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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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Stonehenge Unhinged

For those who have started following my blog recently, and who may not have seen this...........

Now that some archaeologists are beginning to accept that Stonehenge's "empty quarter" was never built on, that the ancient monument was never finished, and that the same stones were used over and again in various settings by people who could apparently not make up their minds what they wanted,  here is a reminder of my little YouTube video.  It was deemed very subversive a couple of years ago, but now it seems mild and almost run-of-the-mill.  I wonder how long it will be before this becomes the accepted wisdom?


Constantinos Ragazas said...


So the “empty quarter” is now well established! That's great! Can you work now on a sensible explanation why and why there?


Tony H said...

There will be a lecture (price £5 to non-members) on the Stonehenge Landscape Project, by David Field at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, on Saturday 10th December at 2.30 pm.
Sub-titled "Recent analytical survey and investigation in The World Heritage Site", I will put a summary of the talk below.

Monuments within the Stonehenge Landscape have rarely been subject to survey techniques in modern times and in many cases reliance has been placed on Ordnance Survey depictions of the early 20th Century. In advance of the establishment of a new visitor centre and to complement and support the recent University programmes of excavation in the area, English Heritage has been conducting the Stonehenge WHS Landscape Project to determine what non-destructive survey techniques can tell us about the area.Using ground survey, aerial photography, lidar and laser scanning a number of fresh and sometimes surprising conclusions emerge. This talk will outline the results so far.
David Field is a senior landscape archaeologist at English Heritage.

and go to 'What's On' for venue details etc.

David Field was also the author of an English Heritage document Brian has referred to on a previous Post, which acknowledged that the NW Quarter of Stonehenge may well be empty.

Anthony Johnson said...

Brian I notice your video uses my plan and computer model to advance your argument that ‘Stonehenge was never finished’. I don’t object in principle, though despite the emergence of yet more modern myths, I believe archaeological evidence suggests the monument was indeed finished. I spent the latter 20 years of my archaeological career in archaeological geophysics and can assure you (given the state of the chalk around the sarsens) no geophysical survey can truly make sense of the buried features within, or in close proximity to the stones. The presence or absence of substantial stones can be indicated, but not the true details of buried strata, pits and contexts; it is difficult enough to make sense of the myriad intercutting features when revealed by excavation. Also is it really surprising that after some 4 millennia the structure is ruinous and that many stones are missing? We have evidence from the fallen slaughter stone of attempts to break it, and at Avebury there are ample documentary records of massive sarsens being toppled and broken up.

You make reference to ‘the spacing between pillars’ to support the idea of a lack of accuracy in the construction. Forget them; look instead at the spacing between the inner centres of the stones, the gaps between the stones are a consequence of the natural variability of the sarsens. If you are not convinced of the fact that it was inner faces of the stones that were set to conform to an accurate circle consider the outer irregularity of stone 16 (among many others including the Trilithon uprights, excluding stone 56 which is unique as it ‘faces’ out to the midwinter sunset). We also need to carefully consider the argument that broken stone 11 was too small to support a lintel; then why do the sarsens either side have pair’s of tenons? If 11 was too small then also was stone 21 which presents a total bearing surface of only 70cm or so (it broke during construction, we know this because the mortises on the lintel being prefabricated, had to be re-cut).

I have an open mind on your glacial transport theory, I still have problems with the general lack of other ‘exotics’ on and around Salisbury Plain or incorporated into structures which are later than Stonehenge. But for sure I wouldn’t argue with you over geomorphological matters, those are issues for geologists to decide. You will I hope have noted that Fig. 89 in my book leaves open the question of human or glacial transport, rare in archaeological texts. Among many unresolved matters we still have that of the re-used Stonehenge Bluestones to address. The most remarkable and elegant stone at Stonehenge is 36, the now re-buried lintel with its time worn mortice socket. There is currently no evidence to support the idea that these early Bluestone Trilithons ever originally stood on the site. In short there is a lot more going on than your video suggests, its not ‘wishful thinking’ to acknowledge the prehistoric genius and accuracy of construction behind Stonehenge. As for ‘field evidence’ to support the hypothesis that the monument was completed, I have plenty; it simply depends where one chooses to place the emphasis.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hi Anthony

Thanks for your comments. And thanks for your generosity re that excellent computer reconstruction of yours. I have tried to acknowledge the source wherever possible, and I do it again now! The debate re the completion (or abandonment) of Stonehenge will run and run -- but I am interested to see that some archaeologists (eg Field and Pearson) also seem to be taking the same line as I do -- namely that the staggering number of pits, sockets and intersecting surfaces that seem to be revealed every time a dig takes place suggests very strongly a constant messing about with the design. To me, that argues for indecision allied with a shortage of stones and an absence of the sort of technological brilliance that you argue for......

Not sure what you are aguing re Stone 11 -- are you saying that because it was too small it was simply left there, while other stones around it were used for the support of lintels? That sort of messiness doesn't sit well with your image of a beautifully constructed work of art.

Yes -- I noticed from your book (which I greatly enjoyed reading) that you are open to the idea of glacial transport. I will differ with you, however, on who should decide on what happened -- with all due respect to geologists, it won't be them. This is a matter to be decided by glacial geomorphologists who understand something about glacial processes and glacier dynamics.

Yes, there are many issues still unresolved -- including the history of that rather strange stone 36!

Anonymous said...

I agree it is not a problem that geology can decide or would want to.
I fear that in this debate geology has been cast as Pandora by The Fates and you as Cassandra.
A good tip never cross The Gods (and may I remind you about avoiding purple carpets).
GCU In two minds.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon, thou speakest in riddles, as is thy wont. Alex will not be amused!!

GREEK ERN said...

As we sat in Athens, if tha's got summat t'say, say iit! (Ref Anon/ Cassandra/ Pandora)

GREEK ERN said...

"sat in Athens"?

Please read as "say in Athens"

E Morecombe

Anonymous said...

Does nobody read Aeschylus anymore?
It is all in his plays.
Well Pandora is not but all the rest is.
Dionysus of Syracuse.

Geo Cur said...

The Incompleteness theorem long predates Godel . John Wood the architect who did a very accurate survey of the monument in the 1740 's writing about the missing lintels over stones 2,3, &5 " These and amny more questions will show us that the whole Work was never compleat " Flinders Petrie was of a similar mind .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for reminding us of these wise old fellows, Geo. I suppose that from the earliest days of research, the vast numbers of missing stones would be assumed to have only one reason -- the monument was never finished. And as I have often said, even the earliest illustrations of Stonehenge show an incomplete old ruin.