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Avebury, north-east quadrant © Littlestone
A cold New Year’s Eve seeps in,
Walking along an unknown path,
Confronted suddenly by giant arcs of ditch and bank
Which draw the eye towards processions of stones.
Rings within rings,
Gauntly chiselled jewels bound by bracelets of mossy grass,
Their ancient faces careworn from witnessing millennia –
Sad, yet proud and wise, these forty ton leviathans.
Echoes of long-forgotten rituals
Intangible yet close, a sense of collective aim.
Slowly we traverse the great circle,
Latter-day invaders, unsure of their purpose.
How much have we forgotten?
Over two hundred generations – what is remembered?

Geoff Butts


The Bronze Age Bedd Morris stone on Dinas Mountain, Pembrokeshire, Wales after being toppled over by a carless driver earlier this year. The monument is a bluestone and the same as those as those at Stonehenge
The Bedd Morris stone before being toppled
‘twas the night before solstice
when all through the land
not a stone stood standing not one to be found.
The Druids and bards had all done their best
but greedy developers made sure of the rest.
Ancient stones were fired and set into walls
while some lay silent under churches and halls.
Ditches were filled and banks cut down
and barrows were ploughed without even a frown
 Once where the sun had shifted and shone
now shadowy memories of stones long gone.
Cold banks and ditches and barren wet holes
were all that remained of the megaliths’ souls.

Trucks now thundered through circles once clear
while builders and quarrymen smashed without fear.
’twas like seeing an oak cut down in its prime
the terrible things done to our stones at that time.

Then came a cry for the wise-ones to stand
against the destruction of stones in our land.
A gathering of minds known as
came to the rescue and into the fray!


There were Wallies and Norfolks and others untold
standing firm against wreckers evil and bold.
There were big stones and little stones all having their say
but one in particular stood proud that day.

Squonk! was his name standing true and sound
and declaring to those both here and around
that ‘henges’ and ditches and banks to be sure
are part of our heritage and our hearts and much more!


(with apologies to Clement C Moore)


The original 1897 French Baroque-style building of the Kyoto National Museum

The Kyoto National Museum (京都国立博物館) complex comprises the original French Baroque-style building, as well as the Western Gate, the south and the west walls (all constructed in 1897 using brick imported from Britain) and the later 1966 Collections Hall; the latter is presently undergoing renovation and will be closed until 2014. During renovation, the Baroque-style part of the Museum will be the only part open, and this only for special exhibitions held there three or four times a year. Once renovations to the Collections Hall are complete it will again exhibit Chinese and Japanese archaeological objects, lacquer ware, metalwork, textiles, paintings and sculpture, many of which belong, or belonged, to the Imperial Household Agency, Kyoto’s many temples as well as numerous private collections.

More here.


The Plasauduon

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales blog features a stunning architectural 3D fly through animation of the 17th century Plasauduon –

The Plasauduon is typical of the seventeenth-century ‘Severn Valley’ type — symmetrical timber-framed houses distinguished by impressive, central, storeyed porches opening into a lobby at the side of the central fireplace. This form creates two balanced rooms to the ground and first floor; in this case the hall on the right and parlour on the left, and there are bedchambers over. Built around 1660, with a later rear wing that is possibly a rebuild of an earlier structure, Plasauduon is remarkably well preserved.

More here.

Subhashis Das checking the azimuth of a menhir near Obra village

Writing in Megaliths of India Subhashis Das reports that –

Road making has destroyed a significant megalithic site in the outskirts of Obra village in Pathalgadda block of Chatra district in Jharkhand. The site is a primitive tribal memorial site having tall menhirs. The site already destroyed by villagers with many tall menhirs being lugged away by them, the road making has come as a blow to this tribal heritage of our country.

Full article here.

Earthenware found in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward. Image credit The Mainichi Daily News

The Mainich Daily News reports on the 10 December that the Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute (京都市埋蔵文化財研究所) –

…has unearthed earthenware in an excavation site, which is believed to be the remains of a residence for Fujiwara no Yoshimi, a prominent politician and court noble in the Heian period (794 to 1185).

The earthenware found is inscribed with black ink as “Sanjo-in Tsuridono Takatsuki” (Sanjo residence, palatial-style ‘tsuridono’ architecture, pedestal serving bowl). The Chinese character “in” in the inscription means a “great residence.” The research institute said the Chinese characters such as “in” inscribed on the pottery support the theory that the remains where it was unearthed were those for the residence of Fujiwara no Yoshimi. It was the first time that the location of a residence of an aristocrat within Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) had been confirmed.

Full article here.


John Aubrey (1626-1697)
John Aubrey may have been described by his friends as, “Shiftless, roving and magotie-headed…” but he was among the first to examine and record Stonehenge, Avebury and other megalithic structures with any degree of accuracy. Writing about Avebury and Stonehenge Aubrey says, “I have brought (them) from an inner darkness to a thin mist.”
There will be a lecture by Professor Michael Hunter FBA (author of John Aubrey and the World of Learning) and recently retired Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire from 2:30pm on Saturday, 24 March 2012.
More here.

The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works will be holding a panel discussion on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 focusing on the problem of the preservation of world archaeological heritage in a time of climate change –

Global weather patterns are changing and with these changes come significant threats to the preservation of world archaeological heritage. An increasing number of coastal sites are vulnerable to inundation and ruin by rising sea levels. And as temperatures rise in some parts of the world those archaeological remains which have laid frozen in the permafrost, in a state of spectacular preservation, are beginning to thaw…and rot. The need to raise awareness of how global climate change is affecting archaeological heritage is clear and the timeframe left to us to address this challenge is growing ever shorter. From Easter Island to the Altai Mountains, archaeological sites are increasingly at risk due to changing weather patterns and climate shifts.

Following from the IIC 2008 Dialogue on Climate Change and Conservation, this panel discussion will focus on specific case studies and their relationship to the broader challenges being faced by the preservation community in a world of shifting climates.


Centre for Sustainable Heritage Administrator
Bartlett School of Graduate Studies
University College London
Central House
14 Upper Woburn Place
London WC1H 0NN

On Wednesday, 18 January 2012 from 7:00pm.

More here.

The Neolithic Lady of Villers-Carbonnel statuette. Image credit DBossut/Inrap Press
Writing in The Independent this morning, John Lichfield reports that –
French archaeologists have discovered an extremely rare example of a neolithic “earth mother” figurine on the banks of the river Somme. The 6,000-year-old statuette is 8in high, with imposing buttocks and hips but stubby arms and a cone-like head. Similar figures have been found before in Europe but rarely so far north and seldom in such a complete and well-preserved condition. The “lady of Villers-Carbonnel”, as she has been named, can make two claims to be an “earth mother”. She was fired from local earth or clay and closely resembles figurines with similar, stylised female bodies found around the Mediterranean.
Full article here.

Wonderful indeed it is, a vast circumvallation that was already two thousand years old before the dawn of British history; a great wall of earth with its ditch most strangely on its inner and not on its outer side; and within this enclosure gigantic survivors of the great circles of unhewn stone that, even as late as Tudor days, were almost complete. A whole village, a church, a pretty manor house have been built, for the most part, out of the ancient megaliths; the great wall is sufficient to embrace them all with their gardens and paddocks; four cross-roads meet at the village centre. There are drawings of Avebury before these things arose there, when it was a lonely wonder on the plain, but for the most part the destruction was already done before the Mayflower sailed. To the southward stands the cone of Silbury Hill; its shadow creeps up and down the intervening meadows as the seasons change. Around this lonely place rise the Downs, now bare sheep pastures, in broad undulations, with a wart-like barrow here and there, and from it radiate, creeping up to gain and hold the crests of the hills, the abandoned trackways of that forgotten world. These trackways, these green roads of England, these roads already disused when the Romans made their highway past Silbury Hill to Bath, can still be traced for scores of miles through the land, running to Salisbury and the English Channel, eastward to the crossing at the Straits and westward to Wales, to ferries over the Severn, and southwestward into Devon and Cornwall.

From The Secret Places of the Heart (1922) by H G Wells.


Diver with a Greek amphora. Image credit Big Blue Tech

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 estimated prehistoric sites lying on the bottom of the Baltic? Or that 3 million ancient shipwrecks are estimated to lie on the seabed? Have you ever supposed that more than 150 sunken cities and ruined sites are located under water in the Mediterranean, including the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Or that artefacts recovered from the sea have been dated back 300,000 years!

Source UNESCO.

The seabed holds a wealth of archaeological information yet, …these sites and the stories of human history that they tell are in danger. Pillaging, salvaging, oil-exploration and drilling, shore-front development and construction are just a few of the threats facing this remarkable heritage.

Source Archaeology News Network.

To help the public enjoy our underwater heritage, UNESCO will be organising an evening event on 12 December at 7 pm in the Free University, Brussels. Following the event, and to mark the tenth anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage, there will be a meeting of experts at the Belgian Royal Library in Brussels from 13 to 14 December.


The Ishibutai Tumulus, Asuka. Image credit Wikimedia Commons

Asuka village lies some 20 kilometres south of Nara City, in the Kansai region of Honshu, central Japan. Some thirteen hundred years ago however Asuka was the site of Japan’s first capital, and it was probably here that Buddhism first established a foothold in the country, and here where the first major construction projects in wood and stone were undertaken – from the kofun (tumulus) constructions of the 7th century to the enigmatic Sakafune Stone which, in some ways, resembles British rockart.
The Ishibutai kofun (above) dates from the early part of the 7th century and is thought to have been constructed for Soga-no-Umako, a member of the powerful Soga clan and a champion for the acceptance of Buddhism in Japan. The kofun’s capstone is estimated to weigh in the region of 75 tons, while the chamber itself measures some 8 by 4 metres, and is 5 metres high. While the basic construction is not dissimilar to barrow construction in Britain of a much earlier date the far more linear aspect of Ishibutai is immediately striking.
 The Sakafune Stone circa 1916 
By comparison, the purpose of the Sakafune Stone (literally saké boat stone) remains a mystery. Various theories have been advanced to explain the function of the Stone but so far nothing definite has been confirmed (see link below, Astronomy Among Ancient Tombs and Relics in Asuka, Japan). Along with other megaliths and tumuli in the area, however, Sakafune is well worth a visit. Getting to Asuka is not too difficult, the nearest airport being Kansai International, followed by a few short train journeys from Kyoto, Nara or Osaka. The reward to the visitor will be a wealth of fascinating megalithic sites, museums, temples and shrines, all well away from the more well-known tourist sites in the area.
Map of Asuka’s main prehistoric sites
Location of the Ishibutai Tumulus and Sakafune Stone is shown near the bottom centre
(click on map for details)
Links and further reading:

One of the rock art stones uncovered by archaeologists at the Knowth tumulus. Image credit Kevin O’Brien, OPW

Writing in the Meath Chronicle, Paul Murphy reports that –

New and exciting archaeological finds have been made at the Knowth tumulus over the last few months, according to archaeologists working on the site. The passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne has produced some extraordinary discoveries over the decades ever since Professor George Eogan made his first tentative exploration in and around the site. A number of previously unknown large-scale monuments in the field lying immediately to the south-east of the large mound have recently come to light.

Full article here.

One of six oak boats being excavated at a Bronze Age site near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire Photograph: Dave Webb/Cambridge Archaeological Unit for The Observer Newspaper
Writing in The Observer today, reports on the astonishing and largest Bronze Age collection of artefacts ever found in Britain.

Six boats hollowed out of oak tree trunks are among hundreds of intact artefacts from 3,000 years ago that have been discovered in the Cambridgeshire fens, the Observer can reveal. The scale, quality and condition of the objects, the largest bronze age collection ever found in one place in Britain, have astonished archaeologists – and barely a fraction of the site has been excavated.

Unique textile fragments, wicker baskets and wooden sword handles have survived. There are even containers of food, including a bowl with a wooden spoon still wedged into the contents, now analysed as nettle stew, which may have been a favourite dish in 1000BC. The boats – two of which bear unusual decoration – are in such good condition that the wood grain and colour can be seen clearly, as can signs of repairs by their owners.

Full article here.


Writing in The Guardian today, Jasmine Coleman reports that –
The government is considering digging a new tunnel under the Chiltern Hills as it looks again at plans for the HS2 high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham. The transport secretary, Justine Greening, is expected to announce a delay next week in the decision on the divisive £32bn project. The proposals have proved controversial among MPs whose constituencies straddle the planned route. Officials in the Department for Transport have now reportedly found an extra £500m to pay for a 1.5-mile tunnel under the Chilterns, west of Amersham, to stop the line scarring the landscape…

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has welcomed plans for more tunnelling but said it was concerned the additional funding would potentially come from cutting back on mitigation measures elsewhere on the scheme. Ralph Smyth of the CPRE said the alteration would be “something to help swallow the bitterness”.

He added: “Just because countryside is not nationally designated does not mean it should not be valued and protected.”

Full article here.


December 2011
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