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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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.

1 comment:

Hugo Jenks said...

Hello Brian

There is a fascination with the question of "how" the bluestones were moved, as you point out. With minimal (or no) evidence, then all manner of strange ideas can be inserted.

I do like your methodical approach to the matter, and have read your book with great interest. Your arguments come across as highly plausible. I am not a geologist, so cannot easily comment on the details of your argument, but it is obvious that a huge mass of moving ice has the ability to move large blocks of stone along large distances.

Interesting that the Time Team programme showed a number of parallel gullies, which so happened to coincide with the direction of the Stonehenge Avenue, carved by natural processes. It was described in the programme as "rather worrying"!

For me, the question of "why" is even more fascinating than the "how" question. Why did they build these structures? Whether or not the stones were lying around in the vicinity, or had to me moved many miles, it still requires a level of organisation and motivation to do it.

As you know, I have been particularly drawn to Stonehenge at the Sarsen phase. By examining its form, I have developed some ideas relating to its function at that phase. How that ties in with the earlier bluestone phase (Q and R holes), I have yet to investigate. I do not have sufficiently accurate plans, and the original excavations have not given a complete picture anyway, making the task problematic.

A video outline of my thoughts is on YouTube, with the title "Stonehenge Astronomical Observatory". Note that this theory purely makes use of the Sarsens (the circle and the trilithons), not the bluestones, nor the Aubrey, Y, Z, Q or R holes, nor the Heel stone. "Keep it simple"!

Going back to the idea of bluestones in Aubrey holes: I do have problems with this. As far as I am aware, there is no accurate date for when the Aubrey holes were actually dug. All we would need would be a sample of antler pick, which could be radiocarbon dated. I do have an additional theory, which I aired on the Eternal Idol blog. It was not received with enthusiasm, shall I say!

I have noticed something quite fascinating, to do with the shape: A remarkable number of the Aubrey holes (about half of them) pretty much line up radially with the Y and Z holes, and with the uprights of the Sarsen circle. To me this seems just too much of a coincidence. It has the implication that the Aubrey holes were associated with the Y and Z holes, and that suggests furthermore that they were of the same date. The Y and Z holes have been reasonably reliably dated to some seven centuries AFTER the Sarsens were erected. (It also does not invalidate my observatory theory. It was probably a very different culture by that date, probably not so interested in observing the sky.)

So if my Aubrey hole date theory is correct, it would make even more of a nonsense of the official bluestone theory.

I have described all of this in my book. Did I sent you a copy? I cannot now remember.