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....
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Tuesday 27 October 2009

New search facility

Since this blog now has a lot of entries, I have added a search facility. Seems to work OK -- feel free to try it out!

Bluestones all over the place.....

Bluestone at Porthleven -- the Giant's Quoit

If we use the term "bluestone" as meaning anything that isn't sarsen (which is the only meaning we can give to the term) then of course we find bluestones all over the place. There are bluestones at Court Hill, in the glacial deposits; at Fremington, in glacial deposits; on the Scilly Isles; in fissures in the limestone on the Mendips; in the Bath area; at Stanton Drew; and as isolated boulders here, there and everywhere. Some of these have been incorporated into megalithic structures. Much more info is in the book! And I'm sure more info will emerge.

The Court Hill erratics could have come from the Gower (Carboniferous Limestone) or from the Vale of Glamorgan (Lias and Trias) or from the ORS which is very extensive in the Brecon Beacons and SE Wales. I'm not sure that anybody has done sufficiently detailed work on the erratics in the glacial deposits of SW England to decide on how far-travelled they are -- it's difficult with sedimentary rocks. (Just look at the long debate about the origin of the Altar Stone!)

Monday 26 October 2009

Erratics in glacial deposits at Court Hill

Ah -- discovered some info. The 24m sequence of tills at Court Hill contains erratics up to .5m -- as observed, That doesn't rule out larger erratics also, still buried in the deposits. Sources: Carboniferous Limestone, Pennant Sandstone, Carboniferous chert, Triassic Sandstone, Mercia Mudstone, Old Red Sandstone, Greensand chert and flint.

Much of this material could be fairly local, but of course these rock types are also represented in South Wales -- so could have been introduced from the South Wales valleys. No coal as far as I know!

What might the ice stream have carried?

Stones from the Brecon Beacons?

Thanks again, Ed. This is all very intriguing -- I really want the geomorphologists and glaciologists in on this. We do actually have a pretty mottley collection of stone types or provenances at Stonehenge -- 27 or so at the last count? Some of them are Preseli igneous rocks, but others aren't. There are some fragments still unidentified. And the Altar Stone is a pretty large erratic, identified by Kellaway a long time ago as coming from the Senni Beds in the Brecon Beacons -- and now that identification has been confirmed by other geologists too. So that must be one "South Wales" erratic carried southwards by Welsh ice and then eastwards by Irish Sea ice. Did all of this happen in one glacial episode, or two, or three? Still great problems and mysteries! I have touched on these in my book.

The best glacial deposits are at Court Hill, at the western edge of the Mendips -- tills 24m thick. I need to check out what the erratic assemblage is.

How tight were the bends in the ice movements? It's all speculation at the moment. As you might have observed, I have played about with a few variations on the theme, and am still none the wiser.....

Why no bluestones at Stanton Drew?

Thanks for the comment, Ed. This is all very hypothetical -- since we need hard evidence -- but I would speculate that the ice that passed north of the Mendips did not actually carry bluestones as we conventionally label them. These stones, from Pembs, including all the igneous stones, were transported South of the Mendips. I'll be interested to see what comes up re the geology of the Stanton Drew monuments.

Not sure I would agree that there is "ample evidence" of the Stonehenge bluestones having been used elsewhere prior to inclusion in the monument. Most of the markings etc could equally well be explained by constantly changing priorities -- with a limited number of stones being used here, there and everywhere as the designers and builders faffed about from one generation to another. Some lintels were later used as standing stones, and vice versa. The number of empty and intersecting sockets is truly amazing.

How important is Stanton Drew?

Been thinking about these ice streams again.

On checking up on Stanton Drew, I found another paper by Geoff Kellaway, published in the Survey of Bath and District No 17 (2002), called "Glacial and tectonic factors in the emplacement of bluestones on Salisbury Plain." There is a lot in the paper that I find difficult to accept. However, one thing is very interesting. He argues strongly that the bluestones which were used in the stone settings at Stonehenge were all stolen or removed from earlier stone settings -- monoliths, dolmens, long barrows -- as part of the Stonehenge enterprise. That would of course accord with the MPP theory of the Bluestonehenge stones being removed (with reverence or irreverence) from that place to Stonehenge itself. Geoff argues that the reason for this "stone stealing" was that the bluestones always were in short supply, and that they never had enough of them to finish the job (whatever that might have been....)

He thinks the Boles Barrow bluestone was "the one that got away" -- maybe because it was a bit too far from Stonehenge for the builders to bother with. He also thinks there were bluestones (large and small) all over the place, including the Stonehenge neighbourhood, the Cursus, the Boles Barrow area, and Normanton Barrows. He says that Cunnington found a piece of bluestone in the Normanton barrow that had previously been examined by Stukeley. He also reminded us of Cunnington's conclusion that "these pieces (of bluestone) were scattered about on the plain before the erection of the tumuli under which they have been found."

Interesting stuff! Bluestones from Pembs south of the Mendips, and other erratic assemblages to the north? Geoff refers to "the Stanton Drew moraine." I'd like to know what the evidence for that may be............. Geoff says that the ice that crossed the Stanton Drew site came from the NW -- it crossed Broadfield Down, eroding the Lower Lias. It carried boulders of Upper ORS from the Failand Ridge, and entrained masses of Triassic conglomerate and Lower Lias breccia from Winford and Felton, and also picked up slabs of Dundry Freestone. The builders of Stanton Drew used a litter of boulders of all these rock types -- they were opportunists and foragers who (naturally enough) simply wanted to minimise effort.

I'd like to get some other opinions on all of this..... if all of the Stanton Drew stones are demonstrably from the W and the NW, and none of them from other compass directions, then Geoff may be onto something here.

Sunday 25 October 2009

On the Bristol Channel Ice Stream

Thinking aloud (sort of) here -- and wondering whether we are starting to move towards a better understanding of what happened when the Anglian (??) Irish Sea ice stream came in from the west and penetrated the coastal zones of Devon and Somerset.

Look at the two maps above. The modelled ice streams have to match up with evidence on the ground -- insofar as it is reachable, given that in a later glaciation (Devensian) ice came out from the valleys of the Coalfield onto the Gower, the Vale of Glamorgan and even out into the area now covered by the sea, Those advances obliterated much of what was there before. But maybe Geoff Kellaway wasn't far wrong with his suggestion of three components to the ice stream?

In reply to Ed

Hi Ed

I agree with you that the term "bluestone" is the cause of endless trouble. Some archaeologists seem to think it is a petrographic term. It is not -- it is used loosely to refer to anything, in the context of Stonehenge, that happens not to be sarsen. Most of the stones are not even blue. We would be better off without it, but sadly we are stuck with it.

Re the curved line used on the map, I'm not sure what you mean by "exaggerate".......... of course it is a guess -- we really have no idea how the junction between Irish Sea ice and Welsh ice may have run from Pembrokeshire towards the coasts of Devon and Somerset. It may have been smooth, or it may have had "kinks" in it, caused by streams out ice coming out of the South Wales Valleys -- the Towy, Taf, the smaller valleys coming off the coalfield, and then the Usk. They all held glaciers. I hope that some new modelling from Dr Alun Hubbard and his colleagues in Aberystwyth might give some more clues on this.

Why don't we find bluestones all over SW England? That's not how glaciers work. Entrainment, transport and deposition of erratics is very spasmodic and difficult to predict -- it depends to a large degree on the thickness of the ice, how it streams, and what the bed conditions were like. But I'm coming gradually to the view that dear old Geoffrey Kellaway wasn't far wrong when he suggested that the ice stream travelling up the Bristol Channel might have had three components -- one to the south comprising Scottish and Bristol Channel erratics, one in the middle with erratics from Pembrokeshire, and one in the north with erratics from the Welsh uplands and the Midlands.

Saturday 24 October 2009

How entrainment happens

This diagram shows a particular set of glaciological circumstance that would explain why the bulk of erratics entrained into the Irish Sea Glacier appear to have been "plucked up" and carried off in the body of the glacier from the northern flanks of the Preseli hills (both the main ridge and Carningli-Dinas Mountain).

Richard Bevins is searching for other rhyolite outcrops that might match with rhyolite fragments found at Stonehenge -- I wouldn't mind betting that another source area will be found in or near Tycanol Woods..........

Another bluestone source identified

This is getting more and more interesting. There's an important revision to the article recently published by Mike Pitts in British Archaeology -- arising from the discovery of a rock outcrop at Pont Saeson, between Brynberian and Crosswell, which matches up with one or more fragments found in the Stonehenge digs. The authors refer to "rocks from undistinguished outcrops in the low ground north of Mynydd Preseli, close to Pont Saeson." This is important for a number of reasons:

1. It provides yet another example of entrainment from a very narrow zone (it seems to be about 3 km wide) which runs from Dinas Head SE towards Carningli, then to Carnedd Meibion Owen, Brynberian, Carngoedog and Foeldrygarn. This seems to confirm the thesis put forward by Lionel Jackson and myself in EARTH magazine at the beginning of this year -- namely that the entrainment of erratics has occurred along a very narrow contact zone, probably between Irish Sea ice and Welsh ice. Very soon I shall plot all these known sources on a map.

2. The authors stress that this bluestone source is not at all prominent -- just an undistinguished outcrop in a valley on the north flank of Preseli. This appears to be another nail in the coffin for the idea that stones were collected by Neolithic stone collectors from prominent hill masses that were "auspicious" or prominent in the landscape. Carn Clust-y-ci and Carn Llwyd, on the flank of Carningli, two other bluestone sources, are pretty unimpressive too. We must be talking here of glacial entrainment, not human collection.

3. The idea that some of the bluestones might have come from North Wales now appears to be unpopular again! Again, this makes glaciological sense -- if the stones at Stonehenge really are glacial erratics, then they should come from one source area or maybe from a number of sources approx on the same line, which was the route followed by the moving glacier.

British Archaeology
Important revision to Stonehenge bluestone theory
Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins

Thursday 22 October 2009

The Stonehenge Bluestones -- a problem for earth scientists?

Yesterday I gave a seminar in Aberystwyth University -- to a mixed group of undergraduates, research students and staff from various disciplines including glaciology, geography, geomorphology and geology. It was a good opportunity to explore some of my ideas with them, and to deal with questions and comments. Afterwards I had the chance to talk with Dr Alun Hubbard and his colleagues about the new modelling work they are doing -- with a view to refining the parameters and the "model-building" techniques allowed by modern computing power. It looks promising -- and Alun assures me that it should be possible, on the basis of a reasonably accurate map of ice limits in Southern England (from published sources relating to till / moraine localities) to work out what the glacier responsible might have looked like........

This is exciting -- and as I have said before, the problem of bluestone transport will not be solved by archaeologists, but by earth scientists. I hope my talk will have encouraged some of them to get involved, and to start looking at the field evidence that may help us to crack this particular nut.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Archaeologists beginning to shift?

there are some subtle indications that maybe the UK's senior archaeologists (or some of them, at any rate) are beginning to shift their ground on the matter of glacial transport and glacial erratics. In Mike Pitts's piece in British Archaeology he did at least mention the fact that some people believe that the bluestones were transported for most of the distance between their source areas and Stonehenge by glacier ice -- so that's progress. Mostly, in past comment columns, the glacial theory is not mentioned at all. Then, it is rumoured that MPP actually showed one of my maps of the glacier occupying the Bristol Channel, in his lecture last Saturday on "Bluestonehenge." He probably didn't go so far as to admit that the glacier theory has some merit -- but we are getting there.......

And the fact that English Heritage has allowed "The Bluestone Enigma" to be sold through the Stonehenge Visitor Centre is progress too!

Monday 12 October 2009

Response to post

Anonymous said...

"Richard and I have made no archaeological claim
we are just doing the petrography.
I long ago abandonned the transport problem as I have said for decades-find a true quarry site and the game is over until then a theories are just that.
I do not know who the stones arrived at Stonehenge and indeed try not to worry about that. It is an archaeological problem." Rob Ixer


Thanks for this, Rob.I appreciate why you and Richard would want to stick to the petrography, and to leave the debate about "transport systems" to others. It does get a bit hot at times! I also agree that the archaeologists are never going to provide definitive support for the human transport idea until they come up with some convincing evidence of a quarry site (or, more likely, given that we are dealing with around 25 different rock types) around 25 quarries! That looks increasingly unlikely -- and the Carn Meini "quarry", as the prime and favoured candidate, never has been at all convincing. But I part company with you on the statement that this is "an archaeological problem." This is far too important to leave to the archaeologists. That is why I am encouraging earth scientists to examine the geology, geomorphology and glaciology very carefully -- and to share their hypotheses in print. There is masses of evidence around the shores of the Bristol Channel, in SW England and around the Mendips -- it need to be reassessed and examined in the light of what we already know about glacier dynamics.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Mike Pitts on the Bluestones

Below I have pasted the article which is causing a great hullaballoo (how does one spell that word?) in archaeological circles. It was written by the Editor of British Archaeology. Mike Pitts, and was based in part of information provided by geologists Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins. Sadly, like all "popular" articles, it contains inaccuracies. Jim Scourse and Chris Green are geomorphologists, not geologists. Geoff Kellaway's Christian name is Geoffrey, not George. The "shift" of the key spotted dolerite location from Carnmeini (Carnmenyn) to Carngoedog is not new -- this was proposed long ago by the OU team which published its big report on the bluestones in 1991. And I will beg to differ with whoever said that the problem of how the stones were moved from their source areas to their locations on Salisbury Plain is "an archaeological problem." From where I stand, this is a problem that needs to be sorted by geomorphologists, glaciologists and geologists -- and this is increasingly apparent from the new evidence of multiple sources and multiple lithologies being represented in the bluestone assemblage of Salisbury Plain.


Missing Stonehenge circle did not come from Preselis
British Archaeology
November December 2009|7

A new theory about the Stonehenge
bluestones is set to divide geologists
and archaeologists, and open new
inquiries into how and why the famous
stones reached Stonehenge.
The site’s megaliths are traditionally
classed into two groups, sarsens (a local
sandstone) and bluestones. While the
former, at an estimated total weight of
1,700–1,800 tonnes, outscale the 250-
odd tonnes of the latter, the bluestones
have dominated debate. The issues of
where they came from and how they
reached Stonehenge, have polarised
into two widely divergent views:

•Most derive from the Preseli Hills
in Pembrokeshire, south-east Wales,
and were taken to Wiltshire by the
builders of Stonehenge around

•Alternatively, they come from a
variety of sources in south Wales, and
reached Salisbury Plain as glacial
erratics during the ice age, thousands of
years before Stonehenge was built.

Most prehistorians believe people
moved the stones. This was what
geologist Herbert Thomas proposed,
when he first identified the Preselis as
the origin in 1920: a view endorsed by
geologists including Christopher
Green and James Scourse, and recently
by archaeologists Timothy Darvill and
Geoffrey Wainwright, who claim to
have found quarry outcrops and “sacred
springs” at the source of the megaliths
around Carnmenyn.

Geologist George Kellaway
proposed in 1971, by contrast, that the
bluestones had been transported by a
glacier. This view has been supported
by archaeologist Aubrey Burl, and (in a
differing glacial interpretation) an
Open University team of geologists
including Olwen Williams-Thorpe.
Last year the latter wrote on a BBC
Timewatch blog that the bluestones
“are a rag-bag mix… from all over south
Wales”, and Brian John published The
Bluestone Enigma (see Books, page 55).

Now geologists Rob Ixer (University
of Leicester) and Richard Bevins
(National Museum of Wales) are
proposing a third option. They say
many bluestones came not from
Pembrokeshire, but from “a far wider
and, as yet, unrecognised area or more
likely areas” – perhaps north Wales
(Snowdonia, the Llyn Peninsula and
Anglesey), or even beyond. The wellknown
spotted dolerite, is a Preseli
rock, they say – but Carngoedog was
the likely source, not Carnmenyn.

These conclusions derive from a new
study of thousands of Stonehenge rock
specimens: from near the west end of
the Cursus earthwork (where a lost
bluestone circle has been proposed),
collected in 1947 and excavated by the
Stonehenge Riverside Project in
2006/08; and from Stonehenge,
excavated by Mike Pitts in 1979/80 and
Darvill and Wainwright in 2008.

The geologists also found the Cursus
bluestones, which are all rhyolitic and
mainly tuffaceous (with no Stonehenge
dolerites), had significant mineralogical
differences from visually similar rocks
at Stonehenge. The Darvill and
Wainwright excavation produced
significant amounts of a type of
rhyolite or rhyolitic tuff “not recorded
in north Pembrokeshire and noticeably
absent in the Mynydd Preseli area”.

How the stones were moved, Ixer
told British Archaeology, “is an
archaeological problem”, though he
wondered if “different groups [of
people] brought different stones?”
Ixer and Bevins’s detailed study will
be published in the 2009 Wiltshire
Studies. In WS 2006, Ixer and Peter
Turner suggested that the Stonehenge
Altar Stone (the largest bluestone)
came from an unidentified source far
from Milford Haven – the traditional
attribution said to indicate where the
Preseli stones were taken downriver
and out to sea by neolithic gangs.

Friday 9 October 2009

More on tribute stones etc

A small update. Apparently the piece in the journal wasn't actually written by Rob and Richard -- but by the Editor, Mike Pitts, on the basis of info provided. That may explain the emphasis on "the third option" and the reluctance to endorse the glacial erratic theory.......

But whoever wrote it, the article makes a very valuable contribution to the debate, and I appreciate the fact that Mike Pitts was willing to give space to it, given that some of his senior colleagues will not be best pleased.

Apologies to Rob and Richard for assuming that they wrote the piece (there was no attribution on it), and for originally assuming that their opinions may have been influenced by the people they were working for. Rob assures me that that was not the case, and of course I accept his assurances.

Above is a rough map that shows suggested ice movement directions of the two ice streams -- one sweeping south of the Mendips, and the other (with many more erratics from sources in southern Wales and the Marches) coming in towards Salisbury Plain from the NW. This will no doubt be replaced by better maps as the glacier modelling proceeds.

The Bluestones -- tribute stones, petrified ancestors, or simply erratics?

Rob Ixer has kindly sent a copy of the new article from British Archaeology -- entitled "Missing Stonehenge Circle did not come from the Preselis." This refers not to the "new" circle at the end of the Avenue, near the River Avon, but to another assumed missing circle at the far western end of the Cursus, where there has also been a lot of recent excavation. He and Richard Bevins have identified many rhyolite fragments from the digs in that area -- many of them apparently not from the Preseli area at all. They are not sure where the fragments have come from.......

Interestingly, Rob and Richard have not plumped for the glacial theory in preference to the human transport theory, but have suggested a third option, namely that the stones were carried to the Stonehenge area "by different groups of people." This has been suggested for a while by Mike Pitts and other senior archaeologists who have been trying to come to terms with the fact that the bluestones are from well over 20 different locations. The geologists say that the question of how the stones were moved is "an archaeological problem." I would disagree with that. It is a geomorphological/glaciological/geological problem -- in the solution of which archaeologists do not have much of a role.

So are these stones "tribute stones" or "dead ancestors"? In one scenario, Mike Pitts has suggested that the Stonehenge ritual landscape was so important across the UK, and the tribal groups that controlled the area were so powerful, that other tribal groups from far and wide travelled to Stonehenge with "tributes" in the form of large stones which could then be set up on the developing monument. It may have been required or expected of them, in view of their status as subservient tribes, acknowledging the power of their masters. A nice theory? Hmmm -- I'm not convinced. Sounds like special pleading to me -- and there is no evidence for this sort of thing ever having happened in the British Neolithic or Bronze Age, as far as I know. Also, we seem to be obtaining evidence now of stones and fragments of all shapes and sizes -- would these "tribute payers" have carried with them some big stones, some little ones, and a few flakes from here, there and everywhere? You could build up a mighty fantasy here -- and archaeologists will probably do just that. Another problem is that there seems to be no evidence of stones that have come from the east or south. If stones were brought to Stonehenge as tributes, one would have thought that they would be carried from east, west, north and south. So far as we know, they only come from the W and NW -- and that happens to be where the ice came from. No -- they still look like erratics to me.

The dead ancestors theory? That's even more wacky - and designed to bolster the Parker Pearson theory that Stonehenge was a place of the dead. He will probably argue that Stonehenge was a place where rituals were centred on ancestor worship and ceremonies designed to send the dead off to Paradise or some such place -- and that as this "ancestor" cult developed tribes came from tens and maybe hundreds of kilometres away, bearing with them the likenesses of their ancestors in the form of stone pillars, to be incorporated (with due ceremony) into Stonehenge. Sorry, but again this takes fantasy to absurd lengths. And again, why did these dead ancestors all come from the west, with none of them coming from the other points of the compass?

This is all ridiculously elaborate, and for my money the new evidence simply confirms that what we had on or near Salisbury Plain was an assemblage of glacial erratics, of all shapes and sizes, from many different locations, conveniently available for picking up and incorporation into the monuments of people who enjoyed working with stone.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Now the geologists join the fray

This is a major development, with two senior geologists presenting their evidence in print. The article is in the new edition of British Archaeology, dated 9th October. Needless to say, I feel very chuffed, and don't feel quite as lonely as I did yesterday!

Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins have studied thousands of rock specimens from recent excavations at Stonehenge. They conclude that many bluestones came not from Pembrokeshire, but from a far wider area, perhaps north Wales (Snowdonia, the Llyn Peninsula and Anglesey), or even beyond. The well-known spotted dolerite is a Preseli rock, they say – but the likely source was not Carnmenyn (where archaeologists have recently claimed to have found quarries) but nearby Carngoedog.

The photo above is of Carngoedog -- identified quite a long time ago as the most likely source of the majority of the spotted dolerites, but of course studiously ignored by Profs Darvill and Wainwright and most of the other key archaeologists working in the UK.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

More about ice on Salisbury Plain

Been looking at Alun's model again. There is a lot of controversy about it -- not least relating to the extensive ice shown over the uplands of Devon and Cornwall. Some people will not accept that there was ever any ice cover over dartmoor and Exmoor -- but other geomorphologists beg to differ. Personally, I have no problem with a cover of thin cold-based ice maybe 100-200m thick, moving very sluggishly -- the landscape effects will have been minimal.

It gets much more interesting when we look at Somerset and Wiltshire. The ice is shown as covering the site of Stonehenge -- again this would have been thin, sluggish ice. But I'm quite intrigued by the idea that there was a divergent ice flow over Somerset, with ice coming in from the west and then being split into two streams, one on either side of the Mendips. The southern stream, which (according to this model) reached its greatest extent near Yeovil and Sherborne, must have travelled from the NW towards the SE. The northern stream, affecting the Bath area and pressing down towards Stonehenge, would have moved approx WNW - ESE. The southern ice stream -- simply on the basis of reconstructed ice movement directions -- would have been the one most likely to have carried Pembrokeshire erratics. The northern one might have carried more material from Mid Wales and the Marches. That opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities relating to the origins of the "unknown" rock fragments that have been showing up in some recent digs on Salisbury Plain.

What is most interesting about this new work is that it pretty well confirms what dear Geoffrey Kellaway said almost 40 years ago -- and for which he has been vilified by senior archaeologists (not to mention geologists and geomorphologists) ever since.......

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Ice on Salisbury Plain

This is a new map kindly supplied by Dr Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University. It shows modelled ice thicknesses and ice limits for the time of the last glacial maximum, around 20,000 years ago. A lot of "ground truthing" has to be done, but the model is a pretty sophisticated one, and fits well with what we know for most of the ice covered area. What I hadn't spotted before (because the older maps did not have this level of detail)is the thickness of the ice over the Somerset coast (about 600m) and the fact that the ice surface contours curve around in the Bristol Channel because of the "blocking effect" of the Brecon Beacons and the other uplands of South Wales. Ice always flows perpendicularly to the directions of the ice surface contours; and this is exactly right for the postulated ice stream running over the Preseli Hills, eastwards up the Bristol Channel, and deep into the heart of Somerset.

Monday 5 October 2009

Bluestonehenge -- some science, much fantasy

The "official" press release relating to Bluehenge or Bluestonehenge has now been released by MPP and the National Geographic Magazine. There is some useful info in it, but what we have is the usual heady mix of small amounts of evidence, vast assumptions, and a great deal of fantasy. It's all here:

and here (with lots of pics):

Time to pour some cold water.

1. "The stones were removed thousands of years ago but the sizes of the holes in which they stood indicate that this was a circle of bluestones, brought from the Preseli mountains of Wales, 150 miles away." The evidence indicates nothing of the sort. There were only two fragments of spotted dolerite found on the site, and only nine stone holes have been found. If there were stones in all of the holes, they could just as well have been small sarsens. And as ever, the fairy tale of human transport is trotted out without a moment's hesitation and without a scrap of evidence.

2. "......the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier – they were dragged from Wales to Wiltshire 5,000 years ago." I have always suggested that the stones were on Salisbury Plain around 5,000 years ago -- and indeed they were there (because they were glacial erratics) many thousands of years before that. But where is this evidence of dragging over this great distance? There isn't any.

3. ".....another 56 Welsh bluestones were erected at Stonehenge itself (in the decades after 3000 BC)" Again, sheer fantasy. Because it is assumed that there are 56 Aubrey Holes, it is assumed (on the basis of virtually no evidence) that all of them held bluestones.

4. "Archaeologists know that, after this date, Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones...." With all due respect, they know nothing of the sort. Where is the evidence?

5. "....a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new stone circle." Fantasy again -- there is no evidence.

6. "They (the stone holes) compare exactly with the dimensions of the bluestones in the inner oval at Stonehenge." But the bluestones vary enormously in their dimensions -- some are slim and tall, others are short and stumpy, and others are more like slabs. In those circumstances, the sockets for those stones also vary widely in their dimensions. This is slack thinking.

7. "Around 2500 BC the bluestones were re-arranged in the centre of Stonehenge and numbered about 80 stones. Where did the extra 24 or so stones come from? We think we know the answer!" All fantasy -- it has never been shown that there were 56 bluestones in the Aubrey Holes, or 80 stones in the later bluestone settings, let alone 24 stones in the newly discovered Bluestonehenge.

Oh dear -- when will archaeologists learn not to allow their instinct for fantasy to run miles ahead of the established facts? I hoped that we would have some sound science here -- there is evidence of careful work and interesting findings, but sadly, what we have (yet again) is a wild story meant for the mass-market "pop science" media........ Should we blame the National Geographic? I don't think so. If the senior archaeologists involved in this dig can't control what is said about it, they deserve a good drenching by all the cold water that some of us might pour on them.

Sunday 4 October 2009

MPP denies media manipulation

Mike Parker Pearson has gone on the record to say that he did not do any media manipulation here -- the story was written up and published by the Daily Mail without his knowledge, and then picked up by other parts of the media. He says he wanted to wait until the end of the year, by which time some "facts" might be available -- eg radiocarbon dates etc.

So somebody did "leak" the story -- or maybe it was written by somebody who had a guided tour of the site and picked up enough info to do the piece.

A fine storm in a teacup. But with the National Geographic involved, and a "ratings war" between Timewatch and Time Team, with Nat Geog Mag involved as well, there is bound to be media management, press manipulation etc all the time. So MPP should not be too aggrieved if not everybody works to some carefully managed schedule that he happens to approve -- you make your bed and you lie in it.

Fuss about Bluehenge

Fine fun and games just now about a supposed "leak" which has led to articles about "Bluehenge" in the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and across much of the internet as well. Once a story is out, it's out.......

This isn't a leak -- just a piece of typical news management by Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues. We can expect more over the coming months -- well in advance of the "official" or published version of the research and the discoveries, which is supposed to follow in the spring of 2010.

Bluehenge is supposed to be a smaller circle close to the river bank at West Amesbury, at one end of the Avenue. At the other end is Stonehenge itself. According to the "leak", the circle was made entirely of bluestones, and was about 60 ft across. None of the bluestones are left, so they were supposedly moved to Stonehenge, and used there in various stone settings. That assumes that Bluehenge was actually finished, and was then dismantled -- we'll reserve judgement on that, and see if there is any evidence to support the idea. According to the press reports, fragments of spotted dolerite have been found, confirming the idea that the stones were all bluestones rather than sarsens. Again, we'll reserve judgement. No geology has been done on the fragments yet, so far as we know.

There is every reason to assume that bluestones of all types were used in all sorts of stone settings, all over Salisbury Plain.

Those of us who believe that the stones are glacial erratics have been saying this all along........