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In response to Timothy Darvill's article, ‘Mythical rings?’ (this issue), which argues for an alternative interpretation of Waun Mawn circle and its relationship with Stonehenge, Parker Pearson and colleagues report new evidence from the Welsh site and elaborate on aspects of their original argument. The discovery of a hearth at the centre of the circle, as well as further features around its circumference, reinforces the authors’ original interpretation. The authors explore the evidence for the construction sequence, which was abandoned before the completion of the monument. Contesting Darvill's argument that the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge originally held posts, the authors reassert their interpretation of this circle of cut features as Bluestone settings.
The Beaker phenomenon in Britain is typically represented by a particular form of pottery and its inclusion in graves with flexed or crouched inhumations referred to as Beaker burials. Analysis of the full range of burial evidence, however, reveals a high degree of variability in funerary rites including cremation and skeletal disarticulation. Summed probability distribution analysis of radiocarbon dates provides evidence for continuity of these other, atypical rites from the pre-Beaker Late Neolithic (c. 3000–2450 cal bc) through the Chalcolithic (c. 2450–2200 cal bc) and into the Early Bronze Age (after c. 2200 cal bc). Regional diversity is apparent in Beaker period funerary treatments and grave good provision between these typical and atypical rites, as is differential selection of rites on the basis of age and biological sex. This evidence for within and between community funerary diversity has implications for understanding the large-scale processes of cultural and genomic transformation across this period of major transition in British prehistory.
Durrington Walls was a large Neolithic settlement in Britain dating around 2500 BCE, located very close to Stonehenge and likely to be the campsite where its builders lived during its main stage of construction. Nineteen coprolites recovered from a midden and associated pits at Durrington Walls were analysed for intestinal parasite eggs using digital light microscopy. Five (26%) contained helminth eggs, 1 with those of fish tapeworm (likely Dibothriocephalus dendriticus) and 4 with those of capillariid nematodes. Analyses of bile acid and sterol from these 5 coprolites show 1 to be of likely human origin and the other 4 to likely derive from dogs. The presence of fish tapeworm reveals that the Neolithic people who gathered to feast at Durrington Walls were at risk of infection from eating raw or undercooked freshwater fish. When the eggs of capillariids are found in the feces of humans or dogs it normally indicates that the internal organs (liver, lung or intestines) of animals with capillariasis have been eaten, and eggs passed through the gut without causing disease. Their presence in multiple coprolites provides new evidence that internal organs of animals were consumed. These novel findings improve our understanding of both parasitic infection and dietary habits associated with this key Neolithic ceremonial site.
The discovery of a dismantled stone circle—close to Stonehenge's bluestone quarries in west Wales—raises the possibility that a 900-year-old legend about Stonehenge being built from an earlier stone circle contains a grain of truth. Radiocarbon and OSL dating of Waun Mawn indicate construction c. 3000 BC, shortly before the initial construction of Stonehenge. The identical diameters of Waun Mawn and the enclosing ditch of Stonehenge, and their orientations on the midsummer solstice sunrise, suggest that at least part of the Waun Mawn circle was brought from west Wales to Salisbury Plain. This interpretation complements recent isotope work that supports a hypothesis of migration of both people and animals from Wales to Stonehenge.
The authors of this article consider the relationship in European prehistory between the procurement of high-quality stones (for axeheads, daggers, and other tools) on the one hand, and the early mining, crafting, and deposition of copper on the other. The data consist of radiocarbon dates for the exploitation of stone quarries, flint mines, and copper mines, and of information regarding the frequency through time of jade axeheads and copper artefacts. By adopting a broad perspective, spanning much of central-western Europe from 5500 to 2000 bc, they identify a general pattern in which the circulation of the first copper artefacts was associated with a decline in specialized stone quarrying. The latter re-emerged in certain regions when copper use decreased, before declining more permanently in the Bell Beaker phase, once copper became more generally available. Regional variations reflect the degrees of connectivity among overlapping copper exchange networks. The patterns revealed are in keeping with previous understandings, refine them through quantification and demonstrate their cyclical nature, with additional reference to likely local demographic trajectories.
New radiocarbon (14C) dates suggest a simultaneous appearance of two technologically and geographically distinct axe production practices in Neolithic Britain; igneous open-air quarries in Great Langdale, Cumbria, and from flint mines in southern England at ~4000–3700 cal BC. In light of the recent evidence that farming was introduced at this time by large-scale immigration from northwest Europe, and that expansion within Britain was extremely rapid, we argue that this synchronicity supports this speed of colonization and reflects a knowledge of complex extraction processes and associated exchange networks already possessed by the immigrant groups; long-range connections developed as colonization rapidly expanded. Although we can model the start of these new extraction activities, it remains difficult to estimate how long significant production activity lasted at these key sites given the nature of the record from which samples could be obtained.
Geologists and archaeologists have long known that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from the Preseli Hills of west Wales, 230km away, but only recently have some of their exact geological sources been identified. Two of these quarries—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin—have now been excavated to reveal evidence of megalith quarrying around 3000 BC—the same period as the first stage of the construction of Stonehenge. The authors present evidence for the extraction of the stone pillars and consider how they were transported, including the possibility that they were erected in a temporary monument close to the quarries, before completing their journey to Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is a site that continues to yield surprises. Excavation in 2009 added a new and unexpected feature: a smaller, dismantled stone circle on the banks of the River Avon, connected to Stonehenge itself by the Avenue. This new structure has been labelled ‘Bluestonehenge’ from the evidence that it once held a circle of bluestones that were later removed to Stonehenge. Investigation of the Avenue closer to Stonehenge revealed deep periglacial fissures within it. Their alignment on Stonehenge's solstitial axis (midwinter sunset–midsummer sunrise) raises questions about the early origins of this ritual landscape.
The appearance of the distinctive ‘Beaker package’ marks an important horizon in British prehistory, but was it associated with immigrants to Britain or with indigenous converts? Analysis of the skeletal remains of 264 individuals from the British Chalcolithic–Early Bronze Age is revealing new information about the diet, migration and mobility of those buried with Beaker pottery and related material. Results indicate a considerable degree of mobility between childhood and death, but mostly within Britain rather than from Europe. Both migration and emulation appear to have had an important role in the adoption and spread of the Beaker package.
The assemblage of Neolithic cremated human remains from Stonehenge is the largest in Britain, and demonstrates that the monument was closely associated with the dead. New radiocarbon dates and Bayesian analysis indicate that cremated remains were deposited over a period of around five centuries from c. 3000–2500 BC. Earlier cremations were placed within or beside the Aubrey Holes that had held small bluestone standing stones during the first phase of the monument; later cremations were placed in the peripheral ditch, perhaps signifying the transition from a link between specific dead individuals and particular stones, to a more diffuse collectivity of increasingly long-dead ancestors.
The long-distance transport of the bluestones from south Wales to Stonehenge is one of the most remarkable achievements of Neolithic societies in north-west Europe. Where precisely these stones were quarried, when they were extracted and how they were transported has long been a subject of speculation, experiment and controversy. The discovery of a megalithic bluestone quarry at Craig Rhos-y-felin in 2011 marked a turning point in this research. Subsequent excavations have provided details of the quarrying process along with direct dating evidence for the extraction of bluestone monoliths at this location, demonstrating both Neolithic and Early Bronze Age activity.
The discovery of Neolithic houses at Durrington Walls that are contemporary with the main construction phase of Stonehenge raised questions as to their interrelationship. Was Durrington Walls the residence of the builders of Stonehenge? Were the activities there more significant than simply domestic subsistence? Using lipid residue analysis, this paper identifies the preferential use of certain pottery types for the preparation of particular food groups and differential consumption of dairy and meat products between monumental and domestic areas of the site. Supported by the analysis of faunal remains, the results suggest seasonal feasting and perhaps organised culinary unification of a diverse community.
Intentional mummification is a practice usually associated with early Egyptian or Peruvian societies, but new evidence suggests that it may also have been widespread in prehistoric Britain, and possibly in Europe more generally. Following the discovery of mummified Bronze Age skeletons at the site of Cladh Hallan in the Western Isles of Scotland, a method of analysis has been developed that can consistently identify previously mummified skeletons. The results demonstrate that Bronze Age populations throughout Britain practised mummification on a proportion of their dead, although the criteria for selection are not yet certain.
In 1729 a book entitled Madagascar: or Robert Drury's Journal During Fifteen Years Captivity on that Island was published in London. It describes the shipwreck of an East Indiaman on the south coast of Madagascar, the enforced stay of the crew at the royal capital of the Antandroy people, the crew's escape and massacre, the survival of the midshipmen, including Drury, as royal slaves, and Drury's eventual escape to the English colony of St. Augustine. It purports to be his authentic account, digested into order by a transcriber or editor and published at the request of his friends. A certification of its authenticity is provided at the front of the first edition by Captain William Mackett, the ship's captain who brought Drury back to England, and the author states that if anyone doubts the veracity of his tale or wishes for a further account, he is “to be found every day at Old Tom's Coffee-house in Birchin Lane, London.”
The tale bears many superficial resemblances to Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Knox's An Historical Relation of Ceylon and the anonymous editor is at pains to state in the preface that the book was undoubtedly likely to be “…taken for such another romance as ‘Robinson Crusoe’…” whereas it was “…nothing else but a plain, honest narrative of matter of fact.” If this is the case, then Drury's account provides a fascinating insight into the world of an emergent Malagasy kingdom at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This was a crucial moment in Madagascar's history, when the European world of long-distance trade, slaving, and piracy was exerting a strong impact on the local people, culminating in colonization by France two centuries later.
This chapter examines the legal and procedural aspects concerning the archaeological excavation of human remains in England and Wales (the situation in Scotland is covered by different legislation; see Chapter 6). There is a wide variety of legislation and codes of practice, which bear directly or indirectly upon the archaeological recovery of such remains and their subsequent analysis and curation. Since 2008, the situation has proved problematic because of a reinterpretation of the burial laws that affect archaeology (see Sayer 2010). Changes in advice and consultation by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have attempted to resolve these problems, but requests to draw up new legislation have been declined.
Archaeology in the UK has often had a ‘softly softly’ relationship with legislators. In the 1980s and 1990s, the profession was emerging and finding its place within society. As part of this process, funding for ‘rescue’ or ‘salvage’ archaeology moved from local and central government to developers. Things are different now. Commercial archaeologists have successfully operated within the construction industry for two decades, contributing significantly to the number of recorded sites. While the public may not get their hands dirty on rescue excavations as they did in the 1970s and 1980s, far more of them consume their heritage as recreation through magazines and websites, popular TV programming, museum visits, organised public archaeology events and excavation open days. Some estimates suggest that the heritage industry, including its tourism element, is worth up to £1bn to the British economy.
We are pleased to present the latest account of the sequence of burial and construction at the site of Stonehenge, deduced by its most recent excavators and anchored in time by the application of Bayesian radiocarbon modelling. Five prehistoric stages are proposed, of varied duration, and related by our authors to neighbouring monuments in the Stonehenge environs. While it may never be possible to produce a definitive chronology for this most complex of monuments, the comprehensive and integrated achievement owed to these researchers has brought us much closer to that goal. It is from this firm platform that Stonehenge can begin its new era of communication with the public at large.