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

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

More about footprints and sledges

These two maps (courtesy Dyfed Archaeology) are interesting, since they give us a clue to the main coastal locations utilised by our Mesolithic and Neolithic ancestors while sea-level was rising to approximately its present position.  In a previous post I drew attention to the presence of Mesolithic human footprints in the mud of the Gwent Levels, and now there are other examples too.  Here is a footprint (probable age:  Mesolithic or Neolithic) from Formby Point in Lancashire:


And here are some more fossil footprints in ancient peat (Mesolithic) in Lydstep Bay, South Pembrokeshire.  This peat is of course typical of the submerged forests which are found in most bays around this coast.  Age?  Maybe 6,000 BP?

If Mesolithic footprints are being discovered, there is no reason why there shouldn't be Neolithic ones too.  And if the archaeologists are correct, we should also be able to find sledge tracks (and maybe the odd abandoned sledge and bluestone as well).  After all, the stone-fetching expeditions must surely have used the flat coastal tracts in preference to the rough terrain inland, mustn't they?

A nice quite from Prof GW:

"The intertidal zone, because of its nature and because of the fact that it is in an inundated landscape, can give us a great amount of information about the past environment of the last six thousand years, and this gives us a picture of human settlement which, ironically, gives us a more complete picture of Man and his lifestyle and his environment than we get from the dry, terrestrial sites. It is a very important environment for us to study and, indeed, a very neglected environment. It is also very difficult to put a human face on archaeological evidence, and with these footprints you have actually the mark of the people concerned, and that is what makes them so important".

Professor Geoffrey Wainwright, English Heritage.
"Ephemeral Archaeology", BBC Radio 4 "Science Now" series, 6 November 1993.   


George Peterson said...

Hello Brian,
Firstly I must report that I have also received partial photos, and now, sadly, I'm receiving just blank rectangles, so this post is typed without reference to your info, but never mind.
I don't think you are really expecting anyone to find sleds or their tracks in the mud, (I can see the bulge in your cheek where your tongue is).
Nevertheless, for the time being let us assume that you are being serious.
Speaking purely from the perspective of someone who has no sailing, canoeing or seafareing experience, then I would avoid risking my valuable bluestones by taking them anywhere near deep water. I would also steer clear of coastal plains because river mouths tend to be wider and deeper in these areas, after all it is at this point that they are carrying their maximum amount of water. Also, as I notice you have said on previous occassions, boggy or marshy land would be very difficult to navigate.
Would it not, hypothetically, make more sense to use ridgeways and inland higher ground, where wide, deep rivers are narrow, shallow streams and the ground is generally firmer?
George Peterson

BRIAN JOHN said...

George -- slightly tongue in cheek, yes! A transport route along the ridgeways? Not sure what MPP's latest position on this, but he prefers an inland route, by the sound of it, at least for the Altar Stone which appears to have come from the Senni Beds in Carmarthenshire / Brecon Beacons.

But as the number of bluestone sources has gone up, he now seems to be thinking of sea transport as well, with the Rhosyfelin "quarry" coming into the picture, and Newport Bay being used as a sea export location? It is all very confusing.......

In using the ridges and uplands, I am not at all sure that you are making anything easier for the Neolithic hauliers -- great exposure, extensive boggy areas, and very steep slopes, with a lot of climbing and descending.

And remember -- you have to explain transport from about 30 locations if you are going to get all of the erratic material from the source areas to Stonehenge...

Tony H said...

Brian, good to see you have now, as of today, fixed the problem in relation to the two maps on this Post. That's better, as my knowledge of NORTH Wales is much more limited than the South.

George Peterson said...

Hello Brian,
Your points against using a more upland route are being pondered. I found the map of the distribution of Mesolithic sites in Wales very interesting. I haven't done a count but it looks as if the sites are more or less evenly shared between the coast and the higher ground.
Could you say where you obtained the maps from, please?

BRIAN JOHN said...

George -- these maps are here:

"The Lost Land of our Ancestors"

george Peterson said...

Many thanks for the map reference. BW George