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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Thursday 19 November 2009

When was the GBG?

Because the stratigraphy in many of the key sites in Somerset and Avon is difficult to interpret (and difficult to date, in spite of a plethora of modern techniques) the date of the glacial and fluvio-glacial deposits is a matter for conjecture. The latest thinking seems to be that the GBG (Greatest British Glacation) occurred in Oxygen Isotope stage 16 -- ie about 650,000 years ago. That places it before the Devensian Glaciation (the last glaciation, which peaked about 20,000 years ago) and even before the "Anglian Glaciation" -- and puts it into a period known as the Cromerian in the UK. That was a long period of oscillating climate which may have included several glacial and interglacial episodes.

The two maps above show (above) the "conservative" ice limit -- which is certainly too conservative, since we know of glacial traces outside it -- and (below) the "extreme" limit that seems, on present evidence, to accord best with the glaciological modelling. But on this map, there is a lot of "ground truthing" to be done -- ie it must, if it is to withstand scrutiny, be matched up with field evidence of erratics and maybe other ground features. Best of all, some sections have to be discovered in Somerset in which the stratigraphy of glacial and non-glacial deposits can be examined. Watch this space.....

Monday 16 November 2009

Where are the geomorphologists?

Salisbury Plain -- glaciated or not?

I still count myself as a geomorphologist, although I retired from teaching the subject many years ago. Seeking to understand the lumps and bumps, dips and dales in the land surface is still a fascinating business, and I have tried -- over the past three years or so -- to apply the principles of geomorphology to sorting out the "bluestone question." I should have thought that professional geomorphologists -- and there are plenty of them -- would have been jostling to get in their comments on the bluestone debate. OK -- they have lots to do on the teaching front, and they all have their own pet research projects to follow through -- but surely the bluestone mystery is one of THE great mysteries which has still has to be answered? And it's a classic one in which the earth sciences -- in this case geology, geomorphology and glaciology -- have a huge amount to offer, as against the fanciful theorizing of the archaeologists. We do actually have evidence on the ground, as I have tried to point out in the book and on this blog. But those geomorphologists who have had something to say (including James Scourse, David Bowen and Chris Green) have strangely simply put up the shutters and said "No glaciation on Salisbury Plain. End of story." -- without using their critical faculties to address the manifold shortcomings of the human transport theory. Can it be that they -- like the archaeologists -- are simply afraid of rocking the boat?

Saturday 14 November 2009

The Bluestone Enigma -- the video

I put this little video onto the site in the Spring -- here it is again if anybody hasn't seen it. It's on YouTube, but the quality leaves much to be desired. It makes many of the key points of my argument -- very briefly indeed. If you need more info, you'll have to buy the book, or work through some of the entries on this blog!

Stonehenge Disloyalty

I've been getting a fair bit of stick on one of the other discussion sites on the grounds that I have shown a "lack of respect" to Stonehenge by calling it a tumbledown old ruin, an unfinished jerry-built disaster and various other things. Apparently I am supposed to show it due reverence, and to accept that it is a masterpiece of ancient engineering with wondrous spiritual qualities.........

I'm constantly intrigued that for some, Stonehenge is not just an icon but also something akin to an altar or a cathedral. OK, people can invest Stonehenge with whatever degree of sanctity they choose, but I part company with them when they say that it is somehow disrespectful -- and maybe sacriligious -- to ask serious questions about how it was built, how the stones were transported, and whether it was ever actually finished. And to talk about glaciers and erratics is somehow to question at a fundamental level man's capacity for original thinking, his aspirations and his technical abilities -- and even his spirituality. The epic story of the Neolithic tribesmen targetting and fetching all those bluestones from Wales has taken on a sort of religious significance, and is invested with the same sort of assumed truth that fundamentalist Christians apply to the books of Genesis and Exodus. People WANT to believe it. And when I come along and question the fundamentals of their belief system, they become FURIOUS!!! Strange old world...... a world in which rational assessments of evidence become all but impossible.

Friday 6 November 2009

Bluestones everywhere

Normanton Barrows from the air

I've been reminded that there are many other bluestone occurrences on Salisbury Plain besides those mentioned in the last post. In the big OU study published in 1991 there are about 30 mentions of bluestone fragments / flakes / pieces found in locations outside Stonehenge. Among the barrows mentioned are Amesbury 51, Amesbury 4, Amesbury 39,Stoke 28, Heytesbury 1 (Boles Barrow), Lake, Winterbourne Monkton, Cursus, Fargo Plantation, and about 20 fragments mentioned by Julian Richards. Some fragments appear to be flakes from axes, but many are not. Included are spotted dolerites, rhyolites, unspotted dolerites, diorite, granodiorite and other bits unidentified. Much work is still to be done on these fragments and pieces. Are they all related to the working of bluestones at Stonehenge? That's very doubtful indeed -- as it is also doubtful that the fragments are all bits or roadstone or "surface litter." Many of the pieces are in barrow soil or fill -- and are not in positions where they might be placed if they were being treated with reverence because of some special "quality."

I think we are beginning to answer those who keep on saying "If the bluestones are erratics, why aren't there bluestones all over the place on Salisbury Plain?" Well, there apparently ARE bluestones all over the place........

Bluestone scatter on Salisbury Plain......

I reported earlier on Geoff Kellaway's conviction that there is (or was) a scatter of bluestones and bluestone fragments (of all sorts) on Salisbury Plain. I've seen a number of references lately to bluestone fragments in the Normanton Barrows complex to the SW of Stonehenge. Now I came across this, in Julian Thomas's 1999 book "Understanding the Neolithic." On p 179 he says: "... bluestone fragments in several Beaker and Early Bronze Age graves, such as Amesbury 51 and Fargo Plantation........ and Amesbury 4......"

Does anybody know anything about these fragments?

The other sandstones

With ref to the recent discussion on the Altar Stone, I just recalled that there are 2 (at least) other sandstone monoliths in the bluestone circle at Stonehenge -- numbered 40g and 42c. They are conveniently forgotten about, because they are just represented as stumps, buried beneath the turf and now no longer visible.

Where have they come from? Well, four sandstone fragments (that may or may not be linked directly to these stumps) have been examined by Dr RG Thomas, Dr Rob Ixer and Dr Peter Turner -- and it turns out that they are not the same as the Altar Stone sandstone, and not from the Cosheston Beds. They may be Silurian sandstones, from western Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion or mid-Wales.

Thursday 5 November 2009

More thoughts on ice movement

(This map has been tweaked since the original posting. I had the ice-shed over Mid Wales too far to the east. I have now shifted it westwards, closer to the Cardigan Bay coast -- which of course wasn't there at the time.......)

I'm still waiting to see how the models of the Greatest British Glaciation (GBG) turn out, but I'm more and more convinced that the contact zone between the Welsh Ice and the Irish Sea ice must have had "waves" or wobbles in it. As the Irish Sea Ice was thinning on its way up the Bristol Channel, I think it would have been pressurized by the sheer weight of ice coming off the Welsh Uplands -- the mid Wales plateau and the Brecon Beacons. The ice would have been flowing fastest in the main troughs -- the valleys of the Tywi, Tawe, Neath, Rhondda, Cynon, Taff, Usk and Wye. A vast amount of ice must also have poured over the interfluves. This must have pushed the contact zone out from the present coastline of South Wales.......

This is a suggestion, but may explain the relative paucity of Irish Sea Till on the coasts of Gower and in the vale of Glamorgan. On the map the black line is the reconstructed ice limit for the last (Devensian Glaciation) which is not really relevant for the GBG except insofar as it shows where the main outlet glaciers were. The red arrows show Welsh Ice movement directions; the orange arrows show the movement of Irish Sea Ice; and the suggested contact zone is shown in blue.

At various stages of the glaciation the pressure of Welsh ice may have pushed the Irish Sea ice even further to the south.

The entrainment zone which I have postulated for the Dinas Head - East Preseli area may just have operated for a short time -- maybe that was displaced also at the peak of glaciation, with or without any entrainment going on.

Comments, anybody?

Wednesday 4 November 2009

New map of suggested ancient glaciation

This map was made for an article by Lionel Jackson and myself in Earth Magazine -- strangely, the colours have gone mad. And the key has disappeared. Never mind -- you can still see the postulated ice cover, the postulated erratic train transportation route, and the Mynydd Preseli source area for some (indeed the majority) of the bluestones for which we still have physical evidence at Stonehenge.

Some of the evidence for glacial traces in the South-West is to be found here:

The references to the relevant scientific papers are in the book!

Who wrote the script?

Been pondering on who might have written the script for that Hidden Histories programme (or at least, that bit of it which dealt with the Presely / Stonehenge link). I've concluded that it was written by somebody who was not familiar with the Stonehenge literature, or with the debate about the origins and transport of the bluestones. There was such an emphasis on the "ground-breaking" nature of these "exciting revelations" from our friend Wainwright that this must have been written by a publicist or public relations person working for the Royal Commission. Or was the script written by Wainwright himself? I wonder....

In case you missed it.......

One of the supposed "healing springs" at Craig Talfynydd. The rock here is not blue (even when fresh), and is not spotted dolerite.

That programme is on BBC iPlayer, here:

Frankly, I'm amazed that Dr Toby Driver and the Royal Commission should have allowed themselves to be suckered into involvement in that programme, and to have apparently signed themselves up to all that rubbish about sacred springs and healing stones, quarries, sledges and rafts. Are they incapable of independent thought, and so in awe of senior academics that they are incapable of noticing that there is not actually any EVIDENCE to support anything that Prof Wainwright said to the camera? Sheer fantasy, from top to bottom.

"New light from the Preseli Hills...." ?? Nonsense.
"... 80 bluestone monoliths...." ?? Nonsense.
"... we know the precise outcrop..." ?? Nonsense.
"Evidence of quarrying lies all around..." ?? Nonsense.
"...a number of springs are known to this day as having medicinal properties..." ?? Nonsense.
"Quite common for monuments to be built of stone from elsewhere..." ?? Nonsense.
And the Banc Du settlement? What on earth has that got to do with bluestones or Stonehenge? Nothing at all.

Here is a link to the Banc Du description:

Oh dear oh dear. This is getting tiresome.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Oh dear oh dear........

That programme on BBC2 Wales -- Prof Wainwright talking to Toby Driver, going over all that tired old stuff again. Bluestone quarry at Carn Meini, blue rock, sacred springs, sledges and rafts, and all the rest of it. No questions, no uncertainty -- just pontification. I'm surprised that the Royal Commission allowed itself to be swept up in all that nonsense without demonstrating at least some capacity for critical thought. A lot of what was said was demonstrably untrue -- and the commentary was appallingly reverential and portentious. I'm also surprised that Richard Edwards, who is generally a good and careful film-maker, should have allowed all that Wainwright fantasizing to go out on air without any of it being questioned. Just goes to show how the media just LOVES a wacky story -- and to hell with the truth.

The Key to Stonehenge

Tonight (3 Nov) at 7.30 on BBC Two Wales -- the first part of a new series on Hidden Histories. Made with the cooperation of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments............. The first part deals with the Preseli-Stonehenge connection -- the advance blurb says that the programme will reveal how the key to Stonehenge lies in the Preseli Hills. Hmmm -- I wonder what we will get? Not more Darvill-Wainwright fantasy, I hope......

Monday 2 November 2009

Suggested bluestone entrainment zone

This is a suggestion for the alignment of the "entrainment zone" along which erratics seem to have been entrained into the ice prior to transportation towards Somerset and the Salisbury Plain. Note that the strip (a probable contact zone between Irish Sea Ice and Welsh Ice) is only 2-3 km wide. From what the geologists are telling us, all of the likely sites from which erratics have been picked up by the ice are within this strip. I'll try to create a map which shows exactly where these known sites are. Watch this space.......

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Met a lady today who has just been on a visit to Stonehenge -- she reported that she was very surprised to see my "Bluestone Enigma" for sale there, quite prominently displayed. Well that's heartening! Of course I knew it was there, but I had deep suspicions that it might have been kept in a deep cupboard somewhere, to prevent the public from encountering unorthodox and even polluting ideas from somebody who talks of glaciers and erratics rather than heroic tribesmen and Neolithic engineering. So -- credit where credit is due.....