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....
To order, click
HERE

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Another stone lifting theory

Without charge, and in a spirit of festive goodwill (because Wales did so well in the Rugby World Cup) I offer this to the archaeologists.

In looking at something else, suggested by Geo Cur, I came across this nice little picture, indicating a possible mechanism by which Neolithic boatmen might have picked up heavy elongated stones from the sea floor in areas where there are high tides (for example, on the Pembrokeshire coast).

 (After Geraldine and Matthew Stout, 2008, with respect to Newgrange in Ireland)

The idea is that you drag your stone down across the mudflats at low tide and mark its position.  Then you wait for the tide to rise, position your boat over the stone, and let the falling tide drop your boat down until it is positioned on top of the stone.  Then you lash the stone and the boat up together.  Then you wait for the tide to rise and lift the boat and the stone -- and with the stone now clear of the bottom, off you paddle in your boat all the way to Somerset, where you deliver your under-slung cargo to your waiting friends who have their rollers and sledges at the ready for the last part of the journey.  If you are really smart, you might be able to drop the stone, on a falling tide,  directly onto a sledge which has been pre-positioned on the bed of the estuary.

The article in which this idea is proposed has a rather wacky -- and I think unconvincing -- theory that the Breton word "bronbag" (meaning "boat's breast") used for describing megalithic standing stones indicates that big stones were moved in this way by water.  I think it much more likely that this word is simply  a descriptive one, applied to standing stones which looked, from a distance,  like boats positioned on end and bedded into the ground.

All good fun.......

 Source:
http://www.e-a-a.org/TEA33.pdf
Words as Archaeological Finds
A Further Example of the Ethno-Philological Contribution to the Study of European Megalithism

by Francesco Benozzo, University of Bologna, Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere, Via Cartoleria 5, I-40124 Bologna, Italy.
francesco.benozzo@unibo.it

See also:
Stout, G. and M. Stout 2008. Newgrange. Cork University Press, Cork.

15 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

This makes Robert's docking-crane method of lifting stones off a boat eminently sensible in comparison! It confirms my mistrust of academicians knowing truth.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- you are a very sceptical fellow. If I was a Neolithic engineer (which thank the Lord I'm not, sir) and I needed to move some big stones, this is probably the way I would do it, making use of the presence of coastal mud flats and a very large tidal range (over 4m). Nature in the service of mankind, and all that........

Mind you, there would still be huge technical challenges -- relating to the buoyancy and stability of the boat, propulsion, seaworthiness, the method of creating and fixing the slings etc etc. So it probably wouldn't work anyway -- but the IDEA is quite appealing, I reckon.

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Thank you for that Kosta!

What a pile of academia - it just proves that a pure archaeological degree (let alone a PHd) is a total waste of time.

The subject (like a Baccalauréat) should carry equal time and credit in Engineering and Anthropology, then the nonsense of the last 50 years (including Hunter Gatherers) on how the stones were moved would be known.

Any engineer can tell you the simplest way to take a stone down a river is to tie logs to it (not exactly rocket science is it?)

The Greeks and Egyptians just put it on the back of reed boats (not even wood needed) or if its really heavy tie two boats together with planks to make a catamaran and put it on in the middle.

Just make sure to don't have an archaeologist trying to place the stone on the boat as it will be on the bottom of the river and you need to drag it as described.

RJL

Sir Ranulph Fiennes said...

Another potential Job Creation Scheme for the Coalition Government to devote its time (and resources) to, perhaps with Eric Pickles adding his considerable weight to the effort (in the boat). Lovely jubley, Rodney.dsdsh

Melvyn Bragg said...

Is this the original meaning of the word, "megalo-mania"? If so, we could do an episode of "In Our Time" on this, entitled 'Neolithic Heavy Freight Delivery'. Let me know please, Brian.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Melvyn -- nice idea, but you need to speak to my agent.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Sir Ranulph -- you look like a sturdy sort of bloke who is up for a challenge. Fancy dressing up in goatskins and trying a reconstruction of this stone-moving lark? Can you find a few mates who can handle a skin boat? Can you find your way from Newport Bay to Avonmouth? I can put you in touch with a very nice chap from the BBC -- they are sure to be looking, right now, to do another special piece for the One Show. They don't pay anything (BBC economies and all that) but instant stardom is guaranteed.

PS. If you play your cards right, you might even get to sit on the couch.

Nasty Nancy from Nantgaredig said...

What's the problem?
We've got ladies in our darts team who could simply frighten the blutty stones along.

SIR RANULPH FIENNES said...

Sorry, Avonmouth is nothing like remote enough for an adventurous sort of chap like me, but thanks for asking. Try Dick Strawbridge.

Nasty Nancy said...

Hey Sir Ranulph, if you're that adventurous come meet the ladies from the darts team.
Big Betty says "Explorers are allright, but she couldn't eat a whole one".
Try your luck, boyo!

Alex Gee said...

Brian
As an England supporter: it pains me to say it, but Wales were robbed. They should have been in the final at least.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so -- it was an Irish conspiracy. Mind you, Wales have only themselves to blame -- more composure with those kicks, and they could have had one of the greatest sporting triumphs of all time....

Melvynn Bragg said...

Brian, I want to talk now about the philology of the Breton word "BRONBAG" (meaning "boat's breast")., mentioned in your piece. We don't have many 'Bronwyns' in Cumbria, where I come from,or indeed on the South Bank, but I was wondering, could you tell us a little more now about any 'Bronwyns' you may have encountered in South or West Wales, or even North Wales, and do they fit with the unfortunate Breton philology?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Melvyn, I know you are coming at this in the true spirit of academic enquiry, but if I tell you how many Bronwens I have known, I could get into deep water, if you will excuse the pun.

If you are asking how many standing stones of my acquaintance look like boats stuck in the ground, I would say that quite a few of them do. In silhouette, from a distance.......

Melvynn said...

Yes, silhouettes are always quite important, in my experience, especially on the Cumbrian hillsides, or indeed, even in the dance halls. I seem to remember Les Dawson wrote at length on this topic....