Lecture Series - The World of Stonehenge

February 13, 2022

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lecture to view in your own time (from around four hours after it takes place).

As the British Museum launches its great ground-breaking World of Stonehenge exhibition this spring  (17 February - 17 July), we enter the remarkable and innovative Neolithic Age of 5,000 years ago.  This ‘New Stone Age’ was a time of the earliest first farmers in Britain.  But there’s nothing primitive about them. Not only did they settle down permanently and organise themselves into social villages for the first time, but they also changed the landscape around them in a truly monumental way. 

Stonehenge was one of the greatest sites they created; megalithic, masterly and magnificent, it still dominates the landscape and our imaginations, even today.   But the story of Stonehenge is one of a whole new world; it was a time of new expressions of life in mysterious art, fresh demonstrations of belonging, and a culture of a powerful shared understanding of death as well as of life.  All these were created before the pyramids were built in Egypt, and before metalworking, writing or the potters’ wheel arrived in Britain.

Gillian Hovell shares her passion for and expertise in the astonishing Neolithic world.  The millennia melt away as she reveals the very human Neolithic way of life that archaeology reveals.  We discover the astonishing skills, the impressive buildings and tombs, and the surprising art of a time that relied on stone tools.  Neolithic sites around Britain give us an invaluable glimpse into our human inventiveness and our ancient responses to life and death.  We can walk into a 5,000-year-old home, duck into ancestral tombs and marvel at the scale of both their monumental and daily creativeness.  Explore stone circles, standing stones and even the marvel of flint tools as we discover how to enjoy and appreciate Neolithic archaeological sites and finds, large and small.

These talks will complement your visit to the exhibition or to Stonehenge itself.  But, even if you’re not visiting either, then this is your chance to bring Stonehenge and the Neolithic to life and to make them so very much more than a load of old stones.

Lecture 1: Thursday 3 March 2022.   Visiting the Neolithic

When we visit Neolithic sites, they can appear to be just a load of old stones.  But, to an archaeologist, they are fabulously rich in stories of lives from 5,000 years ago.  Homes, tombs, stone circles and standing stones, ceremonial landscapes, and even ‘temples’ all speak volumes when you know what to look for.  These sites will come vibrantly to life as we discover how to find and understand the many kinds of Neolithic sites you can find in Britain.  We see how these archaeological clues give us insights into daily lives at a time when farming dramatically changed our lives for ever.  We explore our common humanity over the millennia and we learn to interpret the clues about what life was like 5,000 years ago.  We also consider how wide the Neolithic world was, as we glimpse astonishing sites in Ireland, Brittany and even Malta.  And, of course, we also discover how to enjoy and appreciate Neolithic items in museums; pottery, flints and so much more.

Lecture 2: Friday 4 March 2022:  Discovering and Understanding Stonehenge

Stonehenge was in use as a major monument for over 1,500 years.  We trace its story, from its earliest enigmatic origins and vital first stones, now proven to have been brought ceremoniously from West Wales, right through to its final years as the Neolithic world yielded to the Bronze Age and its changing beliefs.   New discoveries have tumbled over themselves in recent years, always writing and re-writing the story of Stonehenge. We follow the latest archaeology and studies that have shone fresh light on the site and those related to it, as it developed over the centuries.   Stonehenge was a cosmic calendar and an ancestral cemetery.  It was also an engineering and social marvel but also a vibrant part of religion and entertainment and fun for folk from throughout Britain. Enter a thrilling world of stunning engineering and social cohesion, midwinter feasts, journeys of life and death, and a dynamic sacred ceremonial space that still stands and inspires us, 5,000 years after it was begun.

Gillian Hovell 344x395       

Gillian Hovell

Gillian, professionally known as 'The Muddy Archaeologist', is an award-winning writer, author, ancient historian, archaeologist and Latin expert. Her hands-on excavations on archaeological sites range from Pompei and Hadrian's Wall from the Roman period to prehistoric sites such as the stunning Neolithic Ness of Brodgar in Orkney. Gillian is now using her expertise to communicate ancient history to wider audiences not only on cruises and tours - including CICERONI's travels - but in courses, lectures and events in person nationally and internationally, online (including Neolithic Orkney) and in the media, most recently on Radio 4 and BBC World Service).

Please go to www.muddyarchaeologist.co.uk to find more details.

Format for Lecture

Gillian will give two one-hour illustrated lectures for £23.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet.

We hope you enjoy the lectures.


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