THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click
HERE

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Stonehenge -- less excavated than you might think



Recently I have come across these two fantastic maps of Stonehenge -- one larger scale than the other -- showing the existing stones, the missing stones, and the excavated area. The maps were made by Juris Ozols and Alex Down, and I'm grateful for permission to share them on this site. they are also on the Eternal Idol web site:
http://www.eternalidol.com/?p=6398&cpage=1#comment-41706

To quote Dennis Price: "Well, thanks to the hard work and generosity of spirit of Juris Ozols and Alex Down, you can now see these details for yourselves, as shown in the larger diagram above, and the relative ‘close up’ below."

There is a lot to discuss here -- but perhaps the most interesting thing of note is that half of the site has NEVER been excavated. That's the half where more than 20 standing stones are assumed to have been, without any proof whatsoever for that assumption. This is of course part of my reasoning when I say that Stonehenge never was finished -- and that it was a triumph of expectation and imagination, but a failed building project. Why? because, as I have often said before, the builders simply ran out of stones.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's rather circular reasoning to assume the project wasn't finished just because it has not been fully excavated; "because we haven't looked for it, it cannot have been there!" And what's more there is ample sarsen still lying about on the Downs so the builders would not have run out of stone.

Brian said...

It's equally circular reasoning to assume that the monument WAS finished -- all those blobs on the map where stones are assumed to have been located are acts of faith. As far as I know, there are no pits there, let alone broken-off stumps. I have other reasons as well for guessing that the monument was never finished -- including the apparent indecisiveness of the builders, who seem to have moved stones around, and to have rearranged them over and again. the masses of intersecting sockets suggest this strongly. Then there is the use of stones which are actually very variable in size and shape -- the sarsens are much more variable than the myth would have us believe. the abandonment of the project may have been down to the fact that they used up all the stones that were close enough to shift easily onto the site. Another factor might be that the builders just ran out of energy, or ideas, or just got bored. Or maybe there was a social, economic or ritual reason for them walking away from the project. This would not the the first, or the last, grand project to have been abandoned before it was finished.

Kostas said...

The glacier transport of the stones makes perfect sense. But I like to suggest that the very building of Stonehenge was also done by using the ice sheet cover of the Salisbury plain to move and position the stones at the circular edge of ice naturally formed over geothermal hot spots, and 'hanging the stones' over the ice edge into current position. For a more detailed description of this read my paper.

http://thefacultypublishinggroup.com/Archeology/The%20un-Henging%20of%20Stonehenge(Ragazas%20-%2003102010).pdf

The paper references your work Brian! Best regards,

Constantinos Ragazas

Brian said...

Thanks Kostas. Ice can do a lot of things pretty well -- including entraining, transporting and depositing very big stones, but I have never seen any evidence that it is as clever as you suggest. Ice edges (and I've seen plenty of them) are pretty chaotic places, and the closest you get to "organization" is thrusting on shear planes and the creation of various types of end moraine. moraines may be mounds, ridges, or chaotic areas of dead ice, erratic boulders and various types of glacial deposits -- which may be rearranged as the dead ice melts out. Plenty of coverage of what these environments are like in the standard texts.

Kostas said...

Thanks for your response, Brian. I appreciate your background and experience with this. Possibly the ice glaciers we have currently existing in places may not match the conditions I am hypothesizing in the paper. But can there be any geological period and activity that could produce such conditions? Certainly we cannot project the same geological conditions we now have to periods when the land morphology was being created. But this hypothesis I am proposing would explain every little detail in the landscape around Stonehenge and other stone circles, how it was built and why the 'procession avenue' exists and is so aligned.

Also, what is the current explanation for the many stone alignments at Brittany and other places? My hypothesis easily explains all these as well, and again in every conceivable detail. Like, why the alignments deviate from being straight at some places and why they all run parallel and don't intersect, and why the space between rows is nearly even, etc. These stone alignments mark the edge of the ice sheet as it receded from year to year. From the width of the space between rows perhaps the melting rate of the ice can be calculated. And this could give us some idea as to the rate at which the weather was getting warmer. This opens up many avenues for research. Unfortunately I am not able to conduct it.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, oh dear......intelligent ice ??? Now who's off with the fairies !!!

Brian said...

Well, I do keep on suggesting that people who think and write about Stonehenge (and other Salisbury Plain features) might like to go off and read the odd text-book on glacial geomorphology. Try "Glaciers and Landscape" for a start..... no longer in print, but you should be able to pick one up somewhere, nice and cheap.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I think it's a wind up.

Kostas said...

Since Anonymous replied to my comments above, I am compeled to respond to Anonymous:

There is more natural intelligence in the formation of a single snow flake than in such 'Anonymous smart talk'! Show some intellectual courage and venture outside the box. Tell us who you are and how you explain every minute detail of all the stone alignments and circles that exist all over Europe and other parts of the world. And do it with one simple and consistent theory that does not fabricate separate stories for separate circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Well I think that puts the Stonehenge bluestone glaciation theory exactly where it belongs - in the looney bin.
My work here is done.

Brian said...

Sorry, Anonymous -- I don't follow you. What puts the glaciation theory into the loony bin? My research, or the comments of somebody who wants to paste a couple of comments on the blog? It's a free world, and I'm happy to paste up whatever comes in, in the interests of free speech. A censored blog is worse than useless. So I'll try and keep it uncensored so long as people don't sink to a level of personal abuse. The fact that something appears on the blog doesn't mean that I believe it. I don't accept Kostas's theory about "intelligent glaciers" -- but the Stonehenge debate has always involved wild and wonderful ideas, and probably always will, until we come up with more "killer facts."

Kostas said...

Brian, my apologies for upsetting Anonymous with my last response. It is not, nor ever was, my intention to post abusive messages. But I do reserve the right to comment on personally abusive posts directed towards me. My interest in the enigmas of Stonehenge is very serious and very thoughtful. I will not have it trivialized by smart-talk ridicule. I am only interested in engaging other people that have the same passion for truth in an open and honest dialog. There is no other agenda on my part beyond that. I have no allegiance to anything but Truth and Reason. And I am always open to change or revise my thoughts about Stonehenge, or anything else, if facts warrant it.

I know that there are certain rough edges in the theory that I am proposing. Your comments about your experience with glacier rims are very important and I do take them seriously. But this theory can explain so much in such minute detail that I feel it is essentially true and should not be easily dismissed. There may be other ways of explaining the smooth surface and edges of the ice sheet I am hypothesizing covered Salisbury Plain at the time when Stonehenge (and so many other stone circles and alignments) was built. Perhaps the seasonal runoff water on the ice surface may had that effect. Also, the seasonal uniform warming of the atmosphere. Certainly such ice surface conditions can be seen in “ordinary” melting of the winter ice cover in open fields at spring. But ice being so malleable and so responsive to geological conditions does leave the possibility that these ice features that I am hypothesizing could have existed at the time. If they did, then everything can be explained!!!

What is the composition of the soil at Stonehenge and at Salisbury Plain generally? If you have such information could you post it? I would greatly appreciate it. Be certain that 'facts' guide my thoughts!

Finally, Brian, if it is better that I conduct this dialog on Stonehenge directly with you via email I would welcome the opportunity.

Brian said...

Happy to keep things in the open, Kostas. I have had a look at your article, and I have to say that I can conceive of no circumstances in which a glacier might "organize" erratic boulders on an ice edge in the way that you propose. We can only go by analogies with existing or known conditions -- and all the ice edges I have seen (and there are many) have been pretty chaotic places.

Kostas said...

I welcome the open dialog, Brian. So that I am assured that my article was clear and left no ambiguity, let me emphasize that I don't mean to suggest that the action of ice alone positioned the sarsen in a circular formation (what you refer to as “intelligent ice”!). There was a need for local people to direct that construction. But I am hypothesizing that this task was made much more feasible and easy if it was done on an ice surface that covered the land with spring runoff water and the natural slant of the ice surface towards the lowest points (which would be at the ice edge, whether linear or circular) making it very easy for men to maneuver and 'hang' the sarsen into place (perhaps using ropes tied to other errant stones in the vicinity to control that process). The stone alignments at Brittany seem to track the edge of the ice sheet from year to year.

I can't say anything about ice glacier edges (never seen any except in pictures) but I have seen ordinary ice cover of open fields that during spring melt and form the conditions that I am hypothesizing. I also know directly (as a boy growing up in Greece in the mountains of Western Macedonia) the fascination boys have to climb such ice covered fields in the Spring and push huge stones off the ice edge. It was a game and we loved celebrating spring that way. It is also a common behavior of people to push off cliffs big boulders, especially if water was involved.

Brian said...

Kostas -- We need to get our timings right here. The ice we are talking about affected Western Britain around 250,000 years ago -- maybe even further back. That means way back in the Palaeolithic, when there may have been no more than a few scattered family groups of early humans wandering about what is now the UK. So far as we know, they did not have the technology to move big stones, let alone build megalithic structures and alignments. People were not even doing that in the Mesolithic, which started in Britain around the end of the Last Glaciation about 10,000 years ago. All they could do at that time was build simple shelters and use small stone tools, and they also used small flints etc as scrapers and arrow-heads. In short, if we go by the archaeology of the Palaeolithic, we get the same message as we do with the glaciology -- namely that the accumulated evidence just doesn't give any support to what you are proposing.

Kostas said...

Would you also date the glaciers at Iceland as being 250,000 years old? Certainly with Iceland (just NW of the UK) we have civilized people coexisting with ancient glaciers. Why is it improbable that these same or similar conditions existed in the UK say 3000 BC ? Humans and glaciers have existed side by side throughout history. Archeological dating is constantly revised. For example, the long established date for the arrival of people at Easter Island was 400 AD. Recent and more accurate scientific research now puts that date closer to 1200 AD. Furthermore, some soil analysis (see reference below) conducted at Stonehenge shows soil characteristics of the Neolithic period (5500-2500 BC).

“Remarkably, the investigated soil sequences record rare examples of a prehistoric decalcified soil cover, in a now generally rendzina-dominated landscape which reportedly has been extant since the Neolithic.” http://www.scribd.com/doc/12594079/Soil-Archaeology-on-the-A303-Stonehenge-Improvement

If the soil characteristics at Stonehenge match those of soil characteristics during the Neolithic period, isn't it then conceivable that the soil at Stonehenge had that much less time to develop? Why? Because it was still under the cover of ice and snow!

Brian I have many other points to make concerning all this. I hope we can sustain the dialog for a fuller exploration of what we both have such intense interest in.

Brian said...

The last glaciers in the British Isles were present in the uplands of Scotland, N Wales and the Lake District around 11,000 years ago. They were very small, and were restricted to highland cirques. Kostas, take a look at any geomorphology text book (including "Glaciers and Landscape") and you will see that there is a mountain of evidence to show that there was no glacier ice anywhere near Southern Britain around 5,000 years ago. If there had been, there would be evidence of it. The further north you go, for example to Iceland and Greenland, the more continuous the glaciation. Stands to reason.

Kostas said...

Forgive my persistence, Brian. What is used as evidence for glaciation in Scotland and N Wales? I am somewhat familiar with certain tale-tale signs in the land morphology due to glacier flow and deposits. But are there other kinds of evidence besides geomorphology? If there is no glacier flow, will there still be evidence of glaciation?

Can the soil at Stonehenge be used to determine the geological history of this area? Is the soil 'young' or is it geologically 'old'? The reference to this in my previous post seems to suggest that the soil is 'young'. Meaning that it did not have enough time to develop. If so, one possibility for that is that the ground was covered by ice! (I know that you have said this is ruled out by accepted scientific evidence! But scientific evidence is constantly revised and debated. We can't explore new possibilities – as I am doing - without suspending absolute certainty of current ideas).

Finally, in your previous post you describe Paleolithic man as not having the skills and technology to move huge stones. I can't agree with you more. That's my point too. Nothing in the theory that I propose remotely suggests anything of the sort. I would even argue that not even Neolithic man had that ability, and Bronze Age men if they did have some such capability I doubt if they had the compelling reason to do anything like Stonehenge or any of the other megalithic formations.

Brian said...

Sorry Kostas -- I shall now bring this thread to a close. We are going round in circles! Can I seriously suggest that you do some reading on glaciation and how the sequence of glaciations is worked out? This is multi-disciplinary -- and evidence comes from geomorphology, geology, glaciology, marine sedimentology and botany. The evidence stacks up, and in my view it is incontrovertible -- there is NO evidence of any glacier ice anywhere in southern Britain around 5,000 years ago. No more please!