Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Mount Everest: The World's Highest Mountain"

Note: This article was written and recorded in June of 2007.

I'm Shirly Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today, we tell about efforts to climb Mount Everest. Last month, an 18-year-old American became one of the youngest people to climb the tallest mountain on Earth. And, a 71-year old Japanese man became the oldest.


Mount Everest is at the border of Nepal and Tibet. It was named for Sir George Everest, who recorded the mountain’s position in 1841. Since 1953, more than 10,000 people have attempted to climb to the top of the world's highest mountain. The summit of Mount Everest is 8,848 meters high.

Climbers have reached the summit more than 3,000 times. However, more than 200 people died while attempting to get there.

They all battled low temperatures. Wind speeds of up to 160 kilometers an hour. Dangerous mountain paths. And they all risked developing a serious health disorder caused by lack of oxygen. All for the chance to reach the top of the world.

The first and most famous of the climbers to disappear on Mount Everest was George Mallory. The British schoolteacher was a member of the first three trips by foreigners to the mountain. In 1921, Mallory was part of the team sent by the British Royal Geographical Society and the British Alpine Club. The team was to create the first map of the area and find a possible path to the top of the great mountain.

Mallory also was a member of the first Everest climbing attempt in 1922. But the attempt was canceled after a storm caused a giant mass of snow to slide down the mountain, killing seven ethnic Sherpa guides.

Mallory was invited back to Everest as lead climber of another expedition team in 1924. On June fourth, Mallory and team member Andrew Irvine left their base camp for the team's final attempt to reach the summit. The climbing team had great hopes of success for the two men. A few days earlier, expedition leader Edward Norton had reached a record height of 8,573 meters before he turned back.

Mallory and Irvine were using bottles of oxygen. Mallory believed that was the only way they would have the energy and speed to climb the last 300 meters to the top and return safely. Team member Noel Odell saw Mallory and Irvine climbing high on the mountain the following day.

Odell said they had just climbed one of the most difficult rocks on the northeast path. He said they were moving toward the top when clouds hid them. He never saw them again. The disappearance of Mallory and Irvine on Mount Everest remains among the greatest exploration mysteries of the last century.


During the next twenty-nine years, teams from Britain made seven more attempts to climb Everest. Until the early 1950s, British teams were the only foreigners given permission to climb Mount Everest.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to reach the summit of Everest. The two were part of a British team lead by Jon Hunt. They had made a difficult climb from the southeast, through recently opened Nepalese territory.

Edmund Hillary was a beekeeper from New Zealand. It was his second trip to Everest. He had been on the first exploratory trip to the mountain that had mapped the way up from the southern side. Tenzing Norgay was a native Sherpa from Nepal. He was the first Sherpa to become interested in mountain climbing. His climb with Hillary was his seventh attempt to reach the top.

Hillary said his first reaction on reaching the summit was a happy feeling that he had “no more steps to cut." The two men placed the flags of Britain, Nepal, India and the United Nations. Hillary took a picture of Norgay.

They looked out over the north side into Tibet for any signs that Mallory or Irvine had been there before them. Then they began the long and difficult trip back down. The success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay led to many new attempts on the mountain. Today, Everest has been climbed from all of its sides and from most of its possible paths.


Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria made another historic Everest climb in 1978. The two men were the first to reach the summit without using bottled oxygen. Messner said when he reached the top he felt like a single giant lung.

At the time, scientists believed that a person at the top of the mountain would only have enough oxygen to sleep. Scientists believed that Messner and Habeler would die without oxygen. Scientists now know that two conditions make climbing at heights over 8,000 meters extremely difficult. The first is the lack of oxygen in the extremely thin air. The second is the low barometric air pressure.

Today, scientists say a person dropped on the top of the mountain would live no more than ten minutes. Climbers can survive above 8,000 meters because they spend months climbing on the mountain to get used to the conditions. Several things have made climbing Everest easier now than it was for the first climbers. These include modern equipment and clothing. They also include information gained from earlier climbs and scientific studies.

Nineteen ninety-three was the 40th anniversary of the first successful climb of Mount Everest. One hundred twenty-nine people climbed to the summit that year. That was a record number. Hundreds of people have reached the summit each year during the past few years. Some expert climbers have begun leading guided trips up the mountain.

Some people have paid as much as 65,000 dollars for the chance to climb Everest. However, many of these people have little climbing experience. This can lead to serious problems.

In 1996, Everest had its greatest tragedy. Fifteen people died attempting to reach the top. This was the deadliest single year in Everest history. A record ten people died on the mountain in one day. Two of the world's best climbers were among those killed.

Several books by climbers have described the incident and the dangerous conditions. The best known is “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. The book sold many copies around the world and increased the interest in climbing Mount Everest.

Last year, another tragedy on Mount Everest was in the news. Several climbers told news reporters that they had passed a British climber in trouble without stopping to rescue him. David Sharp had been climbing alone, without a guide or teammates. He was lying on a rock 450 meters below the summit. Reports say as many as forty climbers passed Sharp as he lay dying. The climbers who left him there said that rescue efforts would have been useless. He later froze to death.


This year has been reportedly the most successful ever for Mount Everest climbers. More than 500 people have reached the top of the world's highest mountain.

Last month, eighteen-year old Samantha Larson of Long Beach, California became one of the youngest people to reach the top. She made the climb with a group that included her father. Larson is believed to be the youngest person in the world to have climbed all of the "seven summits," the highest mountains on each of the continents.

Also last month, a retired teacher from Japan became the oldest person to reach the top of Mount Everest. Katsusuke Yanagisawa is seventy-one years old. He said climbing the mountain was more difficult than he expected. He said he was not attempting to set a record. Instead, he said he was just trying his hardest not to die.

Another record was set last month. Nepali mountain guide Apa reached the summit for the seventeenth time. That broke his old world record.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. Mario Ritter was our producer. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. You can see pictures of Special English listeners on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. 1. Mount Everest is named after
a: the Indian name for ‘tall mountain’ 
b: Sir George Everest, a mapmaker
c: the German word for ‘forever’
d: a boxing equipment manufacturer
2. George Mallory
a: was the first person to successfully climb the summit of Mount Everest
b: was the last person to successfully climb the summit of Mount Everest
c: was the first person to die while climbing the summit of Mount Everest
d: invented the marshmallow
3. 1953 is an important year for Mount Everest because
a: in that year, humans successfully climbed to the top
b: the Chinese government built a fence around it
c: explorers found rare flowers near the top
d: one thousand dogs were found on the mountain
The first Nepalese citizen to climb Mount Everest was _______________________ .
a: Edmund Hillary 
b: Paul McCartney
c: Tenzing Norgay
d: Willie Wonka
5. The first flags placed at the summit of Mount Everest included
a: Argentina  
b: Nepal
c: the United States
d: Vietnam
6. The oldest man to climb Mount Everest is a _______________________ .
a: doctor
b: lawyer
c: truck driver
d: teacher
7. It is now easier to climb Mount Everest because _______________________ .
a: the weather isn’t as snowy 
b: giant snakes don’t bite explorers
c: explorers have better clothing and equipment
d: easier pathways have been built
8. The youngest person to climb Mount Everest was
a: an 18-year old girl from Southern California 
b: a 3-year old boy from Italy
c: a 15-year old boy from Nepal
d: Sir Edmund Hillary
9. The most explorers died on Mount Everest ______________________ .
a: after eating potato chips
b: in 1996
c: while reciting the Lord’s Prayer
d: while texting
10. The summit of Mount Everest is more than
a: 20 miles above sea level
b: 8,000 meters above sea level
c: a mile below sea level
d: 1 mile above the moon

Climbing Mount Everest: from Youtube:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Project Mercury, Part Two" from VOA

This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

Today we finish the story of the first American program to send a person into space. It was called Project Mercury.


The American space agency opened for business October first, nineteen fifty-eight. NASA's most important job was to send an American into space and return him safely to Earth. Project Mercury was the plan for doing this. It would use one of several dependable military rockets to launch a small, one-man spacecraft. The space vehicle would return to Earth and land in the ocean.

Astronauts would be chosen for the program from the best military test pilots who had education in science or engineering.

The idea was simple. But making it happen was not a simple job. Thousands of scientists, engineers, technicians and other workers were needed. And money was needed -- thousands of millions of dollars.

Congress approved the money. NASA organized the program. The McDonnell Company designed and built the spacecraft. The Army and Air Force built the Redstone, Jupiter and Atlas rockets. NASA announced the seven astronauts it had chosen on April ninth, nineteen fifty-nine. They immediately began training for space flight.

No time was wasted. The first test flights began later that year. Those test flights did not carry astronauts. Men would fly the Mercury spacecraft only after it was proved safe.

The final test flight was made at the end of January, nineteen sixty-one. A Mercury spacecraft carried a chimpanzee named Ham on a seven hundred kilometer flight over the Atlantic Ocean. There were some problems. But the animal survived the launch and the landing in the ocean.

Yuri Gagarin
But before NASA could send an astronaut into space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first person to travel in space. On April twelfth, nineteen-sixty one, he orbited the Earth one time in the Vostok One spacecraft. His space flight lasted one hour and forty-eight minutes.

A month later, on the morning of May fifth, American Navy pilot Alan Shepard crawled into his little Mercury spacecraft. There was almost no room to move inside it. One description said it was like sitting in the driver's seat of a small car, while wearing two heavy raincoats. Alan Shepard waited in the spacecraft for four hours. The weather caused part of the delay. Clouds would prevent filming of the launch. And some last-minute repairs were made to his radio system. Tired of waiting, he told the ground crew: "Why don't you fellows solve your little problems and light this candle. "

Alan Shepard
Finally, they did start the rocket. With a roar, it began to rise slowly from the launch pad. Its speed increased. Soon, it was out of sight.

Shepard's flight lasted only a few seconds longer than fifteen minutes. But he flew one hundred eighty-seven kilometers high, and four hundred eighty kilometers from the launch pad. He re-entered the atmosphere and slowed the Mercury spacecraft. The first flight ended with a soft splash into the ocean, as planned.

Shepard reported: "Everything is A-okay." Within minutes, a helicopter lifted him from the spacecraft and carried him to a waiting ship. The first manned flight of project Mercury was a complete success.

Radio, television and newspaper reporters made it possible for millions of people to share the excitement of the flight. The United States had decided at the very beginning of its space program that all launches would be open to news reporters. Successes and failures would all be reported to the world. Television and news film showed flight preparations and launch. People could hear -- on radio and television -- the talk between the astronaut and the flight controllers.


Gus Grissom
Ten weeks later, there was another Mercury launch. Astronaut Gus Grissom repeated Shepard's successful short flight. But there was a serious problem after the landing. Grissom almost drowned when the door of the spacecraft opened too soon.

The spacecraft filled with water and sank. Grissom escaped. He had to swim for a few minutes before helicopters rescued him.

The results of the two short flights made space officials believe the Mercury program was ready for its first orbital flight. Again, an animal would fly first.

A chimpanzee named Enos was launched on a three-orbit flight. The flight tested the worldwide communications system that linked the spacecraft to flight controllers at Cape Canaveral. It also tested the effect of weightlessness on living creatures.

A problem developed during the second orbit. One of the small thruster rockets that turned the spacecraft stopped working. Flight controllers decided to bring it down at the end of the second orbit. The landing was perfect. Enos suffered no bad effects.

Now, everything was ready for an astronaut to make an orbital flight. NASA announced that the astronaut would be John Glenn. He would circle the Earth three times during a five-hour Mercury flight.

The launch was planned for January twenty-seventh, nineteen sixty-two. But it was postponed for almost a month because of weather and mechanical problems. Finally, on February twentieth, John Glenn climbed into his tiny spacecraft on top of the huge Atlas rocket.

After several short delays, the final seconds were counted off.


Five minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the Atlas rocket. John Glenn was in orbit – one hundred sixty kilometers above the Earth. His speed was twenty-eight thousand kilometers an hour. Glenn reported that all systems were "go." Everything was "A-OK" for an orbital flight.

John Glenn in his
Mercury pressure suit
Glenn's flight plan called for him to spend most of the first orbit getting used to the feeling of being weightless. After about an hour of being beyond the pull of Earth's gravity, Glenn reported he felt fine. He said being weightless was not a problem.

Glenn explained later that at times it helped to be free of gravity. He said he was busy taking pictures when he suddenly had to do something else. So he left the camera floating in the air. It stayed there, as if he had laid it on a table!


Near the end of the first orbit, Glenn reported a problem. One of the small rockets of his automatic control system stopped working. This caused the spacecraft to turn to one side. Glenn solved the problem by turning off the automatic system. He took control of the system to correct the movement.

All of the systems on the Mercury spacecraft sent radio signals to flight controllers. The signals, or telemetry, reported on the condition of the systems.

During the second orbit, one of these signals warned that the heat shield might not be locked firmly to the bottom of the spacecraft. This could be a serious problem. The shield protected the spacecraft from burning up from the extreme heat of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Engineers believed the warning signal was wrong and the shield was locked. But they told Glenn not to release rockets connected to the heat shield. The rockets, normally released before returning to Earth, could help keep a loose heat shield in place.

Near the end of his third orbit, Glenn fired other rockets to slow his speed. The spacecraft began to return to Earth. As it re-entered the atmosphere, radio communications stopped. Flight controllers could no longer hear Glenn. Everyone was worried about the heat shield. The radio silence, caused by the heat of re-entry, lasted for seven minutes. Then the controllers heard the astronaut again.

Glenn reported that he was okay. The heat shield had been locked.

Parachutes lowered the Mercury spacecraft to the ocean surface. Glenn remained inside. A navy ship reached it in seventeen minutes, and lifted it aboard. Glenn opened the door and stepped out.

John Glenn got a hero's welcome when he returned to Cape Canaveral. President John Kennedy flew to Florida and presented a special award to the astronaut. Glenn became famous. He later was elected to the United States Senate from the state of Ohio. And in nineteen ninety-eight, at age seventy-seven, he returned to space in an historic flight.

Gordon Cooper
Three more flights were made in Mercury spacecraft. The last one, by astronaut Gordon Cooper, circled the Earth twenty-one times. It lasted thirty-four hours.

Cooper spent much of the time doing medical checks and taking pictures. His work cleared the way for Project Gemini.

Gemini was the next step toward President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the nineteen sixties. Project Mercury astronauts made the goal seem possible.


This Special English program was written by Marilyn Christiano and Frank Beardsley. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week for another EXPLORATIONS on the Voice of America.


1. Astronaut Gus Grissom's Mercury flight _______________________ .
a: happened before Alan Shepard's flight
b: was a complete success, like Shepard's flight
c: wasn't reported by radio or television
d: had a problem in the ocean because the door of the spacecraft opened too soon

2. Enos was _________________________ .
a: a planet that astronauts visited in the Mercury spacecraft
b: the name of the Soviet rocket that was the first to carry a man into space
c: a chimpanzee that was sent into orbit in order to test the effects of orbital flight on living beings
d: a condition of weightlessness experienced by orbiting astronauts

3. The first two Mercury flights were __________________________ .
a: orbital flights
b: short flights, lasting about fifteen minutes
c: flights where the spacecraft landed in the dessert
d: both entirely free of problems

4. The first person to travel in space was ______________________ .
a: Yuri Gagarin
b: John Glenn
c: Alan Shepard
d: Gus Grissom

5. The last flight of the Mercury spacecraft lasted __________________ .
a: longer than a day
b: shorter than a day
c: fifteen minutes
d: long enough to circle the earth three times

6. Astronaut _____________ with Project Mercury later became a US senator from the state of Ohio.
a: Ham the Chimp
b: Gus Grissom
c: John Glenn
d: Alan Shepard

7. When Alan Shepard said, "Why don't you fellows light this candle," he meant "_____________________ ".
a: I need more light
b: It's my birthday
c: I can't see out of the porthole
d: Start this rocket

8. When one of the small rockets of his automatic control system stopped working, John Glenn solved the problem by ____________________ .
a: immediately taking control and heading for the ocean
b: bringing the spacecraft to a standstill
c: replacing the small rocket with a spare one he carried on the spacecraft
d: turning off the automatic control and manually controlling the system

9.""Telemetry" is ______________________ .
a: a system that allows astronauts to communicate with flight controllers
b: a system that allows flight controllers to monitor spacecraft systems by radio signals
c: a video game astronauts play in order to escape boring routines
d: a type of shield for a spacecraft that is especially strong and can withstand the dangers of outer space

10. There was some doubt that John Glenn would land safely because __________________________ .
a: the door to his spacecraft opened too soon after it landed in the ocean
b: a signal indicated that the heat shield was not locked firmly to the bottom of the spacecraft
c: rockets holding the heat shield to the bottom of the spacecraft were fired prematurely
d: radio communications with John Glenn stopped

Gordon Cooper's Mercury flight, and the last flight of Project Mercury:

Project Mercury: Part One

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Michelle Obama Fights Childhood Obesity" from VOA.

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I'm Barbara Klein.

This week on our program, we tell about a new White House program to fight childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Almost one-third of American children are overweight or obese. Officials say the rate has tripled in teenagers and doubled in younger children since nineteen eighty.

Many American children and teenagers eat unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar. They eat many meals at fast-food restaurants. They eat too many snacks between meals. They drink too many sugary drinks. And they do not exercise enough.

In addition, some low-income areas do not have enough supermarkets where people can buy fresh and healthy foods.

In February, first lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign to fight childhood obesity. Her campaign is called "Let's Move." It aims to teach children about better nutrition and the importance of exercise.

Mrs. Obama says thirty million American children get the majority of their calories from foods they eat at school. The Obama administration is proposing to spend ten billion dollars over the next ten years to set nutrition rules for schools.

MICHELLE OBAMA: "What we don't want is a situation where parents are taking all the right steps at home, and then their kids undo all that work when they go to school with salty, fatty foods in the school cafeteria."


Obesity is linked to many diseases, including diabetes. Treatments for these diseases cost the United States almost one hundred fifty billion dollars every year. Doctors say eating right and exercising should begin at a young age so that children will not grow into obese adults.

Judith Palfrey of the American Academy of Pediatrics says overweight children have many health problems.

DR. JUDITH PALFREY: "Every day we see overweight toddlers who struggle to learn to walk or run. Overweight can cause our children respiratory problems. A youngster who develops diabetes in his teens may need a kidney transplant by the time he's thirty."

Last spring, Michelle Obama and a group of students planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Local students have been planting seeds, harvesting vegetables and learning about health and nutrition.

The organic garden provides food for the first family's meals and to feed hungry people in Washington. But Michelle Obama said the most important goal is to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruits and vegetables. In turn, the children will educate their families and communities.

Mrs. Obama says her idea is not to ban fun foods from a child's life. But she wants to balance hamburgers and French fries with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another way to fight childhood obesity is to get children to exercise more. American children now spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching television or playing with electronic devices.

Health experts say children should get an hour of active exercise every day. Michelle Obama urges children to go outside and play.

MICHELLE OBAMA:"So let's move. And I mean literally, let's move!"

Last month, Mrs. Obama welcomed almost one hundred local students to the first event in the South Lawn Series. These events will bring together local children, teachers and sports coaches. They will take part in sports, games and activities on the grounds of the White House.

The first event included trainers from Washington's professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams. It also included physical education teachers from Washington public schools. They showed ways for children to get sixty minutes of active play every day in their own backyards.

MICHELLE OBAMA: "So you guys are going to be the first example this summer of really encouraging kids to move. But we are going to need you, not just here today, but you're going to have to go home and take some of what you've learned here and teach your families and folks -- the other kids in your schools who haven't had a chance to come, and figure out how you guys can get other people in your lives moving."


In February, President Obama named the first-ever task force to combat childhood obesity. Last month, the members of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity presented its action plan.

Michelle Obama said for the first time the nation will have goals and measurable outcomes. She said these will help fight childhood obesity "one child, one family and one community at a time." The action plan involves public and private groups, mayors and governors, parents and teachers, business owners and health care providers.

The report presents seventy suggestions. They include: Providing good prenatal care, support for breastfeeding and good child care centers. Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler messages about healthy food choices. Limiting the marketing of unhealthy products to children. Providing healthy food in schools and improving nutrition education. Making it easier for everyone to buy healthier food at lower prices. Getting children to be more physically active in and after school and improving playgrounds in neighborhoods.

Michelle Obama spoke about the action plan when it was released last month.

MICHELLE OBAMA: "It's revolved around four main pillars. We've been working to give parents the information that they need to make healthy decisions for their families. We've been working to make our schools healthier. We've been working to increase the amount of physical activity that our kids are getting, not just during the day at school but also at home. And we're working to eliminate 'food deserts' so that folks have easy and affordable access to the foods they need right in their own neighborhoods."

Mrs. Obama said the plan includes ways to measure progress. For example, the plan sets goals to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that children eat. It aims to decrease the amount of added sugar from many products that children eat.

The first lady said the plan also includes increasing the number of high school students who take part in physical education classes. It aims to increase the percentage of elementary schools that offer outdoor play time. And it aims to increase the number of children who walk or ride their bicycles to school.

Mrs. Obama said her "Let's Move" campaign has already started making progress by getting support from all areas of the country.

MICHELLE OBAMA: "And now, with this report, we have a very solid road map that we need to make these goals real, to solve this problem within a generation. Now we just need to follow through with the plan. We just need everyone to do their part -- and it's going to take everyone. No one gets off the hook on this one -- from governments to schools, corporations to nonprofits, all the way down to families sitting around their dinner table."


Sam Kass is the White House assistant chef. He helps cook food for the Obamas and their guests at the White House. Last month he announced a new program called "Chefs Move to Schools."

Professional cooks around the country will adopt a local school. The chefs will teach children about food, nutrition and cooking in a fun way. The chefs will work with school food-service workers, administrators and teachers.

Sam Kass said: "After hearing fifth graders cheer for broccoli, I know firsthand that chefs can have a huge impact on kids' health and well-being."

Last month, an alliance of sixteen major food manufacturers reacted to Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign. They promised to introduce healthier foods and cut the size and calories of existing products.

The alliance is called the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. It includes Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo. The sixteen companies make more than twenty percent of the food people eat in the United States.

Mrs. Obama said this is the kind of action that businesses need to take. She said she hopes more companies will follow the example they have set.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Stonehenge" from Voice of America

I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today we tell about new discoveries near Stonehenge, the famous ancient circle of stones in southern England.


For thousands of years, the circle of ancient stones called Stonehenge has been one of the most mysterious places on Earth. Scientists say Stonehenge has stood in England for at least 4,000 years. Millions of people from all over the world have visited the ancient monument.

Stonehenge is the best known of a number of such ancient places in Britain. It stands on the flat, windy Salisbury Plain, near the city of Salisbury, England. Early Britons built Stonehenge from bluestone and a very hard sandstone called sarsen. Experts believe the builders of Stonehenge knew about design, engineering and sound. These ancient people did not have highly developed tools. But they built a huge monument of heavy stones.

Some of the monument's standing stones have lintel stones on top. The lintels lie flat on the standing stones. Most of the stones of Stonehenge stand in incomplete formations of circles. They differ in height, weight and surface texture. One of the largest stones weighed about 40,000 kilograms. Some stones are more than seven meters high. Other broken stones lie on the ground.

Work on Stonehenge may have started as early as 5,000 years ago. Scientists believe it was completed over three periods lasting more than 1,000 years. Archaeologists have studied Stonehenge for many years. For centuries, people have questioned the meaning of the stones.

Now, archaeologists have discovered remains of an ancient village that may have been home to the workers who built Stonehenge. People from the village also may have used the huge monument for religious ceremonies. The discovery of the village helps confirm an important theory about Stonehenge.

The huge monument did not stand alone. Stonehenge may have been part of a larger religious complex. The theory also proposes that people held events in the village and at Stonehenge to celebrate the change of seasons and honor the dead.

The scientific process of radiocarbon dating found that the village is about 4,600 years old. The archaeologists believe the inner circle of Stonehenge was also built at about that time. The timing led them to believe that the people of the village could have built Stonehenge.

The scientists found the remains of the village about three kilometers from Stonehenge. Archeologists from the Stonehenge Riverside Project made the discovery in and around an area called Durrington Walls. Scientists believe Durrington Walls was an ancient community with hundreds of people. It included a larger version of Stonehenge made of wood and earth.

Mike Parker Pearson was the main archaeologist for the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Mr. Parker Pearson said placing the plan of Stonehenge over that of the wooden structure at Durrington Walls proves the great similarity of design.

The team of researchers discovered the remains of several houses. Mr. Parker Pearson says his team found remains of stone tools and bones of humans and animals in the houses. The researchers also found jewelry and broken clay containers. The large amount of animal bones and pottery suggested that the people might have been taking part in a celebration. The floors had marks that showed where fires had been built.

Julian Thomas of Manchester University discovered the remains of two houses that were separated from the others. They lacked all the objects and remains found in the other houses. Mr. Thomas said religious leaders might have lived in the two houses. Or the houses might have been religious centers. Study of the area is far from finished. As many as 25 or 30 houses may be found in and near Durrington Walls over time. The Stonehenge Riverside Project will last several more years.


Researchers believe that no people ever lived at Stonehenge. So the village might have provided places to stay for the people attending celebrations at Stonehenge. Many scientists believe the early people gathered in the area to mark the change of seasons -- the winter and summer solstices.

The winter solstice takes place when the sun reaches its most southern point. It is the shortest day of the year. The summer solstice happens when the sun reaches its most northern point. It is the longest day of the year.

The researchers also found a stone road near Durrington Walls. The road is about 30 meters wide. It goes to the Avon River. A similar road goes from Stonehenge to the same river. Mr. Parker Pearson said Stonehenge and the Durrington Walls area had many similarities.

For example, Stonehenge was in line with the sunset during the winter solstice. The wooden structure at Durrington Walls was in line with the sunrise that same day. The road from Stonehenge to the Avon River was aligned with the sunrise during the summer solstice. The road from Durrington to the Avon was in line with that day's sunset.

Mr. Parker Pearson said he believes the discoveries show that Durrington and Stonehenge may have represented the living and the dead. The temporary wooden circle at Durrington represented life. The permanent stone monument at Stonehenge represented death.

Mr. Parker Pearson said he believes that the ancient people had celebrations at Durrington. Then they went down the road and placed human remains or dead bodies in the Avon River. The river carried the remains downstream to Stonehenge.

The people traveled by boat to Stonehenge. There they burned and buried the remains of the dead. Scientists have found evidence of funeral fires near the Avon River not far from Stonehenge. Earlier discoveries produced burned remains at Stonehenge. And the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered burned remains of about 250 people.


Joshua Pollard of Bristol University and his team discovered a sandstone formation that marked an ancient burial area. They found a sarsen stone almost three meters long. It was lying in a field next to the Avon River, about three kilometers east of Stonehenge. The scientists say it had been standing upright, like the stones that form the main structure of Stonehenge.

They also found partly burned remains of two people buried next to the stone. And they found stone tools, clay containers and a rare rock crystal. Mr. Pollard said the crystal possibly came from as far away as the Alps mountains.

Today, the work of the Stonehenge Riverside Project is increasing knowledge about ancient life in Britain. The research team says there is evidence from old maps and ancient sources for other similar monuments near Stonehenge and connected to it. Another theory says that people from other areas in Europe traveled to Stonehenge for the observances held there.

Some day, researchers may be able to tell the whole story of the ancient village and the stone and wood monuments. But until that day, Stonehenge and its ancient partners are keeping many secrets.


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Barbara Klein. And I’m Steve Ember. You can read scripts and download audio on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Click here for the Stonehenge Timeline

This link explores possible meanings of Stonehenge

Welcome to this website. Check out the INDEX TO EXPLORATIONS for more amazing articles from Voice of America and Edcon Publishing.

All these comments are very welcome. There is also an article about the origins of the English Language you might find interesting.


1. Archaeologists have lately discovered remains of a community, 4,600 years old, near Stonehenge in a area called ________________ .

a. Salisbury
b. Durrington Walls
c. Avon
d. Cambridge

2. Whereas the road from the village to the Avon River is aligned to the sunset at the Summer Solstice, the road from Avon to Stonehenge is aligned to the ______________________.

a. sunset at the Winter Solstice
b. dawn at the Summer Solstice
c. sunset at the Summer Solstice.
d. twilight at the Winter Solstice

3. The remains of another circle at the village similar in form to Stonehenge, only made of wood, and also _______________ Stonehenge, was recently discovered.

a. smaller than
b. about the same size as
c. larger than
d. twice as large as

4. Archaeologists concluded from the discovery of _____________________ that religious ceremonies may have taken place at the village near Stonehenge.

a. bones of the dead
b. jewelry and pottery.
c. animal bones and jewelry.
d. animal bones and pottery.

5. Evidence of funeral fires at _________________ shows that the people at the time Stonehenge was constructed burned their dead.

a. Durrington Walls
b. Avon
c. Stonehenge and Avon
d. Stonehenge and Durrnington Walls

6. The Winter Solstice is the time when the day is the shortest and the sun is at its most _________________ point.

a. southern
b. horizontal
c. northern
d. vertical

7. The recently discovered 4,600 year old village three kilometers from Stonehenge was probably a place where ____________________ .

a. people lived year round
b. only people from the British Isles visited
c. people came only for religious ceremonies
d. only the priest class lived

8. The best definition for "lintel" is _______________________ .

a. a sandstone structure near Avon
b. a wooden post at Durrington Walls
c. a type of boat used for transporting remains of the dead
d. a rock parallel to the ground that was placed along the tops of some of the stones

9. Another name for this selection could be ________________ .

a. "Rituals Around the Avon River"
b. "New Discoveries About the Mysterious Stonehenge"
c. "The Uses of Radio-Carbon Dating"
d. "The Mystery of Durrington Walls".

10. This article is mainly about _________________________ .

a. exciting clues recently discovered about Stonehenge and the area around it
b. the role of solstice in pre-literate societies
c. Britain's variety of ancient sacred monuments and their meaning
d. the fact that a lot needs to be understood about Britain's ancient history

Enjoy the following video about Stonehenge from Youtube:

How did they move those massive stones? This youtube video considers the problem. Watch this video from eslvideos.com. It has a quiz after the video. WELCOME TO THE MISSION LANGUAGE LAB NETWORK OF WEBSITES! THERE'S A LOT TO DO AND LEARN HERE, SO DON'T CHANGE THAT DIAL! MUSIC, LANGUAGE, ARTICLES, VOCABULARY PRACTICE, AND MORE! ENJOY!