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Friday, 25 December 2009

Those undistinguished outcrops


Carn Llwyd, not far from the coast and above the town of Newport. This little outcrop is so insignificant that if you are a few hundred metres away you hardly notice it at all. It is well down the slope on the northern flank of Carningli.

Happy Christmas everybody!! Escaping from the grandchildren for a few minutes, while the turkey cooks to a turn, I retired to the sanctuary of my study and pondered on undistinguished outcrops. It's worth flagging up again just how significant the new findings from Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins are. The new discoveries from the source area of many of the Stonehenge bluestones suggests not only that the stones were not preselected by rock type (ie nobody went out hunting for spotted dolerite) but that they were also not preselected from prominent outcrops. The idea that the stones were taken from Carn Meini (a) because the crags were made of the mystical or magical spotted dolerite which reminded the gatherers of the night sky, or which had healing properties; and (b) because the crags were prominent on the skyline, and were therefore treated with awe or invested with great significance, is now shown more than ever to be pure fantasy. The stones are not just made up of many different lithologies (some of which, like volcanic ashes, are soft and crumbly) but they also come from some places which are not at all prominent in the landscape. Examples of such source areas are Carn Clust-y-ci and Carn Llwyd near Newport, and Pont Saeson near Brynberian. At the latter place there are no prominent rock outcrops at all -- just some exposures of bedrock on the flanks of a wide river valley.

Unless anybody can dream up some wildly wacky reason for stones to be gathered up from such a place and dragged all the way to Stonehenge, we might as well dispense with the human transport theory once and for all, and concentrate on the REAL problems -- ie

(1) what were the glaciological conditions responsible for the entrainment, transport and dumping of the stones?

(2) exactly when did this happen? and

(3) where were the stones dumped, and how far did they need to be carried from their "discovery points" to the Stonehenge monument?

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Key source of info:
British Archaeology
news
Important revision to Stonehenge bluestone theory

In the News pages of the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of British Archaeology, it is reported that new petrographical work by Rob Ixer (University of Leicester, Department of Geology) and Richard Bevins (National Museum of Wales) had suggested that some of the Stonehenge bluestones had not come from Pembrokeshire, but (in Ixer's words) from "a far wider and, as yet, unrecognised area or more likely areas". As the magazine was being printed, however, Bevins was out in the field, and found an apparent source for the rocks in question north of the Preselis. Ixer and Bevins have kindly written this interim note on this latest development.

Stilpnomelane-bearing rhyolites/rhyolitic tuffs at Stonehenge are most probably from the Preseli Hills region.
by Rob Ixer & Richard Bevins

".......rocks from undistinguished outcrops in the low ground north of Mynydd Preseli, close to Pont Saeson".
"...... but a search for their associated source rocks must no longer be restricted to the prominent outcrops on the Preseli Hills."

http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba109/interim.shtml

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