Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Monday, 29 November 2010

Darvill dumps Neolithic hospital idea?

Been having another look at Dennis Price's excellent Eternal Idol site, and I homed in on this bit in the report of the Devizes seminar back in May -- I had read through it before without taking full note of it.

It looks very much as if Tim Darvill has abandoned his Neolithic Hospital idea in the wake of the almost unanimous howl of derision that has come from the archaeological world.  He still talks about the Neolithic significance of the "bluestone source area" and about a Neolithic culture there -- without mentioning sacred springs or healing powers.  He can't resist talking about the similarity of the dolerite outcrops in the natural state to "built monuments" --  but I think that's fanciful.  Maybe any rocky outcrop or tor in the mountains can be likened to a built monument -- OK, if you want it enough.  But I maintain that there is no SPECIAL association between Neolithic structures in the Preseli Hills area and bluestones.  If bluestones were handy, they used them, just as they used whatever stones were handy.

But I do like his suggestions that the stones at Stonehenge have been rearranged over and again, many times, and that some of them have been broken up.  And it's interesting that he even suggests that the bluestones at Stonehenge might have been used as convenient sources for stone implements.  That idea was put forward by me in THE BLUESTONE ENIGMA -- and it has also received some attention from Olwen Williams-Thorpe and her colleagues.  And I also like the suggestion that the "doing" at Stonehenge was more important than the objective -- as if the builders were experimenting or even playing around with building techniques.  Ah, that fellow Darvill is a man after my own heart!!

The statements at the end of the report are very enigmatic -- and even mischievous.  Signs of a convergence of ideas here?

"Tim Darvill’s talk on “Beyond Stonehenge” considered the bluestones, unsurprisingly given his recent excavations on the site. But there was little or no mention of healing powers – instead, he gave a very different view of the site to the conventional one that we’re familiar with. He started with the Preseli source sites, where the natural outcroppings are very similar to built monuments, and where there is already a Neolithic culture associated with the source stones. He believes that the bluestones are the first stone structures within the henge, but that they’ve been subject to constant rearrangement through prehistory to Roman times. Some of the remains are no longer found today as orthostats, suggesting that the stones have been constantly recycled into different configurations, and broken up.

Importantly, Darvill claims that we should regard Stonehenge “as a Roman temple”. Certainly the bluestone sequence seems to be much longer than conventional chronologies, with the major pit in Darvill’s excavation dating to the 4th century AD. This long sequence of changes, he suggests, is because the “doing” was more important than the result; perhaps in a similar way to Silbury, where the scope of the monument seems to have been extended many times. (Puzzlingly, Darvill suggests this chain of bluestone activities appears to have included breaking them up for stone implements.) He concluded that there are “many reasons why Stonehenge is Stonehenge …” with all sorts of connections and associations. Was Stonehenge at the centre of the different communities through history, or at the edge? Probably both, at different times."

From:  Stonehenge and Avebury seminar at Devizes – a report,  by Dennis on May 27, 2010 (seminar report written by Alex Down)

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