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Monday, 19 September 2011

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I'll begin.  Once upon a time, a long time ago, before people knew how to make things out of metal, there were two great tribes living in the land called Britain.  One great tribe lived on the chalklands of England, with their headquarters in a village called Durrington Walls, and the other great tribe lived in the Nevern Valley in West Wales.  The tribe living on the chalklands of Salisbury Plain enjoyed having barbeques, partying and feasting at every opportunity, and rock concerts were often held in their favourite concert venues including Stonehenge and Bluestonehenge.    People would travel from far and wide to these concerts, even from Scotland, Wales and the distant lands to the east.  But when they were not partying they were very fierce, and in enforcing their rule over weaker tribes they insisted on the periodic payment of tributes in the form of cattle for their triple Big Macs.  They also quite liked to get ancestor stones and other things as presents.

The tribe that lived in West Wales was also a very powerful one, and its rulers lived on a hilltop in a large village called Castell Mawr.  The members of this tribe were not so much into BBQs, but they were very spiritual people who were skilled in the working of stone.  They had to be, because there were bloody stones everywhere, just getting in the way.  So they moved stones about, and somebody had the idea, once upon a time, to raise big flat stones up onto standing stones or pillars, thereby creating wacky megalithic follies.  After a few generations their priests got into the habit of looking on these stones (which were now old and venerable) as sacred objects, and a cult emerged which believed that big stones in the ground were either male or female, or else contained the spirits of their dead ancestors.  Soon there were all sorts of rituals going on, which we still do not understand, but which probably involved virgins and sacrifices.

Some rocks were, in their eyes, more sacred than others, and in all the special sites where these rocks could be found, the people opened up quarries, took away the most auspicious stones, and built them into great circles of standing stones.  Their most favourite circle was at a place called Waun Mawn, on the lower slopes of the Preseli Mountains, a couple of miles from their favourite quarry in the valley of the Afon Brynberian, and maybe three miles from their village.  That circle had 59 standing stones in it, and truly MIGHTY rituals went on there whenever they felt inclined.  

But all was not well between the Salisbury Plain Gang and the Nevern Valley Gang.  The former coveted the splendid stones that were available to the latter in abundance,  and the latter were quite envious of the nice weather further east, and all the great gigs that were organized over there.  So the gang leaders had a big conference  on neutral territory -- probably in a nice conference centre somewhere near Bristol, and they agreed a deal.  The SPG agreed that the NVG could come and take part in their gigs and raves, so long as they brought with them as a peace offering and token of esteem their absolutely most favourite stone circle.  The NVG dithered a bit, because they were really rather fond of it themselves, but then they thought of all the good parties they might miss at Durrington Walls, and so they finally agreed.  They went home and started to dismantle the great stone circle, and managed to take 56 of the stones away on rollers and sledges -- but they ran out of steam, and never managed to take away the last three stones.  At any rate, off they went eastwards, over hill and vale, through jungle and swamp, and thirty years later they arrived at Stonehenge, older and wiser but still looking forward to a few good parties.  They put up the stones in a great circle as a token of their esteem, and gave the SPG some lessons on how to put up big stones and how to put other stones on top of them.  Then, bearing in mind that all their stones had names and were, in their eyes, the embodied spirits of their ancestors, they all did a jolly fine ritual.  That over and done with, they all started to have a great BBQ which went on for a year and a day, with vast numbers of cattle consumed and bones scattered all over the place.  (Their table manners left a bit to be desired, since they were all drunk at the time.)

Then a great peace treaty was signed -- or it would have been, if only they had been able to write.  This was later to be known as THE GREAT NEOLITHIC UNIFICATION, and it was the first time that there had ever been a unification between two of the great tribes of Britain, one from the west and one from the east.  And so they lived happily ever after.  

The end.

With grateful acknowledgement to Mike Parker Pearson.  I have recorded the story as accurately as I could, when I first heard it, given that there was a lot of unnecessary material included, which I thought it best to exclude in case any of my listeners is of a sensitive disposition.


Constantinos Ragazas said...


Trying to argue with the Prehistory Archeology Establishment of your Glacier Transport Theory is as futile as Galileo arguing with the Pope!

The only way Brian, as I see it, is that we present our case directly to the people. Your blog could be very significant in that effort. It could perhaps attract media attention and raise questions about the many failings of the current Human Transport Theory. As so many of your posts have been doing so convincingly and with so much sound science!

Let GW and MPP and others keep fabricating more fairy tales! Your posts would put them to shame with any fair minded person interested only in knowing the truth.


Tony H said...

I'll second that, Kostas.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for your votes of confidence, guys! Well, I'll battle on -- I'll try to present the evidence as honestly as I can, whenever I discover it. I admit that I only have SOME evidence supporting the glacial transport theory, but that's still better than the ZERO evidence in support of the human transport theory. So I'll persist in the belief that I'm on the right track...

Alex Gee said...

Hear Hear,

Anonymous said...

Brian, may I asked a question(s) regarding your interesting comments?

"I admit that I only have SOME evidence supporting the glacial transport theory, but that's still better than the ZERO evidence in support of the human transport theory. "

My questions to you regarding your glacial transport theory would be...

How many miles would these stones have to be moved to get to SH?

What method do you beleive was used to move the stones there?


welshlass said...

I 3rd it!

Anything new or revitalized tends to draw the skeptics. Maybe that is a good part of science--it makes us all think about the possibilities with a wider vison.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon, fair question. My current thinking is this. The "some evidence" I refer to shows us that ice crossed Pembrokeshire and flowed up the Bristol Channel (at some stage -- precise date not yet fixed) to affect the coastlands of Devon, Somerset, Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. It carried boulders and big blocks of stone -- cf the evidence from the Vale of Glamorgan and the Kenn / Court Hill area of Somerset. (On the Vale of Glanmorgan there are lots of erratics from Pembrokeshire.) What we don't know is how far to the east that ice extended. Glaciers entrain stones and carry them long distances -- that's what glaciers do, so we shouldn't be surprised.

The assemblage of bits and pieces at Stonehenge (orthostats, stumps, packing stones, debitage)looks to me like a jumble of erratic debris. it might have been used where it was found (ie the ice might have reached this far east) but we are still lacking in evidence of glaciation on Salisbury Plain. So I am open to the idea that the stones were found somewhere to the west and carried maybe 20- 30 miles to the site. What methods were used? I don't have a problem with sledges and rollers, on reasonably firm terrain like the chalk downs. So I suspect that in the end we are going to have to accept a combination of glacial and human transport -- it is self-evident that however far the Neolithic tribesmen carried the stones, they did move them and had the technical ability to put them up.

OK? That's the way I see it...

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian you write,

“-- it is self-evident that however far the Neolithic tribesmen carried the stones, they did move them and had the technical ability to put them up.”

In Philosophy, self-evident is what makes sense to us and we assume to be true as a matter of belief. In Mathematics, these are our postulates. In Science, these are our hypothesis.

The only logical criteria we hold these to is that these do not lead to logical contradictions. In Science, however, we also use Occam's Razor to filter in a theory that can explain all or most of the 'facts on the ground' in the most simple, sensible and consistent way.


BRIAN JOHN said...

I knew you wouldn't be able to resist that one, Kostas! Yes, in my book I have used Occam's Razor and have tested the hypothesis to destruction -- and I still think this is self-evident.