Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Raw info...

I sat for twenty minutes at first The Sanctuary and latter on in the day, twenty minutes at Woodhenge recording all I saw; the atmosphere, how I felt.

This blog entry will contain the raw version, plus original notes from Maud Cunnington (the archaeologist who originally excavated these sites).

What is the connection with the Persephone myth?
Because the Persephone myth touches on the subject of sacrifice -a girl given to the Underworld.

I wished to give the myth locations, places where the mythic narrative and the facts, actually meet. Perhaps the Neolithic would be more appropriate than The Bronze Age?

Perhaps I should think about The Neolithic next?

The burial at The Sanctuary is ambiguous. It looks like the others found in the Avebury Avenue, which are taken to be male. The body is placed on the North-East side of a standing stone, crouched up...a beaker by its side (same as the Avenue burials). Aubrey Burl thought that it must be a female burial because of the way she was positioned.

Aubrey Burl also argued that in the Neolithic mind (and the Bronze Age?) both death and fertility were integrated so that:
"The fertility of the ground, the fecundity of women, the spirits of forebears that interceded with nature on behalf of the living, the cold winter sunset and the joyful summer sunrise.."

But her pelvis provides the most trustworthy source of information, and looks female.

The midsummer thing is odd, in the light of Mike Parker Pearson's work at Stonehenge. What was it that made Maud Cunnington think that Woodhenge was aligned to midsummer; when did people start believing that Stonehenge was a midsummer place? Midsummer marks the oncoming death of the year, not a force towards light and growth -a force towards cold, dark and decay...

12:22pm - 12:44pm
24th April 2011
The Sanctuary -Latitude: 51.410002N Longitude: 1.83173W.
Cut grass, concrete-blue-rectangles, concrete-red-cylinders, a thousand black flies -big bodied, their legs trailing behind them. Lark and passenger plane. Dandelions yellow and fluffy. Temperature 18 degrees C (guess) the wind cold. A descriptive plaque. Walkers enter the circle through the ancient entrance, a man doing yoga. Then a family, woman wearing a long purple skirt enter from the road side. They look at the information plaque, walk through the center of the ring and then leave. The walkers (a group of five women) three go on to read the plaque, two remain in the centre of the circles. One of the walkers rearranges the assembly of ‘offerings’: a lump of chalk, a pine cone and a feather. The pine cone is left on a red post, the walkers walk on. In the distance behind me dogs are barking. Behind me the jelly mould of Silbury Hill is gauzy, wrapped in mist, West Kennet is hidden. The ground here is heavy, like walking through air-coloured, transparent mud. The atmosphere is of emptiness, like a bus shelter late at night and the night bus already gone. The sound of cars, regular, never quite fades away. Bird song almost absent only the lark. Us clad in motorbike wear, helmets with us as we eat sandwiches, insulated by leather; capture devices at hand -Vado, camera, pens and paper, the light filters down through a blanket of cloud.

The Sanctuary is a disc cut into a hill, its presence heralded by the barrows at the top of the road climb to Avenbury.

No ghosts are interested in us, no sense of being watched, or psychic discomfort. Just stronger gravity. A disc space, this place slightly concave.

Over the road -strewn with dead and injured black flies hit by speeding cars- is the Ridgeway. A camper van and a few other cars.

Gavin shows me a pill-bug, rolled up in his hand.

The grave; I don’t think people know where it is. The Sanctuary plaque does not say. The plans of The Sanctuary that I find online don’t help. But the most likely answer is the buried stone by one of the blue-concrete rectangles.

People don’t stay here. The yoga guy stayed the longest but he too has stalked away from the rings.

Maud Cunnington wrote -1930:

One burial was found. This consisted of a much crouched skeleton of a youth some 14 or 15 years of age, lying in a shallow grave on the inner side of the stone hole 12, in the stone-and-post-ring, i.e., on the eastern side of the rings immediately behind the one single-post hole in the Bank Holiday ring (Plate X.).

The skeleton lay on its right side, head to the south, feet to the north i.e., facing east. The grave was l ft. deep, 3ft. long, by 2ft. wide. The grave and the stone hole cut into one another, and the body must have almost, if not quite, touched the inner face of the stone at the time of burial, if the stone was already standing. See PL III., 1.

The arms were crossed above the elbow in front of the face, the two hands seeming to enfold the face, finger bones being found over and under the facial bones; the head was bent forward over the chest, and the legs were crossed below the knees.

 In front of the legs just below the knees lay the crushed fragments of a beaker. Intimately associated with the skeleton, apparently having been laid on the body when it was buried, were some bones of animals, some being slightly charred. A few small flecks of charred (or decayed?) wood were noticed among the bones of the skeleton.

The bones of the skeleton were nearly all broken, most of the limb bones being in several pieces. The skull and the beaker were crushed flat and a few fragments of both were missing; it seems that this was probably due to a certain amount of disturbance caused when the stone fell, or was thrown down and removed.

Some of the crushing may be due to heavy modern agricultural machines.

It is hardly possible that the burial was made before the stone hole was dug ; the probability seems to be that it was made at the time the stone was erected, for the risk of bringing down the stone would have been considerable had the grave been dug Later. As all the ground within and including the Fence-ring was dug over, had there been other burials they must have been found, so this with Woodhenge makes the second elaborate series of wooden circles that were not erected primarily as burial places.

This solitary somewhat insignificant burial may have been of a dedicatory nature as the only one of the rings at Woodhenge is thought to have been.

The evidence from the burial affords a striking parallel to that of the pottery as regards an overlap in cultures. While some of the pottery is of the West Kennet Long Barrow type the rest is equally characteristic of the succeeding "Beaker" period. The youth buried beside the stone was of Long Barrow people ancestry, but the vessel by his side is one typical of the "Beaker" people, who invaded Britain at the end of the Long Barrow period, imposing their culture—and presumably conquering—the Long Barrow people who were previously predominant in southern Britain.

Better evidence of overlap could scarcely be expected.

The only other human remains found were three pieces of a lower jaw scattered in stone hole 16 of the Stone-and-post-ring ; the pieces were subsequently fitted together but do not make a complete jaw.

16:20pm - 16:40pm
24th April 2011
Woodhenge -Latitude: 51.189413N Longitude: 1.786029W.

More concrete posts this time a selection of cylinders; grass strewn with buttercups and daisies, dandelions. The tops of the posts are colour coded IKEA blue, yellow and red. The earth is sandy between the grasses, like dusty coffee. Away over the field is the Cuckoo stone, fallen forwards, stuck in prostration. Someone has put flint around the stone; it is like bone fractured open to reveal a white and blue speckled marrow, glass-like in texture. The concrete cylinders of Woodhenge are decorated; lichen bright orange and paint like and white to grey discs. At the central burial place -a concrete and flint grave shaped heap- today there are no offerings.

There is a fence around Woodhenge, though the sheep it keeps out would not be a problem. The fencing off, the enclosure of space. The sun is hot on my back, the temperature now is more like 20 C and the wind is no longer cold. The sound of traffic is a distant river. An eternal flow. One camper van and a couple of cars sit in the parking space, it is more ‘upmarket’ here that The Sanctuary. A host of motorcyclists are parked at the road side. There is the drone of a light aircraft. Woodhenge looks and feels odd. The sound is of larks, of traffic and the little plane, circling. The posts are different sizes, but from here, by them, there is no pattern. The throaty chuckle of a Harley, heralds the leaving, the motorcyclists go.

A cyclist passes silently.

Above me a milky blue sky, like the flint from the Cuckoo stone. The distant aeroplane still circles.

Ordinary cars, beetle-like in metallic shells, families dressed in bright colours enter the maze of posts. The sound of Gavin (sat by my side) counting coins. I hear a man cough. Before me beyond the rings, Durrington Walls, site of mega pig fest’, midwinter, tender piglets fed fat on sweet things until their teeth rotted.

Three couples enter the rings, suntanned, cameras, without children; and stare, hands shielding eyes from the sun. A couple stand by the flint grave, one couple turn and go back to their car, the third couple head for the explanatory sign. A man in red lies down by the flint grave soon to get up and read the plaque -the bronze inscription. The other couple goes to the grave, the man sits on a post, the woman looks around...

Now the hills before me are losing definition in a heat haze. A huge black bird flies over the site and sits in a tree. The couple leave. In the distance, a dog is barking. The lark’s song is constant. The drone of the plane has gone. There is the sound of crows far away.

A motorcyclist passes, does not stop.

The grass is cut to give definition; the ditch that once surrounded the island (now inhabited by concrete posts) can be imagined. The disc of Woodhenge is slightly convex.

More motorcyclists stop, and this time enter the rings, look at the plaque and one of them poses for photos and laughs, on various large posts.

I notice the dandelions, a thin, transparent wrapper, and foot prints in the dusty patches. Again there is the sense of being on a disc (like The Sanctuary) the barrows at The Sanctuary or the hills on the horizon at Woodhenge

CENTRAL GRAVE.AS DESCRIBED BY M E Cunnington 1926. Page 13]:
A small grave was found lying on the line of midsummer sunrise, and at right angles to it.This grave, with slightly rounded ends, was only a foot deep in the chalk. In the Southern end, the grave being unnecessarily large for a burial lay the crouched skeleton of a child of about three years old. Owing to the decayed condition of the bones, many of them having disappeared all together, it was difficult to determine the exact position, but the body was turned towards the North-East i.e., to the rising sun at midsummer.It will be seen from the plan that the line of sunrise falls across the Southern end of the grave, across the centre of the burial, though not through the centre of the grave.A remarkable circumstance in connection with the skeleton is that the skull appears to have been cleft before burial. When the bones were first uncovered it was exclaimed "There must be two skeletons" because there appeared to be two skulls lying side by side, touching one another. But when the bones were removed they proved to be those of only one individual, and what looked like two skulls were actually the two halves of the same skull. It is a common thing to find a skull crushed in the ground, but there seems no way of accounting for its being found lying in two parts, unless it had been cleft before burial.The other bones, though much decayed, were found lying in their natural order, and there was no sign to suggest that the grave had ever been disturbed. It appears probable, therefore, that this child's burial was in the nature of a dedicatory or sacrificial one. No relics of any kind were found with the skeleton.