THE BOOK
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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Monday, 28 March 2011

Salon is increasingly unfashionable

Here is the latest from Salon -- based on those press releases of a few weeks ago relating to the zircon research and the identification of the bluestone source at Pont Saeson.

Quote:  "The finding has implications for the route by which the stones were transported to Stonehenge. Previous theories have suggested an arduous overland haul south from the peaks of Mynydd Preseli to Milford Haven, and then by sea and river to Salisbury Plain. These new outcrops are only a short distance (c 5km) from the harbour at Newport: the overland journey would have been much shorter, but the voyage via the Irish Sea is considerably longer and potentially more hazardous."

In deference to "our Fellows Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill", whoever wrote this appears to be incapable of accepting that the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge (and vicinity) is so varied that the increasingly convoluted idea of human transport over land and sea has to be dumped.  Are they going to "explain away" every new stone source, as it is discovered, by invoking some new and ever more wacky transport route?  Isn't it time that somebody at the Society took our two illustrious professors to one side and reminded them -- ever so gently -- that there are such things as glaciers?
 
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SALON - the Society of Antiquaries of London Online Newsletter
Salon 252: 28 March 2011

Zircon provides key to Stonehenge ‘bluestone’ sources


Our Fellow Dr Rob Ixer, of the University of Leicester, along with co-researchers Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Geology at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, and Dr Nick Pearce, Reader in Geochemistry at Aberystwyth University, have used the mineral zircon to pin down the provenance of some of the ‘bluestones’ that were used to form the first stone circle at Stonehenge.
‘Bluestone’ is the common name for spotted dolerite, which is blue-grey in colour when wet or freshly quarried. Also known as ‘preselite bluestone’, the source of these relatively rare igneous rocks was traced by the petrologist Herbert Thomas in 1923 to Carn Menyn, an outcrop in the Mynydd Preseli (Preseli Hills) of Pembrokeshire, where our Fellows Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill have been carrying out fieldwork for the last ten years.
However, not all of the orthostats that survive today from that first Stonehenge circle are made of preselite, and precise sources for some of the other ‘bluestones’ have proved harder to pin down because they consist of the much more abundant fine-grained rhyolites, tuffs and sandstones that are hard to tell apart under a microscope.
To crack this problem, Dr Ixer and his colleagues have built on recent research showing that igneous rocks from different magma flows contain differing amounts of the mineral zircon and have their own distinctive compositions. In a paper published in the March 2011 edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science, they show how the unique zircon signatures of the Stonehenge rhyolites enables the stones to be matched to outcrops within the Fishguard Volcanic Group. These exposures are found in an irregular band that crosses north Pembrokeshire some 8km to the north of the Mynydd Preseli, stretching from Crymych in the east to Strumble Head in the west. One particular rhyolite has been pinned down to an outcrop in a steep-sided valley near Pont Saeson.
The finding has implications for the route by which the stones were transported to Stonehenge. Previous theories have suggested an arduous overland haul south from the peaks of Mynydd Preseli to Milford Haven, and then by sea and river to Salisbury Plain. These new outcrops are only a short distance (c 5km) from the harbour at Newport: the overland journey would have been much shorter, but the voyage via the Irish Sea is considerably longer and potentially more hazardous.
Location map of north Pembrokeshire showing key localities as well as the outcrop of the Fishguard Volcanic Group in relation to the Mynydd Preseli. Possible source locations for the Stonehenge spotted dolerite bluestones are shown (see key for symbols).

Credit: Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Geology at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that these two illustrious Profs should be subject to some (ever-so-gentle) lapel-feeling??

Anonymous said...

Whilst studying at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, I was faced with a long & circuitous route home, by rail,first NORTH, via Borth, then EAST, via Shrewsbury, and THEN roughly SOUTH & SOUTH WEST towards Devon, BEFORE travelling NORTH towards Barnstaple.

However, this hypothetical Neolithic Sea Route beggars belief: intrepid, or just ridiculous?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Messrs Geoff W & Tim D could be GRADUALLY persuaded by presenting them with bags of Fox's Glacier Mints - we are talking about an ACQUIRED taste, so to speak?

BRIAN JOHN said...

All tactical suggestions are welcome ..... I like the gift of glacier mints idea! But I gather (from those who know about such things) that sometimes enlightenment comes earlier, and sometimes later, and sometimes so late that the process may take several lifetimes. Far be it from me to suggest where our dear professors may be in the great scheme of things, but they have certainly been reminded often enough that there are problems with their stone haulage and healing stones fantasies. Undeterred, they stagger on regardless to wherever they are going, ignoring everything that is brought to their attention. They cannot be IGNORANT of the evidence published by Judd, Burl, Kellaway, Williams-Thorpe and myself -- they must be perfectly familiar with all of it. They just choose to disbelieve it.

Anonymous said...

For some reason the lyrics of the song "High Hopes", about the Ant & the Rubber Tree Plant, etc, sung by Frank Sinatra, somehow spring to mind. You have to admire stubbornness in the face of increasingly insurmountable evidence. Wasn't it Eric Clapton & Stevie Winwood who founded the Super-Group, 'Blind Faith'? Pass the Sitar, Tim (I believe he IS a guitarist, at least).

BRIAN JOHN said...

It's just as well that we all have our saving graces. TD on the guitar? Great! I wonder if GW is a fiendish rapper on the quiet? I have it on good authority that even Hitler loved his grandma and had a soft spot for apfelstrudel.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of the Scandinavian group, the Cardigans? Legend has it Geoff wanted to guest on one of their Albums as he had his own ideas on how to re-interpret their material.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now then -- don't let's get too personal here. Anyway, cardigans are now apparently back in fashion.

Anonymous said...

Cardigans (the item of clothing) are great. Glad to hear they're coming back into fashion - I possess two, both very ancient, but still vital. And Cardigan Bay hosts many dolphins, very fashionable, and whom many say are Man's best real friend - and perhaps they befriended and guided Neolithic seafarers to good effect long ago? We may never know.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Heard of "Whale Rider"? Great film. Well this could be an even better blockbuster -- "Dolphin Rider", with the ancestral dolphin leading the intrepid Neolithic stonehunters with their valuable cargoes round St David's Head and across the Bristol Channel, en route for Stonehenge. An irresistible combination of iconic things.

Anonymous said...

I think Anon is referring to this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_UDkD-oFIM

PeteG

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah! Thank you, Pete. Not my scene really, but pleasant enough. There are clearly cardigans and Cardigans. I feel enlightenment coming on.

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Brian your right!!

To think that people would use a boat of all things to move Megalithic Stones, just like the Greeks and Egyptians did is quite absurd.

They are much more likely to find them naturally piled up at Stonehenge (perhaps the ice cap stood them up for them?) or in the general vicinity (dragging stones around could have been a sport at the time like tossing the caber?), just to find out that they run out of stones (bugger! - counting was not invented for another 400 years) and therefore our ancestors would have gone home (to their mud huts) after an energetic weekend, empty handed by their failure.

It's so obvious to me now!!!

So come clean on April fools' day Brian - are you having a laugh at our expense or are you just a prankster?

RJL

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, that's what makes life interesting, Robert! Some people are fools, some people pretend to be fools, some are deadly serious fools, and others are frivolous wise people. Which of us is which? Only posterity will tell......

Tony Hinchliffe said...

24 hours AFTER April Fool's Day, I regret to inform everyone I have just seen a copy of the magazine "Wiltshire" for April/May. produced by wiltshire.greatbritishlife.co.uk

I say 'regret to inform' because it contains an article by Robert Harvey entitled:

"New light on old stones of Stonehenge", Part One of Three, and it is in my view, nothing of the sort! In my opinion it is misleading and unscientific. Its main aim may be to appeal to a new species of Man, called Homo Gullibilis, seen innocently purchasing this magazine at many famous major outlets.

For example, we are told that Professor G Wainwright believes that the bluestones "lie at the core of the understanding of the purpose of Stonehenge". Okay, so far..... But he goes on to say they were quarried at Carn Menyn. Their purpose, we are told, was bound up with their undoubted healing properties in the minds of those who shipped the stones to Wessex. Some of the many springs on the Preseli hillsides have been "decorated with bluestones". The idea of Stonehenge as a Hospital is "gaining credence". And so on, ad nauseum.

"New Light"?? It depresses me to think that this version of events is being pushed to unsuspecting general readers at mass outlets, and they will take it to contain the essential facts as known in April/ My, 2011, when it does nothing of the sort.

Enya said...

Robert, I like your hat and your style. Where is your web-site? Someone said you may have written a book, is this true?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hi Enya
Here is Robert's site with info about the book:
http://www.prehistoric-britain.co.uk/
Always happy to help a fellow struggling author. It might all be deadly serious, and on the other hand it might just be an April Fools joke. Leave it to you to judge....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hi Enya -- I like your name -- unusual, and probably Irish? Have you got a nice hat too?

Enya said...

Well, Brian, you know I am Irish, but I live in the London area. I'm thinking of getting a nice hat for the wedding: Kate and William's at the Abbey - I'll be standing outside, with a tear in my eye, no doubt. Will you be going, Robert?