Broch, Crannog and Hillfort

Thursday, June 30, 2016





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adze Axe-like wood-working tool, but with blade at right-angles to the handle, used with pick-like motion.
Awl A pointed tool of flint, bone or bronze, used for making holes in skins, etc.
Barrow An earthen burial mound, either circular or rectangular in plan.
Burin Engraving or piercing tool, used with rotary action.
Berm Flat platform separating a mound or bank from a quarry ditch.
Cairn A heap of stones, varying in size, usually covering a burial.
Carinated A shoulder or sharp change in direction in the profile of a pot.
Chape Decorative terminal of a sword scabbard.
Cist Small rectangular pit lined with stone slabs and covered with a capstone; often a grave.
Corbelling Roofing method in which successive layers of stone rise one above the other and overlap inwards until they meet.
Cursus Long, narrow parallel-sided enclosure of the neolithic period.
Dolerite Basaltic type rock used for making axes, also in the construction of Stonehenge.
Dysse Long megalithic burial mound found in Denmark.
Gabbroic clay Clay containing crystals of the igneous rock gabbro from the Lizard peninsula.
Graver Engraving tool made from pointed, longitudinal flake, used with a straight action.
Hafted axe Axe with a wooden handle.
Halberd Bronze Age dagger at right angles to a wooden handle with metal rivets.
Henge Later neolithic circular enclosure surrounded by a bank and internal ditch, broken by one or more entrances.
Hunebeden Long megalithic burial mound found in the Netherlands.
Inhumation An unburnt human burial.
Machair Gaelic word describing lush meadowland.
Mattock Heads Pick-like tool with chisel shaped blade.
Megalithic Constructed of large stones, e.g. Stonehenge.
Midden Rubbish dump, often composed of discarded shells, bones or charcoal.
Quern Two stones used for grinding corn, either by rubbing backwards and forwards, or revolving one upon another
Revetment A facing of timber, stone or turf intended to stop the sides of a bank or mound collapsing.
Scalene triangle Unequal sided microlith, probably used as an arrow tip.
Sherds Fragments of broken pottery.
Skeuomorph An imitation.
Spelt A species of wheat: triticum spelta.
Tanged Projection at base of dagger or arrowhead used to fasten it to a handle.
Temenos Spacious enclosure of ‘consecrated’ land, attached to a temple.
Trepanation A form of brain surgery practised in the Bronze Age.

The Legend of the Stone Circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters

Monday, January 25, 2016

Long Meg and Her Daughers

Despite their pervasiveness throughout the world, with thousands scattered across Britain and Europe alone, stone circles never cease to arouse awe and intrigue in those who gaze upon them. Perhaps it is the realization of the sheer effort that would have gone into their assembly, or the fact that, despite centuries of research, we are really no closer to unraveling their mysteries. Long Meg and Her Daughters, as it is curiously named, is one such stone circle, situated within a picturesque landscape in Cumbria, England, and steeped in centuries of folklore and legend.
While there are more than 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles, 18th century Cumbrian poet  William Wordsworth  wrote that after Stonehenge, Long Meg and Her Daughters “is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains.” His admiration for the stone circle is clearly expressed in his poem, “The Monument Commonly Called Long Meg and Her Daughters,” 1833:
A weight of awe, not easy to be borne,
Fell suddenly upon my spirit, cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past
When first I saw that family forlorn..
Speak Thou, whose massy strength and stature scorn
The power of years—pre-eminent, and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast.
Speak Giant-mother!
While Wordsworth may have been somewhat biased by his love for his native land of Cumbria, there is no doubt that the stone circle is something special. Long Meg and Her Daughters is the second largest stone circle in England, and the sixth biggest example known in Europe, and despite the fact that at least 3,500 years have passed since its construction, it has survived the passage of time extraordinarily well.
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The Sacred Prehistoric Neolithic Complex of the Thornborough Henges

Drawing of the Thornborough Henges and cursus.

The Thornborough Henges are considered one of the most important ancient sites in Britain.  Consisting of a  triple henge alignment, it is a complex of three circular mounds with ditches and banks that was once part of a larger Neolithic landscape in use for over a thousand years. Historians believe this man-made, prehistoric structure had an astronomical significance and was purposely built to mirror the stars of Orion. Often called the ‘Stonehenge of the North,’ it is the largest ritual religious site on the British Isles.

Description of the Thornborough Henges

The Thornborough Henges are located near the village of Thornborough, in North Yorkshire, England and are thought to be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.. 
They are part of an area known as the Vale of Mowbray which is a location known for its concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. There are no less than six giant henges, all almost identical in size and design, located within 10km (6.2 miles) of one other.
The design of the henges sets Thornborough apart from later Neolithic complexes. It is the world's only triple henge complex and the three henges follow the same off-centre alignment seen at other triple-circles across England.
The length of the entire henge is approximately a mile (1.6km) long with two large entrances situated directly opposite one other.
All three of the Thornborough Henges have two entrances which are aligned, like the henge alignment itself, Northwest to Southeast, and laid out at approximately intervals, 550m (601 yards) apart.  All are of similar size and shape, have a diameter between 240 and 275 meters (787-902 ft), and stand some 3 meters (9 ft) in height. 
The Northern henge is currently overgrown but is perhaps the best preserved of the three.  Covered by a small plantation of trees, it has a high bank with deep ditches and two entrances.  The southernmost of the three mounds had been damaged but is still recognizable as a henge structure.

The Cursus Monument

The banks of the central henge have also been damaged with little trace of the interior ditch left. The central henge lies on top of an earlier, Neolithic cursus monument. Cursus are large parallel banks that have been marked using stones or ditches and are among the oldest monumental structures of the British Isles.
The fact that Thornborough was built over pre-existing Cursus suggests that it was an important ritual site to the Neolithic residents who lived there.
Some think that Thornborough may have been a pilgrimage centre where people sought spiritual salvation and that it served an economic, social as well as an astronomical purpose. 
While it is unknown what kind of rituals were performed at Thornborough, the banks of the henges were coated in a brilliant white layer of gypsum or gypsum crystal (according to archaeological excavations that have been done at the central henge), which would have made the site visible for miles. Today the cursus are no longer visible above ground due to the continuous quarrying around the site.

Thornborough's Alignment with Orion

The Thornborough Henges are unusual in that the structure is in alignment with a well known constellation in the night sky. The lines joining the henges do not form a straight line but instead were intentionally shaped like a “dog leg” to reflect the stars of Orion’s belt. 
This same astronomical alignment can be found at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the pyramids of Xian, and also at the sites of the Hopi tribe in Arizona.
It is thought that the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed between 4000 and 3000 BC and the BBC makes note of the fact that Thornborough " may have been the first monument in the world aligned to Orion, predating the pyramids by 1,000 years. ” 
The structure was aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion which also meant that the eastern end aligned towards the midsummer solstice.
The southern entrances framed the rising of the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, and was also aligned on the midwinter solstice.

Breakthrough for mining research in the Bronze Age

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mining already took place 3,500 years ago in the Austrian region of Montafon.

FRANKFURT/BARTHOLOMÄBERG. Mining in the Alps dates back much further than previously thought - in the Austrian region of Montafon since the Bronze Age. Thanks to C14 dating, a group of researchers from Goethe University in Frankfurt led by Professor Rüdiger Krause of the Institute of Archaeological Sciences was able to detect in the course of prospecting in the Bartholomäberg region at a height of 1450 metres ancient traces of mining from the middle Bronze Age. The C14 method, also known as the radiocarbon method, makes a relatively precise age classification possible, for example of charcoal, on the basis of decreasing radioactivity in carbonaceous material.

It was in this way that the researchers also discovered that 2500 years later - towards the end of the Early Middle Ages - mining evidently even resumed there, since there are clear traces in the terrain from this period too. That means that this is one of the oldest mining areas provable to date in a mountainous region of Europe. The discovery, which was made possible through funding from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)), equates according to Professor Krause to "a small sensation, since the academic world had so far not considered that Bronze Age mining in the Montafon mining area could be possible." There are only very few places with evidence of Alpine mining in the early and late Middle Ages either. Professor Krause now sees an exciting link, for instance, to the historically documented nine iron-smelting furnaces in Drusengau - the region around Bludenz, Klostertal and Montafon - which are mentioned in the Imperial Register of Chur (Churer Reichsurbar) of the year 843.

Professor Krause and his team, which includes archaeobotanists and a large number of students from Goethe University, have been researching for 15 years in the Montafon region, which lies in the Central Alps in the south of the Austrian federal state of Vorarlberg. The objective is to explore early settlement history and early mining in this unique inner-Alpine "settlement chamber" with Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements and Bronze Age castle buildings with stone walls up to 3 metres thick.

Excavations in the newly discovered mining area are due to commence next summer. An exciting project, as the only other evidence of comparably ancient mining activity is in the Eastern Alps, for example in the famous Mitterberg mining area, where Bronze Age miners dug galleries as far down as 200 metres and developed mining on the most intensive scale in this period in the Alps. "What significance our new site in Montafon had in the context of Bronze Age copper supply in the Alps will be seen when we examine it further", says Professor Krause.

For archaeological research in Frankfurt, Montafon - with its special colonization history with Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements - is an important priority. After all, it is regarded as a model region for an interdisciplinary approach where archaeobotany, soil science and metal analysis, in particular the analysis of heavy metals in the ground as a relict of ancient mining, are very important sources of information. Work focuses on questions about what could have originally induced people to settle in this Alpine valley landscape. From what point in time onwards was their self-sufficient economy - gathering as well as livestock, arable and pasture farming - supplemented by mining activity? Thanks to the researchers in Frankfurt it is now known that this inner-Alpine valley landscape has been inhabited on a continuous basis since about 2000 B.C. and that Montafon can today look back on 4000 years of settlement history.

The scientific "breakthroughs" in the former mining area are now also visible in book form: On the 9th of November, the first monograph on the archaeology and early history of mining in Montafon will be presented in Bartholomäberg (Montafon): A "colourful" book richly illustrated with photographs and diagrams, which wants to familiarize the reader and observer in short and easily comprehensible words and in a lively way with the oldest history of an Alpine valley landscape using the example of Montafon as well as with the different types of exploration. Martin Vallaster, Mayor of the Municipality of Bartholomäberg, is noticeably impressed: "We are all very proud of this book, which is a product of lasting value for relaying the research results and their wide variety of new findings. Allow yourself when reading this book to be transported into the world of our ancestors and experience our exciting and unique settlement history".


Book details:
Rüdiger Krause, Archäologie im Gebirge. Montafoner Zeitmaschine. Frühe Besiedlungsgeschichte und Bergbau im Montafon, Vorarlberg (Österreich). With contributions by Lisa Bringemeier, Rudolf Klopfer, Astrid Röpke, Astrid Stobbe, Franziska Würfel. 150 pages, 213 colour and large-format images, 23 x 23 cm, hard cover, € 19,80 Bartholomäberg/Bonn 2015 (ISBN 978-3-7749-3981-0), Distribution: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn (Germany),
Information: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Krause, Faculty of Linguistics, Culture and Arts, Westend Campus, Tel.: ++49(0)160-824 7 824, Email:


Stonehenge archaeologists discover 'superhenge' neolithic site buried underground

A computerised interpretation of what the 'superhenge' site is believed to have looked like before being buried.

Archaeologists say they have found the buried remains of a mysterious prehistoric monument close to Britain's famous Stonehenge heritage site.

Up to 90 standing stones, some originally measuring 4.5 metres and dating back some 4,500 years, may have been buried for millennia under a bank of earth, they said.

The discovery was made at Durrington Walls — a so-called "superhenge" located less than three kilometres from Stonehenge — thanks to high-tech sensors.

The site may have been used in neolithic times for rituals or as some kind of arena.

"Durrington Walls is an immense monument and up until this point we thought it was merely a large bank and ditched enclosure, but underneath that massive monument is another monument," Vincent Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, told the BBC.

The discovery was made by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and the Vienna-based Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

The newly discovered stones, which have yet to be excavated, are thought to have been toppled over, with the bank of the later Durrington Walls henge built over them.

The monument, which lies in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, is one of the largest known henges — a circle of stone or wooden uprights — ever found.

It measures 500 metres across and more than 1.5 kilometres in circumference.

Surrounded by a 17.6-metre-wide ditch and a bank around 1 metre high, the site has long mystified archaeologists as one side is straight and the other curved.

Now ground penetrating radar has revealed that the straight edge in fact sits on top of a "C-shaped" monument, which may have been used as a site for rituals or an arena for gatherings, researchers said.

Project initiator Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the LBI ArchPro, described the discovery as a "very important and fantastic finding" and said the monument could originally have comprised up to 200 stones.

"The missing stones might be the stone material which was used later on to build Stonehenge," he explained, adding that those left in place were probably broken during attempts to move them.

Although none of the stones have yet been excavated, archaeologists believe they may be locally sourced stones similar to a single standing stone, known as "The Cuckoo Stone", in an adjacent field.
The earthwork enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after Stonehenge, a ring of standing stones believed to have been erected between 3,000 and 2,000 BCE.

Archeologists said the new stone row could date back to the same period, or even earlier.

"This discovery of a major new stone monument, which has been preserved to a remarkable extent, has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting," Professor Gaffney said.

"Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier."

Nick Snashall, a National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge site, said the findings provided "tantalising evidence" of what lies beneath Durrington Walls.

"The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe, adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story," he said.

Scandinavia - Dolmens and Passage Graves

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An artist's reconstruction of Kong Svends Høj (drawing by Henrik Vester Jorgensen).

Kong Svends Høj, Denmark Kong Svends mound, on the island of Lolland in southern Denmark, is one of the most famous passage graves in Denmark, both because of its size and its history of investigation. The first recorded diggings at the mound were done in 1780 by a Danish prime minister and a pastor’s son who later became bishop of Copenhagen and one of the founders of the National Museum. The monument has since undergone two episodes of restoration in order to remove vegetation and reset the position of the standing stones.

Kong Svends Høj is a remarkable example of a very large megalithic tomb from the Middle Neolithic (Dehn et al. 1995). The 11 m (36’).long passage grave is enclosed in a large, rectangular, house-shaped mound surrounded by high curbstones. The tallest of these is 4 m (13’). The passage grave was constructed ca. 3200 BC by craftsmen capable of splitting the large standing stones inside the chamber. These massive split boulders are referred to as ‘twin stones.’ Kong Svends Hoj contains at least 10 twins supporting the massive capstones of the tomb. The passage entrance to the tomb was not found until the first restoration in 1942, located on the side rather than in the normal eastern location. The artist’s reconstruction below shows this entrance and a wicker fence enclosing the entire structure and its immediate surroundings.

Dolmens usually contain a small stone-lined chamber for burial covered by three or more standing boulders supporting a massive capstone. These huge granite boulders weighed many tons and require an enormous amount of labor for construction. The stone structure was often covered by a round or rectangular mound, circumscribed by a row of large stones. Like the simple inhumation graves, the early dolmens were apparently originally intended for a single funeral (Skaarup 1985). The dead were placed in a similar position and given the same equipment as in the inhumation graves. Only later in the Neolithic were larger dolmens and then passage graves built as collective tombs for tens or hundreds of individuals. More elaborate offerings, involving many pottery vessels, were made at the entrances of the tombs. Similar offerings of a few pots were made at the east end of the long barrows at the beginning of the Neolithic.

Passage graves are another form of megalithic tomb from the Neolithic. A passage grave is a larger megalithic tomb, entered via a long, low, narrow passage that opens into a larger chamber, generally near the center of the covering mound. The walls and roof of the construction were made with huge stones (megaliths). These larger megalithic tombs contain many burials, sometimes hundreds. The burial place may have been intended for most or all the members of a related group of farmsteads or hamlets or as a communal tomb for many generations of the same family or community. These tombs must have symbolized the collective and cooperative nature of the group, both in life in the construction effort and in death in the shared space. The erection of these monuments ended everywhere around 3000 BC.

There are thousands of these megalithic tombs still standing today across southern Scandinavia, western Sweden, and northern Germany. The megalithic tombs are sometimes found in lines or rows across the landscape and were probably built along Neolithic trails or roadways. Wheel tracks have been found beneath at least one of these monuments. The tracks found at the TRB monument of Flintbek LA3 in Schleswig-Holstein have been dated to 3400 BC (Mischka 2010), perhaps the oldest evidence of the wagons anywhere in the world (Bakker et al. 1999). However, the tracks might also have come from a sledge used in the construction of the tomb.

As part of the communal burial phenomenon that appeared ca. 3250 BC, burial in the megalithic tombs apparently became the second step in the funerary process. The skeletons found in the megaliths are usually incomplete, missing smaller bones or skulls or other parts, and disarticulated, i. e., not in correct anatomical order. Part of the burial ritual may have involved lengthy ceremonies and treatment of the bodies of the deceased prior to final disposition in the tombs. Some of this treatment of the deceased may have taken place at the causewayed enclosures described in the next segment.

Parker Pearson (2012) has characterized Durrington Walls and Stonehenge in the Salisbury Plain in Wessex, England, as way stations for the passage of the dead. Durrington Walls involved the passage from life to death, involving celebration and perhaps preparation of the dead for their journey. Nearby Stonehenge, a short journey down the Avon River, was the home of the ancestors, a final resting place and cemetery. Perhaps a similar situation on a smaller scale is reflected in the relationship between the causewayed camps and megalithic tombs.

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