A guest review of Dr. Terence Meaden's recently published book Stonehenge, Avebury and Drombeg Stone Circles Deciphered, by Simon Banton the archaeoastronomer. Dr G. Terence Meaden, M.A., M.Sc. D.Phil., F.R.Met.S. is a professional physicist, meteorologist and archaeologist with undergraduate and doctoral degrees in physics from Oxford University and an MSc in archaeology from Oxford University. He has made significant contributions to research in solid state physics (1957-1972), tornado climatology (1972-2014) and Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology (1981-2016), with  over 200 papers and numerous books published.     The complex interplay of light and shadow at megalithic monuments is a mostly unremarked phenomenon. For those people who gather at these sites on significant days of the year, the focus -- and the direction of their gaze -- ... Read More

I visited Stoney Littleton Long Barrow near the village of Wellow in Somerset for the first time on a leaden-skied Sunday afternoon on 13th December 2015 and described that visit in some detail here. In chapter 2 on pages 25 and 26 of his recently published book 'Stonehenge, Avebury and Drombeg Stone Circles Deciphered', professor Terence Meaden describes the alignment of the long barrow to the southeastern sun rising in the sky on midwinter's day. He has kindly provided an additional photograph and diagrams below to further illustrate the explanation. The above book argues that a simple method of tally stick counting was sufficient to keep note of the days during the passing year, one of the oldest methods of proto-writing, dating from at least the last Ice Age. ... Read More

On Friday 29 July 2016, I was given the opportunity to take a flight over the Stonehenge landscape in an Ikarus C42 microlight airplane from Clench Common airfield south of  Marlborough with GS Aviation. Below: Approaching from the north in the late afternoon, the first feature north of Amesbury and to the northeast of Stonehenge that comes into view is the enormous ditch and bank of Durrington Walls where excavations were carried out by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008, outlined here. The patch of chalk to the lower left of this photograph is a trench being dug in anticipation of excavations carried out during August 2016, which are described in a series of National Trust blog posts here.   [caption id="attachment_3106" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Durrington Walls[/caption] ... Read More

October 29th, 2016

On Wednesday 26 October 2016, as I left Devizes with Pete Glastonbury, the photographer and antiquarian who was guiding me to Devil's Den near Marlborough in Wiltshire for a night photography session, the late afternoon skies were leaden and showing little prospect of a clear night sky for the evening ahead. In 2009 Mr Glastonbury similarly guided a gentleman who authors the Northern Antiquarian blog to Devil's Den, resulting in a subsequent highly informative blog post here and an additional article on the cup marks on top of the capstone here.   Below: An undated photograph kindly provided by Pete Glastonbury   [caption id="attachment_3036" align="aligncenter" width="735"] Devil's Den Wiltshire[/caption] Parking was not available at the beginning of the footpath approaching the site from Clatford to the south, ... Read More

October 15th, 2016

During September 2016 I spent a week in Clonaklity Co. Cork, Ireland, and at that time was provided with an opportunity to visit Templebryan stone circle and associated features, including the nearby ogham stone known as Cloughnakilla and the bullaun stone, a 'wart well' at the foot of the ogham stone. The location of the site is provided here by Megalithic Ireland and here on the Megalithic Portal. Templebryan is a recumbent stone circle approximately 2.5km north of Clonakilty near the village of Shannonvale. Four of its original perimeter stones remain upright and a fifth is nearly fallen. Nine stones were recorded as standing in the eighteenth century. Off centre in the central region of the circle is a quartz stone said to be known locally ... Read More

October 10th, 2016

During a visit to Eire in September 2016, I spent some time in the Kerry mountains close to the village of Beaufort at the foot of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in Co. Kerry.  Shortly after arrival, I purchased a local ordnance survey map and, as the Dunloe ogham stones were marked as between Beaufort Village and the nearby Gap of Dunloe, I decided to pay a visit to the site. The inscriptions on the eight stones and their exact location are identified here by Megalithic Ireland. Ogham was a form of writing used around the time Christianity came to Ireland in the 5th century AD and consisted of lines and strokes, normally carved along the edge of a stone.   [caption id="attachment_2791" align="aligncenter" width="742"] Dunloe ogham ... Read More

August 12th, 2016

Wayland's Smithy, along with the White Horse of Uffington, is iconically etched into my mind from a visit as a seven year old child in 1969. A particular moment from that afternoon, clambering into the entrance passageway and chamber with my Uncle Mike -- similarly to hearing of the death of John Lennon, Princess Diana and the 9/11 attack -- is as fresh in my mind today as when it happened on that summer's afternoon 47 years ago. With the benefit of hindsight, it was the actual moment that sparked my subsequent lifelong interest in and yearning to know of our inscrutable prehistoric ancestors.     The chambered long barrow is a little south of the crest of the Berkshire Downs and about a mile ... Read More

August 4th, 2016

Through the eyes of a seven years old child, I experienced my first view of the chalk hill figures of the White Horse of Uffington and the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset. Since that time so many years ago, each image, like the land itself, has been welded into the core of my consciousness, etching its own unique perception. My first sight of the white horse was during the summer of 1969 visiting relatives at Stanford in the Vale in Oxfordshire. That first view conjured up images of dragons, horses, serpents, monsters and ancient heroes, somehow carved so perfectly and appropriately out of the very fabric of the land itself. There was also an underlying feeling of my spirits being naturally uplifted by the landscape, ... Read More

July 16th, 2016

Above is a view of the iconic early Neolithic West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire from the air, photographed on 8 July 2016. On Friday 8 July 2016, I was given the opportunity to have a bird's eye view of North Wiltshire, flying in an Ikarus C42 microlight airplane from Clench Common airfield south of  Marlborough with GS Aviation. Shortly after take off, the second highest of Wiltshire’s prehistoric camps or hillforts, Martinsell Hill at Oare, came into view. To the lower right of the photograph below is an area on the hill of an ancient flint quarry and pit dwellings. There is an article on the archaeology and history of Martinsell Hill on The Northern Antiquarian blog here.   [caption id="attachment_2544" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Martinsell Hill ... Read More

The above photograph, taken by Pete Glastonbury from a microlight aircraft, is of Yarnbury Castle, an Iron Age hillfort in Wiltshire, described by Historic England on Pastscape as 'A multiphase, multivallate hillfort of 28.5 acres. The earthworks were surveyed by RCHME in 1991 and a full descriptive and analytical account can be found. Excavations have recovered Iron Age and Roman pottery, as well as inhumations, in both graves and pits, as well as other human remains. Iron Age and Roman coins were also found. Within the main hillfort is an earlier enclosure 5.2 hectares in area. Intensity of occupation in the main hillfort is demonstrated by the recognition during the RCHME survey of over 130 probable structures, presumably representing the sites of round houses, as ... Read More

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