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Stonehenge and its Environs


The 5,000-year-old, 20ft-high fence which hid Stonehenge from its nosy Stone Age neighbours

Tourists who complain about the fence put up around Stonehenge in the Seventies should spare a thought for their Neolithic ancestors... they couldn't even see the site because of a huge wooden barrier.

Archaeologists have found traces of the 20ft-high timber fence that snaked almost two miles across Salisbury Plain and hid sacred ceremonies from unworthy locals more than 5,000 years ago.

Now trenches have been dug along the line researchers believe the palisade took as it stretched from the east of the ancient stone circle, past the Heel Stone, to the west before heading south.

And experts believe that the time and energy taken to construct such a barrier, which has no other practical or defensive use, meant that it was designed to hide religious ceremonies from prying eyes.

Dr Josh Pollard, of Bristol University, who is co-director of the dig, said: 'The construction must have taken a lot of manpower.

'The palisade is an open structure which would not have been defensive and was too high to be practical for controlling livestock.

'It certainly wasn't for hunting herded animals and so, like everything else in this ceremonial landscape, we have to believe it must have had a religious significance.

'The most plausible explanation is that it was built at huge cost to the community to screen the environs of Stonehenge from view. Basically, we think it was to keep the lower classes from seeing what exactly their rulers and the priestly class were doing.

'Perhaps we should call Michael Eavis in from the Glastonbury Festival as a consultant because the huge metal fence erected there every year is the nearest modern equivalent.'

Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology Magazine and author of the book Hengeworld, said: 'This is a fantastic insight into what the landscape would have looked like. This huge wooden palisade would have snaked across the landscape, blotting out views to Stonehenge from one side. The other side was the ceremonial route to the Henge from the River Avon and would have been shielded by the contours.

'The palisade would have heightened the mystery of whatever ceremonies were performed and it would have endowed those who were privy to those secrets with more power and prestige. In modern terms, you had to be invited or have a ticket to get in.

'We hope to learn more about the structure, which we lose track of on the other side of the main A303 trunk road because any remains were obliterated by the construction of a wartime airfield.'

Meanwhile, another team of scientists led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University is working on a collection of partly cremated bones found at Stonehenge in the Thirties by amateur archaeologists.

Taken from the Daily Mail;
moss Posted by moss
1st September 2008ce
Edited 1st September 2008ce

Comments (3)

What others did in wood the Northern Isles did in stone - now we know what the 'Great Wall' on the Ness of Brodgar was intended for wideford Posted by wideford
1st September 2008ce
That is quite a bad archaelogical description I think -

"Basically, we think it was to keep the lower classes from seeing what exactly their rulers and the priestly class were doing."

Why?? A big fence around a sacred site. Churches have stainglass windows - they're not to prevent the 'lower classes' from seeing what 'their rulers and preistly class' where doing. Could not an equally likelly explanation simlpy to make it more sacred, to make it a seperate space where whatever goes on their is made more special simply through the act of removing it from the rest of the world... Not saying this interpretation is wrong, but it's making a lot of assumptions about the late neolithic / early bronze age - making it seem like some kind of medieval monastary in a heavely classed/feudal society (I would not get a good result if I put that quote in an essay!).

But then it was printed in the Daily Mail - so I very much doubt that is what the archaeologist said.

Actually begining to doubt there was a wall at all... Or even Stonehenge...
Posted by Floksnog
19th November 2008ce
Also - 20 foot high??? Based on timber size i presume, since we will only have the footings. Why not a flimsy 50ft high wall, or a very sturdy 1foot high seat. This is a ritual site after all, perhaps the rootedness of the seet was a very important concept... Perhaps it was for walking along so that everyone could see more clearly what was going on...

No practical purpose? Perhaps it was for hurding cattle agaist, or holding a market against out of the wind, or to bare torches to light the way or as a huge graffiti wall to leave 'I woz here' signs on, or as an acostic tool, or to seperate some disputed land, or.... Unqualified interpretation is quite fun to play around with...
Posted by Floksnog
19th November 2008ce
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