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....
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Thursday, 2 December 2010

More on cobbles and ball bearings

Curraghs are fine, but what about the land haulage to get bluestones to and from the water?

This, admittedly, would have been hard work – but much less work if we forget about the engineers’ wooden sledges. Why not lay a narrow "road" or strip of cobblestones? We grease these cobbles with Neolithic domestic animal fat or Neolithic butter whenever we want to move a bluestone. Neolithic rawhide ropes are attached directly around the bluestone and the stone-movers pull along both sides of the narrow cobbled and greasy way. Some stone-movers can push to help guide the stone as necessary. Sturdy wooden levers would have been helpful for this work. Given Welsh topography from the Preseli quarry down to the tidewater at the Bristol Channel, the major problem would have been braking the bluestone, not hauling it, for most of the necessary ten kilometers.  At Stonehenge, the bluestone would have only needed to be hauled two hundred yards.

Using Dalhousie University students in Nova Scotia back in October 1981, we laid a one kilometre strip of cobbles in two days. This was tiring work, but not too brutal because each individual rock was not very heavy. In real megalithic life, this work was actually saving much labour because the cobbled path could be used for many successive bluestones, and over seventy bluestones were eventually moved to Stonehenge from the same quarry in Wales. These cobbles would gradually sink into the ground under pressure and more must be added continually.  But if some care is taken to choose the most rounded  beach rocks available, and if they are liberally greased, then a cobbled strip of virtual megalithic ball bearings is the inevitable result.  We didn't wait for this development.

The very next weekend, a gang of just forty-seven young men and women moved a three and a half ton Nova Scotia "bluestone" (a naturally "squared" boulder of granite) that one kilometre in just five hours and forty-two minutes over the slippery cobbles. The ground was not level, but gently undulated over this distance. It was hard work uphill, and we sometimes had to resort to pushing it just a few inches at a time with levers.  But the "pseudo bluestone" was moved at five times the speed with less than one-fifth the "manpower" (the Dalhousie students were about equally men and women) compared with the British Y2K Millennium Project replication.  And, for that matter and before I forget, greased cobbled roadways were undoubtedly also used when megalithic Britons moved the giant Sarsen blocks from nearby places on the Wiltshire downs to the Stonehenge site.


Anonymous said...

They should stop using young men and women to pull the stones and use draught animals instead.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, they are a tough lot, these Canadians. maybe they just thought "Anything a few cows can do, we can do better....." BUT I TAKE THE POINT -- NO REASON WHY OXEN SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN USED BACK IN THE NEOLITHIC FOR HAULING HEAVY LOADS, AS LONG AS THE TERRAIN WAS OK.