In the midst of all the media celebrations about the solving of the great sarsen stone mystery, I'm quite intrigued by some of the comments from quite senior academics in Twitter conversations with David Nash. There seems to be more or less universal praise for the research, which suggests to me that nobody has actually read the article properly, and that academics have simply been reacting rather lazily to the press coverage and the items broadcast on the BBC, ITV, and Sky.
I am really the only person concerned about the following?
Ref: Nash et al, 2020: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/31/eabc0133
1. No attempt is made to explore the possibility that the Stonehenge sarsens were all picked up from the chalklands of Salisbury Plain. (Instead, for some reason, areas like the North Downs, the East Anglian Heights, and Dorset were treated as higher priorities.)
2. The conclusion that 50 of the 52 Stonehenge sarsens are from one common source is not adequately supported by Figure 2 of the paper, since only some of the 260 data points (5 readings were taken from each stone) are identified, and there are many "outliers" which are simply ignored. I have been unable to access the full data sets and supplementary materials -- I don't know why. (I don't have a problem with most of the Stonehenge sarsens having a shared geochemistry -- that's what one would expect if the stones were picked up locally -- but it would be good to know just how wide the variability is, rather than just being told that 50 of the sarsens have come from a single source.) Here is the link, if anybody else wants to try: http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/ content/full/6/30/eabc0133/DC1
3. The "matching" of the Stonehenge sarsens to the sarsens of West Woods is dependent upon the examination of just ONE sarsen from West Woods and just ONE sarsen from Stonehenge. This is completely unsatisfactory, as the authors of the paper must know. And yet they have claimed that "most of the sarsens at Stonehenge have come from West Woods."
4. I'm worried that the plotting of the trace element data for stone 58 and for the 20 sampled sarsen sites does not involve a direct "like for like" comparison. This is because the core samples were done on rock taken from deep within the sarsen stone, while the other measurements were from non-invasive surface readings. I would like to know how this might have affected the information plotted.
5. The plot of trace element ratio data for West Woods is used by the authors of the paper as the "killer fact" that establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that the Stonehenge sarsens came from this site. And yet, when we look at it carefully, its value is very limited indeed.