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Saturday 18th January 2020 – BAS Lecture: Bluestones and white bones

Bluestones and white bones: the origins of the people buried at Stonehenge

by Professor Rick Schulting

Rick Schulting of Oxford’s School of Archaeology will present the intriguing results of the strontium isotope analysis of the remains, which suggested there were strong connections between West Wales and Wessex, extending beyond the transportation of stones, to the movement of people.

Stonehenge has long inspired the imagination. Much work has been done on understanding (or speculating on) how the stones themselves were moved, whence they came, and what the monument meant to its creators. Far less attention has been paid to those creators themselves. The cremated remains of more than 50 individuals were placed in the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge, making it one of the largest Late Neolithic (ca. 3000­-­2500 BC) cemeteries known in Britain.

The Aubrey Holes were excavated by Colonel Hawley in 1919-1926, who, unusually for the time, had the foresight to rebury the cremated remains on site, albeit commingled in a single pit. Nevertheless, bones of at least 25 separate individuals could still be identified. These were recently used for radiocarbon dating, and a small fragment of what was leftover from that process was used for strontium isotope analysis. This is a method that provides insights into where people lived, following the adage that ‘you are where you ate’. Strontium is a trace element that is absorbed into our bodies, including our bones and teeth­. It comes in slightly different forms termed isotopes, the ratios of which closely reflect the bedrock geology of the place, thence entering the food chain after being taken up in groundwater by plants. It happens that the Chalk on which Stonehenge sits has a very distinctive strontium isotope signal, one that is quite different from western Britain.

The results of our project suggest that over one-third of the individuals buried at Stonehenge did not spend the last years of their lives on the Wessex Chalk, but instead came from further west. A number of individuals are consistent with coming from west Wales, long seen as the source of the bluestones at Stonehenge. This shows that, for whatever reason, there were strong connections between west Wales and Wessex, extending beyond the transportation of stones, to the movement of people

Image: Cremated human remains being excavated from the base of Aubrey Hole 7 by Jacqui McKinley and Julian Richards. The bone fragments were deposited in this re-opened pit in 1935 (photograph Mike Pitts)

2.00 pm for 2.30 pm at the RISC Centre, London Street, Reading RG1 4PS Google map reference

PARKING AT RISC: There have been changes to parking at the rear of the RISC building. Only certain bays are available and payment is by phone only. Please see notices for details.

Thursday 16th January 2020 – Marlow Lecture: The East Berkshire Project

Invitation from Marlow Archaeological Society

The East Berkshire Project

by Paul Seddon

“Archaeology in East Berkshire” is a resource assessment report, the result of a year-long study by the University of Reading to assess all the currently known archaeological information and data for the area and set out period-by-period narrative for the area as currently understood.

Paul Seddon, who initiated and helped steer the project, will outline the report’s findings and invite Marlow Archaeology members’ participation in the projects.

Garden Room, Liston Hall, Marlow  SL7 1DD  at 8pm 

Pay at the door: Members of MAS/AiM £3, Visitors £4.50, full-time students £1.50 Free parking is available after 7pm adjacent to the Liston Hall All queries, including membership and fieldwork, tel: 01628 523896.

Tuesday 21st January 2020 – BAS Visit: Wittenham Clumps

Visit to Wittenham Clumps Iron Age Hillfort

An exciting opportunity to visit the dig at Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire. The visit will include a walk on the Clumps, a visit to the dig and the artefacts.

For more information see:

The society have booked a slot for 15 people on Tuesday 21st January 2020 from 10.00 to 1.00. This booking is provisional, and we need to pay for the 15 places by 19th Dec. If you are interested, please let me have the £5 fee by that date.

Reply to Anne Helmore

It is more convenient for me if you pay online. My account is Nationwide: Sort code: 07-01-16 Account number: 29779396

There will also be an opportunity for  pub lunch at The Plough at Long Wittenham. It is a 5 mins drive from the dig.

21st November 2019 to 8th March 2020 BM Exhibition: Troy

British Museum: Troy – myth and reality

The legend of Troy has endured for more than 3,000 years. The story of a great city, plunged into a 10-year war over the abduction of the most beautiful woman in the world, is irresistibly dramatic and tragic. This allure has sent adventurers and archaeologists in quest of the lost city, which is now widely believed to have existed.

But what of the heroes and the heartbroken, the women and the wanderers, who are said to have a played a part in the Trojan War? Why have they inspired so many retellings, from Homer to Shakespeare and Hollywood? Get closer to these captivating characters as you explore the breath-taking art that brings them to life, from dramatic ancient sculptures and exquisite vase paintings to powerful contemporary works.

You can also examine the fascinating archaeological evidence that proves there was a real Troy – and offers tantalising hints at the truth behind the mythical stories.

From Helen of Troy’s abduction to the deception of the Trojan Horse and the fall of the city, tread the line between myth and reality in this phenomenal new exhibition.


Reading Borough Council has submitted a bid to the Ministry of Justice to purchase the goal.

BAS Council have agreed to support the campaign and have written to the relevant authorities

Theatre & Arts Reading (TAR) chairman, Melvin Benn issued this statement:

We are pleased the council has passed this resolution.

However,  our position has not changed – TAR will not bid against the council. What we have done is pass on our bid brochure to the council which may help  its bid. This is full of information about how we would have turned the site into an arts hub, complete with a pop-up theatre, other performance space, museums, a hotel, digital hub, creative hub and more.

We have also included our list of supporters – from  community members to businesses, organisations to official bodies – which TAR has built up over many years campaigning for a new arts hub in Reading, as well as official statements of support from the Arts Council and the University of Reading.

We hope the council is successful in its bid to the MoJ – and we will continue to help in any way we can.

Matt Rodda MP is calling for Reading Gaol to be saved and turned into an arts hub and museum – to commemorate Oscar Wilde and other important historic events. The Prison is a very important part of Reading’s history. It is believed to also contain the burial place of King Henry I , who established Reading Abbey and it also has a number of other historic links.

The Gaol is under threat of being turned into luxury flats after the Ministry of Justice announced it would sell the site to the highest bidder. Matt said “I am working with a wide range of other local people and organisations and I hope that together we can press for a change of Government policy”.

A recent issue of British Archaeology contains a long article detailing the latest archaeological research into Reading Abbey. It also includes articles bemoaning the Ministry of Justice refusal to publish recent MOLA investigations and a call for a properly resourced public research project.

Meanwhile you can sign the petition here

Until July 26th 2020 – West Berkshire Museum: Hoards

West Berkshire Museum

Special Exhibition: Hoards

Bringing together for the first time, over 11 hoards from all over West Berkshire.  A chance to see buried treasure from prehistory to the medieval period, ranging from a hoard of Bronze Age Axes, Iron Age hoards of gold coins, Roman hoards of hundreds of coins, to a hoard of coins of Charles I and James I.  Explore the history of each hoard, find out how they were found, and consider why they were hidden and never retrieved.

Entry to West Berkshire Museum is free but donations are most welcomed.
Open: Wednesday – Sunday 10am -4pm

Image: The Crow Down Hoard, Acquired 2006

More info here

Special Exhibition: Hoards