THE Rollright Stones are among Oxfordshire’s most enigmatic landmarks.

The ring of stones and neighbouring monuments date back to the fourth century BC and continue to intrigue archaeologists, historians and regular visitors to the site, on a ridge near Chipping Norton.

The secrets of the stones, their alleged magic powers, role in pagan worship and facts about the neolithic and Bronze Age people who erected them, are the subject of a day of activities to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Rollright Trust.

Anyone interested in the site is invited to join the day of demonstrations, film and talks at Chipping Norton Theatre this Saturday (July 15th). The event also marks the start of the National Festival of Archaeology, a fortnight of events countrywide.

The three sites comprising the Rollright Stones take their names from the legend of a local witch who turned an approaching army to stone. The Neolithic King’s Men Circle is self-explanatory, as is the solitary King Stone – which stands nearby. The Whispering Knights, plotting together in a neighbouring field, are the early Neolithic remains of a burial chamber.

One enduring legend about the Kings Men is that they cannot be counted. One of the the Rollright Trust’s achievements is to prove the adage is true.

“We’ve had children and teachers counting them,” said George Lambrick, who excavated the site in the 1980s and is chairman of the trust.

“Now that prehistory is on the curriculum, schools have been coming up to the stones – we’ve done things with them like stone-moving using rollers.”

The trust maintains access to the sites and acts as a custodian. Mr Lambrick said: “One thing we’ve done is to lease land so that people can walk easily between the sites. We’ve improved the access, with new gates and a path beside the layby.

“We’ve also provided more guidance with information panels and an audible tour, and we’re re-vamping our website and bringing out a new guide book.”

The activity day runs from 11am to 10pm and will include identification sessions for archaeological finds; objects to handle; a time-line, and, in the evening, a 3D screening of Herner Herzog’s film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, documenting an expedition to film the oldest known human-painted images.

Activities are free but seats for the talks and film must be booked.

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