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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Flimston and Stonehenge

In the top image, from Google, you can pick up the line of big erratics north of the church.

I have always been intrigued by the fact that a collection of erratics at Flimston Church (in South Pembrokeshire, on the coastal limestone plateau near the Green Bridge of Wales) has always been interpreted -- even by Herbert Thomas -- as a clear indication of glacial transport across the area.  There are not many other traces of glaciation on the wide expanses of the Castlemartin Tank Range, since the area probably lay beyond the ice limit of the last (Devensian) Glaciation.  But the erratics are there, in a little cluster in the churchyard, and nobody (as far as I am aware) has ever questioned the idea that they have simply been gathered up in the neighbourhood and conveniently put to good use as headstones for graves.  The erratics appear to have come from the NW, since some of them are made of rock types recognizeable in the St David's area.  The local people who made use of the stones were "scavengers and opportunists" in exactly the same sense as the local people who built the Neolithic passage graves / portal dolmens that we find dotted around Pembrokeshire today.  As Steve Burrow and many other authors have pointed out, ALL of those were made of raw materials which were immediately at hand; nobody went to the bother of fetching stones from a long way off for his pet religious or secular megalithic project. 

So this makes it all the more intriguing that a similar collection of erratics on Salisbury Plain, in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge, should not be interpreted in the same way.  The setting is actually rather similar -- a wide plain of calcareous bedrock (in this case chalk rather than Carboniferous Limestone), a lack of any obvious morainic features or even till deposits in the vicinity, and even a friendly neighbourhood military training range!  And yet Herbert Thomas, Richard Atkinson and their successors have set their faces against the glacial transport theory for reasons that have more to do with pig-headedness than with science.  And that's rather sad....

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