Stonehenge expert wins top archaeology accolades

A top archaeologist from the University of Sheffield, who headed-up the team which discovered a lost stone circle from the same period as the nearby Stonehenge, has won two prestigious archaeology awards.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from the University's Department of Archaeology, was named 'Archaeologist of the Year' at the Current Archaeology Awards held at the British Museum last week (27 February 2010). His project, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, also received the award for this year's best research project in archaeology, following an online vote by readers of Britain's biggest archaeology magazine.

In October last year, Professor Parker Pearson revealed a 5,000 year-old exciting new stone circle on the west bank of the River Avon, which was dubbed "Bluestonehenge" after the colour of the 25 Welsh stones of which it was once made up.

Excavations by Professor Parker Pearson and his Stonehenge Riverside Project team, which includes archaeologists from the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and Bristol, revealed the new stone circle was 10m (33 ft) in diameter and surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank.

The stones at the site of the new discovery were removed thousands of years ago, but the sizes of the holes in which they stood indicated to the team that this was a circle of bluestones, brought from the Preseli mountains of Wales, 150 miles away.
The outer henge around the stones was built around 2400 BC but arrowheads found in the stone circle suggested that the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier and were dragged from Wales to Wiltshire 5,000 years ago.

The team believed that when the newly discovered circle's stones were removed by Neolithic people, it is possible that they were dragged to Stonehenge, to be incorporated within it around 2400 BC. Archaeologists know that, after this date, Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones and 83 local, sarsen stones. Some of the bluestones that once stood at the riverside probably now stand within the centre of Stonehenge.

As well as the Stonehenge Riverside Project, which has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the National Geographic Society, Professor Parker Pearson has also begun a new project entitled Feeding Stonehenge. This study, which has been awarded a further £800,000 grant from the AHRC, will aim to discover exactly how the people who built the stone circle lived, what they ate and where they came from.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson from the University of Sheffield and director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project and Feeding Stonehenge, said: "I am absolutely delighted with the awards. It has been a wonderful year for me, beginning with digging on Easter Island and ending with completing 18 years of research on the archaeology of Madagascar.

"In between, we found the remains of a second stone circle near Stonehenge, dubbed "Bluestonehenge." I want to say thank you to everyone for following our work and helping to promote the project."

Notes for Editors: The Stonehenge Riverside Project is run by a consortium of university teams. It is directed by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, with co-directors Dr Josh Pollard from the University of Bristol , Professor Julian Thomas from the University of Manchester, Dr Kate Welham from the University of Bournemouth and Dr Colin Richards from the University of Manchester.

The 2009 excavation was funded by the National Geographic Society, Google, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Society of Northern Antiquaries. The overall project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Royal Archaeological Institute.

To find out more about the Current Archaeology Awards visit the link below.

For further information please contact: Shemina Davis, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2225339 or email shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk