Stonehenge Design Inspired By Sound

Music could have been an inspiration for the design of Stonehenge, according to an American researcher.

Steven Waller’s intriguing idea is that ancient Britons could have based the layout of the great monument, in part, on the way they perceived sound.

Archaeoacoustics is a growing field, with researchers reporting interesting results from many prehistoric structures.

Britain’s Biggest Space Rock Found At Druid Burial Site

“The only meteorites that we know about that have survived these long ages are the ones that were collected in Antarctica,” said researcher Colin Pillinger, adding that more recently, some ancient meteorites have been collected in the Sahara Desert. This rock came from neither the Sahara Desert nor Antarctica, but rather the Lake House in Wiltshire. “Britain was under an ice age for 20,000 years,” Pillinger said, explaining the climate would have protected the rock from weathering. At some point, the Druids likely picked up the meteorite when scouting for rocks to build burial chambers. “They were keen on building burial sites for [the dead] in much the same way the Egyptians built the pyramids.”

Sounds like a great exhibition.

Stonehenge Origins Uncovered

Experts have identified the precise location in Wales of some of the megaliths used in the construction of Stonehenge.

It’s a pretty major achievement to discover the location of the millennia-old quarry down to a few metres, but this also throws up some new mysteries. The rhyolitic rocks differ from all others in South Wales. The presumption is that they were chosen for a specific reason. How were they identified and why? There has been some interesting work done elsewhere into the acoustic qualities of particular stones at prehistoric sites. Is this important?

And this discovery has also kicked a hole in theories of how the stones were transplanted to Salisbury Plain. A consensus was growing that they were floated on rafts along the coast, but the exact location’s inaccessibility to water makes this unlikely. The old geologic theory – that the stones were pushed by advancing glaciers from Wales to Wiltshire during the ice age – is pretty flimsy as there aren’t any other Welsh rocks scattered around the Plain.

Australian Stone Circle ‘Older Than Stonehenge’

This new look at an old discovery is raising questions about whether ancient aboriginal culture had a deep understanding of the movement of the stars.

“They have discovered that waist-high boulders at the tip of the egg-shaped point along the ring to the position on the horizon where the sun sets at the summer and winter solstice – the longest and shortest day of the year.”

Inspiration For Writing

You don’t want to seem like a nutter when you’re on public radio. So when the host asks me – as they always do – where do you get your ideas from, I steer clear of the truthful answer: “psychic connections through the aether” or “hypnagogic messages dictated by our mysterious overlords“. I usually mutter something about stumbling across an interesting fact. Always go for the boring option. It keeps you out of the coats with no arms.

But we can speak honestly here. We all know about the mysterious connections in life. The stuff that goes on behind all those scientific processes. The weird, inexplicable occurrences lurking in the corners of day-to-day existence. The gods and imps and fairies and demons that we like to call other things because, you know, that whole coats with no arms thing…

When I say “the universe speaks to me”, I mean it speaks to all writers, all musicians, all artists. We each tend to put a different face on it, but it’s the same voice. So where do my gods and fairies and demons lurk?

In pubs with stone and timber and glowering locals and beer with strange names. In deep rural life which city folk think is backward, but is wild and dangerous and so removed it might as well be another planet. In bands that you might stumble across in the back rooms of pubs and never hear from again. In stone circles, crumbling ruins, lonely pools, old houses. Across those city liminal zones – industrial estates under sodium at 3am, empty, broken-windowed factories and wasteground with rainbow-streaked puddles. In black-faced, mirror-glassed morris men and biker gangs. In snatches of music heard after midnight. In moots and meets and markets held under moonlight. These are the places where stories are born. These are the locations where my writing gods live.

And for a specific example, here’s one of the inspirations for Age of Misrule

The Dancing Did remain one of my favourite bands, a quarter of a century after they split up. Characterised as “neo rustic pagan bop” or “a cross between The Clash and Steeleye Span”, you can find out more about them here.

Their album, And Did Those Feet, is little-known but essential, particularly if you like fantasy or any of those things I listed above. The lyrics are clever, witty and poetic and deal with ancient things encroaching on the modern world – listen to ‘The Wolves of Worcestershire‘ or ‘Charnel Boy‘. A remixed version with a booklet and additional tracks is available from Cherry Red.

The Dancing Did’s thematic equivalent today may well be Cornish collective Kemper Norton though the music is very, very different. I came across them through the regular ravings of Warren Ellis, another fan. More inspiration. I bet they never imagined they’d be dragging a story about Elizabethan spies and Faerie into the light…

Stonehenge Continues To Surprise

A new survey of the Stonehenge landscape reveals the ancient monument once had two encircling hedges that may have been planted to keep secret whatever rituals took place among the stones.

Archaeologist and Stonehenge expert Mike Pitts wonders if the hedges might have been to shelter the watchers from the power of the stones, as much as to ward off the observers’ “impious” gaze. The full story is revealed in British Archaeology magazine.

A new study of the stones themselves, meanwhile, confirms that the majority of bluestones came from hundreds of miles away, in the Preseli Hills in West Wales. However, doubts still remain over the origin of the largest bluestone, the Altar Stone – its composition reveals it cannot be from the Preseli region.

Second Stonehenge Discovered

A “second Stonehenge” has been discovered, next to the River Avon and allegedly linked by a processional route to the “actual” Stonehenge. Archaeologists say this newly discovered circle was composed of Welsh bluestones.

The recent discovery is bringing about a major re-think of the entire site. (Thanks to CharlieFarlie of the forum for the link.)

Walking the Age of Misrule

Last week, UK newspaper The Guardian had a series of supplements detailing Great British Walks. The one which appeared on day five will be of particular interest to readers of this blog as it focuses on Lost Worlds and Legends-themed walks.

Several of the trails are linked to sites featured heavily in Age of Misrule – Stonehenge, Loch Ness, Thomas the Rhymer’s Hills, Tintagel – and are a great way to soak up the atmosphere and discover more about these evocative places.

You can buy the whole set of walks supplements for a tenner here.

Cafe With A View

One final place to recommend if you’re journeying to Tenby in South Wales this summer: Caffe Vista in Crackwell Street, off the beaten track, but worth seeking out. For a start, it serves proper coffee (and cake) unlike the over-priced slop many cafes try to get away with in the UK. But if you head to the back, there’s also a sun-drenched balcony overlooking the sea that very few people know about. A good writers’ cafe, with free broadband too.

Best Ice Cream In The UK

Fecci's ice cream
Fecci's ice cream

Okay, I’ve clearly not tasted every ice cream produced across the land, but the ones made by Fecci & Sons in Tenby are certainly my number one. The Italian family has been making ice cream in Tenby since the First World War and they’ve got several classic, traditional ice cream parlours around the town.

My favourite is in St George’s Street straight off the Five Arches as you go in. Another reason why I love the place, and certainly worth mentioning here at the start of the British summer. The ice cream really is that good. (Apologies for the hopeless photo, by the way.)