The famous Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England, as imagined in a 1:50 scale model made by landscape architect Sarah Ewbanks.

Architect presents radical new theory that Stonehenge was a two-storey, wooden feasting and performance hall

(Read the article on one page)

Could the prehistoric Stonehenge megaliths once have been the support for a wooden, two-storey roundhouse, a venue for feasting, speakers and musicians? That’s the theory of an English landscape architect who designed a small model of what she has in mind and is looking for money to build a 1:10 scale model of the structure.

Sarah Ewbank says the fact she is not an archaeologist has freed her from preconceived notions and allowed her to approach the matter in a fresh way.

Ms Ewbank told Ancient Origins via email about her vision of Stonehenge:

“I believe Stonehenge was a Bronze-age venue, a large oval hall encircled and overlooked by galleries. Interestingly the upper level was tiered, the height of different sections reflecting the different height trilithons.  Consider both hall and galleries filled, listening to a speaker, or maybe there was feasting on the galleries with dancing below, perhaps crowds gathered to listen to singing or musicians playing, or maybe ceremonies took place to welcome in the solstices. It all sounds rather splendid and certainly needed – there were no electronic gadgets then!

My view – such a splendid building deserved to be used often – so, much as the Albert Hall in London serves to accommodate every type of gathering, so I believe our Bronze-age ancestors used Stonehenge whenever such a venue was required. Our bronze-age ancestors were intelligent people with needs similar to ours today. Forget the furry loin cloth and ritual sacrifice stuff - it's wrong.”

She said she’s discussed her theories with other experts. Some of them agree with her interpretation of the building’s use, but others strongly disagree and argue for the traditional view.

The way the monument looks today.

The way the monument looks today .  Howard Ignatius/ Flickr

Ms. Ewbank speculates that the sides of the house were made of oak and the roof of thatching. Of course, it is highly unlikely wood or straw would survive the thousands of years of Stonehenge’s existence, so finding physical evidence for her theory—other than the layout of the stones themselves—is next to impossible.

In fact, she says on her website people have asked her if there is evidence of a roof. She points out that 500-year-old abbeys have roofs missing. “So don’t expect to find the timber structure lying around after 4,000 years,” she said.

“When you look at it the whole thing it fits absolutely perfectly,” she’s quoted as saying in SalisburyJournal. “I haven’t had to push one stone out of place. I have just taken all the standing stones and it all fits.”

Ms. Ewbank’s model without the roofing

Ms. Ewbank’s model without the roofing ( Photo copyright Sarah Ewbank )

She lists several reasons on her website for theorizing the monument was a roundhouse, including:

  • One of the stones is called the “lintel stone,” apparently for an important reason.
  • The blue-stones have grooves in them for structural purpose.
  • The trilithons are spaced just right to support four large trusses. The height difference between the trilithons allowed raising of the trusses.

Ms. Ewbanks writes on her blog:

To form the large trusses, only eight 15-baunt (16-metre) oak timbers with angled profile are required. Bronze-age oaks were very likely bigger and better than those available today. Apparently ship-building in past-times robbed the UK of the good-sized oaks! Before discounting this idea ask yourself, ‘If Bronze-age people are capable of quarrying, moving and shaping stones that weigh 20 to 50 tonnes, can they fell and oak and shape the timber to form a roof?’ The answer can only be yes.

She told SalisburyJournal:

“Archaeologists are very obsessed with dating and the meaning of it. I looked at it and thought it was a ruin, and that with my design skills I could work out what was there. In our climate back in the Bronze Age it still rained, and why would you move 75 large stones just so you could dance around twice a year? If you put a roof on it you can use it all year.”

And those ancient people apparently moved those stones quite a distance. Archaeologists announced in December 2015 that they found the exact holes in a rocky outcrop in Wales from where the bluestones found at Stonehenge originated, revealing that they were quarried 500 years before they were assembled into the famous stone circle that still stands today in Wiltshire, England. The dramatic discovery suggests that some of the stones making up the ancient monument was first erected as a structure in Wales and later dismantled, transported, and reassembled over 140 miles away in Salisbury Plain.

Computer rendering of the overall site of Stonehenge and surrounds.

Computer rendering of the overall site of Stonehenge and surrounds. Public Domain

Comments

"The exact purpose of Stonehenge is not known"  Interpretation:  The purpose of Stonehenge is not known. 

A restaurant? Sarah, you're pulling my leg, hey!

 

 

An interesting idea, would have been a helluva party-house!

Looking at the model though, wouldn’t the massive weight from all of that timber have pushed the stones outward in the outer circle (no buttresses)?

Just askin’.

 

It's possible, depending on how evenly the weight was distributed, that the sheer weight of the stones themselves would keep them in place. My knowledge on stonework is limited, but it seems to me like the dynamics of downward force employed to stabilise recycled-tyre-homes (aka Earthships, etc.), which I'm more familiar with, could just as easily be applied to structures using monoliths.

Just musing 'aloud'...
The only big difference I'm seeing is that tyre walls are more akin to cob or clay, where the weight distribution is enforced by solid walls. When you've got large spaces between like at Stonehenge, managing the weight may be trickier.

Assuming there were materials that have since rotted away, it's really tough to say for sure. For all we know, there could have been extra timber support poles inside at some point?

The mortice and tenon joints that hold the lintel henges would create a structural ring that would prevent splaying of the uprights. This technique can be seen in use today in large wooden round-house structures.
This is also a very good architectural indicator that there was a structure of significant weight on top of the stones.

Ms Ewbanks freely admits that she is not an Archaeologist, and is therefore free from their constraints. Well Ms Ewbanks, I am not an Architect, but I propose that houses and public buildings be built on white fluffy clouds, and not on Terra firma. I can do this, because I am not constrained by the diciplines of Architecture. It doesn't really teach us anything does it? although both of our respective ideas may be interesting.

This is a prime example of the type of rhetoric that the early Christian church used to stifle discovery. Narrowing your scope can only limit your understanding of the broader picture.

Considering their age, I'm sure The Stones could have been one of the first acts booked to play here.

A "radical new idea" that was probably taken directly from the Ducktales episode The Curse Of Castle McDuck https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh_R9aJBdj0

Whoa... Not even close to being supported by actual evidence. Not a shred. If she did ANY research into her claim she would see there are many inconsistencies that cannot hold up.

Many ? which are ?

She got some interesting points though and the 2 most noticable are :

1- building a roof on top is nothing compare to the cutting the stones and moving them in place.

2-Timber and tatch would not survive 4000 years.

Colin Berry's picture

 

Reminder: Stonehenge is just one of literally hundreds of Neolithic/Bronze age stone circles – it just happens to be the grandest. That grandeur can all to easily distract from the basic underlying purpose, performed elsewhere  on a more modest scale. The basics: a circle of standing stones (bird perches), a central “altar” – the “bird table” and a nearby tomb/mound/tumulus/barrow etc for interment of the bones, with or without final cremation.

 

Often those smaller stone circles are in places where one would not expect to find a temple, complete with ceremonies or rituals as per received wisdom (or sheer fantasy)  like hilltops, boggy ground etc. So one needs to seek a utilitarian function before considering all those fancy torchlit pagan rituals etc.

 

There was in fact just such a humble scaled-down version of Stonehenge just a couple of miles away near Durrington Walls. It was the subject of several articles in the media, e.g. this one from the Mail.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2750005/The-hidden-empire...

 

See also my posting back in April for a severe critique.

 

http://colinb-sciencebuzz.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/stonehenge-can-be-thoug...

 

 

Note the mixed message in those press releases – that it was a site for “grisly” or “gruesome” “excarnation”, i.e. defleshing, based on the human remains, but no mention of birds and sky burial, because it was (wait for it) , the long barrow was assumed to have a roof based on all those “timber uprights”. However, look closely at the evidence for a roof, and it’s a total nonsense. The poles weren’t just around the edge of the central floor area but were crowded in towards the centre. Who wants to keep bumping into poles when visiting a “House of the Dead” (at least they got the “dead” bit right). At least they got the “defleshing “ bit right. And there’s plenty of evidence for that elsewhere, e.g La Varde on Guernsey (passage grave, cremated AND excarnated bones with nearby stone circle).

Conclusion, as per Stonehenge: there was no roof, it was open to the sky (for sky burial). Who needs massive sarsen megaliths with cross piece to support a thatch roof anyway! I say the lintels were there as superior bird perches, and expect with time to convince folk that was the true purpose.

 

 

Will future archaeologists be assuming that the venue of the present French Open Tennis Tournament in Paris was roofed over, assuming there must surely have been a timber roof  to protect players and spectators from rain that has since rotted away?

ColinB

Not a new theory at all. Geoff Carter has had that theory on his blog Theoretical Structural Archaeology for some time and has the engineering studies to prove it.

You are missing the point - the new article and construction was done by someone who is NOT an "archaeologist-trying-to-be-an-architect" but by a "freelance landscape consultant/garden designer, with degrees in Landscape Design and Horticulture" - therefore she comes at the issue with an entirely different perspective - and we all know that the problem with every field is that they cannot see 'the wood for the trees' !! EVERY expert has professional pride in his own field and generally resents anyone of another profession daring to conceive a radical new idea - this designer saw something that the archaeologists still were not seeing - she looked at the stones and saw the inner structure the other guy was not considering - his drawings only include the concept of the outer-outer ring of stones having roofing. I love her idea and see this as a new way to consider the site's use. Nothing wrong with this at all - what makes me laugh is the reaction of the 'experts' - so predictable - "no WE are the experts - mind your own business - we know what the truth is" - NO you are being proved wrong on every front - Archaeology is being determined by the free thinkers who come at the subject with an open mind ! The single biggest problem for Archaeology is the long-standing notion of ancient humans being sub-human dolts - we are seeing this demolished on every front and out history goes way further back than the professional crowd ever gave thought to - yippee !!!!

I heard the Stones played there ,once.

Barry Sears's picture

As above so below, our ancient ones plotted the connection to the Celestial creative energies. By dividing the World into 12 zones around the equator a connection is made to the 12 zones around the night sky. By observing the 12 zones around the Earth the creative energies around the zodiac are interpreted. Our ancient ones discovered the World changed to the pattern of the body and unique animals existed in different regions of the World expressing body parts. The World was explored and unique characteristics were recorded from each zone of the World which related to the full body of the World and the full body of the Celestial sky. From this zone the crab or Dorset crab was a distinctive regional animal that expressed the breast region. 
Stonehenge marks the zone of Cancer as part of the World anatomy as communicated through the ancient civilisations global community. The World was united as a complete body. The next zone of the World anatomy is Leo and this correlates to the Sphinx. The next is Virgo and Israel marks the zone of Virgo through Mr Christ and the Virgin Mary. The scales Buddha.......
 

Look at that roof! Gotta be a smurf dwelling! Sadly, also, the making of the small-scale model means that Ms Ewbanks' Jenga set is unlikely to ever work properly again.

As for music venue... the amount of effort that must have gone into shifting those huge stones would mean that the average Stone-Age pleb was about as likely to go there to enjoy a "rock" concert (sorry) as s/he would be to survive naked on Dartmoor in winter. If it was a meeting venue - an idea which is not actually without merit - only shamans and chief Smurfs would be likely to set their grubby soles down within its hallowed precincts, the latter only with permission of the former.

A conference centre for maintaining the peace between local tribes would be more my guess, with the very outer ring being a high wooden pale to keep the hoi-polloi firmly out.

I will agree that during the harvesting season there is definate reason to celebrate. I will also agree that the stones could support weight. I do agree that cone and pyramid style structures were popular during the Neolithic period and the Bronze age. I do believe that just like the pyramids the windows and carefully placed tiles or floor markers could have shown where the sun was on the solstices. This site proves my thoughts,   http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/Medicine-Wheels.pdf   …..   I believe this was an observatory. It is too bad that there is not much physical evidence.

Troy Mobley

Barry Sears's picture

Whats the storey with the right eye? The sign of Cancer has the front path ways as the feelers and historical photos show how the eye has changed and would have been opposite the other eye. Is there any history on it’s change?

Colin Berry's picture

“Our bronze-age ancestors were intelligent people with needs similar to ours today. Forget the furry loin cloth and ritual sacrifice stuff - it's wrong.”

But it wasn’t Bronze Age. Stonehenge is late Neolithic, still Stone Age, with copper just starting to make an appearance, but for pastoral folk at any rate, woven clothes, not fur.

Yes, they were intelligent folk, but still had practical problems that needed attending to, like how best to dispose of the dead. I have just posted my new updated theory, which views Stonehenge and other sites with standing stones as places for “sky burial”.

https://sussingstonehenge.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/might-the-standing-st...

The upright stones, and especially level lintels of Stonehege, provided secure places on which scavenger birds – especially crows and seagulls – could perch, roost and maybe even nest. Reminder: sky burial is one of the available options that can be classified as ‘passive excarnation’ – defleshing of the dead. Simple burial would have been laborious and time-consuming on the chalk uplands of Wiltshire (deer antler picks only!) and cremation probably seen as a criminal waste of firewood, needed for cooking and keeping warm.

ColinB

Colin Berry's picture

After some reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that what's preventing appreciation of the true role of Stonehenge and other similar sites with standing stones, from Ireland to Korea, is terminology, probably the Americas too. Folk don’t like to hear about “sky burial”, much less excarnation. As for “ritual defleshing” one is simply asking for trouble…

Let’s change the terminology. Let’s refer to “skeletonization” stressing that it’s not so different from modern day cremation if one focuses on the end-product, a relatively inoffensive end product (sterile bones) and less on the means by which it was obtained…

Our Neolithic ancestors used appropriate technology, given it was an era of human history that lacked metal tools for digging graves or cutting firewood for funeral pyres… Let’s stop portraying them as primitives. Technologically backward maybe, but not primitives...

 

 

http://colinb-sciencebuzz.blogspot.fr/2016/05/the-true-purpose-of-stonehenge-was.html

 

 

 

ColinB

Hi, this is interesting but i may have some questions. You may provide some explanation.
The upright stones, and especially level lintels of Stonehege, provided secure places on which scavenger birds – especially crows and seagulls – could perch, roost and maybe even nest. 
   -- bird shit are acidic/corrosive, this process should have left possible trace on the stone ?
   -- I know about some tombs but is there any trace of bones graves around the site ? Then can we presume/speculate the bones, once defleshed, were later fetch for reburial or whatever... ?

Simple burial would have been laborious and time-consuming on the chalk uplands of Wiltshire (deer antler picks only!) and cremation probably seen as a criminal waste of firewood, needed for cooking and keeping warm.
   -- But would it not be laborious and time-consuming to cut, move and build Stoneedge whit deer antler picks only ?
   -- But would it not be laborious and time-consuming to travel many days to go place a corpse on the lintel then come back later fetch the Bones ?

Colin Berry's picture

You make some interesting and indeed perceptive observations. Might I be allowed to respond to one point at a time?

You state:

“The upright stones, and especially level lintels of Stonehege, provided secure places on which scavenger birds – especially crows and seagulls – could perch, roost and maybe even nest. 
   -- bird shit are acidic/corrosive, this process should have left possible trace on the stone ?”

I have an answer for that, one I’m quite pleased about, since it provides a rationale for lugging all those “bluestones” 140 miles or so from Pembrokeshire in west Wales. Received wisdom is that those stones were valued on account of having “healing properties”. So what’s healing properties got to do, one might ask,  with a “place of the dead” with any number of cremated human remains? Are “healing properties” really so important such that Neolithic man, without wheels, without horses, felt obliged  to transport monoliths, each weighing several tons, all that distance, whether by lifting, dragging or a combination of the two over rough terrain, or risking sea and river transport?

I have an alternative explanation, one that addresses the very point you raised. It’s to do with keeping the “bird perches “, standing stones especially, looking clean and presentable for each new set of bereaved mourners, bringing their recently deceased member of the family along for ‘ritualised’ body disposal via “sky burial”.

“Bluestone”, not a recognized geological term according to Brian John (see his Stonehenge/Ice Age blog), differs primarily from the local sarsen sandstone of Salisbury Plain in being an IGNEOUS rock, i.e. formed by solidification of molten extruded magma, essentially volcanic in origin and thus close-grained, as distinct from sedimentary rock formed by deposition/cementation of particles of sand etc on a sea bed. The predominant mineral in the Stonehenge “bluestone” monoliths is spotted dolerite (the white flecks being mica inclusions) and as I recently demonstrated it is non-porous to water – it repels liquid water almost as if a modern plastic.

Link to my April posting

 

http://colinb-sciencebuzz.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/why-need-for-all-those-...

 

 

It is that property I believe that was why it was so highly valued at a site for sky burial – it was much, much easier to keep clean than porous absorbent sandstone – simply splash with water. The birds probably appreciated having a clean perch too – especially if gulls and crows -  maybe marginally more fastidious than your average Continental vulture. Thus the added hospitality in the form of elevated secure perches, either standing stonesas at Avebury,  but Stonehenge’s high lintels especially, 5 star Michelin rating. That’s to say nothing of those peculiarly British easy-to-spot  (bird’s eye view) stone-encircling henges carved into the white chalk and limestone of the southern English landscape. There’s never been a proper explanation for those either. I say they had scavenger bird appeal – from afar AND close-up, once the perches and free meal was eyed up. My money’s on gulls being the preferred species – they have amazing learning curves when it comes to free meals.

 
 
 

 

ColinB

Colin Berry's picture

Part 2 reply to Patrick V:

Addressing your second point Patrick:

“I know about some tombs but is there any trace of bones graves around the site ? Then can we presume/speculate the bones, once defleshed, were later fetch for reburial or whatever... ?”

Bones? You betcha – lots and lots, not as complete skeletons or even individual intact bones, but masses of bone fragments – some 50,000 we’re told from 60 or more individuals. They were first discovered and disinterred at Stonehenge back in the 1920s, but no museum was interested in having them (unlike the Guernsey Museum that accepted 15kilos of EXCARNATED CREMATED bones in earthenware urns from the La Varde site - about which more later). So what happened to them? Wait for it – they were reburied would you believe it in one of the so-called Aubrey Holes aka pits in the 1930s, but were recently retrieved by Prof.Mike Parker-Pearson and his team, which was caught on camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl6PaGi270Q

However his focus was on who or what the owners of those bones were in life 4.500 years ago – their gender, how many, diet, likely geographical origin, but thus far I see no evidence that consideration was given to whether the bones were from cremating excarnated skeletons or (as seem to be assumed, mistakenly I believe) whole bodies. That’s a pity because there are techniques for doing that, e.g. from looking at the colour, fracturing etc

 

Here’s a quote from the two researchers, one of whom I’ve made initial contact for more information:

It’s Chapter 2 in Tim Thompson’s “The Archaeology of Cremation, Burned Human Remains in Funerary Studies” (Oxbow Books, 2015, a copy of which I recently purchased online).

and entitled:

“Flesh,fire, and funerary remains from the Neolithic site of La Varde, Guernsey: Investigations past and present”.

 

By Jenny Cataroche and Rebecca Gowland

 

Reminder (if needed): “Very few of the burnt bones/fragments were oxidized to white and none showed evidence of the shrinkage, deformation or curved U-shaped fissuring that typically signal the high intensity burning of fleshed bodies (refs). Detectable fractures were in all cases linear, and transverse splintering was noted in several of the larger fragments (ref to Fig). These are features typically seen in cases where ‘dry’ bones have been burnt subsequent to the total, or near-total, decomposition of the soft tissues (refs).Rather than indicating standard cremation this evidence argues in favour of one or more burning events, in which the bones of deceased individuals were burnt post mortem and once decomposition was at a very advanced stage.”

Any peck marks on the bones? Sadly, there’s only two photos in the paper, one with a gnawed bone – an isolated finding – but interestingly the other is somewhat pitted in appearance - see this recent posting on my specialist Stonehenge /Silbury Hill site (Archive 4 at the end).

 

https://sussingstonehenge.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/might-the-standing-st...

 

I met Prof M P-P briefly at the highly publicized block-towing experiment last Monday week, and enquired whether he had considered that those bones could have been post excarnation or not (that was before discovering the Guernsey work with its seemingly neglected forensic technology). He didn’t comment directly, but said his research indicated that cremated remains had in his opinion been brought to Stonehenge from several distant parts of Britain. That was a bit of a conversation stopper, one I’m presently researching before renewing contact. Best for now to hold fire, no pun intended while I get my head round strontium isotope analysis etc, which may or may not be the basis of his claim. Frankly I think he has his priorities wrong, and should be focusing on proving/disproving sky burial first, before adducing other evidence that attempts to exclude Stonehenge as an excarnation or even cremation site. Why install all that megalithic masonry if it was simply a memorial site for folk cremated elsewhere? Is it possible that excarnation is still  taboo subject in polite British society, not considered a suitable topic for after-dinner conversation – and that M P-P and the UK’s archaeology establishment, English Heritage especially - are all essentially trying desperately to look the other way?

Sorry, someone had to say it - but it won’t do my out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new  topical issue science-based blogging credentials any harm to be the first, or maybe second if one includes a prescient (2014) paper by modern day send-off specialist Ken West MBE for the “Good Funeral Guide”....

http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/2014/02/stonehenge-sky-burial/

Yup, I was discussing excarnation in respect of Durrington Walls and Silbury Hill, back in 2012, but decided to keep some seditious notions re jewel-in-the-crown Stonehenge largely to myself, except for:

 

“Did the iconic structure of Stonehenge – with those lintels especially – serve a utilitarian as well as ritual role – one that had been previously tested at Woodhenge, and then replicated in a form that was more durable, and resistant to fire, possibly attack also?” (June 2012):

https://sussingstonehenge.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/road-map-to-a-new-the...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ColinB

Colin Berry's picture

Help. My latest posting appeared briefly on a Google search for STONEHENGE but was then quickly de-listed.

http://colinb-sciencebuzz.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/its-time-to-get-real-ab...

Why? Maybe it was not a good idea to suggest, nay insist, that Stonehenge was designed for sky burial, aka excarnation.  Maybe there are too many vested interests determined to maintain the received wisdom re Stonehenge (Neolithic temple, astronomical observatory etc).  Maybe it was a mistake to rub salt in the wound by suggesting the same was true for Avebury and all the other stone circles (each megalith being a handy bird perch). What do you think, dear reader? Was I being OTT?

 

Reminder: the large collection of bones uncovered at Stonehenge were cremated (end-stage clean up post excarnation)?

 

Even Auntie BBC recognized that “Seahenge” – a simple timber circle – had been a site for excarnation.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/388988.stm

 If Seahenge, then why not Stonehenge?

ColinB

Barry Sears's picture

Stonehenge is designed as part of the World zodiac. Our ancient predecessors studied the zones of the World and their unique animal features and recorded the World as anatomical parts, features of an image of the full body. Each zone was then projected to the corresponding zone of the sky, forming the constellations. The zodiac of Dendera marks the World zones and indicates the high latitude for the position of Stonehenge, Cancer.
The next zone East of Stonehenge is Egypt and the sphinx of Leo, the next zone East is Israel known as Virgo, next the scales and balancing pivotal point of karma and the Buddha.....The heads of Easter Island, each zone of the World has an historical, heritage record of each anatomical position of the World body. 
These observation then correlate to the Celestial body, each anatomical part forms the full body of Nut (Egyptian) the Father (biblical) Ranginui (New Zealand)

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