Human Henge Avebury: Session 1 at Windmill Hill, Friday 19th January 2018
All photos by Yvette Staelens
Human Henge Avebury: Session 1 at Windmill Hill, Friday 19th January 2018
All photos by Yvette Staelens
Photos and text by Shane Faulkner
The session started within Avebury Education Room, where we all congregated for formal intros and to chat about the day’s proceedings. A tempting finger buffet was placed before us with red & green grapes, satsumas, fig rolls, garibaldis, biscuits etc. Just what we were going to need for a mornings walk in the chill fresh air. After filling our pockets with the remaining offerings (ok, just me then) we set off out to the car park. It was a lovely, sunny, crisp and frosty start to the morning which meant for lovely views over the whole area. On walking to the cars, we passed the Alexander Keiller Museum and dovecot, (which will be the focus of a later session) and were able to briefly walk alongside part of the banks of the North West & South West sectors of the henge.
After we did the maths and managed to get everybody into vehicles, we set off for Windmill Hill. Out of the car window, there were fantastic views of Silbury Hill in the near distance. On driving through Avebury Trusloe we arrived at some farm buildings which was to be our rendezvous point. Whilst waiting for all peoples to be ferried up, I took in the view of Windmill Hill ahead. Once we had all arrived, we commenced our walk on up the gentle slope of the hill itself.
We walked along the hedge lined track until we reached Horslips Bridge on the first bend of our path. Under the bridge slowly flows the River Oslip. The river is said to be fed by springs around Windmill Hill and may have been a primary supply of water for Neolithic peoples of the hill.
On passing the Oslip, I noticed two roe deer in the adjacent field and stopped to take pictures. Further along the path some more deer started to show. We all stopped to take a look at these graceful animals. A total of ten deer emerged and started to walk away from us to the far end of the field.
Slightly further along a volunteer pointed out the location of a long barrow, Horslip Long Barrow. The earthwork, though not fully visible from the path, made its presence known by an area of longer, rougher grass.
After what was a moderate walk for some and a huge walking achievement for others, we reached the start of the enclosed area of Windmill Hill itself. On arrival, I myself was met by the occasional dulcet sounds of song (wink). Some of the group had started to sing a tune and others joined in on arrival, finishing in a crescendo of carefully orchestrated vocal harmonies, at one point out competing the resident skylarks! For me personally, the singing was a great way of releasing certain pent up energies and emotions as well as allowing the opening of the rusty gates of self-expression.
On top of the hill views were fantastic, with a 360 vista of the surrounding downland scene.
One of the leaders gave a talk about the history of the site. Windmill Hill is a causewayed hill enclosure constructed during the early Neolithic, c 3680 BC. It is the oldest site within the Avebury complex. Covering nearly an estimated 21 acres, the enclosure has three concentric ditches, with the area between these known as the causeways. Believed to have been a more seasonal rather than permanent site, early Neolithic farmers lived in the general area and the use of the enclosure was perhaps more of a meeting place with ceremony, feasting and trade. Within the enclosure are several very distinct Bronze Age round barrows. From a vantage point on one of these, many of the local prehistoric monuments can be viewed, albeit at distance.
Looking towards Avebury the henge bank is visible as well as some of the larger standing stones (Stones 50, 201 & 206 which make up the Northern Inner Circle, and 46 the Swindon Stone).
Also visible is West Kennet Avenue, East and West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill as well as the Ridgeway, Barbury Castle, Oldbury Castle and many other sites.
With sunny blue skies and singing skylarks to lift the spirit, we made our way back to the cars, returning the same way we came. Walking along the track I saw around 60 tree sparrows feeding in some set aside field margin. This was a lovely example of how the local conservation effort by groups/landowners is paying off. I also noted a few nest boxes put up to help this species, so thumbs up to the landowner.
A great morning of fresh air, exercise, lots of history, beautiful scenery and some lovely nature.
Looking forward to next week!
by Liz Williams
Modern celebrants have been convening at the ancient site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire for many years now: revivalist Druids of the early 20th century, hippies of the 1960s and 70s, New Age travelers and political activists, and modern Pagans have all gathered at the summer and winter solstices to hold free music festivals, conduct rituals, hold raves, and simply acknowledge the turning points of the year.
The role of the site is ongoing and has a highly significant place in the practices of contemporary Pagans worldwide, but not just Pagans alone. As well as solstice rites and ongoing archaeological work, Stonehenge is now the focus for a wider new initiative: the Human Henge Project.
An article about Human Henge featured in The Guardian to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
by Steven Morris
Some of those attending the winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge were there to worship, others to party or to simply to enjoy the rise of the sun after the longest night and look forward to lengthening days and springtime.
Despite it being a gloomy, soggy morning in Wiltshire, there was a joyful atmosphere as hundreds of people gathered to witness the light return.
There is evidence that spending time near or within the standing stones can actually be good for mental wellbeing.
Laura Drsydale, Director, Restoration Trust
There are these moments in time and space, these conjunctions, when ideas coalesce, and I wonder if TAG 2017 is one of them. Where we can talk about health, psychogeographies, forgetting, time, memory, poetry and place, and have a sense of resonance and reciprocity across our overlapping interests.
But I am at the end before the beginning, since resonance and reciprocity are words from the vocabulary of group analysis, to which I will come later.
I was at the session on archaeology and mental health at TAG 2015, when we were developing Human Henge. I watched the YouTube video of Dr Rathouse’s talk last night, and it reminded me how helpful the papers and conversations were to our thinking. This is a shared endeavor, so as a non-archaeologist, thank you TAG.
Now, I will tell you something about the Restoration Trust. We are a small charity that supports people to engage with heritage, art and culture so that their mental health improves. We call this culture therapy. We are usually producers – we broker partnerships, develop projects, find the money and manage the project.
Our current heritage foci are archaeology and the historic landscape, and archives. Why? Well, it’s partly pragmatic – availability and a culture of public entitlement to information in both arenas. But it is also because both archives and archaeology have a delicious tension between the quest for knowledge and the impossibility of total success in that quest. It is there, in the space between knowing and not knowing that our projects make a difference, for there is where imagination lives. More of that later too.
Heritage and mental health are certainly politically congruent at the moment. Mental health demand is rising, services are shrinking. National and local government need new ways to help people with their mental health, so all the various organs of the state, including lottery distributors, are on the case. Arts are front runners, for example with the report Creative Health published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Health. Museums are catching up through the work of Professor Helen Chatterjee and her colleagues, but the wider heritage lags behind, it lacks a champion. Yet here it is, all around us, visible, hidden or intangible; and the thought of therapeutic landscapes lies deep within us.
Our two current landscape projects are Human Henge at Stonehenge and now at Avebury, and Burgh Castle Almanac at Burgh Castle roman fort in Norfolk. Both projects are largely HLF funded. Burgh Castle Almanac kicks off properly in January. It is a year-long 24-session programme – that happens two years running – of walking, talking and making at the Castle, and at Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. Norfolk Archaeological Trust is the lead partner.
Human Henge you will hear about from Professor Darvill and Dr Heaslip, and I hope also from members who are here at TAG. Briefly, it is a programme of 10 weekly walks for a facilitated group accompanied by archaeologists and musicians. Pilot 1 ran from October to December 2016, Pilot 2 from January to March 2017. In January we will run Pilot 3 at Avebury, to see how a different site impacts on the process. There is masses of information about Human Henge online at www.humanhenge.org
I would like to pay tribute to the whole astonishing network of participants, support workers, volunteers, board members, funders, partners, experts, creatives, researchers and staff who are the project; they, along with the sites, the collections, the weather, the administration, the biscuits, make up the Human Henge matrix, to use group terminology once more.
Both Human Henge and Burgh Castle Almanac meet our Criteria for Success, listed on the slide.
Let’s take one of these – Groupwork is the core.
Foulkes described what happens when a collection of individuals meets routinely together with someone he named a conductor:
“They will begin to live, feel, think, act and talk more in terms of ‘we’ than in terms of ‘I’, ‘you’, and he’. At the same time, and I want to stress this point, the individuals do not become submerged but, on the contrary, show up their personal characteristics more and more distinctly within the dynamic interplay of an ever‐changing and often highly dramatic scene. As soon as this little sample community shows signs of organization and structure in the way described, we will call it a group.”
This is what we are trying to achieve in Human Henge.
So over 10 weeks of sustained and regular involvement within a context of safe frameworks and practice, and with expert facilitation, in this case from Yvette Staelens with Daniel O’Donoghue, a group begins to form. How does a historic landscape help? Or rather how does being in a historic landscape in the company of people who know a lot about it help? Because that is one of our criteria – privileged access to real cultural assets AND expertise.
It is only human to be in nature, to use our bodies and minds, to connect with each other, to be creative. And it is certainly better than some of the alternatives, such as loneliness, boredom and sadness. But why the historic bit?
It is not a universal prescription, for strange as it may seem, not everyone is interested in the past! But for those who are, and who can find the strength to face the daunting prospect of a project like Human Henge, historic landscapes are one way to face down mental illness’s erosion of the self.
Mental illness attacks space. For example it fills mental space with futile rumination or terrifying psychosis, or it negates it with a horrible combination of restlessness and passivity in depression. It makes space malignant so that it cannot be traversed to connect with others. It compromises time as it telescopes the past into the present with all-consuming flashbacks. Without space to think, to act, nothing creative can happen, there can be no imagination, no relating. A group experience of a historic landscape illuminated by people who know about it open ups multiple vistas of temporal, topographical and psychological space. It is a short cut to the imagination.
When people feel safe enough to take the enormous risk of embarking on a journey in both time and space, taking part in a strange wellbeing experiment in some fields, albeit fields that are among the most famous on the planet, with people they have never met, that’s when they may do things they never thought possible. It is when, hopefully, they can enjoy the richness of their own humanity.
I will leave you with this poem by Chris Jessup.
 S. H. FOULKES (1946) “ON GROUP ANALYSIS” Originally published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27:46‐51, 1946. Later in a shortened version in Selected Papers: Psychoanalysis and Group Analysis, pp. 137‐144, eds. M. Pines y E. Foulkes, Karnac Books, Londres: 1990.
The timetable is now available on the Theoretical Archaeology Conference 2017 website here. Our session on ‘Archaeology, heritage and well-being’, led by Restoration Trust Director, Laura Drysdale, and Professor Tim Darvill, from Bournemouth University, will be on Tuesday 19th December. This will begin at 9.30am and is a three-quarter day session with a wide range of papers to be discussed.
Find out more about the session here.
You can also follow TAG 2017 on Twitter here.
The Restoration Trust, who run Human Henge, have collaborated with digital storytelling agency Muddle Up and Medway-based social enterprise futureCodersSE to create an inclusive annual report, A Year of People Doing and Making.
The report features information about Human Henge as well as the other projects run by the Restoration Trust.
See the report here – http://ar.restorationtrust.org.uk/
Find out more about how the annual report was made here – https://restorationtrust.org.uk/2017/09/05/annual-report-2017/
Dr Vanessa Heaslip will be giving a lecture about Human Henge at the University of the Third Age Public Lecture day at Bournemouth University on Monday 11th September.
16.00 – 17.00 Talk 4 – Vanessa Heaslip – Human Henge: Cultural heritage therapy and it’s impact upon mental health and wellbeing
Human Henge is a collaborative project funded by the heritage lottery fund, run by the Restoration trust in partnership with Bournemouth University, as well as many other institutions. The project draws upon recent ideas that Stonehenge was a place of healing in ancient times, and seeks to explore whether it can have a role in healing in the 21st century.
Over ten, weekly three-hour sessions two groups of local people with mental health problems walk the landscape, reaching through time to other humans whose traces are illuminated by accompanying pre-historians, curators and musicians. Each group makes meaning and draws inspiration from the terrain, monuments, weather, soundscape and each other. Human Henge hopes to explore the potential of heritage and history as a therapeutic intervention for people living with long term mental health issues.
You can book your free place here
Human Henge will be discussed in a session led by Restoration Trust Director, Laura Drysdale and Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Centre for Archaeology and Anthropology at Bournemouth University, Professor Timothy Darvill.
Archaeology, Heritage and Well-being
The concept of therapeutic landscapes was developed by Wil Gesler in the early 1990s, building on contemporary theory in the field of cultural ecology. It has since expanded to become a key concept in health geography applicable at a range of scales. But whether natural, designed, or symbolic, places connected with healing the body and soul have been recognized and studied for much longer. Routes of pilgrimage, destinations for health-giving visits, facilities for ‘taking the waters’, hospitals, and gardens surrounding asylums and institutions, have all been instrumental in formalizing relationships between place, space, and well-being that have been promoted and applied in many different ways and with varying degrees of real or perceived success. This session will consider archaeological and heritage dimensions of therapeutic landscapes, asking what can be learnt from the study of existing sites and whether there is a role for developing new ones appropriate for the needs of the 21st century. Contributions are invited in relation to three main themes. First, studies of recognized therapeutic landscapes through historical or archaeological investigations that enrich understandings of their construction and use. Second, case-studies of recent or ongoing projects that make use of archaeological sites or heritage resources to promote physical or mental well-being amongst defined participant communities. And third, analyses of the philosophical and theoretical frameworks appropriate to the study of archaeology and heritage in relation to health and well-being.
For more information visit tag2017cardiff.org