Tag Archives: stonehenge

Stonehenge’s sun-disc revealed: Rare 4,500-year-old gold decoration found in grave near sacred site goes on display

  • The 4,500 year old thin disc of gold is decorated with a cross and circle
  • It is one of just six sun-discs to have been found in Britain and may have belonged to a chieftain of a tribe living in the area around Stonehenge 
  • The golden disc is one of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain
  •  It was found in a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire in 1947

One of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain, found just a few miles from Stonehenge, has gone on display to the public for the first time.

The gold sun-disc, which was forged around 4,500 years ago at around the same time the main circle of Stonehenge was erected, was discovered in the Bronze Age burial mound of a local chieftain.

Thought to represent the sun, the thin sheet of embossed gold features a cross at the centre surrounded by a circle. Each is decorated with dots that glint in the sunlight.

This sun-disk is made from a thin sheet of gold that has had the design of a cross and circle beaten into it. The indentations decorating each are thought to be intended to catch the sunlight. It is one of only six sun-disks to have been found in Britain and has now gone on display to the public for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum

This sun-disk is made from a thin sheet of gold that has had the design of a cross and circle beaten into it. The indentations decorating each are thought to be intended to catch the sunlight. It is one of only six sun-disks to have been found in Britain and has now gone on display to the public for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum

The disc, which is one of only six sun disc found in Britain, may have once formed part of a headdress or garment.

Experts believe the disc, which is around two inches (5cm) wide, may have been made with gold imported to England from Ireland, where there is evidence that gold was being mined at the time.

However, new research has raised the prospect that it could be made of Cornish gold as rich deposits in the area were being exported to Ireland and elsewhere at the time.

THE ORIGINS OF STONEHENGE

No one is exactly sure why – or how – Stonehenge was built more than 4,000 years ago.

Experts have suggested it was a temple, parliament and a graveyard.

Some people think the stones have healing powers, while others think they have musical properties when struck with a stone.

They could have acted as a giant musical instrument to call ancient people to the monument.

What is clear, is that the stones were aligned with phases of the sun.

People were buried there and skeletal evidence shows that people travelled hundreds of miles to visit Stonehenge – for whatever reason.

Experts think that the route was a busy one and that Stonehenge could be viewed differently from different positions.

It seems that instead of being a complete barrier, the Curcus acted as a gateway to guide visitors to the stone circle.

The mysterious sun-disc, which was discovered alongside the remains of a skeleton of an adult male at a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in 1947 , is now on public display for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice.

David Dawson, director of the Wiltshire Museum, said: ‘This is an incredibly important object as it was one of the earliest pieces of metal to appear in Britain.

‘Gold is precious to us, but to people at the time they had not seen metal at all and it would have been completely new and something far out of their experience.

‘We think it was owned by a local chieftain and was buried with him when he died. His family clearly valued it enough to put it into his grave so he could carry it with him to the afterlife.’

The discovery of the sun-disc in the grave at Monkton Farleigh has helped to shed light not only on the wealth of people living at the time but also their relationship with death.

Sun worship is thought to have been common in the early bronze age and the highly reflective golden metal disk would have had special significance in that culture.

Stonehenge has long been associated with the sun as many of the stones appear to be aligned with phases of the sun.

Thousands of people still descend on the ancient monument each year to watch the sun rise on the summer solstice.

At the time when the sun-disc found at Monkton Farleigh was made, the sarsen stones at Stonehenge had just been erected.

The golden disk was found in an early Bronze Age burial mound in Monkton Farleigh around 20 miles from the famous stone circle of Stonehenge. It is thought the disk was intended to represent the sun, while the stones at Stonehenge also appear to have been aligned to catch the position of the sun at different times of the year

The golden disk was found in an early Bronze Age burial mound in Monkton Farleigh around 20 miles from the famous stone circle of Stonehenge. It is thought the disk was intended to represent the sun, while the stones at Stonehenge also appear to have been aligned to catch the position of the sun at different times of the year

The sun-disk was found in a burial mound along with the remains of an early Bronze Age chieftain. A pottery beaker and flint arrowheads were also found in the grave. The drawing above is from a similar burial discovered from the same period. The body was placed in a fetal position to perhaps signify life after death

The sun-disk was found in a burial mound along with the remains of an early Bronze Age chieftain. A pottery beaker and flint arrowheads were also found in the grave. The drawing above is from a similar burial discovered from the same period. The body was placed in a fetal position to perhaps signify life after death.

The disc itself has two small holes that appear to have been used to attach it to a piece of clothing or headdress.

The skeleton was found buried with a pottery beaker, which may have been used to hold wine and flint arrowheads.

The rare sun-disk is just a couple of inches across and is thought to have been worn on a headdress or attached to clothing with holes in the middle

The rare sun-disk is just a couple of inches across and is thought to have been worn on a headdress or attached to clothing with holes in the middle

It points to burial practices that believed in life after death or perhaps even resurrection, and burying a relative with personal and valuable items would have allowed carry them with them.

Just six sun-discs have been found in Britain and appear to have been made by beating gold into thin shapes that were decorated with repoussé (hammered) motifs.

It was thought that gold created in the early Bronze Age arrived in Britain from Ireland where more sun-discs have been discovered.

However, a new scientific technique developed by archaeologists at the University of Southampton and University of Bristol has revealed that not all gold in Ireland came from the country.

While the gold in the north and west of Ireland appears to have been local, gold from the south of the country came from Cornwall. It suggests people living around 2,500BC had a rich trade in gold.

The researchers believe that the flow of gold from Cornwall to Ireland may be a sign that people in Britain attached little significance to the valuable metal.

Dr Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton who took part in the study, said: ‘The results of this study are a fascinating finding.

‘They show that there was no universal value of gold, at least until perhaps the first gold coins started to appear nearly two thousand years later.

‘Prehistoric economies were driven by factors more complex than the trade of commodities – belief systems clearly played a major role.’

Mr Dawson said he hoped the new techniques could help to unravel the origins of the Monkton Farleigh disc.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

George Dvorsky

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators working around Stonehenge have detected a trove of previously unknown burial mounds, chapels, shrines, pits — and most remarkable of all — a massive megalithic monument made up of more than 50 giant stones buried along a 1,082-foot-long c-shaped enclosure.

This news is unreal — and it’s resetting virtually everything we thought we knew about Stonehenge. Just a week after finding out that Stonehenge was once a complete circle, archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities, and from the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Vienna, have shattered the image of Stonehenge as a desolate and lonely place.

After four years of painstaking effort, and by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner, archaeologists have shown that Stonehenge was once a sprawling complex that extended for miles.

And then there’s the previously unknown “super henge,” a monument located just two miles from Stonehenge. Scans suggest that each buried stone is about three meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The stones are positioned horizontally, not vertically, but it’s conceivable that they originally stood upright like other standing stones. The archaeologists suspect they were brought to the site shortly before 2,500 BC.

The Independent reports:

The c-shaped enclosure – more than 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long – faced directly towards the River Avon. The monument was later converted from a c-shaped to a roughly circular enclosure, now known as Durrington Walls – Britain’s largest pre-historic henge, roughly 12 times the size of Stonehenge itself.

As a religious complex, it would almost certainly have had a deeply spiritual and ritual connection with the river. But precisely why is a complete mystery, although it is possible that that particular stretch of water was regarded as a deity.

As for the other henge-like Neolithic and Bronze Age religious shrines, they range between 10 and 30 meters ( 32 to 100 feet) in diameter. Scans also revealed around 20 large ritual pits, each up to five meters (16 feet) in diameter. More than a half dozen Bronze Age burial mounds were discovered, along with four Iron Age shrines or tombs, and a half dozen Bronze Age and Iron Age domestic or livestock enclosures.

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

Under one of the mounds, the investigators identified a 33 meter (108 feet)-long timber building dated at about 6,000 years old. It was likely used for ritual burials and related practices.

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

“[The building] has three rows of roof-bearing posts. It is around 300 square metres and slightly trapezoidal, which is interesting because in the same period on the continent, about 100 to 200 years earlier, we also find this type of trapezoidal building related to megaliths [giant stones],” noted Wolfgang Neubauer of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in a BBC article.

The monuments and structures were not all built at the same time, so the entire complex was not conceived or planned as a whole. Further analysis will reveal exactly how the site evolved through the ages.

A two-part BBC Two documentary titled “Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath” will be shown this coming Thursday evening and next Thursday. Many more details of the investigation’s new discoveries are expected to be revealed.

Sources: The Independent | BBC

All images via BBC.

Follow me on Twitter: @dvorsky

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

Stonehenge Discovery ‘Blows Lid Off’ Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument

Stonehenge Discovery ‘Blows Lid Off’ Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument

From who built it to what it was used for, Stonehenge is surrounded by many enduring mysteries — and researchers from the University of Buckingham in England now say they’ve solved one of them.

“For years people have been asking why is Stonehenge where it is, now at last, we have found the answers,” David Jacques, an archaeology research fellow at the university, said in a written statement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last October, Jacques led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain.

The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe.

Stonehenge from the air

“The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways,” Jacques said in the statement, referring to the assumption that those migrants drove Britain’s transition from a hunter-gatherer to a farming society in the 6th Century B.C. “It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments.”

The researchers say evidence suggests that before erecting Stonehenge, people living in the area set up gigantic timbers between 8820 and 6590 B.C. — a sort of wooden precursor to the stone monument. Jacques likened the area to a “Stonehenge Visitor’s Center,” where visitors from far and wide came to feast and tour the site with local guides.

“The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself,” he said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

Stonehenge Path Offers New Clues To Site’s Age-Old Secrets

Stonehenge Path Offers New Clues To Site’s Age-Old Secrets

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 09/14/2013 8:26 am EDT  |  Updated: 09/15/2013 12:25 pm EDT

 
Stonehenge Path
Modern researchers have puzzled for centuries over the striking stone construction known as Stonehenge. But now researchers have discovered new aspects of the site, including a processional road, that may eventually help unravel some of its mysteries.

There are many theories about why ancient peoples constructed the prehistoric megalithic monument, which is estimated to have been built between 3000 and 1520 B.C. Located outside Salisbury, England, Stonehenge is the focus of ongoing research projects coordinated by English Heritage, a cultural preservation agency.

One of those projects recently uncovered previously hidden sections of an ancient pathway that researchers believe led directly to the site from the Avon River in the nearby town of Amesbury.

Known as the Avenue, the pathway is believed to have been built sometime between 2600 and 2200 B.C., according to English Heritage. Over time, parts of the road were obscured, and a modern road called A344 was built across it, reports LiveScience. The new road has made it almost impossible for researchers to confirm the purpose of the Avenue, according to LiveScience.

In an effort to answer some of these questions, researchers carefully began removing the paved A344. While the banks of the original path had long since eroded away, archaeologists were excited to find traces of two parallel ditches that once ran on either side of the path. These ditches connected segments of the Avenue bisected by A344.

“And here we have it –- the missing piece in the jigsaw,” Heather Sebire, properties curator and archaeologist at English Heritage, said in an interview with BBC History Magazine. “It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for.”

While the purpose of the Avenue is not exactly clear, Sebire told LiveScience she believes it was involved in ancient processions to and from the site.

“It was constructed in 2300 BC so is a later addition to the stone circle, but people would have processed along it to the monument,” Sebire told BBC Magazine. “It’s quite a dramatic finding.”

At least one researcher unaffiliated with English Heritage believes the excavation could help confirm a theory that the Avenue leading to Stonehenge was built along the solstice axis. As archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson told National Geographic, this means that the direction of the Avenue moving away from the monument points toward where the sun rises on the midsummer solstice, the longest day of the year. But if you turn, the path leading back toward Stonehenge points toward where the sun sets on the midwinter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

%d bloggers like this: