Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click

Monday, 10 May 2021

Alpine landscapes -- Greenwich Island


Greenwich Island in the South Shetlands group has rather spectacular alpine landscapes, with very intensive glaciation still under way.  And yet we see fragile stacks and rocky pinnacles very close to the shoreline.  An interesting juxtaposition and one of the stranger characteristics of glaciation -- effective landscape protection and dramatic landscape change right next door to one another.

This is one of the areas in which we worked with the naval helicopters in 1966.

Vestfirdir -- the west fjords -- Iceland


Here are some fabulous images of the fjord landscape of Vestfirdir, which I first visited in 1960 and where we had a big project in the 1970's.  Flat-lying basalts have been sculpted during a succession of intensive glacial episodes, and the west-facing fjord troughs are truly spectacular.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Iceland satellite image

 This is one of the most striking satellite images I have ever seen -- it's from Apple Maps, and shows Iceland as it appears with a sprinkling of snow in the high mountains and on upland plateaux in the north.  The ice caps in the south are very clearly shown, and when you zoom in all sorts of landscape features are shown with remarkable clarity, enhanced by the subtle colourings.

Friday, 30 April 2021

River Boyne log boats

One of the recent images of a log boat almost 3m long and about 60 cms wide.  

There has been more recent coverage of the discoveries of log boats in the mudbanks of the River Boyne near Drogheda.  Of course, Newgrange is not far away  -- so the temptation is to say that the log boats are somehow connected, and that they must be Neolithic in age.  Maybe they were used for the transport of stones?

However, expert opinion seems to be that of the 20 log boats found thus far, the majority are likely to be of medieval age, probably occupied by a single paddler for crossing the river or fishing.  Work is ongoing, and it will be interesting to see whether any of them can actually be dated to the Neolithic or Bronze Age.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Banc Llwydlos passage grave number one


The previously described Banc Llwydlos passage grave, seen from the closed end -- which is probably where the burial chamber was located.  This is about 450m away from the Banc Llwydlos "village",  to the NW.  About 40m away from this passage grave is the strange "ruined cromlech" with the massive dolerite slab resting on a small boulder and another cantilevered slab........

Grid reference:  SN 08746 33223.

Banc Llwydlos -- another passage grave?


Yet more features from Banc Llwydlos.  At this location the old maps show "hut circles", but on my visit today I was only convinced by ONE circle or oval on the west bank of a northward-flowing stream.  It's quite a distinctive feature which others have interpreted as one small circle and another larger one.  The embankment is easily distinguished, made of boulders and smaller stones which are largely turf-covered -- and therefore difficult to photograph.  The maximum diameter is about 22m -- far too large to be a hut circle.  So I'll call it a ring cairn or embanked circle.  There was no obvious "entrance" to be seen.  Location SN 09303 33114.

Of greater interest is a rather indistinct feature to the west of the "circle" made of two more or less parallel embankments about 50 - 60 cm high and obviously cored by boulders and stones.  Each bank is about 1m wide, and the elongated hollow between the two banks is about 1m wide. The southern end is closed off, and at the northern end, about 8m away, there is an area of irregular mounds and hollows which may be made of material taken from an entrance portal or maybe from a mound that existed at one time.  My instinct is to classify this feature with the other three passage graves already known from this area of moorland.  It's not as spectacular, but in scale and orientation (opening to the north) it looks as if it might be part of a family..........  Grid ref:  SN 09285 33102.


Friday, 23 April 2021

South Pembrokeshire pipeline research

This looks interesting -- at long last, the results of the survey work undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology along the rote of the gas pipeline installed in 2005-2007 between Milford Haven and Tirley in Gloucestershire. I'm most interested in the Pembrokeshire bit of the 317 km route. The book (in which Tim Darvill is the lead author) is published by Oxbow at £20.  From the published summary of the book:

Timeline is a synthesis of the results and covers over 10,000 years of human history, from at least the Mesolithic period to the beginnings of industrialisation. Pipelines by their very nature provide a thin slice across the contemporary landscape and present opportunities to explore past landscapes in areas not usually affected by commercial development. They often provide new and complementary information to existing knowledge that challenges our preconceptions of the past – where people lived and the routine of daily life. Ken Murphy (Dyfed Archaeological Trust) writes about Iron Age settlement in upland areas, Andrew David (formerly Historic England) and Prof Tim Darvill (Bournemouth University) report on Mesolithic and Neolithic activity (the latter including the discovery of a new henge monument), and Heather James (now retired) focusses on Early Medieval farming and diet. Seren Griffiths provides a radiocarbon chronology based on Bayesian analysis for many of the key sites, and James Rackham has written a synthesis of the past environment. Jonathan Hart sets the scene and provides discussion. The project produced large datasets and the book is a gateway to a significant online resource that can be explored at CA Archaeological Reports website (keyword search: South Wales Gas Pipeline).

It's one of my great regrets that when the pipeline work was under way, I was too preoccupied with writing my Angel mountain books to keep an eye on the open trench across the landscape.  I suspect that it would have told us a great deal about the Pleistocene deposits in the inland parts of Pembrokeshire......