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At the Edge / Bob Trubshaw /

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complied by Bob Trubshaw

Prehistoric rock art - sacred knowledge?

Richard Bradley’s extensive surveys of British prehistoric rock art lead him to conclude that the abstract motifs used may have been chosen ‘because their meanings were never meant to be disclosed to the casual observer’. He notes ‘that they were the work of a society in which sacred knowledge was important’. Above all, such rocks are re-used in later megalithic monuments, clearly indicating sustained importance.
Richard Bradley, ‘Making sense of prehistoric rock art’, British Archaeology No.9 Nov 1995, p8-9

‘Entoptic patterns’ in Irish passage graves

Statistical analysis of the motifs carved in Irish megalithic tombs shows a strong correlation with motifs created by non-Western cultures during ‘altered states of consciousness’ (drug-induced or otherwise). The author concludes that Irish passage-tomb art is associated with such visions.
Jeremy Dronfield ‘Subjective vision and the source of Irish megalithic art’, Antiquity Vol.69 No.264 September 1995 p539-49

La Hougue Bie

Recent archaeological investigation of this well-preserved and exceptionally large passage-grave on Jersey revealed possible evidence for opium or cannabis resin in pots from secondary burials around passage grave. An interim excavation report indicates that the site was used extensively from c.4060BC and underwent a series of structural modifications until perhaps 2800BC, with the site remaining in use even after the structure was ‘abandoned’. Nevertheless, perhaps it is only coincidental that the mound is now surmounted by two medieval chapels.
Mark Patton, ‘New light on Atlantic seaboard passage-grave chronology’ Antiquity Vol.69 No.264 September 1995 p582-6

‘Better than 1976’

The initial verdict from archaeological aerial photographers is that the drought of of 1995 has revealed more previously-unknown sites than even in the record year of 1976. Unrecorded Neolithic barrows have been spotted in Lincolnshire and Wessex and a causewayed camp near Peterborough. Iron age remains seem to have been especially prolific, with a dozen barrows near Andover and numerous settlements throughout England. Interestingly, neolithic cursuses, previously thought to be unique to Britain, have turned up in Germany and Hungary.
‘Best year ever for air photography’, British Archaeology No.9, October 1995 p5 and ‘Aerial reconnaissance in England, summer 1995’, Antiquity Vol. 69 No.266 (1995) p981-8

Stonehenge threat resumes

The DTp’s Highways Agency unilaterally abandoned an agreement set up in July 1994 by transport minister Steven Norris for the Highways Agency, English Heritage and the National Trust to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the re-routing of roads around Stonehenge. Once again the World Heritage site is threatened by proposals for three alternative routes - all of which would archaeologically damaging. The DTp seems to be unmovable in its intentions to construct a six-lane highway through Britain’s most impressive prehistoric landscape. Latest news is that EH/NT/HA have reconvened to recommend a road tunnel as the only solution but there is pessimism that the Treasury will turn this down on grounds of cost!
Peter Addyman ‘The road that could ruin Stonehenge’ British Archaeology No.9, October 1995 p11 and Simon Denison ‘Stonehenge roads’ British Archaeology No.10, December 1995 p4

Stonehenge and Preseli

The debate over the origin of the ‘blue stones’ at Stonehenge has boiled up again. Those who argue that they are not glacial erratics but man-moved from the Preseli mountains are making much of the discovery of similar-looking stones in the sea near Milford Haven. Divers plan to bring substantial fragments of the rock to the surface.
Nick Nutall ‘Seabed boulders may solve Stonehenge riddle The Times 28th November 1995 [cutting kindly submitted by John Michell.] See also ‘Chlorine-36 dating and the bluestones of Stonehenge’ Antiquity Vol.69 No.266 (1995) p1019-20 for a discussion of previous attempts to confirm a man-assisted journey from Wales.

Pembrokeshire dolmens

The chamber tombs of Pembrokeshire form an interesting subject for study and their location can be considered to be significant. This study takes a serious if occasionally naive approach (handicapped by the omission of full bibliographical details) but seems to have been carried out before publication of Christopher Tilley’s A phenomenology of landscape (Berg 1994) which adds other alternatives.
George Children and George Nash, ‘Sacred stone, death and the landscape’, 3rd Stone No.22 October 1995 p9-11

Flag Fen ‘copied’ in Sussex

A large bronze age ceremonial and occupation site is emerging from waterlogged deposits near Eastbourne. There are general similarities with the famous site at Flag Fen, although this site seems to be later (800-600 BC). High-status imported bronze artifacts and human burials are among the finds.
‘New Flag Fen-like site found in East Sussex’ British Archaeology No.10 December 1995 p4

Bronze age ‘housing estate’

Over 40 neatly laid-out bronze age houses have been excavated from a waterlogged site near Reading - and the site may reveal up to a 100 such structures. A substantial quantity of burnt stones indicates frequent use of a ‘sauna’. Preservation of wooden artifacts and environmental evidence means that many new insights into bronze age lifestyles should be revealed.
Rajeev Syal ‘Bronze Age “Barratt” village found’, The Sunday Times 3rd December 1995 [cutting kindly submitted by David Taylor.]

Mayan cosmology

An ambitious new look at the religion and mythology of the central American Maya people attempts to recreate their traditional cosmology. Controversial in its anecdotal, ‘self-aware’ style and in its content, key arguments include suggestions that Maya kings were shamans and that the Milky Way was seen as both the World Tree and the Cosmic Monster.
David Freidel, Linda Schele and Joy Parker; Maya Cosmos (William Morrow, N.Y. 1994); see also review feature in Cambridge Archaeological Journal Vol.5 No.1 (1995) p115-37

Black dogs in Coventry

A gamut of place-names suggest that relatively recent reports of a phantom black dog in the Whitmoor Park area of Coventry may be the latest in a long history of such sightings.
David McGrory ‘On the sniff’, Fortean Times No.83, October 1995, p42-3

Horse whisperers’ secrets

Much mystique has been built up around the ‘Toad Men’ or ‘Horseman’s Word’. But the ‘whispering’ may have been a conjuring ‘decoy’ and the real trick may have involved the smell of dead moles and a blend of herbs.
Peter Bayliss ‘Horse scents’, Fortean Times No.83, October 1995, p39-40

Alien abductions abnegated

‘Gross intellectual sloppiness’ is the accusation made against Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and John Mack - the three best-known exponents of the ‘alien abductions industry’. This article leaves little doubt that they may have fooled themselves but the evidence they offer should not fool anyone else. Some first-rate writing about little-understood mental processes.
Peter Brookesmith ‘Do aliens dream of Jacobs’ sheep?’ Fortean Times No.83, October 1995, p22-30

Population centre of Britain

Readers of Mercian Mysteries will be familiar with the editor’s obsession with ‘omphaloi’ and sacred central places. However, there is a secular counterpart. The ‘centre of gravity’ of the population has been studied for the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and this reveals a steady drift southwards during this century. In 1901 Rodsley in Derbyshire could claim the honour of fulfilling the role of centre of population. Subsequently the drift has brought it southwards through Longford, Egginton and Swadlincote. Today it teeters on the Leicestershire border, at Overseal. The authors of the study attribute the 16 mile drift to Conservative policies and EU membership.
Geoffrey Lean ‘The heart of Britain is slipping south’ Independent on Sunday 26th November 1995 [cutting kindly submitted by John Michell] and ‘Centre stage for village’ Burton Mail 27th November 1995 [cutting kindly submitted by Chris Fletcher].

Fertility folklore

Procreation has long been of foremost interest to humans and surfaces in folklore, especially that associated with specific stones and natural seats. A thorough survey of the subject with a number of surprising insights.
Jeremy Harte ’ To be a joyful mother of children’, Northern Earth No.64 December 1995 p7-13

King Arthur’s grave ‘found’

Based on suppositions in King Arthur - the True Story (G. Phillips and M. Keatman, Century 1992) the authors persuaded TV’s Schofield’s Quest to finance both a geophysical survey and a dowser to explore the The Berth near Baschurch in Shropshire. The dowser claimed to locate eight graves.
Schofield’s Quest 12th and 19th November 1995 [thanks to David Taylor and Pat Bradford]

'New' Irish cursuses

Cursuses have been 'appearing' in unexpected places in recent years. Two have been identified in Ireland. A reinterpretation of part of the iron age earthworks at Tara suggests it is a 'reuse' of a neolithic cursus. Other fieldwork provides clear evidence for a cursus in the rich prehistoric landscape of Loughcrew.
Tom Condit 'Avenues for research' and Conor Newman 'A cursus at Loughcrew, Co. Meath' in Archaeology Ireland No.34 Winter 1995 p16-21

Originally published in At the Edge No.1 1996.

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At the Edge / Bob Trubshaw /

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Created August 1996; updated November 2008