Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of many Neolithic monuments aligned on the sunrise or sunset at midwinter or midsummer, but it is certainly the most famous. This monument has been comprehensively explored by Dennis Price on his site Eternal Idol, and I just want to make a few observations about the Stonehenge area in the Iron Age. Dennis believes that Stonehenge is the “spherical temple” referred to by the Greek explored Pytheas, who sailed around Britain in the late 4th century BC, and that the “city” referred to by Pytheas is the Iron Age hillfort of Vespasian’s Camp at nearby Amesbury. Pytheas also says that “the moon, as viewed from this island, appears to be but little distance from the earth”, and on these grounds the archaeologist Aubrey Burl prefers to see the “spherical temple” as Callanish on the island of Lewis, northwest Scotland.. But since Pytheas’ observations were being repeated second- or third-hand three centuries later, anything is possible. Vespasian’s Camp is now private property and was landscaped in the 18th century, so we know little about the Iron Age hillfort, and probably never will. But Normanton Down  near Stonehenge, where the elite were buried in the Early Bronze Age, has an interesting story to tell. Between 1960 and 1962, excavators investigating what they thought was a pond barrow found a shaft 98 feet deep (Wilsford Shaft), which had been sunk in the Middle Bronze Age (1470-1290 BC). A range of deposits were recovered, the earliest being Bronze Age in date, comprising a shale ring, amber beads and bone pins, along with animal bone and organic materials, including wooden containers. During the Iron Age human and animal remains were deposited in the shaft. The human bone found in Wilsford Shaft represents a minimum of five individuals (two infants, one juvenile and two adults); both adults were tentatively identified as male. The lowest bones are two adult left femurs (thigh bones), found at 8ft 6in. Animal bone was also found nearby: a horse calcaneum (also called hock, the equivalent of the ankle bone in humans), was found at 7ft 8in, while a a horse cuboid/tibia (the cuboid is part of the hock, the tibia connect the stifle, or knee joint, to the hock) was found at 9ft 6in. Were all these offerings made to the ancestors buried on Normanton Down?

Normanton Down

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