Last night we saw the first episode (number 1 of 6) of the BBC Wales / OU blockbuster series called "The Story of Wales" -- which dealt with prehistory. In the section dealing with the Neolithic / Bronze Age some time was given to Prof John Koch, who made the point that the old idea of eastern tribal supremacy and conquest spreading westwards from the east and into the Celtic Fringe or Atlantic Seaboard was now discredited to be replaced by a view of the world in which the land was the least favoured option for moving about, with the early tribes (the Celts and their precursors) spreading gradually along the western coasts. Then tribal trading contacts were maintained by sea rather than overland. The view is now (according to Prof Koch) that trade, rather than invasion and conquest, was the driving force in the creation of what would later be "the Celtic World" of western Britain.
I have always thought that the idea of the human transport of the bluestones from West Wales to Stonehenge is underpinned by a presupposition that there was a dominant society in Wessex and a subservient tribal society in West Wales. In other words, the Wessex tribes were more advanced and more powerful, leading to a situation in which they could collect stones from the far west with impunity, or on a whim, and that they had the manpower and technical expertise to do it -- or else that the western tribes might wish to carry the stones to their eastern neighbours as a form of tribute or homage.
Might this version of events now need to be fundamentally revised? If the Wessex tribes were not necessarily any more advanced or powerful than those of Pembrokeshire, and if the people of the latter area were perfectly happy, thank you very much, why would they bother to cart lots of very heavy stones all the way to Stonehenge?
It all gets very convoluted, and indeed MPP and his colleagues have explored this issue before, at the famous lecture in Newport last summer. There, they argued for two very powerful tribal groups who came together in a great social and economic alliance -- in the first great political "unification." The moving of the stones was the great symbolic act that cemented the union. All highly fanciful -- see my posts here:
My problem with at least some of this is that I don't know how widely accepted this "revisionist" view of prehistory actually is. As Wales and Scotland assert their identities and grab political control back from England, bit by bit, there is of course a tendency (encouraged by Welsh universities and research institutions) to flag up the "uniqueness" of the prehistoric heritage -- in exactly the same way as HHT used the bluestone transport debate to bolster English self-esteem after the First World War. Sadly, we are never all that far away from political motives, even in what seems to be a rather esoteric debate about cultural assimilation, dispersal, parallel development and so forth........