
      of artifacts that may finally illuminate the lives and religious
      practices of the people who built the mysterious monument 4,600 years
      ago, British archeologists said Tuesday.

      The circle of massive stone blocks on England's Salisbury Plain,
      southwest of London, is one of the best known archeological sites in
      the world, but researchers know surprisingly little about the people
      who built it and who lived in the region.

      The new finds, reported at a teleconference organized by the National
      Geographic Society, vastly increase our knowledge of these early
      Britons, said archeologist Mary Ann Owoc, of Mercyhurst College in
      Erie, Penn., who was not involved in the research.

      "To see the everyday lives of these people, to see people living in
      their houses, is filling in really important gaps in the record," she
      said. "We had some evidence, but this is so much richer."

      The discoveries are also destined to change the view of how the
      ancient people used the site. Stonehenge is typically thought of as a
      cemetery and an astronomical observatory that was the site of pagan
      celebrations at the summer solstice.

      The new finds at Durrington Walls, two miles northeast of the stone
      circle, indicate that the entire region was a large religious complex
      where the early Britons gathered in midwinter for raucous feasts and
      solemn ceremonies before sending their deceased on a voyage to the
      afterlife.

      While Stonehenge was a monument to the dead, the village at
      Durrington Walls was "very much a place of the living," said
      archeologist Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University, who led the
      team along with archeologist Julian Thomas of Manchester University.

      Archeologists already knew there was a henge — a circular banked
      enclosure with an internal ditch — at Durrington Walls, but the wide
      excavations carried out in 2006 throw it in a completely new light.

      "Such intensive sub-surface research has never been attempted on this
      scale before" near Stonehenge, said archeologist Ruth Tringham of UC
      Berkeley.

      The henge, about 1,400 feet in diameter, enclosed a series of
      concentric rings of huge timber posts. The team now knows that the
      posts mimicked Stonehenge in all particulars save one — its
      orientation.

      Stonehenge is aligned with sunrise at the summer solstice and sunset
      at the winter solstice. The henge at Durrington Walls is the exact
      opposite, aligned with sunrise at the winter solstice and sunset at
      the summer solstice.

      The evidence from the houses indicates that there was a massive mid-
      winter celebration marking the solstice to complement the summer
      celebration at Stonehenge.

      The team excavated eight houses at the site and magnetic anomalies
      indicate that there are at least 25 more nearby, Pearson said. "My
      guess is that there are many more than that," he said. In fact, the
      entire valley appears to have been densely populated, he said.

      The relatively flimsy wattle and daub walls of the houses are long
      gone. What remains are the densely packed clay floors. "These are the
      first ones we have found with intact clay floors from this period,"
      Pearson said.

      "The houses are virtually square, no bigger than the average sitting
      room — about 14 feet by 14 feet," he said.

      They feature a central fireplace, an oval hearth sunk into the floor.
      Slight indentations around the walls mark the location of timber
      fittings for box beds and a dresser that stood opposite the door.

      The houses are virtually identical, he said, to a few houses
      previously discovered at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands off the
      northern tip of Scotland. Those houses, from the same period, were
      constructed of stone because the islands had been deforested.

      Durrington Walls "is either the richest site or the filthiest that we
      have ever found for this period," Pearson said. "It's absolutely
      stuffed full of trash or rubbish: broken pots, chips, flints, burned
      stones used for cooking and animal bones. Many were thrown away half
      eaten, a sign of conspicuous consumption. This is an enormous
      feasting assemblage. People were here to have a really good time."

      Significantly, there was no evidence for the processing of grain or
      baking it and little evidence of crafts. "This was not a full-time,
      year-round community, but one for specialized activities."

      Owoc noted that people during this period tended to move from place
      to place as the seasons changed. It was not until the period 1700 BC
      to 1200 BC that they began to settle down in walled towns.

      Teeth from pigs found at the site indicated that the animals were
      about 9-months-old when they were slaughtered. Assuming the animals
      were farrowed in the spring, that would place the celebration near
      the winter solstice. Arrowheads embedded in the pigs suggested that
      there were archery and other competitions before the feast.

      Farther out toward the rims of the henge on a terrace overlooking it,
      the team found more buildings. These were the same size as the
      others, but were not as closely packed and each was surrounded by its
      own bank and ditch. Most important, they were swept clean.

      "These may have been special people, perhaps chiefs, living in
      seclusion," Thomas said. Or maybe the cleanliness suggests that these
      were not houses at all, but shrines or cult centers, he said. "The
      contrast is really fascinating."

      As the timber posts in the henge rotted away, he added, people dug
      out the holes and placed deposits of animal bones, pottery and stone
      tools. "They were creating an architecture of memory, a commemoration
      of what had been there. This was clearly a place of enormous
      importance that was remembered over a long period of time."

      Finally, the team unearthed a broad roadway or avenue that led from
      the settlement to the Avon River. The avenue was 90 feet wide and 510
      feet long and virtually identical to an avenue at Stonehenge, except
      for the length. At the river, however, there was a near-vertical drop
      of about 12 feet.

      "This is some kind of ceremonial roadway, and we know many people
      used it because it was flattened by the trampling of many feet,"
      Thomas said.

      He speculated that after the feasting, the gathered crowd would
      proceed down the avenue and drop the bodies of the deceased, or their
      ashes, into the river. Especially important people were cremated and
      their remains taken down the river and buried at Stonehenge. At least
      250 burials are known to have occurred there.

      That religious interpretation "is more speculative, but pretty
      interesting," said archeologist Curtis N. Runnels of Boston
      University, editor of the Journal of Field Archaeology. "It will
      create quite a bit of discussion in the field."

      The research was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the
      Arts & Humanities Research Council, English Heritage and Wessex
      Archaeology.


      thomas.maugh@...
    • Bethany
      Good heavens, they ve found the Cooper s Lake Campground of the ancient world. ...
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 31, 2007
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        Good heavens, they've found the Cooper's Lake Campground of the ancient world.


        > --------------------
        > Ancient complex discovered near Stonehenge
        > --------------------
        >
        <snip>
        > Durrington Walls "is either the richest site or the filthiest that we
        > have ever found for this period," Pearson said. "It's absolutely
        > stuffed full of trash or rubbish: broken pots, chips, flints, burned
        > stones used for cooking and animal bones. Many were thrown away half
        > eaten, a sign of conspicuous consumption. This is an enormous
        > feasting assemblage. People were here to have a really good time."
        >
        > Significantly, there was no evidence for the processing of grain or
        > baking it and little evidence of crafts. "This was not a full-time,
        > year-round community, but one for specialized activities."
        >
      • Carowyn Silveroak
        Pennsic was kinda small in 2600 BCE....only 8 huts?! Sheesh!! -Carowyn, snickering & ducking & gimping away (P.S. I m back on-line! If you ve sent me an
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 1, 2007
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          Pennsic was kinda small in 2600 BCE....only 8 huts?! Sheesh!!

          -Carowyn, snickering & ducking & gimping away

          (P.S. I'm back on-line! If you've sent me an email in the last 2 weeks,
          I'll get to it.....*wades in with a bucket & shovel*....but it means
          we're fully moved into the new place, mwa ha haaaa!!)



          > Good heavens, they've found the Cooper's Lake Campground of the
          > ancient world.
          >
          > > --------------------
          > > Ancient complex discovered near Stonehenge
          > > --------------------
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