The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

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A R Cane

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Beacon Hill (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beacon Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane

Beacon Hill (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

My memory takes me back to 1972 and I have just queued up with my family for what seems a lifetime on a drab day outside the British Museum. We have just managed to get into the room where the treasures of Tutankhamun are on show and I am finally in front of the famous death mask taking in the awesomeness of it all, when an over zealous mother elbows me out of the way and thrusts her own children forward, the brief vision now fading away in a milieu of struggling families. Goodness, it was like a rugby scrum in there!

Forty two years later I'm walking around the top of Beacon Hill towards the grave of Lord Carnarvon, sponsor of Howard Carter's 1922 excavation in the Valley of the Kings. It's a beautiful day and being a Monday there's hardly a soul about, just the ever present hum of the A34 a long way below me. The last time I came up here must have been before 1972 when my parents would bring us here for a Sunday afternoon runabout and tell us about the Tutankhamun stories. It's all pretty much as I remember it, the grave surrounded by railings, the view to Highclere Castle, the stout earthworks of the hill fort, the wild flowers and butterflies and the singing of skylarks above. In fact the only thing that has changed is the A34 which must have been a very quiet affair pre-1972. It's the A34 that got me back here as well, having travelled up and down it on numerous occasions, always strongly aware of the hill's presence, but it was always a case of 'in too much of a hurry, not the right weather or nobody else in the car wanting to do the mammoth climb to the top'. Well today is my day and all the conditions are spot on.

Shipley Bottom (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

I was actually trying to get to the Giant's Grave further down the road and turned off far too early. Another car pulled up shortly after me and a guy got out and put on walking boots which further confused me. After twenty minutes walking along the valley bottom I realised my mistake, but as it turned out there was something to see after all. Shipley Bottom (or Shapely Bottom as I like to refer to it) doesn't have a huge amount to offer archaeologically, but it does do 'serene', which is not surprising considering its proximity to the Ridgeway path less than half a mile to the west and Liddington Castle a mile to the north. There are two or possibly three barrows along the valley bottom, the western one being the more impressive and better preserved. The eastern one(s) are almost flattened or ploughed out, difficult to say as they just looked like a patch of weeds, but at least that shows that somebody made the decision to stop degrading them.

Shipley Bottom (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

<b>Shipley Bottom</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Shipley Bottom</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Shipley Bottom</b>Posted by A R Cane

Seven Barrows (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Images

<b>Seven Barrows</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Seven Barrows</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Seven Barrows</b>Posted by A R Cane

Grime's Graves (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Images

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Grime's Graves (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Fieldnotes

It's strange where you end up sometimes. We just happened to be up near here collecting a moped from nearby Thetford and decided to pop over to take a look. It was of particular interest to me as living near Cissbury, another flint mining site, it would give an opportunity to actually go down inside a mine, which you can't do at Cissbury as they're all filled in. The visitor centre is quite interesting, but you can't help feeling it's primary function is to enthuse parties of young school children, not a bad thing, but the real draw is the mine itself.

Living in a safety-conscious and litigious age you have to wear a hard hat, descend the ladder one at a time and listen to the man carefully, though he is very friendly and informative. Unfortunately once you've descended the ladder and grown accustomed to the dark you realise that that's as far as you can go! All the galleries are barred after a few feet, but lit just so you get a tantalising idea of what might lie beyond. Having seen Neil Oliver on TV scrambling around on all fours down here, I imagined that we'd all be allowed to do that. Damn.

The overriding feeling is one of slight claustrophobia and it must have been quite an arduous task bashing pieces of prime flint out of chalk with nothing more than a deer antler and a weak light to guide you, but the lure of those massive layers of shiny black stone was very strong. The other thing that strikes you is how did these prehistoric miners know that this stuff was down here? I can sort of understand it at Cissbury as nearby chalk cliffs east of Brighton have seams of flint running through them, so it would stand to reason that if you dug down through chalk hills you might find unspoilt layers of flint. At Grime's Graves it seems to be a completely different proposition. It's mainly flat, forested and the only clue might be the chalk just beneath the turf. Because Cissbury, Harrow Hill, etc. predate Grime's Graves I wonder if that mining knowledge was passed on to people living in East Anglia. Maybe there were nomadic miners roaming the country searching for tell-tale signs of the treasures beneath their feet?

Later when we arrive at the home of the guy selling the moped, covered in chalk, we explain how we've just been down Grimes Graves. He tells us that as a kid he and his friends used to descend the shafts down rope ladders with torches and you could crawl around large areas of the subterranean galleries and ascend from different mine shafts! We should have come here 40 years earlier, or maybe 4000.

Beckhampton Avenue (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue) — Images

<b>Beckhampton Avenue</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Beckhampton Avenue</b>Posted by A R Cane

Windmill Hill (Causewayed Enclosure) — Images

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Windmill Hill (Causewayed Enclosure) — Fieldnotes

This is another (once) local site that I haven’t visited for probably decades, but today I’m here with my sister making our way from Avebury Trusloe the day after we’d been down to Devon for an uncle’s funeral. The weather looks like it’s on the point of raining all afternoon, but today we are lucky and it holds off and the air is suffused with the fresh smell of Spring. Walking through the hamlet the first thing that strikes us is the number of large sarcens in peoples garden walls (particularly Swan house in Bray Street) and, given the proximity of Adam and Eve across the adjacent field, we can’t help wondering if some of these stones came from the Beckhampton Avenue? Maybe not as whole stones, but perhaps pieces from destroyed stones.

Making the gradual climb up to the top of Windmill Hill it seems odd that a hill as low and unremarkable as this seems to have been so important, acting as it were, as a springboard for the whole Avebury ritual landscape. So much activity in quite a small space though, as you begin to take in the faint rings of the inner circles, the lower tumuli beyond the outer circle and, most obviously, the large bell barrows nearer the centre of the monument. The position of the hill is also quite interesting as it affords views down on to Avebury (though you can’t see any stones due to the surrounding trees and vegetation, but maybe you could when it was being built), Silbury Hill to the South, the Ridgeway to the East and Cherhill Down and Oldbury to the South West.

Having walked around the outer ring we discover some recent mole activity and begin to kick over the little spoil heaps. Almost immediately I’m rewarded with a small piece of ceramic about 2.5 x 1.5cm in size and shaped roughly like the Isle of Wight. There are two very faint parallel grooves incised on its outside curve. In addition to this we find two small globules of iron that look like failed castings of musket balls (any ideas?). We sit for a while and contemplate our surroundings before making our way back down across the fields to Avebury and the circle. Just in time for tea.

Thundersbarrow Hill (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Thundersbarrow Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane

The Countless Stones (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

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Sullington Hill (Dyke) — Images

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Kithurst Hill (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Images

<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane

Chanctonbury Ring (Hillfort) — Images

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Kithurst Hill (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Images

<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane<b>Kithurst Hill</b>Posted by A R Cane
Showing 1-50 of 876 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
I'm a professional photographer living in West Sussex and have been interested in ancient sites since childhood. I was brought up near Barbury Castle in Wiltshire so visits to hill forts, stone circles and various lumps and bumps were routine. The grip of these fantastic places still has a hold on me and I still get a feeling of total wellbeing whenever I come across a new place or revisit familiar places. Much of that is to do with the magnificent or interesting locations in which they're found and equally the mystery attached to them - we know so little and can imagine so much.

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