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The Enigma of Stonehenge

Course details

From £1150.00

Sun 19 Jul 2020 - Sat 25 Jul 2020

The Enigma of Stonehenge


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Stonehenge is known worldwide, but most people have no real understanding of this complex site. There have been many theories put forward to explain its place within the prehistoric landscape and we will examine these in the light of current excavations and research. The site begins in the Late Neolithic period (c 3000 BC) but following the initial construction Stonehenge was continually modified throughout the early Bronze Age with the last phase dated to c 1600BC.  In order to interpret Stonehenge we will examine the Neolithic and early Bronze Age society of Southern Britain by investigating their settlements, religious practices, material culture and burial patterns to discover why this unique site developed over a time span of some 1400 years.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

The Neolithic in Britain:  this period sees the introduction of farming into Britain c 4000BC. Current theories as to how domestication was introduced into Britain will be examined. The lack of settlements is a feature of the early Neolithic and the reasons for this will be discussed. Other topics to be covered include the contemporary environment, social organisation and material culture of the first farmers.

Altering the Land: the Neolithic landscape was physically altered by constructing field monuments. The first were barrows (tombs) and we will consider their form and function. Barrows are followed by causewayed enclosures and henges, the first British monuments to enclose space. We examine the meaning of this change and how barrows and enclosures are linked. A theme to explore will be the increasing complexity of Neolithic social organisation

Stonehenge – The Monument: today includes an in-depth study of the phases of construction of Stonehenge and how the site may have been used through time from its beginnings in 3000BC to the last phase in 1600BC. Theories as to the function of Stonehenge will be examined and the results of the recent excavations at Stonehenge and at the nearby Durrington Walls will be discussed.

Excursion: a morning visit to Stonehenge with a walk around the monument and a look at the new Visitors' Centre.  Lunch can be had in the market town of Devizes and then a visit there to the Wiltshire Museum with its excellent prehistoric collections which relate to the Stonehenge area.

Bronze Age - All Change: Stonehenge overlaps the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age. Changes to burial practice are significant: large communal barrows are sealed and individuals are buried beneath round barrows in cemeteries. Important Bronze Age cemeteries are concentrated in the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge; we will study why these changes came about, their meaning and how they are reflected in the landscape.

Field Trip

Destination:   Stonehenge, & the Wiltshire Museum

Excursion Rating: Demanding
More than two hours' walk on even ground or up to two hours' walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1150.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1645.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1460.00


Mr Scott McCracken


Scott McCracken is a sessional lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London College teaching archaeological methods and prehistory. He has worked as a field archaeologist throughout the British Isles and in Sweden directing a number of excavations of various periods. He has taught on The Oxford Experience since 2012, specialising in Stonehenge and the Celts. His current interests lie in British prehistory and battlefield archaeology.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)