How would you like to be buried – at Stonehenge?

24 Jun 2015 13:58:43.723
PA 96/15

How we would like to be buried is a question very few of us consider but that’s what a computer scientist at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) wants to know. The answers will help with the exploration of burial sites around Stonehenge as part of the €8m Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project.

The new interactive scientific game has been developed by Dr Eugene Ch’ng, from the School of Computer Science at UNNC in the hope that twenty first century crowd-sourcing will shed light on what people who commemorated the dead 4000 years ago were thinking. The game will be unveiled by Dr Ch’ng at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2015 which is taking place in London from Tuesday June 30 to Friday July 3.  The video can be seen here.

Dr Ch’ng said: “Hidden behind the game is a scientific enquiry. We want to know why people were buried in elaborate graves and what importance they attached to the landscape and other monuments around Stonehenge. The answers we get will help us understand why certain parts of the hidden landscape around Stonehenge might attract more burials or how grave goods and their importance affect burial locations”. 

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As well as the chance to take part in the research of one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments visitors to the exhibition will learn about the work that has already been carried out by the Stonehenge Landscape Project. This includes the development of the most detailed archaeological digital map of Stonehenge which is already transforming our knowledge of this iconic landscape which is recognised as one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.

Revealing the secrets of ‘terra incognita’

Using remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys including ground–penetrating radar and 3D laser scanners the project team has mapped miles of the landscape around Stonehenge in unprecedented detail. It has already revealed 17 previously unknown ritual monuments dating to the period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape. 

Dr Ch’ng said: “The majority of previous studies of the Stonehenge landscape have focused on the famous stone monuments that remain visible today. However, so much archaeology is not visible at the surface and non-invasive real-time visualisation technologies are allowing us to reconstruct and explore the landscape so that we can see what else might have been there.

Exploring the evolution of the Stonehenge landscape

“This increased knowledge about the hidden landscape of Stonehenge has meant that it is now possible to explore the evolution of the landscape and how the different monuments might have been used.”

Stonehenge is one of the most recognisable and intensively studied archaeological sites in the world and for centuries has generated curiosity and wonder. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project is allowing computer scientists to work with archaeologists, using complexity systems science to dramatically increase our understanding of this internationally important site and gain new insights into the ancient peoples who used Stonehenge.

Dr Ch’ng’s involvement in high-performance computing, complex systems simulation and visualisation on the Stonehenge hidden landscapes began when he became Director of Innovations at the Digital Humanities Hub, and the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (now BEARView) at the University of Birmingham. 

He is now Deputy Director for the International Doctoral Innovation Centre Digital Economy Strand at UNNC.                 

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project is a collaborative project led by the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute and the University of Birmingham.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UNMC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Eugene Ch’ng in the School of Computer Science, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China on +86 (0)574 8818 3049,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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