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Adventures in Archaeology: Stonehenge, England: My Spring Journals

Updated on May 17, 2010
GarnetBird profile image

Gloria taught for many years, and also worked as a mental health group facilitator.

My Spring Excavation, 1980, United Kingdom

This was taken in April/1980, at the Monument.  I was still a college student.
This was taken in April/1980, at the Monument. I was still a college student.
My photo of the stones/please do not use without permission. I generally give permission easily!
My photo of the stones/please do not use without permission. I generally give permission easily!
I took this shot in the misty cool rain of an April morning.
I took this shot in the misty cool rain of an April morning.
Close up and personal!
Close up and personal!
Sample pottery of the Bell Beaker Culture. Courtesy of Wikipedia.com.
Sample pottery of the Bell Beaker Culture. Courtesy of Wikipedia.com.
Bluebells in Lockeridge, England, near Stonehenge, on a fine Spring Day!
Bluebells in Lockeridge, England, near Stonehenge, on a fine Spring Day!
The Pub where we had lunch at daily.Lockeridge, Uk.
The Pub where we had lunch at daily.Lockeridge, Uk.
Wildflowers on the Salisbury Plain, England.
Wildflowers on the Salisbury Plain, England.
Close-up of a Bell Beaker Pot.
Close-up of a Bell Beaker Pot.
This is a village near Stonehenge.
This is a village near Stonehenge.
Although this is not from Stonehenge, this resembles a typical find for a Neolithic UK Burial site.
Although this is not from Stonehenge, this resembles a typical find for a Neolithic UK Burial site.
In the Spring, lambs can be seen on the ancient, rich green pasture grass in the UK.
In the Spring, lambs can be seen on the ancient, rich green pasture grass in the UK.
This Neolithic blade is courtesy of Worthipedia. It is very similar to one I found in the British New Forest Area while field-walking with archaeologists.
This Neolithic blade is courtesy of Worthipedia. It is very similar to one I found in the British New Forest Area while field-walking with archaeologists.

Forget About the Druids and Hollywood Neo-Romanticism..

I was fortunate in 1980 to be included in an excavation at Stonehenge, England, in the Salisbury Plain. The photos were taken with an old Box Camera (I was a starving student!) but the images and haunting presence of the stones still comes through despite the poor technology. The excavation was called "rescue archaeology" as a pipe alongside the monument had been unearthed for repairs. None other than bonny Prince Charles (of the famous Princess Diana Scandal) commissioned the dig and once visited the site itself.

 I was not paid for my work (I was a lowly volunteer research assistant) but the data was used in the College of Southampton University, England by a very respected Archaeologist there, Dr. Steven Shennan. Under his direction, my Ex-Husband and others assisted in digging, cleaning and bagging the evidence, in many ways like the crime shows we've all come to love.

I can still see the cute "excavation shack," surrounded by ancient velvety pasture and the British Bullocks, nosing their cow-noses up to the windows in curiosity. This was also the season for lambs, and they dotted the British landcape everywhere, adding to the enchantment. Stonehenge seemed to change according to every whim of the weather-often looking sunny and welcoming, sometimes almost sinister.

Forget, if you can, the romantic films depicting Druids and Crypto-New Agers, worshipping at the Stones, their robes flapping in the wind. The truth is, this amazing Monument was probably built by a Culture Known simply as the Bell Beakers, an independent Group which produced a distinctive pottery style.(see photo). This Culture Group was found in Northern Italy, Germany, Portugal and Southern France also. Again, there is simply no good evidence to support the notion that Stonehenge was used as a place of mystic worship or adoration. Then, you may well ask, what WAS it used for?

The remains of Cremated bodies and bones, strongly points to Stonehenge as being a place to bury the dead. In the same way we erected stone angels in old Victorian Graveyards, this site was most likely a large cemetary. I find it touching to see this reverence for life in Bronze Age/Neolithic Britain: after all, movies like to portray our forebearers as spear carrying, grunting mesomorphs. The truth is, in 2500 BC (date is an estimate) ancient Britons were burying their dead in a respectful and highly ornamental manner.

The stones--called Sarsins--might have been carried down from Wales. That is what our little excavation discovered. We also found evidence of dog bones and pig bones from feasting. Whether they ate dogs is unsure. Cultures such as the ancient Native Americans used dogs to pull heavy objects and assist heavy labors in other ways.As to how they erected these stones with such astronomical accuracy..well, that is not something we could discover from digging along the pipeline. Other excavations have uncovered far, far more and can be found online by simply googling Stonehenge, Archaeological Discoveries.

Stonehenge is situated in the general area of Amesbury, Southern England, where many monumental looking stones can easily be seen while hiking about. Unlike many excavations, which involve crude conditions and back-breaking work, we were kept at a lovely Old English Mill House, and did lunch at the local Pub in Lockeridge. British Archaeologists have no qualms about ordering a pint of nutty ale to go with lunch or a drink called a Shanty.I can still taste the simmering stew, made with white wine and crusted bread and cheese on top. But then, I was there many years ago. Everything changes, and alas not always for the better. I prefer English Lambs and bluebells to condos and cell phones, anyday, anytime.

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    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you, trish!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      What a great experience for you :)

      Anything to do with history or archaeology fascinates me.

      The area around Stonehenge is amazing!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thanks for reading! Yes, the UK has alot to offer. It has changed, I know, but hopefully the good places to visit are still there!

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 

      8 years ago from Texas

      This hub and great photos make me want to visit the UK. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Garnetbird 

      8 years ago

      Yes, I remember the Sarsen boulders everywhere; there was a local artist painting them. I bought some of his work.I felt the same way about the stones--how could they have gotten them there? This dig was over 25 years ago and new theories have been established since I was digging there. I do remember the Pub in Lockeridge and the bone chips I cleaned and bagged. O, memories!

    • profile image

      Neolith 

      8 years ago

      Actually, I think you'll find that Lockeridge is near Avebury henge, about 20 miles to the north of Stonehenge. Lockeridge has a field of sarsen stones and it's possible that the sarsens used to build Stonehenge were from here, or from a mile or so further north on Overton Down. Whichever it was, it would have been an heroic journey to drag the massive 30-40 ton stones all that way south over the hills that blocked the way to Salisbury Plain.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      THANK you-yes, I will probably never travel there again, but my heart loves the UK, deeply! Thank you for reading and encouraging me!

    • heyju profile image

      heyju 

      8 years ago

      Oh my..how lucky you were...to be in such a place and yes before time spoils it too much.. Wonderful hub..I think Stonehenge fascinates us all in a way. But to be there and actually dig and find things..totally awesome. Thank you for a great read.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      O, thank you! It's been a long time, but every spring I seem to miss the UK. My family roots go back there, to Durham and Yorkshire. Thanks for your gracious comments!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I have always been fascinated by Stonehenge and by archaeology generally. Once thought of doing it professionally, but then other things intervened.

      Thanks for sharing your interesting experiences and for helping to debunk the myths!

      Love and peace

      Tony

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