Tag Archives: therapeutic landscapes

Avebury Session 7: Alexander Keiller Museum & Collections – 9 March 2018

Photos and text by Shane Faulkner

There was to be a small gap in proceedings, as last week’s Human Henge session was cancelled due to adverse conditions. Initially, Avebury’s surface conditions were deemed too poor and the henge site was closed. Added to this, of course, was the media termed “Beast from the East” that struck our shores and left many areas snowed in. This made for dangerous, and in some areas, impossible driving conditions.

This week, along our way to Avebury, snow still lay around 9 days after it had first fell. Large white drifts were visible in the field margins and on the road sides. On arrival at Avebury, we walked into the henge where, here also, snow still lay about in clumps. At the National Trust buildings we were met by Steve, a volunteer, who let us know our venue for today had changed. We met instead in an old room of the beautiful manor. Everywhere there were low beams, old wood & stone and wonky stairs.

Due to last week’s cancellation we were to have a slightly altered session plan.  Today, we met Laura Drysdale, Human Henge Project Manager, & Dr Ros Cleal, Curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum. Laura & Ros were introduced and Laura talked about the Human Henge Project (After many emails it was a pleasure to finally meet). We then split into two groups either side of the room and partook in a clap along with Yvette. We created some interesting acoustics that resonated between us. Afterwards, one group left with Ros over to the Alexander Keiller Museum, while our group stayed to listen to a talk by Briony on modern (17th century) archaeology.

Briony talked about some investigative work that had been carried out at Avebury Manor during December 2017. One of the rooms ceilings needed repair and in exploring the floor space an opportunity arose to look for finds. Many interesting items were indeed found under the floorboards; the whole room’s floor space having been meticulously mapped and methodically inspected. Around 70 bags of dust were amassed during the exploration as well as the odd dead mouse! Briony discussed with us the preliminary findings mentioning that she is still investigating and interpreting the findings of this room of the house. Briony also mentioned about a very intriguing, and until recently, unknown space found behind two walls within the house. I pondered what secrets & stories might lie hidden behind these walls.

After a while the other group had returned and it was our turn to set off to meet Ros at the Keiller Museum. We walked over to what was the old coachhouse building of the manor and had a brief look around the museum’s exhibits.

From the museum, we climbed some stairs to enter a room built into the roof space of the building. Here, many important local archaeological finds were stored and catalogued. Old dark wood presentation frames, display cases and glass cabinets held an array of pottery, stones and other period treasures. We all put on surgical gloves and listened as Ros talked about pottery finds. We first looked at Neolithic pottery shards collected from Windmill Hill. As seen in the photo below, there have been many examples of vessels discovered.  Looking at all of the styles and patterns was fascinating. People later noted how they enjoyed being able to actually handle the pottery, as opposed to seeing it in books or behind glass. The hands-on learning brought people closer to the past, to the peoples who created this pottery. People started to think how it may have been. What the peoples may have experienced.

We also looked at examples of gabbroic pottery, (as I discussed in the session 2 blog). The speckled appearance of this pottery standing out from the rest of the collections. In regard to this, Ros talked about ‘opening agents’ that are found in gabbroic pottery. Without these agents, water and air gets trapped in the clay causing cracks and breaks when fired. We then looked at the contrast with Beaker pottery, which generally has a paler look, made to perhaps imitate the look of bronze. We discussed how pottery was made and by who. For example, it was noted how pottery making techniques involved forming coils of clay, working upon the last coil as they went. Also, that it may predominantly have been women who created pottery due to social structure. For example, the pottery would have been used for essential domestic uses. A comparison was talked about between bonfire firing compared to oven-type firing. An example of pottery was shown exhibiting the black colouration due to the presence of carbon from high heat. This example of high heat oxidisation occurred when bowls was placed directly within fires. From this, you could then see how the bowls were placed into fires and used from all those years ago. Discussed also, were details such as the diameter of the rims in working out circumference, lug creations used for carrying and artistic design/patterns.

We moved on to look at examples of Neolithic Stone. There were an array of Neolithic stone examples. Many of the stones had smoothed polished areas. Drilled holes were present on some whole stones. A now somewhat faded Jadeite axe butt was shown. This axe was discovered to have travelled all the way from the north Italian Alps via Brittany 6000yrs ago or later. The stone was discovered locally at Beckhamton Avenue. We finished with examples of Germanic lava stones.

Back down the stairs in the museum, we had a longer look around the exhibits. There was a lot to see in the time we had left, so I missed a few things. However, there was a brief history of the archaeology of the complex and examples of finds. There was a skull and a skeleton, models of the henge and how the stones were positioned as well as some examples off flint arrowheads. There was also an exhibit on more modern finds from around the henge. I must come back for a proper look some time.

We headed back to the gallery room for a final fascinating talk from Ros. We all sat around to have a hands on look at many examples of Neolithic scrapers and axeheads found within the Avebury complex. This was a good chance to ask Ros and questions we had about all the finds. On commenting about this week’s session, one member mentioned how they thought it couldn’t get any better than the last session (the night walk) but how this week’s session indeed had been. As with other weeks, I had to leave early but others stayed to have lunch and a chat.

Next Week: Double Session with clay, music and equinoxes!

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

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