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

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Stonehenge at the DO lectures

I've been invited to Cilgerran in September to give one of the Do Lectures 2010. Click on the title above to go to the site.

That will be fun -- I shall talk about Stonehenge and the bluestone transport theories. I may well touch on the dangers of turning myth into "truth". What will I encourage my audience to ACTUALLY DO? Well, to use its brains and to employ a little scientific scepticism, when fed a load of guff by those who are scared to death of scientific rigour!

What I will say is that there are two conflicting theories -- there is no killer fact that proves one right and the other wrong, but we do have a lot of hard evidence that points (In my humble opinion) very clearly in one direction.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Stonehenge Unhinged

New video:

in which I have a go at the idea that Stonehenge was, at one time, a magnificent structure, brilliantly designed, geometrically perfect, and well constructed by master craftsmen. Ho hum -- show me the evidence for all of that, and I might believe it.....

HH Thomas -- a geologist seduced by dreams of glory?

Geikie 1894, Hicks 1891, Jehu 1904 -- all three of these excellent fellows demonstrated that glacier ice had flowed across Pembrokeshire and affected the coasts of the Bristol Channel. The latter two demonstrated that the ice had come from the NW, and had been driven eastwards up the Bristol Channel to affect the coasts of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. So why did HH Thomas dismiss their ideas (and their field evidence) out of hand in his famous 1921 lecture and in his subsequent published paper?

I guess we will never know, unless somebody has access to all his personal papers. I have suggested before on this blog that Thomas may not have been a terribly good geologist -- and even that he might have "aggregated" his data and drawn generalized conclusions with respect to his rock samples when more a careful scientist might have emphasised DIFFERENCES instead. He knew that the bluestones at Stonehenge had come from a wide variety of places -- but started the myth that Carn Meini was the place where a bluestone quarry was located. Atkinson was the man who finally put that absurd idea firmly in front of the public -- and essentially the man who fed the myth into British history. The rest, as they say, is history.

We have to conclude that Thomas was either a very bad geomorphologist, or a very bad reader -- because he seems to have had a total mental blockage relating to the work of ice and to the evidence of erratics, striae and landforms on the ground.

I have another theory. Thomas was simply seduced by the thought that he could become FAMOUS by proposing an idea (ie the human transport idea) that would be instantly popular and would indeed go some way towards establishing the credentials of our Neolithic ancestors as being a pretty smart bunch of fellows. (Far smarter than your Continental Neolithics, anyway.....)

If Thomas had been a careful and respectful worker, fully aware of the work of fellow geologists, he would have said: "There are certain stones at Stonehenge which appear to have come from Pembrokeshire. How did they get to Salisbury Plain? Well, the evidence of ice flows suggests that they may be glacial erratics -- but more research is needed to establish where, and when, these stones were deposited by the ice."

There would have been NO mention of this daft human transport idea, and we would all have been spared a great deal of hassle.......

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stonehenge and the National Myth

I was encouraged by Barrie Foster's Blog to think again about British icons, British myths and national identity. This is interesting territory, and Stonehenge is right in the middle of it. Think about it. Our sense of "Britishness" is underpinned and supported by a wide range of myths which, taken together, contribute towards our sense of belonging to a community and a nation. Icons and myths abound, and their locations also become important -- King Arthur and Glastonbury and Tintagel, Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, Henry Tudor and Bosworth Field, Strange Monster and Loch Ness, the Battle of Britain and Kent, William the Conqueror and Hastings, Last Invasion and Fishguard, and so on. Add Clever Neolithic Ancestors and Stonehenge.

Woe betide anybody who seeks to "debunk" any of these, because we WANT to believe them, and if any one of them is debunked, we feel that our sense of belonging, or our sense of national identity, is reduced or devalued. So when I point out -- ever so politely -- that there is actually no evidence for the story of the human transport of the bluestones, the instinctive response is "So what? We want to believe it, so we'll believe it anyway." That's fine for the man or woman in the street (and I'm just as big a Robin Hood fan as the next man) but it's not so fine for those who purport to be scientists and academics. I stand to be corrected here, but it seems to me that academic historians do seem to have a pretty clear idea where history ends and mythology begins -- and indeed they happily do research into mythology and its roots. But prehistoric archaeology seems to have moved so far into the field of fantasy and speculation (maybe because there is no WRITTEN evidence to call upon) that the lines are blurred and even invisible. So they see evidence and proof where there is none, and convince themselves that they are being terribly scientific whenever they get some nice gadgets to play with. Am I being unfair here? You tell me!

My post from March 29th, 2010: I have expressed my amazement in earlier posts that he (HH Thomas) "got away with murder" in that NOBODY seems to have seriously examined his evidence or questioned his wacky idea that the stones had been hauled by tribesmen all the way from Presely to Stonehenge in a totally unique feat of Stone Age long-distance transport. And why did people not scrutinize his theory more closely? Why, because there had been great discoveries about megalithic structures in Germany, and because British archaeologists were desperate to show that in these islands we had even more advanced prehistoric civilisations and even cleverer engineers and technicians.

Sounds absurd? I don't think so -- and a number of other authors have suggested that Thomas's idea was carefully put together around the time of the First World War as part of a national "feel good" strategy, and that the whole nation (and not just the archaeologists) just loved the idea when he announced it, and were disinclined to examine it carefully.

So Thomas became famous, then the bluestones became famous, and the "bluestone transport story" entered the mythology of Britain. It is still trotted out ad infinitum, even though there is even less evidence for it now than there was in 1920. And anybody who dares to question it, or to undermine our cosy assumptions about the extraordinary skills of our Neolithic ancestors, is likely to get short shrift from the archaeology establishment. Look at what happened to poor Geoffrey Kellaway......."

Friday, 27 August 2010

Rock concerts maybe?

OK, I'll anticipate the question: Was Stonehenge used for rock concerts? My answer to that would be: "Yes, in all probability, since it was built before the age of Heavy Metal bands..." Ho ho ho, very funny, as my grandsons would groan....

Was Stonehenge a concert hall?

Latest info from New Scientist: reseachers have done some acoustic work at Stonehenge and at a full-size replica at Maryhill, Washington state, USA -- and the research shows us -- ahem, nothing very much.

The most interesting thing seems to be that the stones disturb the sound waves and make sharp sounds rather muffled if there are a lot of stones in the way. Very fascinating, no doubt, if you are an acoustic engineer. But "the results of the new investigation may help us establish its history once and for all." Excuse me -- I have come over all dizzy.....


Acoustic archaeology: The secret sounds of Stonehenge
10:31 27 August 2010 by Trevor Cox
Stonehenge's Acoustical Signature Deciphered
Quote: "There are currently numerous controversies surrounding when, how and why Stonehenge was built, and the results of the new investigation may help us establish its history once and for all."

On walls and gaps

That thread on walls -- and the poem by Robert Frost -- got me thinking a bit about walls and gaps. It's interesting that archaeologists do spend a lot of their time thinking about "sacred spaces" -- which, as a geographer, I can understand to a degree -- and indeed about "ritual landscapes". Spaces and landscapes have to be defined by "walls" -- either in the mind, or marked by stones or walls or hedges on the ground. Hence the great debate, some months back, about "Stonehedge", which appears to have had very little hard evidence relating to it, but which got the media into a frenzy anyway.

Discussions on Walls brings into mind the famous Pink Floyd album which I used to play at full blast in the car when I travelled up -- on a number of occasions -- to give evidence at the Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station Inquiry many years ago. It got me suitably psyched up and ready to take on the forces of darkness, in the shape of the CEGB and its smooth barristers who wanted more nuclear power in the mix.

Were the circles at Stonehenge "walls of the mind"? What did they enclose, and to what purpose? And if they were never finished, what does that tell us about either the wall builders or maybe about those who did not want the walls to be built in the first place? Did THEY feel threatened by the walls, maybe? Wall builders versus gap creators? Ah, I feel another novel coming on........

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The missing pieces of the Stonehenge jigsaw -- still missing

On digging a little deeper, following my last post, I found this resistivity survey of the innermost part of Stonehenge, where the stone settings are. The survey, taken alongside the map of stone numbers, confirms that no less than 67 stones are totally missing from the "idealised" reconstructions that we all know and love.

The resistivity survey image (from the chapter by David and Payne, Proc British Academy, 92, 73-113: Science and Stonehenge) shows a large number of "anomalies". The stones are shown in black. The white areas are mostly areas of disturbed ground coinciding with areas of past exploration and excavation. The dark grey areas may represent areas where there are high densities of intersecting pits or sockets, ie areas where stones have been moved about many times. The indistinct lighter grey mottled areas are difficult to interpret -- but the X and Y holes do show up as indistinct blobs. Note that they are not arranged on concentric circles, and that the spacing of these pits is imperfect and even erratic.

Apart from the white blobs marked A, B and C, there are no signs of "missing" stones buried in the turf in places where we might expect them, and in many places where we might expect sarsen and bluestone sockets there are not even dark grey shadows.

The conclusion from this work has to be that the 67 missing stones are not hiding anywhere on the site --- they are indeed missing -- and as I have already suggested, there is no reason to believe that they ever were put into the positions where the archaeologists would like them to have been.........

So there we are then. Gaps galore. Stonehenge never was finished.

The Stonehenge Gaps

I have been trying to find out how much work (if any) has been done in the 50% or so of Stonehenge that has not been excavated. The plan above (like many others in the literature) show that work has been concentrated in certain small areas -- fair enough, since people want maximum returns from their investments. I am trying to address this question: "Was Stonehenge ever completed?" It seems to me that the only way that question can be answered (apart from finding the 70 or so missing stones in a dump somewhere) is to show through geophysical investigations that there are indeed stone sockets in the places where they are assumed to be, and maybe stumps or even complete fallen stones beneath the turf. Does anybody know what geophysical scans (resistivity work, magnetometer, ground radar etc) have been done in the "empty half"?? If such work has been done, where are the results?

I have been waiting for this info to come forward since "The Bluestone Enigma" was published -- but so far, zilch........

Could it be that it suits many people rather well NOT to have an answer to my question?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Revised Stonehenge video

I have done quite a big revision job on my old Stonehenge video -- thanks to my grandson Callum teaching me some of the mysteries of iMovie! Much better sound, improved commentary, and better picture quality. Here's hoping it gets plenty of views......

The Stonehenge Conspiracy

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Glaciation of the Mendips

Somebody mentioned to me the other day that the thesis of glacial activity affecting the Mendips is coming back into fashion. I'm not sure what the new evidence may be, but am reminded that Geoff Kellaway and a few others have been convinced for many years that the deep gorges in the Mendips are not simply the result of karst processes including elongated cave collapse. If there really are glacial deposits in the vicinity of Bath, and not far from Glastonbury, then it is almost inevitable that glacier ice either pressed onto the flanks of the Mendips or overrode the hills entirely. Just found this extract:

From Geotimes May 2005
by Megan Sever

Ice sheets reached as far south as Cheddar, but the bigger factor in shaping the landscape was actually the meltwater once the glaciers receded during interglacial periods. After each ice age, glaciers released a torrent of meltwater through the Somerset rivers to the sea. Carrying boulders and gravel, the rivers scoured out gorges like Cheddar Gorge up to 400 feet deep and 3 miles long. Throughout time, as sea level has risen and fallen, Cheddar Gorge has gotten deeper and shallower. Along the climb to the ridge of the gorge, you can see various layers of limestone.

The Mendip Hills in Somerset, seen here on the drive to Cheddar Gorge, have been extensively shaped by glacial processes starting 1 million years ago. Today, sheep farms grace the rolling hillsides.

While the surface landscape was being carved by glacial meltwaters, underground rivers were similarly carving out vast caverns, such as Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave, the two caves in Cheddar Gorge. Floodwaters and underground rivers dissolved the limestone, slowly sinking lower and lower until they hit the harder sandstone layer and leaving caves above.

The Web Site

If any followers of this blog want to read about "The Bluestone Enigma" or follow my reasoned arguments relating the the glacial transport of the bluestones, you can click either on the heading of this post, or on the picture of the tumbledown ruin on the right.

The website is now somewhat dated, and one day I'll give it a comprehensive revamp......

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bluestone in Shrewton?

I'm often asked this question: "If there really are glacial deposits on or near Salisbury Plain, and if the bluestones at Stonehenge came from an assemblage of erratics, where are all the other erratics?" Well, I have to admit that there is nothing identified thus far which could be called with confidence "a glacial deposit" or even "a glacial landform." But there are erratics scattered all over the place, as i have described in my book. The most famous is of course the Boles Barrow bluestone boulder. One day I hope that somebody will do a systematic search on Salisbury Plain and in the villages around Stonehenge. But here is one stone that needs petrographic analysis. The shaped stone in the centre of this photo is built into the side of the little prison in the centre of Shrewton, not far from Stonehenge. It's called "The Blind House". To me the block (note the bluish-grey colour) looks like a well weathered block of dolerite, similar to those in some of the Stonehenge orthostats. The stones around it are quite different -- as indeed are all the other stones used in the building. I think these others are all blocks of sarsen.

So how did this bluish stone get to Shrewton? I would argue that it was probably picked up locally and shaped for the job in hand. Others would no doubt argue that if it really is a piece of Pembrokeshire dolerite, it must have been quarried from Stonehenge, thereby helping to account for the shortage of bluestones left behind on the site today..... That's the sort of thing the archaeologists always say! Look how convoluted the arguments got in trying to "explain away" the Boles Barrow bluestone.

To get a closer look at the stone, click on the image.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Carn Meini and the Battle of Preseli

It's not often realised that after the Second World War the War Office made a proposal to take in 58,000 acres of land -- encompassing virtually the whole of the Preseli upland area -- as a military training and bombing range. This caused an immediate and virtually unanimous reaction from all sections of the community in Pembrokeshire -- and the campaign to save the mountain was referred to as "The Battle of the Preselau" by author Hefin Wyn in a book published a couple of years ago. The campaign united the Welsh and English speaking parts of the community, and it was multi-faceted, with economic, political, social, religious and ethical arguments all thrown in the direction of the War Office by community leaders.

In situations like this, with a whole community feeling itself under threat, every possible argument is rehearsed and brought to bear on "the enemy." The politicians in Westminster must have been amazed by the vigour and the sophistication of the "Save Preseli" campaign. In this, a number of very prominent pacifists took a leading role, and many nonconformist religious leaders not only thundered from their pulpits but became involved in lobbying and protest activities. They stressed the importance of Preseli as a cultural and spiritual heartland of Wales, and demanded that the establishment of a firing or training range would be not only disrespectful to Welsh heritage but also sacrilege of the most abominable kind.

It was therefore not surprising that one of the arguments brought forward was connected with the supposed sanctity of the mountains as a whole but also Carn Meini in particular. The ideas of HH Thomas came in very handy indeed. a great quantity of purple prose landed on the desk of Prime Minister Attlee -- with frequent references to Carn Meini, the bluestones, and Stonehenge. The land was referred to over and again as "sacred" and words that crop up over and again in the correspondence include "heartland", "sanctity" and "sacrilege." The mountain around Carn Meini was a cradle of civilisation, a prehistoric cathedral, a treasure trove of antiquities, a place of mysticism and tranquillity, of spiritual regeneration and wonderment.

Wonderful stuff -- and it did the trick. The plans for the military range were abandoned, and the Army moved to Castlemartin and the Brecon Beacons instead, where there was much less opposition. So we must, I suppose, be grateful for the manner in which the ideas about the sanctity of Carn Meini played a part in saving the uplands for us to enjoy in perpetuity, as commons and as wild places.

But none of this should blind us to the fact that we are talking here about a full-blooded community campaign and about strategy and tactics. To a degree, the campaign was cynical in that it "pretended" a sort of reverence for eastern Preseli that I do not believe has ever been there in reality. In the years 1946-1948 the ideas of HH Thomas were given a massive boost, and the thesis that the Eastern Preseli Hills are "sacred" really dates from that time. All very handy indeed, when Profs Darvill and Wainwright came along looking for their bluestone quarry and for something to show that there was a spiritual or even religious reason for the carrying of lots of bluestones from here to there.

Pillars and columns

I took this photo the other day -- it's the best example I could find of pillars / columns in situ in the Carn Meini area. This outcrop is in one of the western tors of the group, some way away from the "enclosure" described by Darvill and Wainwright. The pillars look good at first sight -- ideal for plucking out of the bedrock and hauling off to Stonehenge, you might think......

But look again. The pillars of spotted dolerite are criss-crossed with weaknesses -- fractures and veins of quartz. When pillars like this are broken down by block collapse, or freeze-thaw, or even glacial action, the chances of the pillars surviving intact are very slim indeed. What you normally end up with is a collection of roughly rectangular blocks that are not much good for local gateposts, let alone heroic transport expeditions from here to Stonehenge.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Slabs, blocks and boulders

On the matter of predominant stone shapes at Carn Meini, I'm pretty convinced that slabs are more common than pillars or columns. This picture shows the famous "Altar Stone" or "Sacrifice Stone" at Carn Meini. It was probably neither an altar nor a place where virgins were sacrificed, although there seems to be a consensus that it MIGHT have been a small "sub-Neolithic" burial chamber. Slabs like this are very common in the area -- there are several others visible in the photo.

Of course, it is also a myth that most of the bluestones at Stonehenge are pillars. I have pointed out before that they are of all shapes and sizes, including small chips or flakes, small cobbles, rough boulders and slabs, and some pillars. I do not buy the idea that all of the small fragments have come from the working of the larger bluestones -- it would be absolutely typical of an erratic assemblage of bluestones that there would be a mixture of stone shapes and sizes, not to mention lithologies.

Carn Meini / Carn Menyn stone shapes

Above: the famous bluestone pillar at Carn Meini that was supposedly left behind. Below: the litter of stones of all shapes and sizes at Carn Meini. True pillars are not entirely absent, but they are extremely rare.

Yesterday I did a 17 km trek along the ridge of Mynydd Preseli (an absolutely wonderful day!) and spent a fair while pottering around Carn Meini, Carn Breseb, Carn Bica and other tors. I got to thinking about the myth (one of many!) that THE REASON WHY CARN MEINI WAS CHOSEN AS THE QUARRY SITE FOR BLUESTONES WAS THAT IT WAS LITTERED WITH PILLARS OR COLUMNS OF SPOTTED DOLERITE BEDROCK, BROKEN OFF FROM THE NATURAL ROCK OUTCROPS. In other words, the frequency of "ideal" stones was a key factor.

To quote from a 2005 Bournmouth University press release: "The enclosure is small (less than half a hectare) but according to Professor Darvill it provides a veritable 'Aladdin's Cave' of made-to-measure pillars for aspiring circle builders". (This refers to the small "enclosure" excavated some years ago.)

Made-to-measure pillars? Well, I hunted around over quite a large area, and in a sea of blocks and stones of all shapes and sizes, I found maybe 5 or 6 that might fit the bill as ideal Stonehenge bluestones. One of them is the famous bluestone shown above, described ad nauseam as "the bluestone that they left behind." Without doing a statistical analysis of Carn Meini stone shapes, I would argue that pillars or columns are incredibly rare at Carn Meini, and are just as frequent at other tors including Carn Breseb and Carn Goedog. The most common stone shape is roughly rectangular or box-shaped, with the long axis maybe up to twice the width or depth of the stone. (For a real pillar you need proportions of maybe 5x1x1.)

I also observed that where columns or pillars ARE present in the bedrock outcrops, when they are released and fall onto the scree they almost inevitably break across, because of transverse fractures or other weaknesses related to quartz veins etc.

So away with that particular piece of nonsense. I am quite convinced that there would have been NO reason for Neolithic tribesmen to "target" Carn Meini as an ideal quarry site. There was nothing special about the spotted dolerites (they outcrop over a very wide area), or about the stone shapes, or about the ease of access or stone extraction (other sites would have been easier).

For the best part of a century archaeologists have been indulging in special pleading with respect to Carn Meini. Once HH Thomas announced that that was where the spotted dolerites came from, one generation after another has sought to find justifications or reasons for the "choice" of the site. It's all there, in the literature......

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A bit of a spat

Been having an interesting exchange on another blog with a certain well-known archaeologist, arising from the fact that I chastised him (ever so gently) for writing with total certainty that the bluestones on Salisbury Plain were "imported from Wales" by the people who inhabited Salisbury Plain in days gone by. I suggested that the facts do not allow such expressions of absolute certainty, and that it might have been more appropriate to use the phrase "possibly imported from Wales" or some such thing. For my pains, I got a blast to the effect that our hero's "research and understanding" leads him to believe that our ancestors were capable of doing wonderful things which defy rational explanation or current understanding -- and that although there is no EVIDENCE supporting the human transport hypothesis, that doesn't seem to matter that much. In other words, if our hero wants to believe it's true, then it is true.

When one is confronted by senior archaeologists who believe that working hypotheses (such as the one about human bluestone transport) are not hypotheses at all, but are actually TRUE, because they want them to be true, it seems to me that scientific debate becomes impossible. That's actually rather sad...... and it reminds me of a dear friend of mine who terminates every argument that she is losing by saying "I don't believe what you are saying, even if it's true!"

Friday, 13 August 2010

More about that BIG glaciation

UK ice limits of various ages. Source: "Age limits on Middle Pleistocene glacial sediments from OSL dating, north Norfolk, UK." by Steven M. Pawley et al

There have been more recent articles about ice limits in the UK, and how they are defined. there is still much confusion about what happened between the Devensian (Last Glacial Maximum) limit of around 20,000 years ago and the Anglian ice limit dated to around 380,000 - 450,000 years ago. In between there are various glacial deposits and traces variously referred to as Gipping, Saalian, Riss, Wolstonian and by assorted other names. It appears that across England the ice advances (if there were indeed several) appear to be overlapping and confused -- maybe more extensive in some areas and less in others, and sometimes incorporating/recycling pre-existing deposits. All very confusing.

Increasingly it looks as if the Anglian Glaciation occurred during Marine Isotope stage 12, and that the Saalian Glaciation (which may include a multitude of sins) occurred during Marine Isotope Stage 8.

So we are homing in here on the Anglian Glaciation as the time of the GBG (Greatest British Glaciation). There is nothing new there -- Kellaway and others first suggested this decades ago -- but it is gratifying that modern research in East Anglia and elsewhere is confirming this old hypothesis. Now all we have to do is fix the precise glacial limit at this time. As I have argued before, the limit is well beyond the ice edge position shown on the above map -- I'm pleading with geomorphologists to get stuck in on this problem, and to come up with an answer.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Fairy Tale or Sci-Fi Spoof?

Sorry folks -- I have just realized that that stuff about the "new Stonehenge" and the latest earth-shattering discoveries from Salisbury Plain was just an April fool's joke (quite a good one, it must be admitted) that got left over from April 1st....... in my last few posts I have taken it far too seriously.

Just think about it. The Birmingham University University IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre?? Working with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria?? And is the said Prof Vince Gaffney a Virtual Archaeologist?

Perhaps nothing is real? And maybe our friends Wainwright, Darvill and Parker Pearson are really nothing but figments of our imagination? And if they don't exist, maybe Stonehenge doesn't exist either? Maybe it's just a gigantic hologram, paid for by English Heritage and the English Tourist Board to bring foreign currency into the UK and to promote the idea that there are clever archaeologists beavering away on important things, using terribly sophisticated scientific techniques? I'll put a fiver down and bet you that the next earth-shattering development will come from the University of Shrewton Atkinson Institute for Virtual Excavation, with funding from Google Earth and exclusive rights sold to the Murdoch News Empire.

Pitts has a go at Stonehenge media hype

A strange tale of Senior Professors and innocent journalists, all out with the fairies......

On his blog site Mike Pitts has had a real go at the media hype surrounding the latest "spectacular" discovery from the Stonehenge environs, which turns out not to be new and probably not to be a timber monument at all -- as it happens, the "new" site is pretty well known as part of a group of catalogued barrows, and its age is probably very different from that claimed in the press release from Birmingham University.

This is what the hype manufacturing unit at Birmingham came up with:

“History is set to be rewritten after an archaeology team led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria discovered a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The incredible find has been hailed by Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UK’s most important prehistoric structure.”

"History is set to be rewritten" ??!! "....a major ceremonial monument...." ??!! "The incredible find..." ??!! " of the most significant yet.." ??!! Come off it, you guys. That is all a load of old cobblers, and you know it. They are all at it -- Parker Pearson, Darvill, Wainwright, and now Gaffney. They are all trying to out-hype one another -- and the ladies and gentlemen of the media, who are as gullible as ever, just regurgitate the nonsense which is fed to them without a moment's thought, let alone critical analysis.

Oh dear oh dear. No wonder archaeology is turning into a laughing stock.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Another flight of fancy?

Here are the two images widely reproduced in the world's media for the new "Woodhenge" found on Salisbury Plain. One might be forgiven for thinking that the scan image (made from a combination of radar scanning and magnetometry) is very interesting, but maybe an inadequate basis for the very fanciful reconstruction of what the site might have looked like c 4,500 years ago. Remember that there has been no excavation on this site. This is an ongoing survey -- and probably many more interesting things will emerge from the work in the environs of Stonehenge.

But why on earth can't the academics involved resist the temptation to go into all sorts of wild speculation about the materials used, the age of the structure, and even its purpose? There is even speculation that this might have been another "Bluestonehenge" -- although in that case there was precious little info to go on, and here there is even less. Mike Pitts has sought to damp down the enthusiasm of the wildest speculators, and Dennis Price has had a real go at them on his "Eternal Idol" Blog. I agree with both of them. But there is a sort of madness that infects people as soon as Stonehenge is mentioned, causing normal rational thought processes to be abandoned........

See here:

The New Stonehenge site

So there´s a new wonderful Stonehenge site? There was a lot of media coverage about it in July. Actually it's not at Stonehenge at all, and appears to have been a timber monument dating from maybe 2,500 BC. As ever, the media was full of hype about its significance, but as in the case of *Bluestonehenge* the amount of actual physical evidence relating to bluestones is remarkably small.

I'll have a good look at the info in the public domain, and will report back......

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Back in harness again....

Sorry I have been out of action for so long. Six weeks away in Sweden -- glorious weather, very relaxing, and no broadband connection (except when I managed to sneak in to collect my Emails from a relative's wi-fi setup). A lot to catch up on.....