Conundrum 7 – Stonehenge Ditch

Book Extract…………………………………………………… (The Great Stonehenge Hoax)

When is a ditch not really a ditch?

The Problem

The Stonehenge ditch is something the archaeologists don’t frequently (if at all) discuss or publicise as it is not a ditch as we commonly know it, which has baffled them since its first excavation.  The fact that this Ditch is ‘unique’ in the world, which you would imagine would be promoted as such, but they prefer to hide their lack of understanding of this feature and say nothing, for the Stonehenge Ditch is not a ditch but a series of pits with walls, seats and stone holes in the base that goes against the current theories about the site.

The Solution

If groundwater was contemporary in the past, then some evidence should still be present.  Consequently, one of the more fascinating facts found when studying any prehistoric site is that the constructors spent disproportionate time digging ditches to surround their monuments, whether around henges or barrows.

This practice would be considered strange, even if the prehistoric builders had practical, modern, labour-saving tools. But unfortunately, our ancestors only benefited from stone tools, bones, and antlers, making such excavation exceptionally slow, cumbersome, and even more bewildering. 

Looking at Avebury (a henge monument) as an example, the most conservative archaeological estimation suggests that the ditches surrounding Avebury would have taken 1.5 million-working hours to build.  That’s equivalent to 100 people working 12 hours daily, every day, for 3.5 years.  On the other hand, making a wooden palisade using the same tools would have taken less than one month – merely 2% of the time and exhaustion.

Current archaeological theories surrounding these ditches maintain that they were used either as defensive fortification and/or a landscape feature to keep in/out animals or, even more recently, bizarre interpretations such as a ‘ceremonial’ feature to ward off evil spirits.

This shows the levels of desperation the archaeologists have descended into in recent years in an abortive attempt to understand basic structures, such as a moat. Moreover, these quaint ideas strike me as somewhat flawed as a ditch is significantly less effective than a palisade (a long line of sharpened wooden stakes planted into the ground), which would have been considerably more straightforward, quicker to construct and more effective.  As for evil spirits, would not a tiny 6-inch channel achieve the same symbolic purpose as a huge five-metre ditch?

Lt-Col Willaim Hawley and team 1920s
Lt-Col Willaim Hawley and team 1920s

Lt-Col William Hawley, was one of the amateur archaeologists employed by the Ministry of Works to undertake excavations at our famous monuments Stonehenge and Avebury in the 1920s.  But unfortunately, he was not the most ‘careful’ of archaeologists.  This was a view shared by colleagues such as Atkinson in his book, ‘Stonehenge’ 3rd edition, London 1979 – where he suggests that Hawley’s methods were somewhat ‘inadequate’.

Despite this accusation of carelessness, he could still find some strange features, which can be seen as evidence of a moat.  For example, below a layer of chalk rubble infill (chalk which would have fallen naturally into the Moat when it was disused) under a layer of flint, he discovered ‘foot-trampled mud’ (Cleal et al., 1995,p.68) – found in an area of chalkland which has no natural mud/clay, with an associated ‘layer of struck flint’ – which he found in many segments.

Now, this sounds quite interesting, if not conclusive as evidence of the existence of a moat, until you look for other landscape features with similar foundations, which, when analysed, start to build up a much more conclusive picture.   Such landscape features can be found in ‘dew ponds’.

Typical Dew Pond as found in Wiltshire
Typical Dew Pond as found in Wiltshire


A dew pond is an artificial pond usually sited on the top of a hill, intended for watering livestock.  Dew ponds are used in areas where a natural supply of surface water may not be readily available.  The name dew pond (sometimes cloud pond or mist pond) is first found in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1865.  Despite the name, their primary source of water is believed to be rainfall rather than dew or mist.

The mystery of dew ponds has drawn the interest of many historians and scientists, but until recent times there has been little agreement on their early origins.  It was widely believed that the technique for building dew ponds had been understood from the earliest times, as Kipling tells us in Puck of Pook’s Hill.  The two Chanctonbury Hill dew ponds were dated, from flint tools excavated nearby and similarity to other dated earthworks to the Neolithic period.

Profile of a typical dew pond construction
Profile of a typical dew pond construction

They are usually shallow, saucer-shaped, lined with puddled clay, chalk or marl on an insulating straw layer over a bottom layer of chalk or lime.  To deter earthworms from their natural tendency of burrowing upwards, which would in a short while make the clay lining porous, a layer of soot would be incorporated or lime mixed with the clay.  The clay is usually covered with straw to prevent cracking by the Sun and a final layer of chalk rubble or broken stone to protect the lining from the hoofs of sheep or cattle.

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