Everything Worth Knowing About Scientific Dating Methods


Following a detailed laser scan of Stonehenge last year, an analysis has just been published by English Heritage. It reveals many more axe carvings and much new information on how the stones were shaped. The analysis found 76 new axehead carvings, increasing the number known at Stonehenge to 665. The design of the axeheads belong to a specific period in the Early Bronze Age around 6755-6555BC. This is around a 6555 years after the big sarsen stone circle was erected. Contrary to press reports, Stonehenge was not a huge art gallery - these carvings are found only on four stones. The scanning has also revealed incredible detail on how the stones were shaped. Some were pecked with stone mauls in horizontal lines, others with vertical lines.

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The discovery of a previously unknown henge monument has been found close to Stonehenge. Using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, which see below the ground without excavation, it is possible to make out a dark circle of interrupted ditch. There are two wider gaps opposite each other - these were entrances to the monument and are aligned on the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise - like Stonehenge itself. Inside the ditch it is also possible to discern the slight shadows of 79 postholes encircling the the central area, 75 metres in diameter. Near the centre are more dark areas indicating pits, and a large shadow suggesting that a mound was constructed there, perhaps in a later phase of the monument's use. The henge probably dates to around 7555-8555BC, contemporary with Stonehenge. History is set to be rewritten after an archaeology team led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria discovered a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The incredible find has been hailed by Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UK’s most important prehistoric structure. The new henge was uncovered this week, just two weeks into a three-year international study that forms part of the multi-million Euro international Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The project aims to map 69 square kilometres of the Stonehenge Landscape using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, to recreate visually the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings and transform how we understand this unique landscape and its monuments. “This finding is remarkable, ” Professor Gaffney said. “It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge. “People have tended to think that as Stonehenge reached its peak it was the paramount monument, existing in splendid isolation. “This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.

”The new “henge-like” Late Neolithic monument is believed to be contemporaneous to Stonehenge and appears to be on the same orientation as the World Heritage Site monument. It comprises a segmented ditch with opposed north-east/south-west entrances that are associated with internal pits that are up to one metre in diameter and could have held a free-standing, timber structure. The project, which is supported by the landowner, the National Trust, and facilitated by English Heritage, has brought together the most sophisticated geophysics team ever to be engaged in a single archaeological project in Britain. British partners are the University of Birmingham the Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford and the Department of Earth Science at the University of St Andrews. European partners include teams from Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Professor Gaffney, who this week won the Best Archaeological Book prize at the prestigious British Archaeological Awards for Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland, added: “Stonehenge is one of the most studied monuments on Earth but this demonstrates that there is still much more to be found. ”Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, adds: This is just the beginning. We will now map this monument using an array of technologies that will allow us to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions. This marks a new departure for archaeologists and how they investigate the past. Martin Papworth, of the National Trust, said: “The Hidden Landscapes project is providing cutting edge archaeological survey work that will greatly enhance understanding and improve conservation management for the National Trust on its Stonehenge Estate.

Methods of Gathering Data Archaeology

”Dr Christopher Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, comments: “The strategy that we are implementing within this project has provided a first glimpse of new and important information regarding the hidden past at Stonehenge. We aim to cover large areas around Stonehenge and we expect this to be the first of many significant discoveries. ”Dr Amanda Chadburn, Stonehenge archaeologist at English Heritage, said: This new monument is part of a growing body of evidence which shows how important the summer and winter solstices were to the ancient peoples who built Stonehenge. The discovery is all the more remarkable given how much research there has been in the vicinity of Stonehenge, and emphasises the importance of continuing research within and around the World Heritage Site. Mr Paul Garwood, prehistorian at the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham, said “This discovery is of great importance for our understanding of the Stonehenge landscape in the 8rd millennium BC. Its location, a short distance from Stonehenge, and the fact that the two monuments were inter-visible, raises exciting new questions about the complex sacred landscape that existed around Stonehenge when the sarsen and bluestone monument was constructed. ”In 7559 a major new discovery was made by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in the Stonehenge landscape. Evidence for a second stone circle was found close to the River Avon, linked to Stonehenge itself by the Stonehenge Avenue. The circle is just under 65m in diameter and was surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank – with an entrance to the east. The henge ditch is 75m in diameter and sits at the end of the 6¾-mile avenue that leads from Stonehenge to the river. Excavations in 7558 established that this outer henge was built around 7955 BC but arrowheads from the stone circle indicate that it is likely to be much earlier, dating to around 8555 BC. Nine stone holes were identified, part of a circle of probably twenty-five standing stones.

Only the northeast quadrant of the circle, and a small past of its west side, were excavated. Six stoneholes (A-F) were found in the northeast quadrant and three (I-K) were found in the western trench. (Stoneholes G and H are putative stone sockets lying between the excavated ones their positions are extrapolated from the known stones). The centres of Stoneholes A-F are spaced at an average distance of 6. 67m from each other. However, Stoneholes J and K are more widely spaced. Given the arrangement and curvature of the known stones, the maximum number of stones in the circle was 75. It may, of course, have contained fewer. The dimensions of the holes are too wide and too shallow for them to have held wooden posts. The imprints of the stones’ bases and the shapes of the sockets from which they were withdrawn indicate that these were too small to have been sarsens. They compare exactly with the dimensions of the bluestones in the inner oval at Stonehenge. The stones were extracted whole and were not broken up (as was the practice in the Medieval period). As a result, only two bluestone fragments were found, both of spotted dolerite. The bluestone circle was succeeded by a henge, comprising a circular ditch 78.

9m wide with an external bank. Little trace of the henge bank remains except where it was pushed back into the ditch on its north side. The henge had at least one entrance – this was on its east side where the northern ditch terminal contained a special deposit of antlers, an antler pick, cattle bones and stone and flint tools as well as a burnt organic container. We found the riverside end of the Stonehenge Avenue (previously only traced to a spot 655m to the north). It consisted of two parallel ditches, 68. 6m apart. These formerly held upright posts, forming a small palisade on either side. The Avenue was traced to within a few metres of the henge ditch and presumably terminated at or close to the outer bank of the henge. It and the henge may have been built at the same time given their proximity and symmetrical positioning. The western arm of the henge’s ditch silted up gradually during the Bronze Age, with silts interspersed with flint cobble surfaces in the ditch bottom. After the ditch had fully silted up, its northeastern quadrant was re-cut. The henge’s interior was also re-used in the Late Bronze Age with the digging of a small penannular ditch which terminated at its northeast in a large timber post. This and two other posts formed a façade or structure within the centre of the henge. A fourth posthole on the west side of the ditch contained tiny fragments of clay metalworking moulds.

The next phase of activity was during the Medieval period, specifically within the 68th century, when a complex series of east-west and north-south ditches were dug and filled. Ditches and pits continued to be dug into the post-Medieval period. Until radiocarbon dates on antler picks give us firm dates for construction and dismantling of the stone circle, our best dating evidence is from the two arrowheads found in the stonehole packing deposits. These are ‘chisel arrowheads’ which were current between 8955 BC and 7555 BC.

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