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Friday, 4 December 2009

Hobgoblin musings


This simple map shows the locations of the bluestones and the sarsens on the site today. Missing stones everywhere -- if they were ever there in the first place.....

On another blog site, a fellow who calls himself "Hobgoblin" has been examining the implications of the latest geology findings by Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins. This is the site:

http://thehobgoblin.blogspot.com/2009/11/new-stonehenge-bluestone-mystery.html

And this is his commentary:

"So where does this leave the bluestone transportation debate?


The Stonehenge sarsens, the largest used in the Great Trilithon estimated at 50 tons, were brought 25 miles from the Marlborough Downs, which was a significant achievement in its own right. Transporting 4 ton bluestones 160 miles by human effort from South Wales to Salisbury Plain certainly seems plausible. There were also a small number of limestone blocks and slabs used in the construction of Stonehenge brought to the site for the specific purpose of packing material to support the much larger sarsen uprights. The limestone quarries have been identified as Chilmark, 12 miles west, and 3 miles southeast at Hurdcot.

The number of different rock types found amongst the bluestone group at Stonehenge is cited as significant evidence of glacial deposits, with debate continuing for the location of the exact quarry sites seen as the basic flaw in the argument for human movement of the bluestones, in other words identifying the quarry site(s) will prove the human agency method. According to Ixer & Bevins's revision statement were are still looking at Preseli as the geological provenance for the majority of bluestone. Anyone familiar with the Preseli mountains will be aware that there is ample loose bluestone over a number of peaks in the mountain range and would therefore not need to be quarried but pieces the appropriate size simply collected with minimal effort for use in the monument requiring later minimal dressing prior to erection. The bluestone constructions at Stonehenge were built and rebuilt maybe as many as five times over a 400 year period. We do not know if all the bluestones were brought at the same time, but it is quite conceivable that different working parties, possibly generations apart, collected from different sites in the Preseli mountains. As Rob Ixer told BA, had “different groups [of people] brought different stones?”

As Anthony Johnson states in his recent work on Stonehenge:

“...as there appear to be so relatively few bluestone finds outside Stonehenge and its immediate environs, with no extensive distribution across the Plain or its river valleys, a glacial derivation is considered unlikely. The glaciation theory has to address why the people building the earliest stone monument appear to have selected only exotic stones; if Salisbury Plain had been littered with a variety of rocks, including local sarsen, was the intention to gather material suitable to build the first stone circle, or primarily an exercise in prehistoric field geology?

It is far easier to envisage the bluestones collected at the source (i.e. where they outcrop), than to see them as having been selectively chosen from the surrounding landscape. There is a another important point to consider here: whilst a variety of large exotic rocks and even hammer-stones and mauls was used in the packing of the sarsen uprights, implying that stone for this purpose was in short supply, none was bluestone; had it been generally present within a local glacial assemblage it would undoubtedly have been collected and utilised.” [1]

It would appear the building materials for Stonehenge were carefully selected from various sources for specific purposes, far from being a “rag bag mix of glacial erratics”.


With all due respect, Mr Hobgoblin, I think I have to part company with you on a great deal of that. Some people may think the sarsens were transported 25 miles from the Marlborough Downs, but I certainly don't, and nobody has ever produced evidence in support of that theory. Pure speculation. And to use that as a basis for saying "Well, if they could do that, then moving little bluestone blocks from Wales would have been easy" is to get into circular reasoning territory. To say that the Preseli area was littered with blocks which could be "simply collected with minimal effort for use in the monument" is sheer fantasy. You are talking about incredibly rough terrain, dense woodland, bogs, steep slopes, and fast-flowing streams -- this terrain was vastly different from the gentle grasslands of Salisbury Plain. And I disagree with Anthony Johnson -- there is no evidence that the builders of the earliest stone settings at Stonehenge only used "exotic" stones (bluestones). We do not know that. At least two of the bluestones were sandstones -- left as stumps now under the turf. We only have traces of 43 "exotic" bluestones. Those who want there to have been 80 or more have to explain where all the others are -- I have argued in my book that they may not have been there -- ever. Even if they were present at one time, it is likely that they were small sarsens, maybe later removed and incorporated into later stone settings, or used as lintels in the sarsen circle or on the trilithons.

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