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NEOLITHIC-STUDIES  May 2000

NEOLITHIC-STUDIES May 2000

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Subject:

[Neol Studies] Neolithic Excursion, Stonehenge Area

From:

"Terence Meaden" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 15 May 2000 16:18:20 +0100

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STONEHENGE:   THE  CURSUS (why was it built?),
          THE AVENUE,  THE ROUND BARROWS,  AND
          ROBIN HOOD'S BALL  CAUSEWAYED ENCLOSURE.

          THE NEOLITHIC  EXCURSION OF  29  APRIL  2000

[Note: The next excursion dates are given at the end of this summary]

The weather for this Saturday outing of the Megalithic Society was again
excellent -- warm and almost cloud-free throughout, as it was three weeks
earlier when we walked the entire lengths of the Kennet and Beckhampton
Avenues at Avebury.
    Starting from the Stonehenge car park with its markings of the sites of
pine-tree post-holes, known to date from the British Mesolithic, over ten of
us set off  at 11 a.m. for the bell barrows which are ranged along the
southern side of the Stonehenge Cursus.  These are well-preserved examples
from the Early Bronze Age and included two which were 'dug into' by William
Stukeley almost 300 years ago.  At these and the other barrows visited that
day reference was made to Leslie Grinsell's published summaries concerning
the contents of the barrows as known from antiquarian and modern
excavations.
  We then followed the southern edge of the Neolithic Cursus westwards to
the remains of the much denuded Cursus Terminal (SU 109 429).  But for the
intervention of  Julian Richards in the late 1980s who restored the terminal
to its 1920s state, nothing would be seen of this terminal today, for it had
been flattened earlier this century by the manoeuvres of the military.  The
Stonehenge Cursus is 2700 metres long and 100 metres wide at the terminals
(maximum width 130 metres). To construct it in the third millennium BCE the
people cut ditches into the chalk bedrock  that were some 2 metres deep, 2
metres wide and a total of 5600 metres in length.   It is likely that many
thousands of trees were in the way as well.  What could have motivated this
huge endeavour?  Indeed, how did it come about that communities throughout
Neolithic Britain felt a need to have a cursus of their own, because over
100 cursuses are known to have been made - many of them over difficult
ground, several of them crossing water courses?
A New Hypothesis:  Until recently no testable proposal has been put forward.
Only simple statements like "possibly a ceremonial processional way"  or
"athletics race course" or "hippodrome" have been made. But Dr Terence
Meaden has set out at length a case for cursuses being prepared as memorial
sites for tornado-ground-contact tracks, and that they were created in an
epoch when the community believed in a Sky Father and an Earth Mother as
part of their religion.  The Florida Indians, the Cuban Indians and others
are known, as a result of research interviews by anthropologists, to have
adored the terrifying tornado funnel because they viewed it as the Sky God's
phallus. A similar belief could have been held throughout Neolithic Britain
including the society living in the vicinity of Stonehenge.  References and
details are given in "Stonehenge: The Secret of the Solstice" (1997) and
"The Stonehenge Solution" (1992), and summarised in
http://www.stonehenge-avebury.net
   Tornadoes are not uncommon in Britain as a whole, although rare at any
one place.  On average 35 tornadoes a year are reported in Britain.  Most
British tornadoes track from W to E or from SW to NE, which is the same
trend as for the cursuses.  In fact, wind-direction roses and
cursus-direction roses are so similar that one cannot tell them apart (loc.
cit.).  Seeing that tornado funnels tear down thousands of trees when
passing through woodland, one can appreciate that the labour of cursus
building is greatly diminished if carried out along the track left by the
tornado.  The tornado's  'phallus' has done the hardest work for nothing -
i.e. as a 'divine gift'.  In terms of early religious belief (note that a
knowledge of ancient religions and 'primitive' symbolism is useful for
helping to solve problems of the ancient world), it is proposed that the
descent from the sky of a tornado to the ground may have been construed as
the point of interaction --- equivalent to Sacred Marriage or
Consummation --- between Sky and Earth or Sky Father and Earth Mother.  This
could have been reason enough to compel communities to record for posterity
the place where the Sky God had descended to earth -- by marking out the
area of contact for the purpose of future ceremonies and establishing land
claims for their descendants for ever after.  As regards the vicinity of
Stonehenge, the last tornado to strike nearby went through a plantation in
Figheldean in 1979, leaving a track some 50 metres wide with square ends at
the points of entry and exit into the plantation.
   Next, the group walked the full length of the Stonehenge Cursus (2.7 km),
and stood on top of the long barrow (SU 136 432) perpendicular to it just
east of the Eastern Terminal but which is now a lane (i.e. the lane follows
along the top of the length of the barrow (partly excavated by Julian
Richards in the 1980s). We followed the lane passing the Old King Barrows
until we reached the New King Barrows close to which is the line of the
Stonehenge Avenue.  At this point we were 1.5 km from Stonehenge as measured
along the course of the Avenue which we wanted to follow next. After only 80
metres or so Eileen had a stroke of good fortune. Thrown out by energetic
moles there lay exposed in molehills in the middle of the Avenue two pieces
of bluestone, both spotted dolerite and weighing circa 120 g together (SU
1335 4250).  Much farther on, as the Heel Stone was neared, two smaller
pieces of bluestone were found (by Mark and Pete). One was spotted dolerite,
the other possibly rhyolite.
  The time was 2 p.m., so we rested for lunch and then visited the stones of
Stonehenge.
The weather being so sunny the time of day was optimal for witnessing the
carving of the distinguished face which is then clearly visible on the
west-facing side of Trilithon Stone 54.
   At 3.15 p.m. we left Stonehenge, again on foot, for the barrows of
Normanton Down, almost 2 km south of the monument.   The well-preserved disc
barrows are best seen in the winter or early spring when the grass does not
interfere with their beauty as happens later (SU 114 410).  Nearby is Bush
Barrow, the huge bowl barrow that was raided by Cunnington and his men in
the early nineteenth century.  The rich interment was that of a man aligned
north-south, but, unlike so many others, the head was to the south instead
of to the north.  The other barrows in this group embraced all species apart
from pond barrows for which a visit to the cemetery at nearby Winterbourne
Stoke Crossroads (SU 100 415) is warranted (not visited on this day).
   To end the day, we went by car from Stonehenge north-westwards to the
Bustard Hotel on the Downs and then another kilometre to the Neolithic
causewayed enclosure called Robin Hood's Ball (SU 102 460).  This
interesting double-banked site enclosing some 7.5 acres has at last been
fenced round to ensure that tanks and military vehicles no longer cross it.
The protected site is used as a sheep penning so the grass is short and the
earthworks more visible now than they have been for a long time. A paper
reporting the results of a small-scale excavation by Nicholas Thomas was
published in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, vol. 59, 1-27  in 1964.  And
so at last the day ended, the sun still shining strongly, at 6.15 p.m.
NEXT  EXCURSIONS:
  The next outing is an evening one, a site visit to the interior of
Stonehenge on Sunday 7 May, and after that on
Sunday 28 May a day-long excursion round the Neolithic Severn-Cotswold
chambered barrows (Hetty Pegler, Nympsfield/Coaley Peak, Toots Barrow, etc)
and standing stones (Minchinhampton) south of Stroud.  Anyone may come.  All
are welcome. Meet at little car park near Hetty Pegler's Tump, Uley (SO  789
000) at 10.30 for 11 a.m.   More information is available at
http://www.stonehenge-avebury.net



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