Tag Archives: Stonehenge

Avebury Session 8: Double Session with clay, music and equinoxes! – 16 March 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

The weather for today’s session was a lot more stable than last weeks. Most of the snow had cleared but the temperatures were still low. We made our way to the gallery room to meet the rest of the group. On entering we were delighted to the fluted sounds of what could only mean one thing, Max had returned. We settled down to a brief chat about what may happen after the group sessions finish and what previous groups have done. We also talked about next week’s equinox plans.

Briony talked about the clay making process and mentioned modern examples of creations made by others and how productive and fun it had been for those involved. We were shown examples of clay faces and how they were formed onto tree trunks. We touched on Neolithic pottery and some of the round based pots that were used during this period. We learnt about the hands on aspects of the Neolithic clay pot makers and the process of heating and burning during use. We also learnt about even heat distribution of round based pots for cooking on fires. The information lead us nicely into our next activity.

We all walked to a tree lined avenue adjacent to the Keiller museum. Half way down the avenue we came to some cut tree stump seats and a table. Here, the clay was cut and a selection of clay making tools were laid out (see pic below). Briony started by showing us an example of clay making techniques by forming a face on a tree trunk. As we watched, Briony created facial features with such ease (I believe she has done this before!) and before long an anatomically true face manifested from the clay. With all of us confident we could imitate Briony’s creative side (yeah, right), we collected our clay and tools and all chose our own tree trunks to work with. A few people sat at the tree stump to make clay pottery. 

people walking in wood

tools

hands making clay face on a tree

With my focus on the tree trunk and the clay and with birds singing in the distance, I experienced rare moments of internal peace. The creative therapy was engrossing, making me lose myself in the process, thus leaving worries and stresses at the gate.  Up and down the tree avenue, faces and forms began to sprout from the bark, familiar objects rose from the tree stump table, an expression of all our inner worlds and pure and unique creativeness. As we neared the end of our time for this activity, some had completed their creations, whilst for others, there was a mad rush to finish ‘the original idea’. I’m sure a lot of us would happily have stayed doing this for a least another hour. Time was thus called and we all met for a chat about what we had done and we all walked along the avenue admiring others creative expressions! The whole activity was symbolic, powerful, joyful and yet so simplistic and primal.

clay shapes and tools

clay masks and designs on tree barks

clay masks on tree barks

We touched more on pottery and its makers. We heard about Neolithic peoples and tried to imagine and understand what inspired them to create what they did. We heard how pottery was vital for the culture and how over time the skills develop into specific specialisations. We then pondered on questions such as; what was the social structure like and specifically who would have been making the pottery? How many people had the pottery making skill? Were there expert craftsman solely for the process or was it learnt and utilised by many?  Was pottery made by males, females or both? What age groups were involved, for example, did children make pottery? Was it taught at a young age or did the children pick up on and mimic the adult’s creations? Whose job was whose?

Thus on deeper reflection, I ask myself; can we really associate with the peoples of the Neolithic period or have we lost that specific perspective forever?  Have we indeed lost the meanings and intentions (being ephemeral in nature) behind the permanent, organic, physical finds, therefore creating an absence within archaeological knowledge? Or conversely, was the basis of ideas and thinking of Neolithic people all that different to more modern peoples? For example, does there exist a timeless, innate, common, universal theme to human thought, expression and creativity? With this last thought in mind, can we then not glean meaning an understanding of older cultures from perhaps, modern cultural examples? We may never truly know the answers to these questions, but I hope that at some point we will.

As we returned, Max played and communicated with the avian fauna (see video below & link for more from Max.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrKB89K_xldAMg1J5ACqUg

Back in the gallery room, Max played a bit of freestyle flute and talked about the artistic expression of our ancestors. He shared the origin of his music with us, mentioning that when he was young, he left school with no qualification. However, he did then discover music and later played flute in the streets at the age of 18. For him, this was a doorway to a new concept of the world, a way of self-expression. He was following a dream, one of which was to be a guitarist. Max never learnt to read music but found his own way, his own musical interpretation. He talked about a powerful moment of hearing an instrument and had a life revelation, an awakening. To Max his music is about a personal quest of the past within the present. Another huge door Max walked through, was into the world of faerie (I myself have walked through this door). He saw the energy of this world of the small people and the magic it holds. He mentioned inspiration also from the movie ‘Dark Crystal’.

Max then mentioned an encounter with a little man who made incredible instruments. He then played a Celtic flute for us, inspired by fairy and evoking the spirit of the elves and Celtic memories. He also shared his experience of living in montane forest and how this opened another door for him. Max explained that he was sitting at foot of tree one day, listening to a bird singing, and decided to practise with the bird, gaining inspiration from its tune and learning new music. A shamanic instrument was next, a symbol of the migrating bird (to go and to return). He explained his animal themed instruments in helping thus to commune with such an animal, the spirit of animals, past and present. 

Max finished talking about living in a reconstructed tribal setting complete with tepee, skins of animals and living like prehistoric man around a fire. He told a funny story about meeting a modern man whose car had broken down, the story ended with police looking for kangaroos and how they started calling themselves the ‘kangaroo tribe’! Doesn’t get more surreal than that! Max continues on his journey of discovery, looking for talents from within, an innate memory from prehistory, linking past to present, a universal music, transcending time through one’s consciousness.


Next to talk was Steve, a group volunteer. Steve talked about equinox, linking this in with our equinox plans and next week’s final session. In an informative talk, Steve mentioned that the equinox meaning can cause arguments in its understanding. Is it equal day and night? Or is it when the sun rises due east? Is it the half way point between the winter and summer solstice? etc. He did say that the equinox is a return to a position after a completion of a cycle and that cycle is represented symbolically as a zero ‘0’ with zero meaning the return or completion of a cycle. Steve said we don’t have to start at the top of a circular cycle, we can start anywhere. For some ancient cultures they started in the east. Commonly the 3 o’clock position. An example given was the Vatican and its great temple facing to the East. And the great ceremony for Christians is of course called ‘EASTer’. 

We also learnt about the cycles of star constellations and the precession of the equinoxes. For example, the constellations go through a cycle, taking turns to be in line with the sun at the equinox position. It is called the precession of the equinoxes and it goes backward through the star signs. Our present astrological age is Pisces. The age started about 2000 years ago -the birth of Christ. It is why Christians use the symbol of the fish. The constellation of Aries was the sign that the equinox sun was pointing to, i.e. about 2200 BC. It was about then that Avebury went through its final and grandest transformation.

We then learnt about the spring equinox. This is where the sun moves to its high point and rises north of east, and the full moon crosses over and rises south of east. At Avebury however, there doesn’t seem to be a place in the henge to celebrate the equinox. But there is West Kennet long barrow. Around the time of the equinox, if you wait in the back chamber, a small patch of sun light travels across the sarsen at the end of the back wall. Steve ended explaining that spring is, “a time of new growth, new life and new beginnings. A time to sing and dance and tell happy stories. A good time. We have made it through the long cold nights of winter. Here comes the sun”.

man with clock

We finished the extended day’s session planning next week’s equinox ceremony.

Next week’s final Human Henge session – Stone circle ceremony of the spring equinox!

Avebury Session 5: The Sanctuary & Ridgeway Barrows – 16 Feb 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

Awaiting us this morning as we all converged in the Ed room was another nice healthy buffet (courtesy of the lovely Yvette). This week’s featured fruit was the juicy Blood Orange. After everyone had arrived we settled down to some pre-outing talks.

Today we talked about aspects of archaeology.  We discussed tangible cultural heritage, for example things that can be touched.  We moved on to talking about intangible heritage i.e. songs, beliefs. Knowledge/knowhow, communications (language, instruments, visual, signs), myths, legends and folklore. Within the discussion, Yvette mentioned to a very interesting example of a language form. This was the whistling language called Silbo gomera, of La Gomera, Canary Islands. Well worth a look. We finished in the ed room hearing of archaeology as an ever evolving entity, all thanks to novel thinking and advances in transferable science and technology.

As in previous weeks, I again car shared with different members of the group. As we were setting off, I was asked if I would listen to music created, sung and played by one group member. I have to thank the person now, for what was a really emotionally moving journey. On arriving at Overton Hill/Ridgeway car park, I listened to a second song, this one taking me off into the distance with tears in my eyes. Thank you to this person for feeling you could share these personal lyrics with me! I will never forget that.

From the car park we headed for the road. We were somewhat behind the rest of the group at this point when, coincidently, and relating to the earlier talk about intangibles, there appeared to be some Gomeran sightseers, trying to communicate and sign with us?  To the sound of whistles, I crossed the very precarious part of the A4, to reach the sanctuary of the Sanctuary.

We all gathered around a very knowledgeable Briony, who brimmed with passion for her subject and filled us with understanding of where we stood.  I walked around the Sanctuary trying to imagine what it once may have looked like and tried to understand the reason/s for its use & position on this hillside. Very compelling. 

The sanctuary site once stood as a concentric ring of wood and stone, built in phases of wooden posts possibly then moving on to stone circles. The posts have long since disappeared and according to William Stukeley, the remaining stones were removed from the site between 1723-24AD. One theory, mentioned by volunteer Steve, suggests the removed stones were used to help build a farmhouse and wall within West Kennet. Today contemporary concrete blocks mark the sites of wooden poles and also of the stone holes. The site joined to the Avebury Henge by the processional way of the West Kennet Avenue. The entrance is to the west of the outer circle and consists of three larger stones. The exact purpose of the Sanctuary is uncertain, with many theories being passed around. I will leave the interpretation up to yourselves.

There are some great panoramas of the surrounding area to be had from this location. Looking down the eastern slope, I pictured an avenue of stones adjoining the remains of the existing avenue and tried to position myself, walking side by side, with the peoples of those times. I tried to imagine what it may have been like. I looked up and took a picture of this Yellowhammer, a bird that most likely was observed by these peoples as they walked this hill top long ago.

Crossing back over the A4 with our life in our own hands dodging roman chariots (me and my imagination!) we visited the Bronze Age barrow cemetery known as Seven Barrows.  The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Seorfon Beorgas’ (In actuality, the site really consists of twelve round barrows). Ten of the twelve barrows are situated on the north side of the A4, the other two being to the south of the road. We had visited these last two barrows first. I became aware of the bowl barrow south of the Sanctuary. This barrow had been flattened much by agriculture but originally had a diameter of 40m and a height of 3m. The barrow contained no evidence of a ditch or remains. (see pic below). Adjacent to the Sanctuary lies a bowl barrow, this example was originally surrounded by a ditch feature. The barrow contained an inhumation burial, a dagger and axe, a pin and a tree trunk coffin – that is, I’ve read. We didn’t actually excavate it ourselves! …wasn’t time. 

The prominent mounds to the north of the road consist of the five barrows, four are examples of bell barrows, with a smaller fifth bowl barrow in between. All of these barrows contained cremation remains. The general construction of these barrows consisted of building material up and around bodies/remains within. The barrows had secondary use by peoples of other periods spanning hundreds of years. Often, later surface burials or burials nearby were created. 

Briony also showed us the site of the old roman road and some special burial mounds. These included a Bronze Age bowl barrow, a Saxon/pagan inhumation cemetery and lastly, three unique Roman burial mounds. This portion of the site consists of a rare mix of burial mounds from a mix of differing time periods. The older Neolithic Bronze Age bowl barrow, is of a rarer form reminiscent of Beaker period styles seen in Wales. The three Roman burial mounds positioned next to the roman road, are said to be a very unique occurrence to Britain. Were these romans inspired to take on local customs? Briony then showed how these roman barrows were encircled with post holes creating a fence. They contained cremation pits and burial remains. The Anglo Saxon secondary editions to the site contained weapons and remains. In the opposite direction across a field, beech covered Bronze Age round barrows were seen. The one photographed below being an example of a well preserved bell barrow. 

It was then everyone’s favourite sing along time. There were no skylarks present this week, I guess the larks knew they couldn’t compete with us! We all sang a live rendition of ‘living bell’ courtesy of Yvette, with some fun and games mixed in courtesy of Danny. 

Afterword’s, I took some time out to breathe in my surroundings. I noted the barrows studding the landscape with a soft, non-angular, lush green undulating flow, highlighted by a bright blue winter skyscape, just lovely.  I must come back and take photos under different settings.

We walked back along the Ridgeway to the car park chatting. There is a nice familiarity growing within the group as we get to know each other.  I got stopped and had a chat with an interesting local man who was living in a large truck. He knew a lot about the local sites and mentioned his adventures with a metal detector, he had yet to find that elusive roman gold hoard! We all drove back to the ed room to have lunch and conclude this week’s session.

Next week: West Kennet Avenue – Night Walk!

Human Henge: Historic Landscapes and Mental Wellbeing Conference

Historic Landscapes and Mental Wellbeing Conference

Friday 13 April 2018

10:00  – 17:00

Fusion Building, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, BH12 5BB

Using historic landscapes and heritage resources of various kinds to promote well-being represents one of the most significant advances in archaeological resource management for many years. Its potential contribution to health-care and wellness initiatives is boundless. Prompted by the ongoing HLF-funded Human Henge project, this conference provides an opportunity to hear about this and work going on across the country and at many different scales, share experiences, and to discuss the outcomes, implications, and theoretical underpinnings of heritage-based well-being projects.

Please use the Eventbrite link to book a place at this free conference

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/human-henge-historic-landscapes-and-wellbeing-conference-tickets-42315683348

Programme

09:30-10:00       COFFEE (Poster displays available for viewing throughout the day)

10:00-10:15       Dr Sara Lunt (Chair, Human Henge Board) and Professor Timothy Darvill (Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Centre for Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University)

Welcome and introduction

10:15-10:30       Liz Ellis (Policy Adviser Communities and Diversity, Heritage Lottery Fund) and Alice

Kershaw (Head of Business Process Review, Heritage Lottery Fund)

Mental wellbeing and historic landscapes: the heritage context

10:30-10:50       Dr Toby Sutcliffe (Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust)

Therapeutic landscapes past and present: the mental health context

10:50-11:10       Laura Drysdale (Director of the Restoration Trust)

Walking with intent in ancient landscapes

11:10-11:30       Professor Timothy Darvill and Yvette Staelens (Senior Teaching Fellow, Bournemouth University)

Monuments for life: Human Henge at Stonehenge and Avebury

11:30-11:50       Dr Vanessa Heaslip (Principal Academic in Adult Nursing, Bournemouth University)

Human Henge: Stonehenge as a healing environment in the 21st  Century

11:50-12:10       Martin Allfrey (Senior Curator of Collections, West, English Heritage) and Briony Clifton

(Assistant Archaeologist, National Trust)

Past Perceptions: people changing places changing people

12:10-12.30  Discussion

Led by Daniel O’Donoghue (Wiltshire Locality Manager, Richmond Fellowship) and  members of Human Henge.

12:30-13:30       LUNCH

13:30-14:00       Claire Nolan (Department of Archaeology, University of Reading)

Therapeutic landscapes of prehistory: exploring the therapeutic value and potential of prehistoric landscapes for the present day

14:00-14:30       Dr Ellie Williams (Lecturer in Archaeology, Canterbury Christchurch University) and Dr

Lesley Hardy (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Canterbury Christ Church University)

‘The People Before Us’: exploring heritage and wellbeing in coastal Kent

14:30-15:00       Mark Evans (CEO Waterloo Uncovered) and David Ulke (Welfare Officer, Waterloo Uncovered)

Battlefield archaeology and recovery

15:00-15:30       AFTERNOON TEA BREAK

15:30-16:00       Helen Johnston (Thames Discovery programme, Museum of London Archaeology)

Messing about on the river: Volunteering and well-being on the Thames foreshore

16:00-16:30       Rebecca L Hearne (University of Sheffield)

The archaeological imagination: alternative ways of seeing for mental health recovery

16:30-16:45       Discussion

 

16:45-17:00       Alex Coulter (Director of Arts and Health South West)

Summing up

TAG 2017: Human Henge Presentation by Dr Vanessa Heaslip

This is a presentation made by Dr Vanessa Heaslip, Deputy Head of Research Department of Nursing & Clinical Science at Bournemouth University, at TAG 2017 about her research into Human Henge’s health and social outcomes for participants.

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Human Henge Press – December 2017

The role of ancient landscapes in mental health 

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.

Read more

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An article about Human Henge featured in The Guardian to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Hundreds gather for Stonehenge sunrise after 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.

Read more

TAG 2017: Walking with Intent: Culture therapy in historic landscapes

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[1] 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 everchanging 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.

 

[1] 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 Restoration Trust Digital Annual Report 2017

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/

Bournemouth University Public Lecture Day – 11th September

Photo by Jessica Swinburne

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