Episode 2 Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath


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For the last five years,

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archaeologists have been conducting the most far-reaching investigation

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of the Stonehenge site ever attempted.

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With state-of-the-art technology,

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they've investigated every monument

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both visible and invisible

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around the stone circle.

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It's an all-encompassing approach that could finally unlock

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the mystery of the enigmatic stones

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and the prehistoric culture that flourished around them.

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The ground-breaking work has already helped chart

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the first 6,000 years of the Stonehenge story.

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Now the focus has shifted to unlocking

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the secrets of the iconic monument itself.

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How was it designed?

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The Neolithic people had an architect,

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a surveyor and a builder.

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How did it look?

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Just imagine how amazing Stonehenge would have looked with all of these

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cut surfaces glistening white in the sun.

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And what was it used for?

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To be buried in that ditch at Stonehenge

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suggests we have a sacrificial victim.

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An unprecedented level of new research,

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the latest remote sensing equipment

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and fresh discoveries

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has produced a more detailed and revealing picture of Stonehenge

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and its people

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than ever before.

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For hundreds of years,

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experts and amateurs alike

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have tried to solve the enigma of Stonehenge.

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Some of its mysteries have been explained...

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..but the whole picture remained elusive.

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Now a group of specialists known as the Hidden Landscapes Project,

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led by Birmingham University and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute

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in Austria, have taken a purely scientific approach to solving

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how Stonehenge was built

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and what it was used for.

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If you were to focus on excavation, you would by necessity end up

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focusing on particular monuments and particular sites.

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By surveying nearly 10 square km,

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we can actually look at the entirety of that landscape.

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Using the data from their ground penetrating equipment...

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..the team have created a multi layered digital map

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of a 10 square km area around Stonehenge.

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If you walk around this landscape, you see some protected monuments

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covered by grass, but if you are going to put your magnetic eyes on,

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you see much more details

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and also the inner structure of this monument.

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The archaeologists have already thrown fresh light on the key events

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that led to the raising of the stones.

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Evidence of a 9,000-year-old settlement

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and a newly discovered natural phenomenon

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has suggested why of all the places in Britain,

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Stonehenge was built where it was.

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This is a place where memories and traditions start.

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Stonehenge isn't just a new build, it's in response to something.

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Traces of a communal tomb detected in a seemingly empty field

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have shown how the ritualistic use of the landscape

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began 1,000 years before the stone circle was raised.

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They covered the whole thing with a big mound

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forming this long barrow, a house for the dead people.

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And the discovery of a myriad of hidden temples and shrines

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has shown that Stonehenge is not alone and never has been.

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Rather than seeing Stonehenge standing uniquely in the plain,

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we now start to see that there are a series of similar monuments.

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It begins to give us an insight

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into how the wider landscape was used at the time

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that Stonehenge was developing into the monument you see today.

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With the first 6,000 years mapped out,

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the rest of the Stonehenge story is now ready to be told.

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To better understand the period leading up

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to the raising of the stone circle...

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..Dr Henry Chapman concentrated on one of the largest monuments

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surveyed by the Hidden Landscapes Project.

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Lying 3 km to the north-east is Durrington Walls.

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Its 500m wide circular ditch and bank

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make it the largest monument of its type in Britain.

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Durrington Walls is a huge, huge henge.

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It's dated from the middle of the third millennium.

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round about the early stages of Stonehenge.

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Giant monuments like Durrington Walls

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were the product of emerging hierarchies

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who wanted to demonstrate their authority in the region.

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Clearly some very, very powerful people around at that time

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who are able to control resources,

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control the labour force,

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to create some of the largest monuments we've ever seen.

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What Durrington I think is showing is that although

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it's just that one point which we understand,

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it's got ramifications for the whole of the Stonehenge landscape.

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It was this drive to build ever more spectacular monuments

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that pushed the builders towards the ultimate expression

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of prehistoric building prowess - Stonehenge.

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It's possible to imagine a level of competition between different groups

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in southern Britain,

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and this might be related to increasing political centralisation,

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order and control.

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It might be related to a greater sense of identity

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among the different groups that occupy the wider landscape.

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Now in that context, the construction of this extraordinary building

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of Stonehenge marks a kind of exponential increase

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in terms of the scale of the enterprise

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and from the point of view of competition,

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very difficult to compete with.

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The raising of Stonehenge's megaliths

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began around 4,600 years ago.

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Made of a dense sandstone known as sarsen,

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the biggest of the megaliths weighed almost 40 tonnes.

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No large deposits of sarsen have been found

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in the vicinity of Stonehenge,

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and it's wildly accepted that the enormous building blocks

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came from the Marlborough Downs, 48km to the north.

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This is a sarsen field on the Marlborough Downs.

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The stones just lie on the surface.

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They don't have to be quarried. They're here naturally.

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Experimental archaeologist Katy Whitaker

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believes the prehistoric architects' choice of building materials

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went beyond the merely practical.

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Just as now it's quite strange to come across these stones

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lying in the landscape, it must have been very odd

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in the late Neolithic to just discover them.

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Why are they there, where have they come from?

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This combination of their positions in the landscape,

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their texture, their surface, their strangeness,

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these are all qualities that may well have been significant to people

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in the past, and may have influenced their choices to take them

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all the way down to Stonehenge and use them in the monument itself.

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At the time Stonehenge was constructed,

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more than 500 square km of this landscape

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was littered with thousands of huge sarsen stones,

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from which around 80 of the biggest

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were selected for the construction of Stonehenge.

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Well, this is a much better example of the sort of stone

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that the builders needed for Stonehenge.

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The next question then is how to move it?

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From here on the Marlborough Downs, 30 miles down to Salisbury Plain.

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Despite numerous theories, the route taking by the huge sarsens

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to Stonehenge is still disputed.

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But when Professor Wolfgang Neubauer studied the data

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from the survey, he saw a new solution.

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How the big sarsen stones have been brought to Stonehenge

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has been a striking question all over the centuries.

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And one of the theories comes up with the idea that they brought

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the stones down on the River Avon, which is a rather small river.

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This theory then envisions the stones being dragged overland

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for the last couple of kilometres to their final resting place.

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Findings from the survey highlighted a problem with that idea.

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In the topographic data, we have a dry valley

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and this means there is a really massive depression

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which they would have had to cross with the heavy stones.

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So I think this theory is rather unlikely.

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Instead, Professor Neubauer has spotted what he believes

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to be a much more likely path, along which the stones were transported.

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Running from the stone circle to the River Avon

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are two parallel ditches that form the monument known as the Avenue.

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Within the section closest to Stonehenge,

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there are a number of striations in the ground formed by glacial action.

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The Hidden Landscapes scans revealed that these marks

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extend far beyond the Avenue.

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This scratchy pattern is rather obvious

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in the area of the stone circle,

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and gets even more striking close to the Cursus monument.

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They also appear on the other side where, the geological situation

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is completely different,

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then they go on in the direction of the Marlborough Downs.

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Professor Neubauer is convinced that such a distinctive feature

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in the landscape would've been the most logical course for the stones.

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It looks very obvious to me that they took the shortest way

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from the Marlborough area,

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where the sarsen stones actually appear sometimes on the surface,

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and brought them down on the direct way to Stonehenge.

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Even taking this direct route,

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it's estimated that it would have taken almost ten years

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to drag all the stones to their final resting place.

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Yet remarkable as the transportation of the stones is...

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..it's the precision of Stonehenge's design that sets it apart.

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Archaeological surveyor Tony Johnson

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has studied its unique layout for over a decade.

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The Neolithic people had, just as we have today with large buildings,

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an architect, a surveyor and a builder.

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Most people's idea of Stonehenge is that they just built it.

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Well, they didn't.

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You couldn't build something like Stonehenge without a plan.

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Assisted by land artist Rob Irving,

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Johnson set out to demonstrate

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how the geometrical blueprint of Stonehenge was plotted

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using elementary surveying tools.

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The surveyors laid out the positions of the stones precisely

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using ropes and pegs in a way that we hope to demonstrate today.

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An open expanse of sand provided enough space

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to sketch out the monument's floor plan.

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The beach acts as a convenient scratch pad

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where we can mark out lines that are easily visible

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to demonstrate the geometry of Stonehenge.

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The first step was to draw a circle with the same dimensions

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as Stonehenge's outer ring of megaliths.

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To match Stonehenge's orientation,

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a line was drawn bisecting the circle

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in the direction of the rising sun.

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Around this central axis, the symmetrical layout

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of the entire monument was plotted.

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Irving used elegant geometrical rules

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to map out the position of the stones.

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On the circle, we're going to mark a hexagon,

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each side of which is exactly the same length

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as the radius of the circle, and we're going to build out from there

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to mark those 30 points which relate to the stones at Stonehenge.

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In total, five hexagons were etched out,

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creating the coordinates of Stonehenge's 30 outer megaliths.

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So you get a better idea of where the centre of the stones were,

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what I'm doing is making a posthole-sized imprint

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of where the stones would sit in the geometry of the whole thing.

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From the position of key stones,

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the inner horseshoe of megaliths known as the trilithons

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was also calculated.

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The axis of the rising sun was used as the fixed line of reference.

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What we're doing now is setting out the positions of the trilithons

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that formed the horseshoe which were the centre of the geometric array.

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On this evidence, Johnson concluded that the monument was planned

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as a whole from the outset.

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The trilithons had to be erected first

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so it proves that the surveying method they used

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was done in one phase, one plan.

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Everything was marked out on the ground

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before the stones were brought in.

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The monument's innate symmetry

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has revealed that the architects of Stonehenge had a grasp of geometry

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two millennia before the Greeks defined the term "mathematics."

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4,600 years on, the remaining stones still stand

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as a powerful reminder of the skill and ambition

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of Stonehenge's creators.

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A great deal of work went into the sizing of the stones to make sure

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you had the right lintel lengths to bridge the gaps, for example.

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And above all, the attempt to create a perfectly horizontal top

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of the great sarsen lintels.

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The megaliths were not simply held in place by their own weight.

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They were interlocked using a series of elaborate precision joints.

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On top of each upright, protruding tenon joints were carved

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to fit into mortise sockets on the underside of the lintels.

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The lintels themselves were carved with a groove at one end

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and a tongue at the other.

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They, too, interlocked.

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It was a meticulous construction method designed to make permanent

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the monument's primary function, to mark the passage of the sun.

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The sophistication and precision with which Stonehenge was built

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around this solar axis is exceptional.

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It could be that Stonehenge is partly concerned

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with measuring and celebrating important points in the annual cycle.

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Midsummer, midwinter,

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changes in the year from winter to spring to summer and so forth.

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The complexity of the architecture cannot be paralleled anywhere else.

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This does give Stonehenge an exceptional presence

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in the wider world at the time.

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There is nothing else quite like it.

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Today, only half of Stonehenge's outer circle has survived.

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With no clue as to what happened to the missing sarsens,

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it's believed by some that the monument was never finished.

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But in the summer of 2013,

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the rare phenomenon of a British heat wave revealed new evidence.

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In 2013, we had a very wet spring

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followed by a hot dry spell in June.

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And that put the grass here under great stress.

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Grass was fighting for moisture.

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When it does that, it begins to parch.

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And we got a series of parch marks that showed us the positions

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of some stones which we'd never seen before at Stonehenge.

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So, we had the position of stone 17 here...

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..stone 18 here...

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..stone 19 here

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and stone 20 here.

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The parchmarks represented some of the most compelling evidence to date

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that Stonehenge was actually completed.

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To grasp how the stone circle would've looked in its heyday,

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Katy Whitaker recreated the masonry techniques used by its builders.

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When you look at Stonehenge today,

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you can see that the sarsens are really quite dark greys and browns

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in colour, a bit like this piece of sarsen here,

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and that's because of the weathering they've undergone

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over thousands of years.

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Sarsen is so hard, the tools used would also have to have been made of sarsen.

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This hammer stone is made of the densest type of sarsen

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that you can collect.

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It's got a good shape, it's got a good edge here,

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which will help me pick away at the surface.

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Whitaker has replicated the techniques Neolithic stonemasons

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used to produce the finished sarsens.

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It's been calculated that to shape all the megaliths like this

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would have taken ten masons over a decade.

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One of the things that's really noticeable about this

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is just how little return you get for a lot of work.

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Underneath the dust that's been created, there's a really tiny area

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that's started to change,

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revealing the white colour of the clean stone underneath.

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So just imagine how amazing Stonehenge would have looked

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with all of these standing stones, their cut surfaces glistening

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white in the sun, as you approached up the slope towards the monument.

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Centuries of weathering have left Stonehenge's remaining megaliths

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dark and rough,

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but 4,600 years ago,

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with each stone freshly worked and set into place

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as its architects had planned, worshippers of the day

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would've seen Stonehenge in all of its intended glory.

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A stunning gleaming white monument.

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Its intricate construction a testament to the sophistication

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and commitment of the people who built it.

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Stonehenge truly was the crowning glory of its age.

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But the story didn't stop with the raising of the stone circle.

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Alongside the sarsens,

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Stonehenge contains other megaliths known as the bluestones.

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Although the bluestones are dwarfed by the giant standing sarsens,

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the effort needed to transport them to the site

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was still enormous.

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Analysis of the rock has proved many of them were quarried

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from the Preseli hills in Wales, over 200 km to the west.

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Skeletal remains found close to Stonehenge

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have provided a glimpse into the life of one family

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dating back to the period when the bluestones were raised.

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The remains we see here are those of an adult male

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probably in his late 30s or his 40s.

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Along with the man, the remains of six other people,

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including children, were found in the grave.

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Observed similarities in the skulls

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suggested they belonged to the same family.

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The individuals who came from here predominately date

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to the time at which the bluestones were erected at Stonehenge.

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We undertook strontium-oxygen isotope analysis

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on the teeth from three of the adults.

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And what we found was that they were not local to the area

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in which they were buried.

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They had originated from about 150 to 200 km west of Stonehenge.

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This would take them into Wales,

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which is also the area from which the bluestones come from.

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The coincidence of bluestones and people

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migrating from the same part of Britain to Stonehenge

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became more intriguing on closer inspection of the bones.

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Looking at this skeleton, you can see that there was a massive

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traumatic injury to the left thigh bone.

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The contours have undergone a major change.

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If I compare this with a complete femur here,

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you can see just how dramatic those changes are.

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This is a major trauma,

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this is a very heavy thick bone.

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It needs a pretty powerful force acting on it

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to break it the way it is.

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What causes this sort of thing in modern clinical cases

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is maybe a motorcyclist who is run into by a motor car.

0:26:590:27:03

It's that kind of level of force.

0:27:060:27:09

What you have is a major fracture mid-shaft which has ended up

0:27:090:27:14

causing massive damage to that bone.

0:27:140:27:17

This looks like it might have been a compound fracture

0:27:170:27:20

that broke through the surface as well.

0:27:200:27:22

But the amazing thing is it mended. And he lived.

0:27:250:27:29

Further archaeological investigations of the bluestones

0:27:410:27:45

have shown that after their initial placement,

0:27:450:27:48

they were re-positioned a number of times.

0:27:480:27:50

When Stonehenge was built around about 2600BC,

0:27:540:27:59

that wasn't the end of the story in terms of

0:27:590:28:02

the architectural development of the monument.

0:28:020:28:04

In the following centuries, on several occasions

0:28:040:28:07

the arrangement, particularly of the bluestones, was altered.

0:28:070:28:11

It's likely that these re-organisations

0:28:140:28:17

relate to changing ceremonial activities.

0:28:170:28:20

If you need to re-organise your ceremonies or your rituals,

0:28:200:28:23

you re-organise the stone settings.

0:28:230:28:25

And I think that accounts for why the bluestones are being shifted

0:28:250:28:28

and changed very significantly in the later life of the monument.

0:28:280:28:32

To understand what motivated these changes...

0:28:400:28:43

..the Hidden Landscapes Project has examined

0:28:460:28:49

every monument in the area.

0:28:490:28:50

Seeing Stonehenge from above, it does reinforce that sense of

0:29:030:29:07

the importance of looking at all the monuments together,

0:29:070:29:10

looking at the whole landscape rather than just the site.

0:29:100:29:13

Now that's exactly what we've been doing with the project,

0:29:130:29:17

identifying the importance of the other monuments,

0:29:170:29:20

which are going to add and enrich our understanding of this landscape.

0:29:200:29:24

Situated just to the north, in clear sight of Stonehenge,

0:29:240:29:28

a collection of tombs known as the Cursus barrow group

0:29:280:29:31

were constructed after the completion of the stone circle.

0:29:310:29:34

Their appearance marked the arrival of a culture

0:29:340:29:37

that had a profound impact on the ritual use of the monument

0:29:370:29:41

and its surrounding landscape.

0:29:410:29:44

The Cursus barrow group is a beautiful arrangement

0:29:440:29:47

of different styles of building, but in terms of

0:29:470:29:50

the overall story of Stonehenge, these are quite a late addition.

0:29:500:29:53

These things are coming in after Stonehenge has been completed.

0:29:550:30:00

We are getting new styles of burial, new styles of material,

0:30:000:30:03

pottery, grave goods.

0:30:030:30:05

We're getting the Beaker phenomenon.

0:30:050:30:07

Recovered artefacts from tombs like these

0:30:130:30:17

have given this era its distinctive name.

0:30:170:30:21

The reason we call this period of time in prehistory the Beaker period

0:30:250:30:30

is because of these pottery vessels.

0:30:300:30:33

They're bell shaped

0:30:330:30:34

and they're normally made from local clay.

0:30:340:30:37

They're found in graves and they're really finely crafted

0:30:390:30:44

with these horizontal bands of incised decoration.

0:30:440:30:48

The origin of these objects showed that Stonehenge was becoming

0:30:500:30:54

the focal point for a new wave of continental influences.

0:30:540:30:58

Men in particular are buried with weapons

0:31:000:31:03

and this burial comes with the typical male artefacts.

0:31:030:31:08

He's known as the Roundway Archer,

0:31:080:31:12

because he was found with this really beautifully fashioned

0:31:120:31:18

flint arrowhead.

0:31:180:31:20

The shaft and the feathers would have rotted away,

0:31:230:31:26

and so would the bow, the bow string and perhaps the quiver

0:31:260:31:30

that would have held arrows.

0:31:300:31:32

And alongside this arrow head

0:31:330:31:36

is the other element of the archer's kit.

0:31:360:31:41

Which is this.

0:31:420:31:44

It's a wrist guard. It would have been attached with leather straps.

0:31:440:31:47

And it was found on the archer's arm bone.

0:31:470:31:52

The really exciting thing about this is that it's made of jadeite,

0:31:540:32:00

and it's not from this country.

0:32:000:32:02

This is probably from Spain.

0:32:020:32:04

For it to be associated with this man in this burial

0:32:060:32:10

indicates how widely he and his community were connected,

0:32:100:32:15

and how important he was

0:32:150:32:17

to be buried with artefacts that are this precious and this rare.

0:32:170:32:22

From assemblages like this, we can see that people and ideas

0:32:240:32:28

are coming into Britain from the continent.

0:32:280:32:32

And we can see that in the decoration of the pottery,

0:32:320:32:34

we can see that in how far away these materials are being brought,

0:32:340:32:39

and they're being brought to the area around Stonehenge.

0:32:390:32:42

This is a place of great significance

0:32:440:32:47

and influential people are coming here.

0:32:470:32:49

As well as celebrating its dead in complex burial groups,

0:32:540:32:59

the Beaker Culture also stamped its identity on the region

0:32:590:33:02

by constructing the 2.5km long processional route

0:33:020:33:07

known as the Avenue.

0:33:070:33:09

Like the re-arrangement of the bluestones,

0:33:120:33:15

the Avenue's parallel ditches appear to have controlled

0:33:150:33:18

the passage of worshippers around Stonehenge.

0:33:180:33:20

When the Hidden Landscapes Project surveyed an area

0:33:250:33:28

close to the Avenue, they detected traces of another structure

0:33:280:33:33

built to influence the movement of people,

0:33:330:33:37

a wooden barrier, nearly 2km long.

0:33:370:33:40

One of the really weird things about the Stonehenge landscape,

0:33:440:33:47

and one that not many people know about because it's not visible

0:33:470:33:50

from the land surface is what is known as the palisade.

0:33:500:33:54

It's effectively a long fence

0:33:570:33:59

which runs from the western side of Stonehenge

0:33:590:34:02

and curves round towards one of the gaps in the Cursus.

0:34:020:34:05

Excavations of the southern end of this palisade

0:34:060:34:09

have dated it later than the construction of Stonehenge...

0:34:090:34:12

..and predicted that some of its posts were as much as 7m tall.

0:34:160:34:19

The palisade bisected the entire landscape.

0:34:220:34:25

If it was all built at the same time,

0:34:310:34:33

then that's effectively a barrier to movement from the east and west,

0:34:330:34:36

dividing this landscape.

0:34:360:34:38

The palisade is one of these things which is incredibly significant

0:34:380:34:42

to the landscape, but it's not widely understood.

0:34:420:34:44

Along with the transformation of the land around Stonehenge,

0:34:520:34:56

the Beaker period brought with it

0:34:560:34:59

new ritualistic uses of the stone circle.

0:34:590:35:02

Forensic investigations on a male skeleton

0:35:110:35:15

have provided powerful evidence

0:35:150:35:18

that three centuries after its construction,

0:35:180:35:23

Stonehenge became a site of human sacrifice.

0:35:230:35:26

This is a really nice looking skeleton.

0:35:350:35:38

This is in very good condition.

0:35:380:35:41

He was buried, very unusually, in a ditch at Stonehenge.

0:35:410:35:46

This is a very highly ritualised site,

0:35:460:35:49

so this is quite an unusual find.

0:35:490:35:52

People often get the impression that in the distant past,

0:35:570:36:01

life was nasty, brutish and short.

0:36:010:36:03

We know that this man died when he was in his late 20s,

0:36:030:36:08

but I wouldn't say that his life was nasty and brutish.

0:36:080:36:12

You look at him, he was a robust, muscly man of about 5'10".

0:36:120:36:18

Tiny nicks on the man's bones show the cause of death.

0:36:200:36:24

He was shot repeatedly with flint arrows.

0:36:270:36:31

The location of the skeleton's burial

0:36:340:36:36

showed this was no ordinary death.

0:36:360:36:38

To be buried in that ditch at Stonehenge with the injuries he has

0:36:410:36:46

suggests we have a sacrificial victim.

0:36:460:36:50

There are several injuries, all in the chest area,

0:37:100:37:13

that show where those arrows went.

0:37:130:37:16

And if we start off by looking at this bone here,

0:37:160:37:19

the breast bone of the sternum,

0:37:190:37:21

if I take this arrowhead,

0:37:210:37:23

you can see the tip of the arrowhead where it's come into his body

0:37:230:37:28

from the back and to the side,

0:37:280:37:30

and has stuck into the back of his sternum.

0:37:300:37:33

In addition, we have injuries in the right side of the ribs.

0:37:390:37:43

You can see there are two little marks, one here,

0:37:430:37:47

and although this is damaged, there is also another mark there.

0:37:470:37:50

And these are where the arrowhead has passed

0:37:500:37:52

through between the ribs and straight through into the body

0:37:520:37:56

where it has stuck within the soft tissues.

0:37:560:38:00

Similar too on the right-hand side.

0:38:060:38:08

We have two of the ribs on the left-hand side,

0:38:080:38:11

we're looking at the 10th and 11th,

0:38:110:38:13

where again an arrow has gone between the two ribs

0:38:130:38:17

and caught the top of one and the bottom of the other.

0:38:170:38:20

And we know this is one of the three

0:38:240:38:26

that would have killed this young man.

0:38:260:38:28

No other killings of this kind have been found in Stonehenge.

0:38:420:38:46

Why the man was sacrificed may never be known.

0:38:480:38:50

But his burial, so close to the stone circle,

0:38:520:38:56

suggests his death was ritualistic.

0:38:560:38:58

While one grave showed evidence of bloody sacrifice...

0:39:050:39:09

..other excavated Beaker graves in the Stonehenge landscape

0:39:110:39:14

have also been remarkably well preserved.

0:39:140:39:16

The artefacts they contain reflect the revolutionary technologies

0:39:220:39:26

that arrived in Britain at the time.

0:39:260:39:28

Burials from the Beaker period

0:39:320:39:34

are the first time we see metal artefacts in Britain.

0:39:340:39:39

This is a copper dagger.

0:39:410:39:43

When it was new, it would have been absolutely bright and gleaming.

0:39:470:39:51

This is not about cutting up your dinner

0:39:510:39:55

or fighting with the neighbours.

0:39:550:39:58

This is a ceremonial dagger and it's probably from central Europe.

0:39:580:40:03

The people with the knowledge of the technology also arrive in Britain

0:40:050:40:09

and they share that technology amongst the people here.

0:40:090:40:13

And it changes their culture.

0:40:150:40:17

This is the start of the age of metal.

0:40:180:40:21

Soon after the introduction of copper,

0:40:270:40:30

it appears that British smiths worked out the secret

0:40:300:40:34

of making a superior metal, bronze.

0:40:340:40:36

The arrival of metal in Britain

0:40:360:40:39

happens quite late compared to Europe,

0:40:390:40:41

but the discovery of tin in south-west England, Cornwall and Devon,

0:40:410:40:45

brings on the true Bronze Age very quickly.

0:40:450:40:49

In Britain, the abundance of copper and the far rarer tin

0:40:490:40:53

saw local metal workers lead the way in prehistoric bronze production.

0:40:530:40:58

By alloying the copper with a little bit of tin,

0:40:590:41:04

I'm going to make a 6% tin bronze

0:41:040:41:06

which is quite typical composition for the early Bronze Age.

0:41:060:41:10

Bronze tools and weapons were far harder and more durable

0:41:150:41:18

than anything made from copper or flint.

0:41:180:41:21

It's good, it's gone in.

0:41:320:41:35

So we should have a knife there.

0:41:370:41:38

I'm going to lift the mould out, lay it on its side

0:41:400:41:42

and then break it open.

0:41:420:41:44

This is the moment of truth.

0:41:490:41:52

So this is the end of the process of all our work.

0:41:570:42:01

Just like the knives you find

0:42:010:42:03

associated with burials in the area around Stonehenge.

0:42:030:42:07

This is the proof of the big change with the advent of bronze.

0:42:070:42:10

As Britain entered the Bronze Age,

0:42:170:42:19

Stonehenge was already over 400 years old,

0:42:190:42:22

an ancient monument in its own landscape.

0:42:220:42:26

But as an explosion of tomb building shows,

0:42:280:42:31

its reputation is greater than ever.

0:42:310:42:34

There are hundreds of Bronze Age burial mounds

0:42:350:42:38

in the area around Stonehenge.

0:42:380:42:40

When first built,

0:42:420:42:43

many of them would have been gleaming, white, shining mounds.

0:42:430:42:47

These would have been seen across very large distances across the landscape

0:42:500:42:54

Each of these circles shows the position

0:42:560:42:59

of a Bronze Age burial tomb.

0:42:590:43:01

The Hidden Landscapes Project

0:43:020:43:04

has thrown new light on their complex interconnections.

0:43:040:43:07

The geophysical survey work is allowing us to see

0:43:090:43:12

for the first time how the obvious surviving monuments relate to others

0:43:120:43:17

which we now can't see on the surface.

0:43:170:43:19

Up till now, we've only seen little snippets of the landscape.

0:43:230:43:27

This allows us to put it all together in one big picture.

0:43:270:43:30

The position and alignment of the tombs

0:43:320:43:35

revealed a clear strategy behind their placement.

0:43:350:43:37

The biggest mounds are associated with an elite class

0:43:390:43:42

within early Bronze Age society,

0:43:420:43:45

who are using Stonehenge and the other monuments around

0:43:450:43:48

as focal points, which they can refer to in relation to

0:43:480:43:51

their own power and prestige in the early Bronze Age.

0:43:510:43:55

Artefacts discovered in these graves

0:44:000:44:02

show these generations of Stonehenge people were more connected

0:44:020:44:06

than ever before with the wider world.

0:44:060:44:08

So we have a Breton style of daggers, for example,

0:44:110:44:14

turning up in British early Bronze Age graves.

0:44:140:44:18

There are various other kinds of accoutrements -

0:44:180:44:20

pins, certain kinds of wet stones,

0:44:200:44:22

other kinds of objects which suggest continental connections.

0:44:220:44:25

Two-way trade with the continental mainland had flourished

0:44:270:44:32

with Stonehenge seemingly a vital hub.

0:44:320:44:35

In Stonehenge, you do see an increase of the volume of material

0:44:370:44:41

from far afield and abroad.

0:44:410:44:43

We find amber from the Baltics, copper axes from Spain

0:44:440:44:48

and gold from Ireland,

0:44:480:44:50

whilst in Holland you would find Cornish tin.

0:44:500:44:53

The Bronze Age saw a huge increase in international trade.

0:44:550:44:59

To better understand the practical challenges

0:45:000:45:03

that made this boom possible, Professor Van de Noort,

0:45:030:45:06

along with shipwright Brian Cumby,

0:45:060:45:09

set out to build the first full scale replica of a Bronze Age boat.

0:45:090:45:14

The innovative plank-built sea craft

0:45:150:45:18

developed in Northern Europe at this time.

0:45:180:45:20

I've been building classic wooden boats for nigh on 40 years.

0:45:200:45:26

When I was given this job,

0:45:290:45:31

it was a complete new learning curve for me.

0:45:310:45:33

I had to start to think like a Bronze Age man.

0:45:330:45:36

They had to hand carve everything and fit it and look at it -

0:45:390:45:43

that looks good, that looks bad.

0:45:430:45:45

It's just a matter of building by eye all the time.

0:45:450:45:48

The design was based on fragments of prehistoric boats

0:45:480:45:51

discovered in Britain.

0:45:510:45:53

The biggest challenge was how to build

0:45:530:45:55

the craft's plank-constructed hull without nails or glue.

0:45:550:45:58

We knew from the excavation that they used yew branches

0:45:590:46:03

from the yew tree, withies.

0:46:030:46:05

And this is used to tie this plank

0:46:050:46:07

to this frame and hold the whole boat together,

0:46:070:46:11

and we are amazed at how strong she is.

0:46:110:46:14

We thought that would be one of the weak points of the boat,

0:46:140:46:17

but we've been proven wrong.

0:46:170:46:19

To test the viability of their sewn-plank hull,

0:46:240:46:27

Van de Noort and a crew of 19

0:46:270:46:29

took the replica on its maiden open water voyage.

0:46:290:46:33

16 metres long and weighing over five tonnes,

0:46:380:46:42

these boats were bigger and had more cargo capacity

0:46:420:46:45

than any craft built before.

0:46:450:46:48

Well, I'm just measuring it using GPS.

0:46:540:46:56

2.5 knots at cruising speed,

0:46:560:46:59

so 2.5 sea miles per hour.

0:46:590:47:02

And when we push it harder, it goes just over 3.5 knots.

0:47:020:47:05

Travelling at this rate,

0:47:080:47:10

a Bronze Age boat could've crossed the Channel in less than a day.

0:47:100:47:14

By mastering the use of planks

0:47:170:47:19

instead of hollowed out tree trunks or animal hides,

0:47:190:47:23

Bronze Age ship-builders had made a huge leap forward.

0:47:230:47:27

She could probably take about seven tonnes of cargo,

0:47:270:47:30

but I think they would carry livestock, people and tin ingots.

0:47:300:47:37

Van de Noort's wider research on Bronze Age trade has identified

0:47:380:47:42

prehistoric Britain's special role.

0:47:420:47:45

How Britain fits in that picture of these Bronze Age networks

0:47:480:47:52

is really access to tin,

0:47:520:47:54

which is a rare metal, but you need it for making bronze objects.

0:47:540:47:58

And I think that is the critical valuable that Britain

0:47:580:48:01

adds into this European network.

0:48:010:48:04

At the heart of Britain's commerce

0:48:070:48:11

was Stonehenge.

0:48:110:48:13

Lots of archaeologists have come up with this idea

0:48:150:48:18

that Stonehenge has become a kind of central place,

0:48:180:48:21

a place of power, and it may well have been that if you were

0:48:210:48:24

in Germany, and you wanted gold and tin from Cornwall,

0:48:240:48:27

that you had to go through the people

0:48:270:48:30

who we have found buried near Stonehenge.

0:48:300:48:33

The increasingly ostentatious placement of tombs around Stonehenge

0:48:420:48:47

during the late Bronze Age, confirmed its status as the place

0:48:470:48:51

for the upper echelons to flaunt their power and influence.

0:48:510:48:54

The burial mounds built between about 2000-1700 BC

0:48:570:49:01

appear to be in position not only for wider communities to see

0:49:010:49:05

but perhaps more importantly for competitor groups to see

0:49:050:49:09

from other vantage points.

0:49:090:49:11

we might imagine a kind of political landscape here,

0:49:110:49:14

where the elites are jockeying for prime position.

0:49:140:49:18

Funeral events would have served as opportunities for expressing

0:49:180:49:23

the power of the dead individuals, but also the power

0:49:230:49:26

of the groups conducting the funerals.

0:49:260:49:28

But they were not just expressing their power within the community.

0:49:300:49:33

They were also celebrating their wealth,

0:49:380:49:41

because excavated from some of these high status tombs has come

0:49:410:49:44

a remarkable amount of gold.

0:49:440:49:46

This absolutely exquisite artefact

0:49:480:49:51

was discovered in the Bush Barrow in 1808.

0:49:510:49:55

The Bush Barrow is about half a mile away from Stonehenge

0:49:560:49:59

and on a direct alignment with the most sacred area of the monument.

0:49:590:50:04

It's been dated to around 1950 BC.

0:50:040:50:08

The piece itself is known as a lozenge. It's almost pure gold.

0:50:100:50:15

And across the whole of it there are geometrical designs

0:50:150:50:20

of parallel lines and diagonal zigzags.

0:50:200:50:23

And it's perfectly executed.

0:50:230:50:26

The level of workmanship and the amount of gold in this lozenge

0:50:280:50:31

indicate that this person was incredibly high status.

0:50:310:50:35

Perhaps a chief, perhaps a senior priest.

0:50:350:50:38

And they think it would've sat in the centre of the man's chest.

0:50:390:50:44

Perhaps holding together a garment

0:50:440:50:46

or perhaps hung as a pendant of some description.

0:50:460:50:49

But the most impressive item found in the Bush Barrow grave

0:50:510:50:55

is actually in this tiny little dish.

0:50:550:50:58

These are some of the estimated 140,000 tiny gold studs

0:51:010:51:07

that were placed into the handle of a bronze dagger

0:51:070:51:11

that was found in this Bush Barrow grave.

0:51:110:51:14

At ultra-high levels of magnification,

0:51:190:51:22

some of the intricately worked studs can still be seen embedded

0:51:220:51:26

in fragments of wood from the handle.

0:51:260:51:28

Artist Willard Wigan is uniquely qualified to understand

0:51:360:51:40

what it took to achieve gold working on this microscopic scale.

0:51:400:51:43

Wigan is the world's pre-eminent nano-sculptor,

0:51:490:51:53

a niche market where smaller is better.

0:51:530:51:56

I'm actually producing something

0:51:570:52:00

that's smaller than a full stop in a newspaper.

0:52:000:52:04

Wigan's completed works sit framed in the eye of a needle,

0:52:060:52:09

or on the head of a pin.

0:52:090:52:12

Because I'm working on this molecular scale,

0:52:120:52:15

you have to hold your breath.

0:52:150:52:17

I'm actually working between the pulse beat.

0:52:190:52:23

The process to actually finish one can take anything up to two months.

0:52:250:52:30

Things are going to go wrong, you're going to lose pieces,

0:52:300:52:33

something will bend and then it will turn into a little catapult,

0:52:330:52:36

and then what you've been working on for four weeks is gone.

0:52:360:52:41

Based on his own skills, Willard has figured out the techniques

0:52:450:52:49

the ancient gold workers must have used.

0:52:490:52:51

I would say two fine pieces of gold twisted and rolled.

0:52:550:52:59

If you look here, you can see where it's twisted and flattened off.

0:53:000:53:05

I cannot see an adult doing that,

0:53:050:53:07

because your eyesight starts to deteriorate, even at 21.

0:53:070:53:12

It would have to be a child that's done that.

0:53:120:53:16

Even when aided with modern technology,

0:53:160:53:19

Willard grasped the difficulties of making a gold stud on this scale.

0:53:190:53:23

They probably found a way of slicing the gold into very fine fragments

0:53:230:53:29

by perhaps using a piece of flint,

0:53:290:53:32

and then you'd get these shavings of gold would come off.

0:53:320:53:36

Your movements would have to be very, very fine.

0:53:410:53:47

Twisting one that way and one the opposite way.

0:53:470:53:50

Once I've got to the stage of where I think it's going to snap, I stop.

0:53:550:54:00

Cut them off at each end.

0:54:000:54:01

And then squeeze at the end to give that pin head look at the top.

0:54:040:54:09

Back then there was no technology, there were no microscopes, nothing.

0:54:110:54:15

This is a phenomenal achievement.

0:54:150:54:18

More prehistoric gold objects have been found in the regions

0:54:230:54:27

surrounding Stonehenge than anywhere else in Britain.

0:54:270:54:30

This golden age represented Stonehenge at the peak

0:54:360:54:40

of its power and wealth.

0:54:400:54:41

A discovery made by the Hidden Landscapes Project

0:54:420:54:45

in a field to the east provided a glimpse of when

0:54:450:54:48

the area's ritual importance began to decline.

0:54:480:54:51

This is an amazing field, so just by driving over with my magnetometer,

0:54:530:54:59

I did see on the screen a lot of pits and a lot of long ditches,

0:54:590:55:03

and in between, a lot of smaller pits the size of postholes.

0:55:030:55:07

From the shape and distribution of the features,

0:55:140:55:16

Professor Neubauer recognised the telltale footprints

0:55:160:55:20

of prehistoric buildings.

0:55:200:55:22

When I first saw it, it was of course, "Wow!"

0:55:270:55:30

Now we have a settlement, what we have been looking for all the time,

0:55:300:55:33

so there were so many empty areas without any settlement traces

0:55:330:55:36

that it really was a great thing to have it now in this large field.

0:55:360:55:40

The evidence of everyday life

0:55:490:55:51

encroaching into areas previously held sacred

0:55:510:55:54

represented the beginning of the Stonehenge landscape's demise

0:55:540:56:00

as a ceremonial site.

0:56:000:56:02

By 1500 BCE,

0:56:070:56:09

all monument building had stopped

0:56:090:56:12

and the area was broken up into farmlands.

0:56:120:56:15

Over 1,000 years old by then,

0:56:190:56:21

the stone circle was, as it is today,

0:56:210:56:26

an enigmatic reminder of a lost civilisation.

0:56:260:56:29

21st-century technology underpinned by hard archaeological evidence

0:56:370:56:43

has revolutionised the understanding of Stonehenge.

0:56:430:56:46

As we start to see our results in relation to other people's results

0:56:480:56:52

and so on, we've got as complete a picture as we can ever have

0:56:520:56:55

of the entire landscape.

0:56:550:56:57

We're reinventing Stonehenge for this generation.

0:56:580:57:01

By peeling away the land, the archaeologists have rewritten

0:57:040:57:09

the 10,000-year-old story of the sacred site.

0:57:090:57:12

From its origins as a hunting ground

0:57:150:57:19

to its rise as a ceremonial arena.

0:57:190:57:22

Having this iconic landscape now really covered,

0:57:280:57:32

we can now put the whole thing in a context

0:57:320:57:36

in space but also in time.

0:57:360:57:39

The vast array of data has provided new scientific insight

0:57:410:57:44

into the pre-planning,

0:57:440:57:48

construction

0:57:480:57:52

and use of the stone circle...

0:57:520:57:54

..forever dispelling the myth of its seclusion.

0:57:570:58:01

Just as significantly, the discoveries have placed Stonehenge

0:58:030:58:07

at the very heart of a fast evolving and dynamic culture.

0:58:070:58:11

This is the story of Stonehenge.

0:58:150:58:18

Operation Stonehenge follows a group of international archaeologists, led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna and supported by new research from English Heritage. Part two of this mini-series turns its focus to the construction, design and enduring significance of the iconic stone circle itself and the ancient civilisation that flourished around it.

Solving many of the mysteries of Stonehenge, revelations include the discovery of new monuments in the landscape, the most definitive understanding to date of how the monument looked in its heyday, the precise geometric mastery that dictated its design and solar alignment, and tantalising new evidence of how the megaliths were transported to the site and elaborately finished by skilled engineers and stonemasons.

Precise CGI reconstructions reveal not just an enigmatic circle of stones, but the crowning achievement and epicentre of a highly sophisticated civilisation that had mastered deep mining, international trade, precision engineering, intricate gold working and state-of-the art metallurgy, alongside complex astronomy and mathematics.


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