Posted by: travelrat | November 22, 2013

The Cursus

The Cursus

The Cursus

What a lot of people don’t realise about Stonehenge, is it’s much more than just a circle of stones. It’s a whole landscape and, although most of the features are barely discernible until they’re pointed out, a lot of them were established long before the stones were in place.

One of these is the Cursus, first identified by antiquarian William Stukeley in the 18th Century. He thought it was some kind of horse-racing course … I can’t say I really blame him, for it is reminiscent of a training gallop on the Downs.

He applied the name ‘Cursus’ to it. Fortunately, this is a Latin word; if he’d used the Greek ‘Hippodrome’, later generations may have confused it with the cinema.

However, the idea of Romans or ‘Ancient Brits’ doing a ‘Ben Hur’ around it was purely fanciful. It was conceived well before these people populated the area. In 2007 or 2008, Professor Julian Thomas, excavating in the area, found an antler pick which has been radio-carbon dated to around 3630-3375 BC. And, I think, at this time, horses were only starting to be domesticated in Central Asia.

Its actual use can only be conjectured. Some suggest it may have been a processional way. There was a long-barrow at the eastern end. It’s known by the rather ordinary name of Amesbury 42, and there’s only a slight remnant of it left, which could pass unnoticed unless it’s pointed out by someone who knows about these things.

But, however indiscernible Amesbury 42 and the Cursus are now, in their day, the gleaming white chalk from which they were constructed must have made for an imposing and awe-inspiring sight indeed.

Another theory suggested it may have been some kind of boundary. Some thought it may have separated the land of the living (Durrington Walls and Woodhenge) from the land of the dead (Stonehenge); others postulated that is could just have marked a tribal boundary.

There’s not much to be actually seen here until it’s pointed out to you. But then, how many people go and see much younger battlefields and stuff, even though no trace remains?

Amesbury 42

Amesbury 42

And here, the blogging goes on remote for a while. I’m off to Spain for a week on Saturday, after which I’ll be home for only a few days, before I head up to Yorkshire. I’ve been drafted for dog/house sitting until after Christmas. But, I will still post, when and where I can

Hasta la Vista!



  1. When I visited Stonehenge, I was surprised to see how close to the road it was. Most photos I had seen before that implied otherwise.

    Enjoy Spain and Yorkshire!

    • One of the jokes among the rangers and wardens is about the lady who asked why it was built so close to the road! There was a plan to actually run the road underground as it passed Stonehenge but (after consultations costing millions!) it was thrown out because of cost.

      However, they have closed one of the roads running past it.

      I have to admit I, too, have taken an ‘estate agent’ approach when photographing it. In fact, when I wrote an article about how bad a situation it was, I had to go and take some pictures especially!

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