Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Stonehenge and the Curse of the Bluestones

The Curse of Merlin the Wizard

Ed has raised an interesting issue by asking exactly how we should define the word "bluestone." Well, here's the best definition I can come up with: "A bluestone is a piece of rock, of any size, found in the environs of Stonehenge, which supports the theory of long-distance haulage by Neolithic tribesmen from sources in West Wales." Will that do? There's no point in talking about lithology, or colour, or size, or detailed provenance, or anything else remotely scientific, because every other definition falls down because of "exceptions to the rule."

Traditionally, stones that do not fit that definition (such as those sandstones and limestones that have come from other parts of Wiltshire or Somerset) are simply not referred to as "bluestones."

Since HH Thomas originally came up with his thesis that the bluestones were from the Carn Meini area in Mynydd Preseli, Pembs, the human transport theory has been a blessing for the archaeology establishment, for studies of prehistory, for the English tourist trade, and in many other fields of noble human endeavour. Thomas pushed the idea hard, Atkinson pushed it even harder, and it has been accepted -- virtually without question -- as THE TRUTH ever since. Learned professors have made their academic careers on it, and it has turned some of them into media stars as well. And without the story, Stonehenge would never have become the icon that we all know and love, and the prospects for the Wiltshire tourist trade would be dismal indeed. "So, dear friends," they all say, "we are greatly blessed, in multifarious ways, by this delightful tale of our heroic ancestors. Let us therefore keep it going, with ever more imaginative expositions and elaborations....."

But how much of a BLESSING is it? I have a theory that it is actually a CURSE. When you come to think of it, it has turned thousands -- if not millions -- of normally rational and well-educated human beings into whimsical fantasists, pondering endlessly on boat design, rollers and levers, friction and lubrication, man-hours and logistics and so forth -- when they would all have been better occupied in solving the problems of inequality and hunger. It has turned archaeology into a hugely popular subject which thinks of itself as scientific but which is increasingly fanciful, searching obsessively for rituals, reasons and sacred motivations before sorting out the facts of the matter in hand. Shall we mention the words "vanity", "power" and "control"?? Some learned professors have become so obsessed with healing stones and sacred springs that they see evidence where there is none, and are accused by some of their own kind of being "out with the fairies." Others, suffering under the same curse, have become intolerant of dissent to the point of being mean and vindictive -- just look at the vitriol poured on poor Geoffrey Kellaway for daring to say inconvenient things about bluestone transport. So it is a curse, visited initially upon HH Thomas, then upon Richard Atkinson, and then upon generation after generation of archaeologists, media people, tourist operators, school teachers and even university lecturers.

Personally, I blame Merlin. I am immune from the curse, because (like Merlin) I was born in Carmarthen, and because I have spent so much time wandering around Carn Meini that its evil power no longer affects me.

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