Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 18 March 2018


Worth sharing. Click to enlarge.  I found this great photo of clay-with-flints resting on an undulating surface of broken chalk -- this pic is from the Chilterns.

The irregular bedrock surface is the [product of many different processes.  I suspect that here solutional rills are a part of the scenario, but maybe we are also looking at enlarged cracks associated with permafrost in the past, and there is also a possibility of cracks and pits associated with deep root penetration at a time of woodland cover.

The clay-with-flints is a highly variable and somewhat mysterious material -- containing flint nodules weathered out of the chalk but also erratic pebbles assumed to have come from stripped away Cretaceous layers which once rested on the chalk.  I have always felt that glacially derived material may also be contained -- .but much more systematic studies will be needed before the full story is known

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

On sails and bluestone transport

This is a very interesting article which I came across by chance:

More than once, on this blog, we have discussed ropes and sails and sailing techniques, since some people think it was just a doddle for our Neolithic ancestors to transport 80 bluestones by sea from Pembrokeshire to the coasts of Somerset or somewhere else in SW England.

The article explains how difficult it was, even in Viking times, to make sail cloth (using wool) which was strong enough, light enough and manageable enough to catch the wind and cope with great stresses in a hostile marine environment.  Early sails -- in the Neolithic and Bronze Age -- are thought to have been made with woven flax.  But the fragments of woven flax that have survived suggest that there was a size limit on what could be woven -- which would have necessitated stitching together lots of small woven items in a sort of patchwork effect.  Animal skins might also have been stitched together,  but they would have been very heavy indeed.

All very instructive.  I'm more than ever convinced that rafts or other vessels with sails could not realistically have been used 5,000 years ago to transport large lumps of bluestone from North Pembs all the way to the Somerset coast.  Neither the development of floating vessels,  ropes or sails had reached a sufficiently technologically advanced stage.

Friday, 9 March 2018

EH still in denial about glacial transport hypothesis

Another push today from EH on the bluestone haulage story, coinciding with another piece of wonderful "experimental archaeology" showing that if lots of people do the pulling, a large lump of stone can be gauled across a nice flat lawn.  One does get a bit weary of all this repetition, but I suppose that every now and the EH needs a Stonehenge headline in the media.  This time the pretext is the little experiment, and also the line (not at all new) that the pulling of the stones was more important than the building of the monument.  This is a standard MPP line.........

"English Heritage also thinks people may have gone on a kind of celebration pilgrimage to help construct the monument. "  So now we have the "bluestone pilgrimage"story,  involving either people from SalisburyPlain going off the Pembrokeshire to fetch their stones, or Pembrokeshire pilgrims, stone-laden, going on their own pilgrimage and heading east.  Stone bearing pilgrims -- nice idea, and east to market!  It's all about marketing.......

But why does Susan Greaney -- and EH -- find it impossible to even mention that there is a debate going on?  And why does she not admit that there is still no evidence for the human transport of the stones, a hundred years after the idea was first mooted?  This peddling of  "certainty" where there is none is bad science, and EH should not be involved in it.

It's also quite intriguing that the long-distance transport of sarsens is also accepted as fact by "most archaeologists) -- in spite of the fact that in the paper reviewed recently David Field and many others clearly have serious doubts about whether they really did come from the Marlborough Downs. Crossed lines somewhere?

Ironically, this latest press release comes on the same day as I have received an order for another 100 copies of  "The Bluestone Enigma"for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre -- so Mr and Mrs Public are obviously reading it in good numbers, and asking questions about the reliability or otherwise of the EH take on things.  It's to the eternal credit of EH that it does at least have my subversive tome on sale!


Building Stonehenge 'may have been ceremonial celebration'

Celebrating the building of Stonehenge may have been as important to Neolithic people as worshipping there

The arduous task of building Stonehenge may have been part of a ceremonial celebration, claim historians.

The circle in Wiltshire was built more than 4,000 years ago using bluestones from south Wales - a decision which has long baffled experts.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said they now believed that Neolithic people did not want to make "things as easy and quick as possible".

Building the monument was as important as "its final intended use," she added.

Experts have tried to discover why the people who built Stonehenge chose to use some stones from the Preseli Hills, about 155 miles (250km) away.

The stones were probably transported via water networks and hauled over land, using a huge amount of labour over the long and difficult journey.

Experts now believe the construction of the monument was just as important to Neolithic people as worshipping in it.

"In contemporary Western culture, we are always striving to make things as easy and quick as possible, but we believe that for the builders of Stonehenge this may not have been the case," said Ms Greaney.

English Heritage also thinks people may have gone on a kind of celebration pilgrimage to help construct the monument. The new theory follows the discovery of a feasting site at nearby Durrington Walls settlement, which attracted people from all over the country to help build Stonehenge.

Historians think holding ceremonial feasts close to the Stonehenge site to celebrate the build "was potentially a powerful tool in demonstrating the strength of the community to outsiders".

English Heritage believe this theory is backed up by a photograph taken during a stone-pulling ceremony on the island of Nias, Indonesia, in 1915.

It shows people in ceremonial dress "revelling in the seemingly arduous task of moving enormous monoliths by hand, taking part in feasts and associated dances".

Ms Greaney added: "As soon as you abandon modern preconceptions which assume Neolithic people would have sought the most efficient way of building Stonehenge, questions like why the bluestones were brought from so far away - the Preseli Hills of south Wales - don't seem quite so perplexing."

In order to test the celebration theory, English Heritage will begin moving a replica stone on Friday using teams of volunteers in an "experiential archaeology" project.

In a statement it said the aim was to see how Neolithic people may have cooperated to build the monument and suggests "visitors abandon 21st-century thinking to understand how the monument was built".

The first monument at Stonehenge was a circular earthwork enclosure with a ring of 56 timber or stone posts, built in about 3000BC.

This was replaced in about 2500BC with sarsen stones and smaller bluestones.

Most archaeologists believe the sarsen stones were brought from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles (32km) away. The sarsens weigh on average 25 tonnes, with the largest stone, the Heel Stone, weighing about 30 tonnes.

The smaller bluestone came from the Preseli Hills, 155 miles (250km) away in south-west Wales. The stones, which weigh between two and five tonnes each, were probably carried via water networks and hauled over land.

Source: English Heritage

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The cosmogenic dates for Rhosyfelin?

About 18 months ago I did a post on the topic of cosmogenic dating at Rhosyfelin -- reporting that samples had been taken and that Dr Derek Fabel of Glasgow University would be doing the analytical work and working out the exposure ages of the samples for Prof MPP.  There was also due to be some sampling work at Carn Goedog.

Since September 2016 there had been a thunderous silence. The dating work must have been done long since.  Could it be, I wonder, that the dates delivered were -- ahem -- rather inconvenient?    I wonder if they will ever see the light of day?

It will be recalled that NONE of the radiocarbon or other dates obtained from either site have supported the quarrying hypothesis, or the sequence of events that MPP might find satisfactory.  Could it be that the quarrying hypothesis is taking a nose-dive?  (All things that fly, and are inadequately supported, short of fuel, or badly designed, eventually take nose-dives.......)


Apologies to all who have sent in comments in the last couple of months only for them to disappear into the ether.  I have been doing some research at this end, and have found some "lost messages" in a box called "Pending"  -- which I never look at because it is the place where spam is dumped.  Normally, when a bona fide comment is posted, Blogger sends me an Email with the comment on it, and I approve it by clicking on a "publish" link.  For some reason I haven't been getting these Email notifications  -- I shall check with Blogger as to the reason for this.

Anyway, the ones I have found have now been posted -- I shall continue to search for others.  I wonder if I have been hacked?

The joys of technology.......

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

More on the Blessing Stone, St Dogmaels

In a previous post on this rather splendid glacial erratic near the shore of the Teifi estuary, I gave the standard interpretation of it, as given in assorted guidebooks and information display panels.

Wy wife and I went to have a look at it today, and I must say it is rather impressive.  It's very well abraded and weathered -- and the sides are so smooth and moss- and  lichen-covered that it's rather difficult to see what it's made of.  It's certainly igneous, but it doesn't look like spotted dolerite.  The rock colour is dark blue-grey, but there is a reddish tinge here and there.  I reckon it weighs at least 15 tonnes.  It's a strange shape too -- like a blunted three-bladed propellor or triskell.  Very different from the standard rectangular shape which we see on most erratics and cromlech capstones.  It has a nice little walled enclosure around it, which uis reputed to echo when you shout -- or even whisper -- when seated on the stone.

The nearby information panel tells us that the Blessing Stone was once the capstone of a destroyed cromlech -- the story is that the three boulders on the top of the  bank about 30m away are the fallen supporting stones. As far as I know, there has been no excavation here, and so there is no evidence of burials or other use.   The bottom photo in the sequence shows the situation -- the Blessing Stone is located about 6m below the grassy bank, directly behind the picnic bench. 

If there ever was a cromlech here, and the capstone fell off  it accidentally or through a deliberate act of destruction, it would have slipped down the bank directly, at the left edge of the photo.  

My own theory is that our heroic ancestors planned to build a cromlech here, put the supporting stones in place, and then tried to get the massive Blessing Stone up the bank made of till so that they could raise it into position.  But I think the task was beyond them -- the stone was just too heavy -- and so the cromlech was never completed. 

Another monument in which the aspirations of the builders were far in excess of their ability to finish the job.  Sounds familiar?

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Coygan Cave rhyolite axe

Found this fabulous image of the famous axe from Coygan Cave, near Laugharne.   Click to enlarge.

Made from rhyolite.  Which rhyolite?  Where from?  Assumed to be of Palaeolithic date -- and possibly Neanderthal........

Curator's Choice: Elizabeth Walker of National Museum Cardiff chooses a Stone Age axe

Elizabeth Walker interviewed by Chris Broughton | 01 February 2009 |Updated: 01 February 2011

Curator's Choice: In her own words... Elizabeth Walker, Curator of Palaeolithic & Mesolithic Archaeology at National Museum Cardiff talks about a Neanderthal hand axe made of rhyolite, which dates back to c. 60,000-35,000 BC.

"This is a hand axe found during excavations at Coygan Cave, near Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, in advance of the cave's destruction by quarrying in the 1960s. It is of a form typically made by a Neanderthal and was left at the cave with another similar tool sometime between 60,000 and 35,000 years ago.

Findings like this hint that Neanderthals may have lived in the Carmarthenshire area, but we have no evidence of their physical remains. The two axes we have were found near the wall of the cave, and it’s been suggested they were deliberately cached by their owners, who intended to return to the cave to use them on a future visit.

What happened to those owners is unknown, as we have no Neanderthal remains of this date from sites in Wales. It’s interesting to speculate, though. Perhaps they were passing through and sheltered in the cave for the night, before setting off down the valley the following morning to hunt big game.

This is a particularly good example of a Neanderthal hand axe. Real, true Neanderthal tools tend to be beautifully crafted, and very distinctive in their shape and form, quite unlike those made by their hominim ancestors. There’s a sense that this was made with a certain amount of pride.

The axe has been hewn out of a chunk of rhyolitic tuff. Typically, Neanderthal tools were made from flint, but there’s no good flint source in Wales, so the maker has had to use an alternative, locally available material.

Rhyolite isn’t as fine-grained as flint, and doesn’t flake in quite such a crisp way. As a result, this axe doesn’t have quite the same sharp flake scars you’d see on a tool made from a more siliceous stone. Even so, the maker has shown considerable skill in working this comparatively difficult material – the axe still has all the characteristics you’d usually expect to see in a tool of this type.

To begin with, the stone would have been knocked into shape using a hard, percussive hammer-like instrument, perhaps a pebble. The thinner, finer flakes would have been removed using a softer material such as bone or antler – you can really see the affect of that across the surface of the object.

Neanderthals are fascinating. They shared a common ancestor with us, yet they were an evolutionary dead-end and died out sometime after anatomically modern humans like ourselves entered Britain. It’s a very strange sensation to look at a tool made by a Neanderthal and consider that it was essentially made by a different species.

A lot of work has been done about the ways Neanderthals’ brains may have worked, and it is now thought that they had the capacity to express themselves through song. I’ve been working with a local composer, Simon Thorne, who has picked up on this idea and created a soundscape to play in the museum’s Origins gallery, in the area where we display the hand axe.

The idea was to provide an imagined landscape of what sounds a Neanderthal may have both made and heard, and I know Simon gained a certain amount of inspiration from handling this axe and visiting the caves like the one in which it was discovered."