Neolithic Standing Stone
Northeast of Stonehenge / West of Woodhenge, Wiltshire OS Map Ref SU 1466 4334
OS Maps - Landranger 184 (Salisbury & The Plain), Explorer 130 (Salisbury & Stonehenge)
The Cuckoo Stone looking north.
|This battered sarsen stone often goes unnoticed and ignored by visitors to the Stonehenge area despite its close proximity to the concrete blocks that mark the site of Woodhenge 400 metres to the east.
Although it was said to have still been standing up until a few hundred years ago it had fallen by the time antiquarian William Stukeley recorded it in the early 18th century. Stukeley claimed a fallen stone in Durrington Fields was as large as any at Stonehenge and if he was referring to the Cuckoo Stone then it would suggest that the 2.1 metre long,1.5 metre wide block we see today is only a fragment of a tall megalith, the rest of which has been broken up and carted away in historic times probably to be used as local building material. This would certainly have been before the late 19th century as an illustration in Barclay 1895 shows the stone exactly as it is today.
Very little was known about its archaeological history until an excavation of the immediate area around the stone in 2007 conducted by Colin Richards. The question of where the stone had come from was surprising as unlike the sarsens at Stonehenge which are believed to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, 25 miles away to the north, the Cuckoo Stone was a local erratic that had been erected on the spot it had been found.
The pit that had been cut into the chalk to hold the stone contained no finds apart from a single hole that had probably once contained a wooden post, however a pair of pits just to the north of the stone contained a piece of early Neolithic pottery, some worked flints and a small collection of animal bones that could have been the tools used to cut the stone pit. These included roe deer antlers and an antler pick which could have been used for breaking the chalk and an ox scapula, which were commonly used as shovels. Did the people who dug the stone pit regard them as ritually charged items that had to be disposed of in a prescribed way, or were they just unusually tidy workmen?
Radiocarbon testing of the antler pick gave a date of around 2900BC which might mean the Cuckoo Stone was standing when Stonehenge was still an earth and timber monument and several hundred years before the arrival on any stones at that site. Perhaps rather fortuitously it stood on a line that links the axis of the Stonehenge Cursus with the timber circles of Woodhenge and it may have formed a marker on a route from the River Avon into the realm of the ancestors before Stonehenge became the focus of the ceremonial landscape. However it seems to have retained some of its importance more than a thousand years later as three Bronze Age urns were found buried nearby each containing the cremated remains of an adult.
Looking east towards Woodhenge which is directly in front of the white van next to the trees.
Barclay's illustration of the Cuckoo Stone from 1895.
This view is rotated 90 degrees anti-clockwise compared to the photograph immediately above.
Site Visits / Photographs:
Barclay, E. 1895. Stonehenge and its Earthworks. London: D. Nutt.
Bishop, S. 2011. Stonehenge WHS Landscape Project: Level I Field Investigations. English Heritage.
Burl, A. 2007. A Brief History of Stonehenge. London: Robinson.
Exon, S., Gaffney, V., Woodward, A. and Yorston, R. 2000. Stonehenge Landscapes. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Parker Pearson, M. 2012. Stonehenge. London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Thomas, J., Tilley, C. and Welham, K. 2008. The Stonehenge Riverside Project: exploring the Neolithic landscape of Stonehenge. Documenta Praehistorica XXXV 153-166.
Stukeley, W. 1740. Stonehenge, A Temple restor'd to the British Druids. London:
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