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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Could the Stonehenge builders count up to 21?


I was interested, in looking at the Clive Ruggles chapter in "Science and Stonehenge", to discover his thoughts on the counting ability of the Stonehenge builders.  Not a bad thing, you might think, to examine the hypothesis (very widely accepted) that Neolithic man was capable not only of counting very large numbers but also of making complex mathematical calculations, making precise measurements, dividing and multiplying, and predicting outcomes, all before the invention of writing.......... so did they use tallymarks and sticks and stones?  Counting up to 20 was probably quite easy, because those old fellows had ten fingers and ten toes, making 20 digits which could be matched up visually with 20 trees, or stones, or whatever.  But above 20, they would have needed some system of data storage or recording.  Just brilliant mental agility and brilliant memory, maybe?

Clive says that counting above 180 is not inherently implausible, if prehistoric people were duly motivated -- and then he adds this interesting bit:  "....... after all, someone was evidently capable of careful planning in order to calculate the number of bluestones and sarsens needing to be transported from afar so as to build Stonehenge ......"

Oh dear.  Now that's a major let-down from somebody subjecting some rather wacky ideas to careful scrutiny.  Who says there was careful planning?  Who says that the builders set out to collect 80 or 82 bluestones from "afar"?  Pure speculation, Clive!  Give me some evidence, and I might believe you.  In the meantime, I continue to think that the builders of Stonehenge used whatever stones they could find within the vicinity, that they eventually ran out of stones, and that Stonehenge was never completed.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Of course, the problem is that, for some inexplicable reason, everyone connected with Stonehenge who considers themselves 'part of the Establishment view' today HAS to 'tow the Party line', or risk expulsion. There is an unseen "Politbureau" (is it called SALON?) which works rather like Orwell's Thought Police. Stick to the Jackanory/ Max Bygraves version of events and you may stay on the (gravy) train for life. Deviate, and you're liable to end up in the equivalent of Siberia i.e. On The Road To Nowhere. Perhaps Clive knows which side his bread is buttered?

BRIAN JOHN said...

I couldn't possibly comment -- or maybe I could. That's all very sad, and doesn't say much for the ethics or intellectual standing of those who are involved in Stonehenge research. Maybe one day one of them will point out that the Emperor has no clothes, and then -- just think how happy they will all be!!