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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Boles Barrow Bluestone


Many thanks to Pete G for supplying these two excellent photos (date?) from the garden of Heytesbury House.  Purportedly this stone (used as a little garden seat in the shade of a mighty tree?) was the one that came from Boles Barrow, and which eventually found its way into Salisbury Museum.

There has been endless debate about its provenance, with Burl, Kellaway (and, I think, Richard Atkinson) happy about its provenance, but others (including Scourse and Green) claiming that it must have been robbed from Stonehenge.

Can anybody who has seen the stone in Salisbury Museum confirm that it is the same stone?  Pete reports that the museum will not allow photos to be taken of it.  Totally weird -- I wonder why?  Is national security at stake?

12 comments:

Tony Hinchliffe said...

I have seen the stone in the Museum a couple of times, but cannot confirm from memory whether it is the same as the one in the photo. Next time I am down there I will take a look.

We could really do with Time Team's Dr Phil Harding joining Brian's blog community, as he lives in Salisbury and, of course, is rather keen on prehistoric stone! He is a Member (of some note) of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum at Devizes, could be contacted through them by email, and the 2 Museums have strong links through membership these days.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

There is a very good, virtually forensic account on pages 198-202 of Mike Pitts' "Hengeworld" (2000)- honest, I am not on any commission for book sales! - of this "extra", far-from-Stonehenge bluestone. I recommend anyone interested should read what Pitts has to say.But does even Pitts have his own agenda as regard a conclusion?

BRIAN JOHN said...

We all have our own agendas -- and MP will be no different from others in that respect!!

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Can Brian ask Pete G where he obtained the photos? I wonder if he found them whilst at the Wiltshire History Centre, Chippenham. This houses the Wiltshire Local History Collection. The Conty Archaeological team is also based thereabouts.

Anthony Johnson (in Solving Stonehenge: the New Key to an Ancient Enigma, Thames & Hudson,2008)remarks that the finder was William Cunnington. His large collection of prehistoric finds was "regrettably....long since...dispersed (so)...it is impossible in retrospect, more than 200 years after the event, even to identify the stone in question to permit modern identification and analysis; it may or may not be the stone donated by the writer Siegfried Sassoon to Salisbury Museum in 1934
Assuming that Cunnington was correct, and that the bluestone was found in a Neolithic barrow. it was undoubtedly a rarity, for despite 2 re-excavations of the same barrow, by John Thurnam in 1864, & by William & Henry Cunnington in 1885-86, no further bluestones were recorded (importantly, it should be noted that William was a geologist). Therefore, the significance or otherwise of the Boles Barrow bluestone to Stonehenge studies must remain unresolved" [ Johnson, pp164].

These days Boles Barrow has received the attentions of a family of badgers! I think the Salisbury Plain Conservation Group has done its best to protect the barrow from their activities.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

In a note at the end of Pitts' "Hengeworld" book, he says: "Cunnington may have found more than one bluestone [in Boles Barrow]. A note in Robert Newall's [the Stonehenge excavator] handwriting at the end of Ben Cunnington's article (1924) in Avebury Museum's copy of the [W.A.M.] journal reads: 'In a copy of a letter signed " W.C. 1801" in possession of Mr Priestly of Batheaston Cunnington says - 'I have brought away TEN of them to my house' and adds 'since writing the above I find SOME OF THESE STONES are blue & grey like the upright stones of the inner circle of Stonehenge'[ words I have put in capitals were underlined by Newall].
At least Mike Pitts has conscientiously revealed this in his book, and so it would appear that the original excavator of Boles Barrow in 1801, William Cunnington, may well have found quite a few more pieces (size not stated) of bluestone apart from the one so often discussed.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now that's very interesting indeed, Tony. Most of the people who have pontificated on the Bowls Barrow enigmatic stone refer to just ONE "bluestone boulder".........

Tony Hinchliffe said...

I shall visit the Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society's Library at Long Street, Devizes, as soon as possible, with the aim of checking their own copy of W.A.M. (Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine) for the date & article above, to check it is the same copy wherein Mike Pitts found the handwritten note from Stonehenge excavator Newall appended.

BRIAN JOHN said...

It's interesting that Aubrey Burl (see my latest post) also picked up on the fact that several bluestones came from the Boles Barrow excavations.......

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Mea culpa! Whoops! I mis-read Mike Pitts' note referred to above, in the back of his "Hengeworld". The copy of the W.A.M. journal for 1924 that Pitts consulted is, in fact, in Avebury Alexander Keiller Museum's Library. If no-one pops in who is local to Avebury (e.g.Pete G?), I may be able to check it out in the next few weeks. But I have little doubt the
handwritten note Pitts refers to will be on this copy, as Mike used to be the Curator of that Museum.

Tony H said...

Wonder if anyone has yet taken a sample off the Boles Barrow bluestone, so that Rob Ixer & his colleagues can analyse it & suggest its provenance??

I do know Mike Parker Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project etc, has talked of eventually analysing the bones of the Neolithic(?) skeletons that were extracted from the barrow. He was speaking about THEIR possible origin being Wales, like the Boscombe Bowmen.I think the bones are residing in a museum somewhere. Jackie McKinley might be the analyst as she did similar work at Stonehenge.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I think the Boles Barrow bluestone has been sampled, by the OU team in the late 1980's and maybe more recently too. Salisbury Museum must have given permission. It's definitely made of spotted dolerite -- and Olwen thinks that there mat also have been other smaller fragments of spotted dolerite collected by Cunnington from the same barrow.

I have a feeling that Prof David Bowen might also have taken a sample from the boulder for cosmogenic dating -- I'll check that.

Timothy Daw said...

Looks the same as the one in the museum - I didn't notice any signs requesting no photos so I took some.
http://www.sarsen.org/2012/03/bowls-barrow-bluestone-in-salisbury.html