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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Project for a Bright Young Person

 Bluestones are brown and sarsens are blue -- or is it more complicated than that?

Now here's a project for a bright young person intent on making a name for himself / herself.  It would make a nice dissertation topic for an archaeology student.  Title:  The Colours of the Stonehenge Stones.

Get permission from EH to examine ALL of the standing and recumbent stones at Stonehenge.  They are all numbered, so the task is a simple one.  The whole job can be done in a day.  Work out the protocols -- all stones to be examined in similar light and weather conditions, to avoid shadow effects, contrasts between wet and dry surfaces etc.  Avoid areas heavily encrusted in lichens, and avoid fresh and broken faces.  Take a standard colour chart, and record the colour of every single stone by matching as closely as possible to the colours on the chart.

Present data in table form and using wacky graphics.  Publish results in prestigious journal.  Win the eternal thanks of the academic community and live happily ever after.

Has nobody done this before?  If not, why not?

11 comments:

Timothy Daw said...

Do it from the comfort of your desk - google streetview takes you right inside the circle....

The problem is that the stones are all mottled as well as very different in different sunlight conditions. They don't have a single colour. But close up most of the bluestones look very different to the sarsens, but a lot of that is probably the texture.

BRIAN JOHN said...

No no -- a desk study would not do it -- too many colour distortions on a computer screen. The job has to be done in the flesh, as it were, in constant light conditions, and with just colour being assessed, not texture.

Anonymous said...

What are ALL those birds, sitting on the sarsens? Fifty years ago,without binoculars, we might have suggested they were starlings, but they've gone into a steep decline. You usually associate Stonehenge's orthostats with jackdaws, but there seem to be far too many for me...........Now on Hampstead Heath..........

BILL ODDIE

chris johnson said...

I would not want to disillusion the bright young people. We need to imagine how stonehenge might have looked and help them on their journey.

From what I know the spotted dolerites were dressed - presumably revealing their inner character. The sarsens too alternate between dressed surfaces and undressed. Some think they might have been painted or otherwise carved.

I hope TIm takes his camera with him in the next few weeks to show us what he sees, albeit a pale reflection of how things might have been perceived.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Twitchers everywhere -- Bill, you are supposed to be looking at the STONES. (But I think you are quite right -- they looked like starlings to me, and they did look perfectly at home, now that they have the stones to themselves, with all those human beings banished to outer darkness.......)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- I'm not sure that all of the spotted dolerites have been dressed. What interests me -- and possibly Pete as well, when he started this particular hare running -- is what the stones might have looked like in or on the ground, when they were collected. Would the sarsens and bluestones have been distinguishable? I think not. I await the research by this bright young thing in due course. And by the way, photos will NOT do -- colours are always distorted. There is no substitute for the human eye, and a good colour chart. Mind you, it will help if the person doing the project does not suffer from colour blindness....

Timothy Daw said...

First birds - there are lots of Daws at the henge but also a murmuration of starlings there most of the time. Some like to imagine they are the descendants of the birds that used to strip the flesh off the dead.
Secondly stone colouration - sarsens tend to be a reddish grey colour - varying from the very red to the colour of Aishwarya Rai's eyes. The darker and bluer colours you see are caused by lichen. The bluestones will also have similar lichen covering and so can look very similar. Fresh from the ground, or when worked they don't have any lichen and so are much cleaner in colour. I have put a picture up today on www.sarsen.org to show this.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I like it -- how about "a murmuration of archaeologists"? or is there a better collective noun?

Not sure I agree that sarsens are reddish or pinkish in colour. Surely the surface colour is not just related to lichen cover? One of the other sarsen pictures on your site, Tim, shows an incredibly bluish colour on what looks to be a pretty clean sarsen face on stone 23.....

Timothy Daw said...

Yes stone 23 is a pale ice grey where I believe graffiti was sandblasted off many years ago(or was it when they accidentally knocked it over reerecting 21 and 22 and had to put it back up) but many sarsens have some iron content which gives them a hint of pink or red, remember the slaughter stone, for instance, where the red was fancifully mistaken for blood.

Anonymous said...

I invented an intoxication of djinns
if we are doing collective nouns.
It is finding a use for the word.

This spectacular version of Aladdin included the Dagenhaam Girls Pipers as an intoxication etc.
Myris

Anonymous said...

The collective noun for those archaeologists (still regularly seen clinging to the crags and rocks of Carn Meini with a furious obstinacy and refusal to accept increasing evidence to the contrary as to that location as the "indisputable" provenance of 'Gifts From The West to Wessex') should surely be an UNREPENTENCE; or possibly a REGURGITATION.

Lord Bragg