How Does This Copy Neolithic Henge Look 15 Years On?

It isn’t daily that one will get the chance to construct a duplicate Neolithic henge earthwork. Furthermore, after 15 years of “weathering”, one is amazingly shocked to see that it not solely survives however has partly contributed to the enjoyment of the hundreds of tourists to Merseyside’s Ness Botanic Gardens. Christened “Nesshenge” by the Antiquity Journal, my reproduction henge now represents an ongoing archaeological experiment for severe research. And, as an “earthwork” it has been uncovered to a number of the “finest and worst” of the British climate. So, it’s time to see what have an effect on this time period has had on the experimental henge.


The story of Nesshenge started some 16 years in the past as a part of my doctorate analysis. As luck would have it, I requested the College of Liverpool whether or not I may make the most of one in every of their many sports activities fields to map out on the bottom the design of Stonehenge. This concept then progressed to increasing the venture as a part of the college’s contribution in the direction of the Metropolis of Liverpool’s 2008 European Capital of Tradition.

Known as the “ 2008 Stonehenge Rope Experiment utilizing the precept of Occam’s Razor”. The train demonstrated how the bottom plan of Stonehenge may have initially been designed utilizing my experimental, rudimentary strategies of folding ropes, finger counting numeracy and utilizing the Solar’s shadow at noon. For positive, my distinctive “easy” procedures confirmed how one size of rope, 180 ft (55m) lengthy, may have been repeatedly folded to mark out a duplicate of Stonehenge’s extant floor plan. Furthermore, a white line marker machine was then used to visibly mark out the design (made by the rope) so as to improve public viewing (Fig.2).

Fig.2. Using a length of rope, finger-counting numeracy and the sun’s shadow, it was possible in 2008 to replicate the design of Stonehenge’s ground plan. (Dr John Hill)

Fig.2. Utilizing a size of rope, finger-counting numeracy and the solar’s shadow, it was doable in 2008 to copy the design of Stonehenge’s floor plan. (Dr John Hill)

Positively, media publicity for the experiment caught the eye of the (then) curator of the university-owned Ness Botanic Gardens, Paul Prepare dinner, who subsequently contacted me and requested if I may construct a duplicate henge inside a piece of his “Wildflower Meadow.” He additionally provided the Backyard’s work power and different supplies to assist construct it.


The primary job was to establish an space inside the meadow the place the henge could possibly be constructed. Notably, there have been no restrictions on the scale of the world, and I believe Paul would have been proud of seeing a full-size reproduction of Stonehenge being constructed. Certainly, it could have made an incredible visible affect inside the central low-lying space of the meadow. Nonetheless, I wished to include various astronomical alignments inside the experimental henge, and this might solely be achieved by putting Nesshenge amongst the upper ranges of the meadow. However, having chosen the suitable piece of land and surveying it, I needed to make some changes to its design. Briefly, the reproduction must be scaled all the way down to nearly one third of the scale of the actual Stonehenge. Having chosen the world for Nesshenge, I nonetheless needed to agree with Paul the assorted different duties concerned with development:

  1. Availability of “spare” stone
  2. The supply of 56 timbers for the Aubrey holes
  3. The human effort wanted to construct it.

Fortuitously, Ness Gardens has its personal “constructing yard” with a great provide of medium-sized backyard stones that I may use. Additionally, even again so far as 2008, ecological philosophy decided the selection of the 56 picket posts I wanted to face in “my” Aubrey Holes. Thus, various timber which had already been recognized for “trimming” supplied glorious timbers for that function. Concerning the guide labor required to construct the henge, then 4 gardeners and a mini digger (plus driver) have been provided for 3 full days. Having agreed and scheduled these necessities, the work was prepared to begin.

Now the dimension for the Outer Ditch at the actual Stonehenge covers an space some 360 ft by 360 ft (110m x 110m) however the raised meadow was smaller in dimension. Compromising, I needed to scale down the reconstruction accordingly i.e. utilizing a size of rope 67 ½ ft (20.5m) lengthy to set out the ditch or somewhat 135 ft x 135 ft (41.1m x 41.1m). And here’s a breakdown of all these different measurements at each Stonehenge and Nesshenge in addition to their respective calculations for folding the ropes on the latter experimental henge (Desk 1).

Desk 1. A comparability of measurements between Stonehenge and Nesshenge.




At Stonehenge

At Nesshenge

Calculation for Nesshenge’s options

Diameter of Outer Ditch

360 ft (110m)

135 ft (55m)

Use the 67 ½ ft rope to set out.

Width of Outer Ditch

13½ ft (4.11m)

5.062 ft (1.54m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Fold into 5. Use three lengths to set out Outer Ditch.

Diameter of Interior Financial institution

157½ ft. (47.88m)

59.06 ft (18m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Use residual rope to set out middle line of Interior Financial institution.

Width of Interior Financial institution

18 ft (5.48m)

6.75 ft (2m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Fold into 5. Use 4 lengths to set out Interior Financial institution.

Diameter of Aubrey Holes Circuit

141¾ ft (43.2m)

53.154 ft (16.2m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Then deduct an additional one eight from residual. Use residual size to put out circuit.

Distance between Aubrey Holes

15¾ ft (4.8m)

5.906 ft (1.8m)

Use the discarded 5.906 ft rope from the Aubrey Circuit above.

Width of South Entrance

13 ½ ft (4.11m)

5.062 ft (1.54m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Fold into 5. Use three lengths to set out width of South Entrance.

Width of North-east Entrance

36 ft (10.97m)

13.5 ft (4.11m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 5. Minimize off one fifth to set out width of North-east Entrance.

Distance of Heel Stone to middle of henge

258.75 ft

97.1 ft (29.57m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 8. Minimize off one eight. Roll out 11 ½ instances. .

Distance of Slaughter Stone to middle of henge

135 ft (41.1m)

50.62 ft (15.4m)

Divide the 67 ½ ft rope into 4. Minimize off one quarter and use residual size to set out the Slaughter Stone.

Getting began

The primary “job” with development was to clear the land upon which Nesshenge would stand. This concerned strimming weeds and mowing grass. Fortuitously, there have been no giant timber or extreme shrubs to clear. With the land floor cleared, I then used the 67 ½ ft (20.5m) size of rope to mark out the circumference of the Nesshenge’s Outer Ditch, in addition to utilizing picket poles to set out a hoop of posts alongside that perimeter. Subsequent, standing on the middle of this ring, I measured the solar’s shadow to establish a north/south line and the course of True North (Fig.3A). Then the opposite cardinal factors have been obtained by asking a gardener to face on the north / south line and to carry out each their arms parallel to the bottom while going through True North: thus, the fitting arm pointed east and the left arm, west. This motion then recognized the east and west cardinal factors on the circumference of the outer ditch made by the 67 ½ ft rope (Fig.3B). After all, there are different methods of acquiring the cardinal factors, however this was the only method to do that right here. And this process it could additionally clarify how the Neolithic individuals may accomplish orientation for his or her monuments with out leaving a bodily imprint of the archaeological file.

Fig.3A & 3B. My experimental method for achieving orientation. (Dr John Hill)

Fig.3A & 3B. My experimental technique for attaining orientation. (Dr John Hill)

Lastly, as soon as I had recognized the cardinal factors and decided orientation, it was time to set out the entire inner options on the henge, the size of that are proven in Desk 1. Undoubtedly, three days was not sufficient time to permit males to dig ditches and lift earthen banks solely utilizing prehistoric stone expertise – so I needed to revert to using fashionable tools to complete the job (Fig.4).

Fig.4. Nesshenge in 2008, modern tools were used to dig the ditches and raise the banks. (Dr John Hill)

Fig.4. Nesshenge in 2008, fashionable instruments have been used to dig the ditches and lift the banks. (Dr John Hill)

The End in 2008

The reconstructed Nesshenge represented an vital comparability with Stonehenge’s distinctive structure. The true Stonehenge appeared throughout the Center Neolithic interval, round 3000-2950 BC. It firstly consisted of a ditch and financial institution earthwork surrounding a central space with two entrances. Then, about 2800 BC a hoop of 56 (possible) timber posts have been positioned in what are actually known as the Aubrey Holes. Importantly although, and it’s famous that after 2008, there was a brand new interpretation proposing that these Aubrey Holes might need alternatively contained standing Bluestones as a substitute of timbers. However I imagine the proof for what these holes initially contained is equivocal – it could possibly be timbers, stones and even each and, it’s famous, that there are nonetheless about 40% of those holes awaiting future excavation and subsequently, till they’ve been examined, we can not fairly be certain what they or really held.

Then, about 2650 BC, a double arc of standing Bluestones have been set out and so they remained in situ for nearly 100 years or so earlier than being eliminated to create space for the elevating of the good Sarsen Circle and Trilithons, circa 2550-2450 BC. These Sarsen stones have been huge stones, every weighing on common about 35 ton and so they have been dragged some twenty miles (32.18 km) from the Marlborough Downs to Stonehenge. Lastly, after elevating the Sarsen stones the Bluestones have been repositioned in two formations inside the central areas of Stonehenge, someday between 2200-2000 BC. Lastly, round 200 years later, two crescentic rings of empty pit/holes have been dug across the central stone settings (known as the X and Y Rings).

By the way, I solely added a couple of of the standing stones to the experimental henge to symbolize the Heel Stone, the Slaughter Stone, the recumbent Altar Stone and the 4 Station Stones. Additionally, 5 (small) uprights have been positioned to symbolize Stonehenge’s Trilithons while 30 slabs accounted for the Sarsen Circle lintel stones. Moreover, I fastidiously positioned the henge in order that it not solely included various vital astronomical alignments that happen at the actual Stonehenge, however I aligned Nesshenge in the direction of a “particular notch” amongst the south-west horizons, between the Welsh mountains of Moel Famau and Moel Arthur. Certainly, standing on the Heel Stone on the winter solstice (21 st December) one can watch the afternoon winter solar setting between the 2 mountains (Fig.5).

Fig.5. Nesshenge during the winter solstice sunset (21st December). (Dr John Hill)

Fig.5. Nesshenge throughout the winter solstice sundown (twenty first December). (Dr John Hill)

By the best way, no sooner after constructing the experimental henge did it come beneath assault from the weather. Inside days heavy rain induced the ditches to flood, and so they remained flooded all through the winter of 2008 (Fig.6). Curiously, this flooding made me take into consideration the aim of henge ditches – have been all of them intentionally meant to flood on this method? Maybe they have been a supply of water for the cattle that have been herded by the prehistoric farmers when congregating at henges for commerce, feasting and change; alternatively, the flooding could have contained some cosmological which means and even used for ritual bathing by the individuals. Actually, the incorporation of water as a pure ingredient inside the architectural design of a Neolithic henge is understood elsewhere. For instance, on the Marden henge (Wiltshire), there, the river Avon was really compelled to move into segments of its ditch, forcing it to stay in a completely waterlogged state as, certainly, Nesshenge has performed so since 2008.

Fig.6. Nesshenge in 2008. The ditches filled with rainwater. (Dr John Hill)

Fig.6. Nesshenge in 2008. The ditches crammed with rainwater. (Dr John Hill)

Nesshenge At present (2024 AD)

Nesshenge nonetheless survives! And it continues to draw guests who come to take a seat and meditate inside the “sacred” area it offers. I additionally perceive that some individuals collect each winter solstice afternoon and revel in watching the sundown from the henge. Of the 56 timbers that when stood within the Aubrey Holes in 2008, solely three stay as we speak. Furthermore, they’re now rotted and unlikely to face upright for for much longer. The Outer Ditch has silted considerably, and it nonetheless continues to flood alongside its southern quadrants, nevertheless the complete Interior Financial institution nonetheless maintains its type. I did word that “my” Slaughter Stone has been raised upright (though I can not keep in mind whether or not I did this a while in the past, once more for well being and security considerations because it was (is) straightforward to journey over it when laid flat). Regrettably, the stays of my reconstructed stone-lined Avenue which ran from the north-east entrance in the direction of the Heel Stone, has now disappeared while the latter stone is hidden amongst some undergrowth (Fig.7).

Fig.7. Nesshenge today (2024 AD). The South Entrance with adjacent flooded ditches. (Dr John Hill)

Fig.7. Nesshenge as we speak (2024 AD). The South Entrance with adjoining flooded ditches. (Dr John Hill)

I’m additionally happy to report that reconstructed henge now kinds a part of the College of Liverpool’s EARTH (Experimental Archaeology Analysis and Instructing Hub). And hopefully this incorporation will defend the henge for a few years to return. Certainly, this educating hub (together with Nesshenge) offers a superb useful resource and alternative for educating experimental archaeology not solely to the Liverpool College college students but in addition to the broader public.

Prime picture: Fig.1 The experimental henge “Nesshenge” because it appeared in 2008. Supply: © Dr John Hill

By Dr John Hill

Dr Hill has lately written and revealed about his strategies in a brand new ebook referred to as Experimental Archaeology and Neolithic Structure: Between Design and Building

In it he states that our understanding of the development processes concerned with British Neolithic structure wants additional investigation. The Neolithic individuals have been preliterate and there’s no archaeological proof of written or pictorial info concerning development. So how may they construct advanced monuments like Stonehenge with out a plan?

He argues that the Neolithic builders used rudimentary strategies to plan their buildings earlier than bodily constructing them (circa 4000 – 2500 BC). Basically, utilizing ropes to set out the bodily design of any construction they supposed to construct, while finger reckoning numeracy dictated how their measured ropes have been folded to place the monument’s options. Lastly, they used the solar’s shadow at noon to attain orientation to seize supposed astronomical alignments.

Copies of his ebook may be ordered from Amazon at:

You possibly can contact Dr Hill at:

[email protected]

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