Item Details

Through the dark vale:interpreting the Stonehenge Palisade through inter-disciplinary convergence

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2020)

Journal: Journal of Skyscape Archaeology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/jsa.38690


The Stonehenge Palisade was a nearly two kilometre long fence of timber posts running from close to the Great Cursus in the north, butting onto the ‘elbow’ turn of the Avenue approach to Stonehenge and then gradually diverging from the Avenue to the south west (Figure 1). Four archaeology models, all of which see the Palisade as concurrent and a cumulative part of the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age (EBA) Stonehenge complex (Exon 2000: 2) have been proposed to interpret the Palisade: exclusion (Pollard & Pitts 2008), materiality (Parker Pearson 2012), obscuration (Cleal 1995) and ancestral reversal (Exon et al. 2000). This paper will test these models against the presently known archaeological evidence and retain those components from each model which survive these tests. The resulting parsed components will be reserved for possible integration into a single model once any mutual coherence may be established by recourse to the archaeoastronomy of the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Stonehenge monument complex. This multi-disciplinary approach then allows discrimination between the possible inter-disciplinary anthropological interpretations of the Palisade.

Author: Lionel Sims, David Fisher

View Original Web Page

References :

Atkinson, R.J.C., 1978. Some new measurements on Stonehenge. Nature 275, 50-2.

Brothwell, D. R. & M.L. Blake, 1966. The Human Remains from Fussell’s Lodge Long Barrow: Their Morphology, Discontinuous Traits and Pathology. Archaeologia 100, 48-63.

Cleal, R.M.J., K.E. Walker & R. Montague, 1995. Stonehenge in its Landscape. London: English Heritage.

Cunliffe, B. & C. Renfrew, 1997. Science and Stonehenge. Oxford: University Press.

Darvill, T., 2005. Stonehenge World Heritage Site. An archaeological framework. Poole: English Heritage & Bournemouth University.

Dawkins, R. & J. R. Krebs, 1978. Animal signals: information or manipulation? in Behavioural Ecology: an evolutionary approach, eds. J.R. Krebs, J. R. & N.B. Davies. Oxford: Blackwell, 282–309.

Exon, S., V. Gaffney, A. Woodward & R. Yorston, 2000. Stonehenge Landscapes. Oxford: Archeopress.

DIY Doctor. 2016.

(Consulted 19.8.16).

Fisher, D., 2013. Employing 3-Dimensional Computer Simulation to Examine the Celestial Dating of Scottish Megalithic Sites in Ancient Cosmologies and Modern Prophets ed. I. Sprajc & P. Pahani. Ljubljana: Slovene Anthropological Society, 143-55.

Fisher, D., 2014. Employing 3-Dimensional Computer Simulation to Examine the Archaeoastronomy of Scottish Megalithic Sites. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Lampeter University.

Fisher, D. and Sims, L. D. In preparation. Modelling lunar extremes.

Gaffney, C. & V. Gaffney, 2012. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. Archaeological Prospection 19, 147155.


Gaffney, V., 2015. (accessed 27 May 2016).


Knight, C. 1991. Blood Relations. London: Yale.


Marshack, A., 1972. The Roots of Civilization. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

McOmish, D., D. Field, & G. Brown, 2002. The Field Archaeology of the Salisbury Plain Training Area. Swindon: English Heritage.

Mytum, H., 2013. Monumentality in Late Prehistory: Building and Rebuilding Castell Henllys Hillfort. London: Springer.

North, J., 1996. Stonehenge: Neolilthic Man and the Cosmos. London: Harper Collins.

Parker Pearson, M., 2012. Stonehenge. London: Simon & Schuster.

Pitts, M., 2001. Hengeworld. London: Arrow.

Pitts, M., 2005. (accessed 8 January 2014).

Pollard, J. & M. Pitts, 2008. (accessed 13 August 2013).

Rappaport, R., 1979. The obvious aspects of ritual in Ecology, meaning and religion, ed. R. Rappaport. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 173-221.

Rappenglück, M., 2015. Possible Astronomical Depictions in Franco-Cantabrian Palaeolithic Rock Art  in Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, ed. C. Ruggles. New York: Springer, 1205-212.

Richards, J., 1990. The Stonehenge Environs Project. London: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, Archaeological Report 16.

Ruggles, C. L. N., 1999. Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. London: Yale.

Silva, F., 2016. Equinoctial Full Moon Models and Non-Gaussianity: Portuguese Dolmens as a Test Case in Astronomy and Power: How Worlds are Structured, eds. M. A. Rappenglück, B. Rappenglück and N. Campion. Oxford: BAR 2794, 

Sims, L.D., 2006. The solarisation of the moon: manipulated knowledge at Stonehenge. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16:2, 191-207.

Sims, L.D., 2007. What is a lunar standstill? Problems of accuracy and validity in the Thom paradigm. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 6:3, 157-63.

Sims, L.D., 2009. Entering, and returning from, the underworld: reconstituting Silbury Hill by combining a quantified landscape phenomenology with archaeoastronomy. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15:2, 386-408.

Sims, L. D., 2013. Stonehenge Decoded? Review of Parker Pearson, Mike. Culture and Cosmos, 17.2, 133-42.

Sims, L. D., 2016. What is the minor standstill of the Moon? Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 2:1, 67-76, 95-102.

Sims, L.D., 2016. What is a lunar standstill III? Documenta Praehistorica XLII, 467-478.

Sims, L. D. in press. What is a lunar standstill IV. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology.

Sims, L.D. & X. Otero, 2016. Praileaitz I: A Magdalenian lunar-solar cave at 15,500 BP in the Basque Country. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 16:4, 275-282.

Taylor, J. E., 1993. Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thomas, J., 1999. Understanding the Neolithic. London: Routledge.

Thomas, J., 2007. The internal features at Durrington Walls: investigations in the Southern Circle and Western Enclosures 2005-6 in From Stonehenge to the Baltic eds. M. Larsson and M. Parker Pearson.  Oxford: BAR International Series 1692, 145-157.

Van Gennep, A., 1960. The Rites of Passage. Chicago: University Press.

Whittle, A., 1997. Sacred Mound, Holy Rings. Oxford: Oxbow.

Whittle, A., F. Healy & A. Bayliss, 2011. Gathering Time. Oxford: Oxbow.