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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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Hauling bluestones through the jungle

This map, from Bell and Walker 1992, is a useful reminder of the physical conditions that prevailed around the time that the bluestone settings were being worked on at Stonehenge.  It shows the approximate dates at which the dense woodland was cleared by Neolithic and later tribal groups.  According to the conventional wisdom (which I have always thought very unwise) the bluestones "arrived at Stonehenge" around 4,600 yrs BP.  There is good evidence that around that time there was a wide area of open grazed grassland on the downs of Salisbury Plain -- and that although many of the river valleys were still thickly wooded, there were also areas of quite well cleared land to the west (in Somerset) as well.

However, Wales was a different matter.  The landscape was covered with thick deciduous woodland in which oak and hazel predominated.  Clearance was very patchy indeed, and many observers have noted that Neolithic settlement sites were concentrated on hills and ridges where land clearance was easier and where grazing of animals presented fewer difficulties.

The "bluestone expeditions" so beloved of the archaeologists would have been exceedingly difficult in the circumstances, with huge obstacles presented by dense trackless woodlands, boggy areas, steep slopes and rushing rivers in deep valleys, with many cataracts and areas of exposed rock outcrops and boulder fields.  Not to mention muddy tidal estuaries and storm-lashed cliffed coastlines!

Common sense tells us that these stone collecting expeditions are nothing but fanciful modern creations.  If our Neolithic ancestors had any sense at all, they would have collected up all the stones they needed from as close to Salisbury Plain as possible.  Which of course is precisely what they did..........  and when they ran out of stones, the building project was abandoned.

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