16 October 2003



Computer experts and archaeologists have used laser scanning on the

stones of Stonehenge for the first time and discovered carvings of

ancient axe heads.


The most hi-tech investigation of the monument to date was carried out

in 2002-3 by a team from Wessex Archaeology of Salisbury, near

Stonehenge, and Archaeoptics Ltd of Glasgow. A full account of their

work is featured in Thursday's edition of 'British Archaeology'.


The axes, both on one stone, are badly eroded and can not be seen with

the naked eye. But by sweeping low-powered laser beams at the stones and

analysing the data closely, a picture emerged.


The team scanned only part of three of the sarsen stones and believe

that a full scan of all the surviving 83 stones would reveal more

ancient carvings.


Carvings of bronze or copper axes and a dagger were first found at

Stonehenge 50 years ago, but they have never been fully surveyed or

studied. Comparison of a 1953 photograph with the new scans shows

carvings seem to have eroded since first found, possibly because of

people touching them.


The first newly-discovered carving is about 15 cm (6 inches) square and

may possibly be two axes, one on top of the other; the other is about 10

cm (4 inches) by 8 cm (3 inches).


The stones at Stonehenge were erected in about 2,300 BC. The axes are of

types made around 1,800 BC, so the carvings are likely to be five

centuries younger than the stones. Their purpose is a mystery.


Axe carvings on other monuments from this time are associated with

burials, such as the seven axes found on a stone burial cist (a box

shaped stone structure) in Argyll, Scotland. This could indicate that

Stonehenge was a place where the dead were commemorated, a theory backed

by the many burial mounds found near the monument.


"The laser scanning has opened up a whole new way of seeing Stonehenge,"

said Tom Goskar of Wessex Archaeology. "We spent an hour recording the

data at the stones and we were astounded to discover two new carvings as

a result. With more time we could uncover many more and make plainer the

outline of some known carvings that are difficult to see.


"This would give us a much better idea of the extent of the carvings and

help us achieve a greater understanding of the monument.


"It is exactly 50 years since the carvings on Stonehenge were first

documented, and the new laser scanner is a fascinating way of using

state-of-the-art technology to shed light on an ancient wonder."


Alistair Carty of Archaeoptics said: "We have used 3D scanning

previously to enhance badly weathered carvings on monuments, but never

on details as fine as the Stonehenge axeheads. The possibility that

other unknown carvings exist on the other stones is very exciting and

may hopefully lead to a more complete interpretation of Stonehenge."


Mike Pitts, editor of 'British Archaeology' and a leading expert on

Stonehenge, said: "It is extraordinary that these carvings, the most

significant art gallery from ancient Britain, have still not been

properly studied 50 years after their first discovery. The laser

scanning process makes recording and studying possible, and can be used

to reveal the nearly invisible carvings for all".


The Stonehenge Laser Scans website (www.stonehengelaserscan.org) goes

live on Thursday, with variable-light animations of the carvings.


For more information please contact:

Alistair Carty, Archaeoptics




Mike Pitts, British Archaeology

09740 591422

01672 513338    



Tony Trueman, Wessex Archaeology Press Office

01722 343434

07919 215206/01985 215206    




Notes to editors:


1. Archaeoptics used a Minolta VI-900 scanner capable of capturing

300,000 points in three seconds. At Stonehenge they acquired nine

million 3D points on the stones in 30 minutes. They then took two days

to create highly accurate 3D models from these points. The raw data

captured by the scanner are in the form of "point clouds", unconnected

3-dimensional points. To be more useful for visualisation and analysis,

these were converted into "solid" surfaces formed from millions of

triangles. The models are then manipulated in a software package called

Demon developed by Archaeoptics. Lighting techniques were developed at

Wessex Archaeology to further enhance images.


2. The first recognised and best-known carvings at Stonehenge, a dagger

and 14 axes, were found by Richard Atkinson in 1953, on the inner face

of Sarsen number 53. About 26 axes were found soon after on the outer

face of Sarsen stone 4, and three on the outer face of stone 3. These

axes vary from 8 to 36 cm long (3-14 inches). There are also a possible

trellis or lattice pattern on stone 3, and hollows, a shallow rectangle

(sometimes described as a goddess), ribs and cup-marks on other stones.

The significance of these putative carvings, never accurately surveyed,

is debated by archaeologists.


In 1967 a team from University College, London used a stereometric

camera to produce a very fine contour plot of the dagger and adjacent

axe on stone 53. English Heritage's Survey Team completed the first

metric survey of all the stone surfaces, published in 1996.


3. Other stone carvings from this period include:

* 7 axe shapes at Ri Cruin in the Kilmartin valley, Argyll, on one end

of a stone burial cist, covered with a cairn

* close by, the cairn of Nether Largie north has 14 axes on a stone


* another nearby cairn has 1 axe

* a barrow at Badbury Rings, Dorset, had a stone bearing 2 dagger

shapes, 2 axe-like triangles and 5 cup-marks

* a stone cist inside a barrow at Pool Farm, Somerset, contained a slab

decorated with 7 feet and about 10 cup-marks

* a foot-shaped carving on a cist slab at Harbottle Peels,


* 10 foot-carvings at Calderstones Late Neolithic barrow, Liverpool


4. Wessex Archaeology is a firm of commercial archaeologists based near

Salisbury, Wiltshire. It employs 170 staff and works across the country.


Archaeoptics is a 3D laser-scanning bureau based in the UK and operating

worldwide,  mainly in the archaeology and heritage sector.


5. 'British Archaeology' is the UK's only retail archaeology magazine,

available in larger WH Smiths and Borders. Editor Mike Pitts has

excavated at Stonehenge and was responsible for the recent find of the

decapitated Anglo-Saxon man.


6. 'British Archaeology' is published by the Council for British

Archaeology (CBA), an educational charity that promotes knowledge,

appreciation and care of the historic environment (tel: 01904 671417,

email: info@britarch.ac.uk). It is also available via the CBA's online

shop at www.britarch.ac.uk.


Dr Mike Heyworth, Deputy Director, Council for British Archaeology

Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York YO1 9WA, UK

tel 01904 671417, fax 01904 671384, web www.britarch.ac.uk

* Join CBA/YAC & buy our books online at www.britarch.ac.uk/shop *





16 OCTOBER 2003

The November issue of *BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY* is out today.

Highlights include:

Opium in stone age Britain


At one of UK's largest excavation projects, at Raunds near Kettering,

Environmental archaeologist Mark Robinson has identified opium seeds

from ditch of Early Neolithic burial mound (38-3600 BC). Neolithic opium

has been found in the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, but this is

first for Britain and amongst oldest in northern Europe. It would have

been imported into UK, though whether as crop (oil, spice, sedative or

stimulant) or as field weed is not clear.


From same project comes Early Bronze Age barrow in which rich man was

buried under mound of nearly 200 cattle skulls. State of skulls

indicates they had mostly been defleshed elsewhere - perhaps hung on

poles - some time before burial. This is unparalleled.


Stonehenge laser show


Exclusive: archaeologists and computer scientists describe how laser

scanning and digital software offer first chance to study little known

ancient carvings on Stonehenge megaliths. Trial scan revealed:

* two new axe carvings - full survey would likely reveal more

* carvings have eroded since discovered 50 years ago this year.


Anglesey: Early Christian grave mounds


Excavation reveals unique 7th century AD grave mounds preserved under

sand dune. Graves are surrounded by small boulders, but have no

headstones. One had line of quartz pebbles on top. Bodies in graves were

encased in stone slabs.


Carpenter's tools found - 3000 years later


Holidaymakers on Isle of Wight beach find 12-1700 BC hoard of tools once

belonging to Bronze Age carpenter.


Top POW camp destroyed by owners


Harperley Camp, revealed by English Heritage survey as one of top WW II

Prisoner of War Camps, was championed by Michael Wood in BBC2 series

Restoration. Now another top camp (Moorby, Lincs) has been demolished

after deteriorating buildings used for illegal rave. Camp built 1942-3

by Italian POWs, who occupied it until displaced by German, Polish, and

Ukrainian prisoners. Demolition raises classic conundrum: heritage or



Hadrian's Wall Roman bowl


Exclusive photos and full story of spectacular new enamelled pan with

names of Roman forts and Greek man.





Opium in stone age Britain

English Heritage Press Office (Duncan Bainbridge)

Tel 020 7973 3297


Stonehenge laser show

Tom Goskar, multimedia, Wessex Archaeology. Tel 01722 343432

Alistair Carty, laser scanning, Archaeoptics. Tel 0141 423 3449

Mike Pitts, Stonehenge archaeology. Tel 09740 591422

Tony Trueman, Wessex Archaeology Press Office. Tel 01722 343434

Images available from Alistair Carty


Anglesey: Early Christian grave mounds

Andrew Davidson, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Tel 01248 352535


Carpenter's tools found - 3000 years later

Frank Basford, Finds Liaison Officer

Isle of Wight Archaeology & Historic Environment Service

61 Clatterford Road, Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight, PO30 1NZ

Tel/Fax 01983 823810


Top POW camp destroyed by owners

English Heritage Press Office (Duncan Bainbridge).

Tel 020 7973 3297


Hadrian's Wall Roman bowl

Sally Worrell, Portable Antiquities Scheme. Tel 020 7679 4730



'British Archaeology' magazine

Mike Pitts, Editor


09740 591422

01672 513338


'British Archaeology' is the UK's only retail archaeology magazine,

available bimonthly in larger W H Smiths and Borders and selected

independent newsagents. It is also available via the online shop at

www.britarch.ac.uk. It is published by the Council for British

Archaeology (CBA), an educational charity that promotes knowledge,

appreciation and care of the historic environment (tel: 01904 671417,

email:  info@britarch.ac.uk).



Dr Mike Heyworth, Deputy Director, Council for British Archaeology

Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York YO1 9WA, UK

tel 01904 671417, fax 01904 671384, web www.britarch.ac.uk

* Join CBA/YAC & buy our books online at www.britarch.ac.uk/shop *



Language More Foul in Elizabethan Street Theatre than 21st Century TV, Reveals Historian

For further information, please contact:

Jenny Murray

University of Warwick


02476 574255

Posted By:

University of Warwick

16 October 2003


UK broadcasters are often accused of promoting obscenity through the increased use of bad language on TV. However, new research from the University of Warwick reveals that the language of public name-calling, or 'street theatre', in early modern England was full of foul sexual insults that are far more lewd than today's broadcast media - and women were the main offenders.

Professor Bernard Capp's book ‘When Gossips Meet’, tracks the history of poor and 'middling' women from the mid 1500s to the 1700s, to reveal that gossipmongering and heated public exchanges were weapons used by women to wield power and influence in a male dominated society where they were often excluded.

Public name-calling by women aimed to demoralise an adversary, trigger damaging gossip throughout the neighbourhood, and turn public opinion against the alleged offender.

Allegations usually attacked a female adversary's sexual reputation. Prostitution was viewed as far worse than fornication, and the charge undermined social as well as moral standing. Court papers reveal the term 'whore' as the most common insult over several centuries.

“Massive overuse inevitably weakened the impact of 'whore' as a term of abuse, but speakers were able to draw on a rich lexicon of synonyms, such as jade, quean, baggage, harlot, drab, filth, flirt, gill, trull, dirtyheels, draggletail, flap, naughty-pack, slut, squirt, and strumpet, generally heightened by adjectives such as arrant, base, brazenfaced, or scurvy.”

Veneral disease, especially syphilis or 'the pox', also featured prominently in abusive language. Taunts such as 'burnt-arsed whore' and 'pocky whore' were familiar throughout the country. 17th century church court papers cite several examples of highly offensive abuse: “At Bury St Edmunds Faith Wilson told her neighbour in 1619 to 'pull up your muffler higher and hide your pocky face, and go home and scrape your mangy arse'.”

Quarrels and allegations often took place before witnesses, and public confrontation was staged for maximum effect. Gossip helps maintain social control: when someone is gossiped about, they restrict their behaviour. This gave women some control over erring husbands, abusive employers or sexually disreputable women.

Professor Capp, from the University of Warwick, said: “Heated exchanges of foul language between women was a familiar part of life in early modern England, and commonly took place in open streets. The language of 'street theatre' was rather blunt and offensive- even by today's post watershed TV standard.”

Just as gossip can build social bonds, it can ruin reputations. Archdeaconry court papers record several cases where family or Parish life were torn apart by slander and gossip.

“Joan Webb of Wittlesford, Cambs., was rumoured in 1596 to be worse than any whore, for allegedly paid men to have sex with her, giving them some cheeses, venison and a shirt. The stories prompted a man who has been planning to marry her to break off the match, giving her £5 'to be rid of her'.”

Networks of close friends and neighbours or ‘gossips’ provided companionship, a social identity outside the home, and emotional and practical support during disputes with husbands or neighbours. But alienation caused by malicious gossip was a real threat as the social economy of friends was crucial for ordinary women, as small loans or acts of kindness for a neighbour eased the lives of the poor.


Notes for editor

For more information contact: Professor Bernard Capp, Department of History, University of Warwick, Tel: 024 7652 3410/ 01926 854622 or Jenny Murray, Communications Office, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574 255/ 07876 217 740 “When Gossips Meet: Women, Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England” is published by Oxford University Press, 2003



Reference URL



A Cornish sign of the times


The new St Piran's Flag tourist symbol will go on show in Cornwall for the first time on Thursday.

The sign will go on display on Thursday at Geevor Tin Mine.

The symbol's designer - secondary school pupil Leanne Howarth from Marazion - will join representatives of the Cornwall County Council at Geevor Mine to see the new road signs in place.

The flag was selected to represent Cornwall's distinctive cultural heritage following a county-wide design competition and extensive consultation.

Distinctive heritage

The debate was prompted after a number of the brown road signs bearing England's red rose were vandalised.

Attractions can use the symbol to replace the Tudor Rose symbol or to replace the symbol denoting the type of attraction.

Permission from the Department for Transport had to be sought before the symbol could be used on the county's roads.

The working mine closed in 1990 and is now the largest mining history site in the UK.

Erecting the first sign at Geevor was the idea of County Councillor Neil Plummer.

"Geevor represents the very best of Cornish culture and heritage and using the Cornish Flag promotes a distinctive Cornish Heritage," he said.