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Friday, 9 November 2012

Hautville's Quoit



My thanks to John Oswin for sending a copy of the new report entitled "Hautville's Quoit and other archaeological investigations at Stanton Drew, 2012."  It's published by Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society in collaboration with Bath & North East Somerset Council.  65 pp, many illustrations, available as a PDF.

The site of the stone is approx NE of the stone circles at Stanton Drew, on the other side of the River Chew.  It's on the side of the B3130 road.  There may have been another stone in Stukely's day, but that is lost without trace.  The full size of the stone is unknown, but one observer has recorded it as being 2.1 m long, 2 m wide and 1.6 m deep.  It's essentially a large boulder lying in the ground, and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that it was ever a STANDING stone.

The bedrock here is Triassic mudstone, but Hautville's Quoit is made of a pale brown to grey sandstone, with distinguishable quartz grains and what appears to be a silica cement.  There are also numerous small bivalve shells in the rock -- not yet identified.  The surface is heavily pitted, as seen on the photos above.  the jury is still out on whether these are natural or man-made.

The authors (John Richards, John Oswin and Vince Simmonds with a contribution by Lynn Amadio) seem to accept that the stone is an erratic in the sense that it is not local, and has clearly come here from somewhere else.  Some geology is under way in an attempt to find the source, but at the moment the authors incline to the view that the sarsen-rich area of Fyfield Down is the most likely candidate.

Interestingly enough, they give no consideration at all to the idea that this might be a glacial erratic, although I have to say that that looks quite likely to me, admittedly on the basis of no field evidence which I can bring to bear.  But the authors themselves draw attention to the "striations" on the surface of Hautville's Quoit and on the surface of some of the stones of the West Kennet Avenue:


I know nothing about these, and hesitate to suggest that they might be glacial in origin -- but I'll be grateful for any other observations that others (who know the area and its stones) might have..........

 Hautville's Quoit as revealed in a 1969 excavation.  Here it looks even more like a glacial erratic and less like a standing stone......


One other thing which is quite intriguing about the Stanton Drew area is the occurrence of an elongated mound in the field called Big Ground, near the recumbent stone.  It has not been investigated properly -- but again the question arises -- man-made or natural?

There is clearly still a lot to be discovered at Stanton Drew......




27 comments:

Geocur said...

As someone who lived in the area for a time (Bath ) and have visited the stone I spose I'm allowed to comment . Does anyone actually claim that these markings are man made to need a jury ?

TonyH said...

I know where abouts in the landscape surrounding Stanton Drew Hautville's Quoit is, but have never visited that particular piece of geology and spot.
am not knowledgeable enough on the subject of geology to make any real assessment of the provenance of Hautville's Quoit, but just wonder whether the authors' notion that the stone may have come from the Fyfield Down area near Avebury in Wiltshire relies more on their familiarity with that prime nationally important prehistoric location than upon cold consideration of other geomorphological possibilities.

Vince Simmonds is, I believe, the person who is most likely to have provided the geological comments about the stone. Lynne Amadio is also connected with the Devizes-based WANHS.

Anonymous said...

Geo, you write

“Does anyone actually claim that these markings are man made to need a jury ?”


Too subtle for me! Can you please clarify? Are these marking man made or not? And if man made, what indicates they are man made?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

I too am a bit mystified by your statement, Geo. Clarification please?

Geocur said...

"The surface is heavily pitted, as seen on the photos above. the jury is still out on whether these are natural or man-made."

I find it hard to believe that any one has actually claimed these markings are man made. Hence little need for a jury .

Myris of Alexandria said...

I too would have though a sarsen but for the obvious bedding seen beneath the 'top' surface and the note about the presence of bivalve moulds neither I think (but am not sure) are features of sarsens.
I also wonder if the rock is not upside down and then the hummocky surface would be explained by sedimentary structures like prod marks/groove casts. (again this would not allow for sarsen as the lithology.)
The cleavage mentioned in the original report and shown, is incipient jointing and has nothing to do with any superimposed tectonic fabric.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

I too was worried about the mentions of fossils -- bivalves must presumably suggest that this is a Jurassic sandstone? Only guessing -- does anybody know more?

I thought one of the distinguishing features of sarsen stone is that it is fossil-free?

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that no one is claiming they are man made.

My chum Mr S is keeping an open mind until further work is done.

The markings are most probably natural, however they could have a polygenetic origin like the marks on other stones.

Re : provenance again an open mind is being kept.I believe that permission to remove a sample from the quoit is not yet forthcoming.
The Fyfield Down source is based solely on the evidence currently available.

A welsh provenance hasn't been ruled out. Identification of the bi-valves should clear the fog a little.

Further pics and info are available here. http://www.sourcingthestones.mendipgeoarch.net/#home

As an aside: After 30 years of effort in our cave dig open passage is visible at last. See Here http://www.dighalloween.mendipgeoarch.net/#home


BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for those links, Anon. very interesting indeed -- and especially interesting in that the blog by Vince reminds us of the number of stones that are scattered about in the landscape. About the Stanton Drew stones Vince says: "The stones seen at Stanton Drew are varied and include, among other rock types; silicified Dolomitic Conglomerate, Oolitic Limestone and Sandstone. The question is: from where were these various stone types sourced?" With all due respect, that's the wrong question, since there is a strong assumption built into it that the stones were all collected from somewhere or other by the human beings who put up the monument -- or part of it. The questions should be: "Where have the stones come from?" and "How did they get to where they are now?" That would at least allow for the possibility of natural agencies being involved at some stage or other!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Those pictures of the dark-coloured bivalve fossils are interesting. Have you got them at higher definition?

BRIAN JOHN said...

re this: "I believe that permission to remove a sample from the quoit is not yet forthcoming." Ah -- the curse of permissions! Is the Quoit a scheduled ancient monument? Tractors can presumably drive over it with ploughs and harrows in tow, but you can't chip off a bit from below the ground surface in order to do an identification? Strange old world -- and over on Salisbury Plain we have tanks and exploding live ammunition blasting all sorts of ancient features to smithereens. Look what happened to Boles Barrow..... virtually nothing left of it.

TonyH said...

Hautville's Quoit, to quote from the BACAS (i.e. the Bath Arch. Soc.) Annual Journal, Camertonia, No. 50, 2012 (just out), has a geographic alignment with the Main Circle and the South West circle of Stanton Drew.

"Camertonia" was late being published this year, and so does not contain the results John Oswin has drawn to Brian's attention for this Blog Post. For those interested, BACAS linked up with the Bath & North East Somerset Archaeologist, Richard Sermon, in these investigations.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is some visible distinction between the sandstone at Stanton Drew and that of the Quoit.

I have mentioned this to you before Brian, but recently Mr S has made significant noises to me about the interesting possibility that the sandstone is not Sarsen nor the Bi-valves Jurrassic, but Ordovician from a non local source; Possibly Wales??

We'll just have to await the completion of the work to see if his hypothesis is correct.

Geocur said...

Richard Sermon did an exemplary archaeoastronomical survey of the various monuments in the area in 2010 .The alignment from the centres of the SW and Great circles to the Quoit differs by less than a degree (18.25 and 17.7 respectively ) the resulting declinations are out of the range of both sun and moon .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Let me speculate a little about these stone pits!

The more I look at them the more these look to me like 'animal hoof prints' eroded over time. Does their size fit this description?! They remind me a little of the 'prehistoric human foot print' you posted some years ago. Is it possible? Perhaps some animal (deer?) trampled over a geothermal hot water stream leaving these prints in the hot soft bedrock. Which latter cemented and solidified by intense heat. The location of the site near Bath (with geothermal hot springs warmest in all of Europe) supports this possibility. And this possibility also supports the bivalve fossils found in the rock.

If you recall, I argued few years ago in favor of the existence of geothermal hot spots at Salisbury Plain. Responsible for the formation of 'ice holes' in a local ice sheet I speculated. Since then, I have come to realize there are several other ways such ice holes could have formed. But geothermal hot spots still remain an option.

Kostas

Myris of Alexandria said...

Dear Kostas
The animal would have to be snorkelling!!
Were these voids shown to be bivalve moulds it would very probably suggest marine conditions. Certainly under water (I am not certain if there are/were non-marine bivalves)
I think they are possibly sedimentary slump structures.
I once failed a Ph.D student who also wanted thermal springs during the Pleistocene but to produce copper mineralisation. One of the weirdest afternoons (4/5hours viva!!) I have ever had (and I LIKE weird).
M.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Myris my friend,

There are other indicators (judging from the photo) that suggest to me this possibility.

From the photo, the 'top' stone layer (where the 'hoof prints' are) seems different from the 'bottom' layer. Its undulating rounded shape and texture suggest perhaps this was the sedimentary bottom of a body of water (possibly marine) over a geothermal hot spot.

Could we imagine 'deeper sea water' eventually becoming more and more shallow? Its then likely glaciers entrained this layer fused into the bedrock.

We don't need 'weird' to look for deer with snorkels leaving these 'hoof marks'!

Sorry about your doomed PhD student! The perils of academia I fear!

Kostas

TonyH said...

Hautville's Quoit is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, not sure whether the farm tractors have special dispensations i.e. anthropological or otherwise Rites of Passage!! John Oswin may be able to tell us just how well it is protected from agrarian attack, are you listening, John?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is an as-yet undetected Geothermal hot spot underneath Silbury Hill, Kostas? Makes you think..........So, some far-travelled primitive engineer decided to build a conical-shaped hill on top (in stages of course), in tribute to the mighty volcanoes he had encountered near the edge of the earth...........

ALICE COOPER

Anonymous said...

ALICE COOPER!

Don't know about “ Geothermal hot spot underneath Silbury Hill” but I do know of geothermal hot springs at Bath just a stone's throw away with the warmest waters in all of Europe. While recently surprisingly high water temperatures were found in bore drilling near Stonehenge.

As for “far-travelled primitive engineer decided to build a conical-shaped hill on top (in stages of course), in tribute to the mighty volcanoes he had encountered near the edge of the earth”. You may be more successful convincing archeologists and their followers of this than me! Since their narratives are no less imaginative than your supposition.

“far-travelled primitive engineer”! Where is 'Waldo' in that?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

"Richard Sermon did an exemplary archaeoastronomical survey of the various monuments in the area in 2010 .The alignment from the centres of the SW and Great circles to the Quoit differs by less than a degree (18.25 and 17.7 respectively ) the resulting declinations are out of the range of both sun and moon"

You have failed to take into account precession... yet again!!

Patrick Moore

Geocur said...

RJL , You are still misunderstanding astronomical terminology despite it having been explained to you at least twice . To begin with , in what way would precession impact on the comment you quoted ?
Simply, precession impacts considerably on the azimuths and declination of the stars but not the sun or moon . Check the values of changes of azimuth for the sun and moon at solstice over a period of 6,000 years ,that relatively small change is due to obliquity of the ecliptic and between today and 4000 BC has changed from 28.35 to 27.7 degrees of declination at the solstice .It would have absolutely zero impact on the azimuth from the centre of a stone circle to a standing stone .You may also be getting mixed up with parallax , which does impact on lunar declinations but is quite small i.e. approx 1 degree but if you had read and understood the Stanton Drew survey you would have noticed that parallax was included in all lunar calculations .That was one reason the survey was exemplary ,as it is sometimes omitted from calculations

Anonymous said...

"Not that you would understand , but what astronomical alignments do I "preach" ?"

23 October 2012 23:32

"between today and 4000 BC has changed from 28.35 to 27.7 degrees of declination at the solstice"

....LoL I think your .002 of a degree out on this one, I'm sure stone age man would have not made such a simple mistake as their sharks tooth micrometers were incredibly accurate!!

"Simply, precession impacts considerably on the azimuths and declination of the stars but not the sun or moon ."

So when the earth wobbles on its axis the Sun and Moon, automatically compensates... that's a new one!!

Patrick

Geocur said...

RJL ,You clearly don't understand precession , it's not particularly difficult. Rather than list quotes and fail to refute them why not read up on some astronomy ,or ask questions.
The measurement of the difference in degrees between the centres of the stone circles to the Hautville Quoit has nothing to do with when it was measured or by whom , it just is .
The distance from the Earth to the Sun is .000016 ly , the next nearest star to earth , Proxima Centauri is 4.2 ly away . If you still fail to appreciate the difference then an astronomy prog like "Red Shift" or "Starry Night "can help , failing that some practical observation and recording should do the trick .

Anonymous said...

Geo

Like most aspects of archaeology and now astronomy - you are so obsessed with the detail you missed the actual point!!

Any alignments would be a 'generalisation' the .35's or .7's are a total nonsense.

Like your comment - "Simply, precession impacts considerably on the azimuths and declination of the stars but not the sun or moon ."

It's not just wrong, its plainly ridiculous. And why have you brought up Proxima Centauri have you found yet another obscure alignment to stone-age man's favourite star??

Some schoolboy astronomy to help you through your 'mental block'.

"The ecliptic is the path the sun follows as it moves through the year. Each day, the location of the rising sun appears to move against the background of the stars as it gradually moves its way around the circle of the ecliptic. In a year, the location of the sunrise will have returned to almost exactly the same position in the sky. The difference will be around 0.0138°. Measuring this difference is how we detect precession. Over the whole 25,771-year cycle, these accumulated differences will mean that the rising point of the sun, measured on the spring equinox, will have completed a 360° circle and will have returned once more to exactly the same place in the sky.

http://www.netplaces.com/guide-to-2012/the-galactic-alignment/precession-of-the-equinoxes.htm"

PM


Geocur said...

RJL , If you re-read the perfectly correct and simple to understand “precession of the equinoxes “ link you will note “the location of the rising sun appears to move against the background of the stars “ this is the crux it does not mean that the sun is moving in a 360 degree in the 25,771 year cycle, it is the stars that on this journey . Think about it , if the sun was moving at that rate it would rise at some point in the 25,771 year cycle due north and also due west . What you fail to understand is that Precession is the movement of the background stars it is they that will appear to rise due north and due west in the 25,771 cycle .In the past 6000 years the sun has changed it's rise position on the horizon from a fixed spot but as mentioned earlier it is less than a degree of declination . If the sun was moving at the rate you imagine it would have have been through nearly a quarter of it's cycle between now and the build date of Stonehenge meaning that it would be rising at a point nearly 90 degrees different from when the builders built Stonehenge ,that would really confuse those who see the sun rise not far from where the builders of Newgrange and Stonehenge saw it on the same date . In that same period of time it is the the background stars that appear to have moved much greater distances .It really is schoolboy stuff . As recommended an astronomy prog will clarify it for you or you could even do some simple observation , Jon may point you in the right direction .

Geocur said...

RJL , saying something is wrong is easy but not enough and not helpful , you have to support it with a reasoned argument . e.g. three comments you considered nonsense /wrong .1) "Simply, precession impacts considerably on the azimuths and declination of the stars but not the sun or moon ." and in relation to the sun rise 2)“ between today and 4000 BC has changed from 28.35 to 27.7 degrees of declination at the solstice" and in relation to Hautville Quoit 3) “The alignment from the centres of the SW and Great circles to the Quoit differs by less than a degree (18.25 and 17.7 respectively ) the resulting declinations are out of the range of both sun and moon" .
I had asked earlier for you to explain how precession would impact on 3) but to no avail .Could you attempt to answer it or refute any of the above with data or argument ?
The formulae for solar and lunar declinations are readily available , can you point out where precession is ever included in these calculations ?
If none of that is forthcoming , something a bit simpler .Could you give a figure for the amount the sun precesses annually i.e. we know where the sun rises at solstice as seen from the centre of Stonehenge in the 21st C where would you calculate it have risen 500 , 1000 , 2000, 6000 years ago ?