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Friday, 14 October 2011

On the transport of pillars





 



 

 In one of my recent posts I speculated about the "survivability" of elongated orthostats or pillars when carried by ice over long distances.  It is obviously possible, as shown by some examples in the literature, but the stresses and strains involved make it much more likely that during transport in or under a glacier pillars will simply be snapped into smaller segments.  I am no engineer, but common sense dictates that it is easier to carry -- without damage -- a block of stone with width:length dimensions of 1:2 than a block with dimensions 1:7.  So that limits our options with respect to glacial transport.  That's why I speculated on very large "super-erratics" being dragged from their places of origin and then being broken up either during or after transport in the ice.

Some of the Stonehenge bluestones (for example 69 and 70) do indeed appear to have pillar width:length ratios of 1:7 or thereabouts.  So are those stones more likely to have been carried by human beings and their gadgets, or by glaciers?  I'm not so sure about that.  A number of people (including Aubrey Burl) have argued that it makes no sense for Neolithic stone-collecting parties to carry rough pillars weighing maybe 6-8 tonnes all the way from West Wales to Stonehenge, only to then cut them down to a pillar shape and a weight of 3-4 tonnes.  That's not very ergonomic.  Much more likely, one might argue, to shape them close to the place of origin, and then carry them on their sledges or in wicker baskets, or whatever.

Here are some of the transport devices suggested: top, the Len Saunders suggestion (a Cuban A-frame or V-shaped sledge).  Middle:  the Len Saunders suggestion for "underslung" raft transport.  Below:  the sledge used (with rollers) in the 1954 Atkinson towing experiment.



 

I suggest that if you had been trying to move pillars with width:length ratios of 1:7, using any of the wondrous methods described in the literature, across rough, boggy and precipitous terrain,  you would have found it incredibly difficult -- if not impossible -- to deliver your stones intact.  The stresses and strains would have been intolerable, unless a hugely complex and bulky straightjacket of some sort had been used.  And that would have made a difficult operation even more difficult.  

All things considered, my money is still on a complex jumble of rocks and rock fragments being delivered by ice to somewhere on Salisbury Plain, followed by a local quarrying and stone shaping operation.

So instead of looking for bluestone quarries in West Wales, maybe we should start looking for them on Salisbury Plain?

73 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this idea presented on another site?
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=Forum&file=viewtopic&topic=4583&forum=1&start=0

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Anon! Yes, that one is fun -- and there are plenty of other fun theories too. Making theories about the movement of the bluestones is a sort of national hobby -- like gardening.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I have more ideas on your 'big idea'. And some questions.

1)You are arguing large sections of bedrock froze and fussed with the glacier mass. And as the glacier advanced, these ripped off and were carried along with the glacier flow. For this to happen, certainly the volume of glacier mass is crucial. Also certain, such volume is greatest over valleys than on mountain tops. Question. Could such glacier processes you argue carried 'bluestone quarries' occur at locations where the bluestones are said to have been quarried?

2)If enormous sections of bedrock are ripped and carried by glaciers, would the geomorphology of their provenance be different and distinct? Would the surface drag of such massive erratics gorge the land in distinct markings? Can 'bluestone quarries' be deposited 250 km away?

3)If prehistoric people quarried the bluestones from such a 'bluestone quarry' brought to them en mass at Stonehenge – using wedges and levels to pry open the stones along natural seams – isn't it more likely that Nature would have done this en route and more effectively?

We have either the bluestones were quarried by Nature at Preceli and carried to Stonehenge by glaciers on the surface. Or Nature quarried the bluestone pillars from the 'quarry erratic' carried by glaciers to Stonehenge.

No matter how we go about this we're brought full circle to my original hypothesis repeatedly rejected by you. The bluestones were naturally brought to Stonehenge on the surface of an ice cover.

Occam's Razor, Brian! Remember?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Kostas
re-Occam's Razor

If it is accepted that both the Bluestones and Sarsens have been transported to Stonehenge (at least locally-20 -30 miles) by the human transport theory and there is little evidence to support the stones have been moved by glacier (Brian had indicated that in another post) then how does the Occam's Razor debate/discussion apply here?

If the human transport theory can account for distances of 20-30 miles then it must have been likely that greater distances were attainable!

The glacier theory has not been able to show evidence to place stones in the immediate area (20-30 miles).

Just a though...

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon -- since when is it "accepted" that human transport was responsible for 20 - 30 miles of stone transport to Stonehenge? It's possible but by no means probable. We have all been playing about with different scenarios on this blog -- but don't forget that there is NO evidence that the Stonehenge stones -- either bluestones or sarsens -- were carried from any distance at all. Field and Pearson now seem to think that the sarsens were gathered up from the immediate vicinity -- so why not the bluestones as well?

Geo Cur said...

The reason that the Sarsens may have been sourced more locally than the Marlborough Downs is due to the possible presence of beds nearer the monument something that cannot be applicable to the local presence of bluestones . There is no evidence that the stones were transported but there never is evidence of human transport in prehistory , even in cases where it is obvious they were transported .
This absence of evidence , but clearly not evidence of absence , is of a different degree (pun intended ) from the absence of evidence for glaciaton on Salisbury Plain .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- with ref to this: ".....there never is evidence of human transport in prehistory , even in cases where it is obvious they were transported."
We could have an interesting discussion about that statement, and especially about the word "obvious". Where a stone in a megalith is "erratic" in the sense that it is not from an immediately adjacent outcrop, it is more often than not a truly glacial erratic -- in other words, the direction of transport is exactly as you would expect, from a knowledge of ice directions. Stephen Briggs and others have argued this quite forcefully, and Steve Burrow has said that all of the megalithic structures in Wales are made of immediately available stones -- ie no human transport needed. If a stone has demonstrably been moved in a direction opposite to that of prevailing ice movement, then we might start to consider human agency. Not otherwise.

And as for "absence of evidence for glaciaton on Salisbury Plain" -- what if an assemblage of erratic stones at Stonehenge, from around 30 different sources, all from the west, is all the evidence you need -- staring you in the face? It's actually not bad evidence -- look at the example of the Darwin Boulders in Patagonia.

Geo Cur said...

Brian , it is a waste of time arguing for human transport in prehistory in the UK with "strong " advocates for glaciation , as it is immediately trotted out as the “explanation “ .This doesn’t work in those areas where glaciation didn’t take place and human transport is the obvious explanation . This can start at Jersey and Brittany where glaciation although not generally accepted for these areas is still to be used then there plenty of obvious examples in non glaciated Africa and the Middle East , which make the effort involved in moving some 3-4 tone stones seem inconsequential in comparison . I am no geomorphologist but I imagine that the there are very few who believe that Salisbury Plain was glaciated , do you ?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- very happy to accept that human beings moved large stones for limited distances in places where there are no "simpler" or natural explanations, and as long as we have solid evidence that stones have actually come from where we think they have come from! Sometimes, we have assumptions as to places of origins, rather than accurate provenancing, as you will be fully aware.

And I am not going to accept the rather feeble argument that if people could move big stones in country A, they they probably also did it in country B. That way, we get straight into circular reasoning.

Do I believe that Salisbury Plain was glaciated? On balance, yes -- because this is what glaciological theory and the latest modelling tells us. I will part company with James Scourse on this -- he is not a glaciologist, even though certain archaeologists seem to think that he is.

But I try to keep an open mind on all of this. This is what this blog is all about -- exploring different scenarios and lines of evidence, in the hope of finding something that best matches both the theory and the evidence on the ground.

Geo Cur said...

The argument isn’t , because people in country A moved big stones therefore they did so in country B .They moved big stones in countries A- Y where glaciation could never be an explanation but in country Z , i.e. Britain you might expect they could also do so , unless they were especially deficient but even if they did glaciation could always be used as a counter explanation .
I don’t know the literature but even to me , almost totally ignorant in this area a glaciated Salisbury Plain seems hardly mainstream . I thought current thinking was the ice stopped somewhere in a line between Bath and Bridgewater

George Peterson said...

Brian,
As an aid to discussion perhaps you could indicate what you imagine the approximate figures for the human transport of a bluestone would be, for the following, please:

1). The mass of a stone;
2). The number of people to move the stone;
3). The speed of travel, and
4). The distance between source and destination.
Thanks,
George

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Anon,

Sorry for the late response. I have been away from my computer. But since you asked about my reference to Occam's Razor in my post above to Brian, I feel I owe you a reply.

The Occam's Razor reference was directed to Brian's 'big idea' that glaciers may have brought entire bluestone quarries as enormous erratics from Preseli. I find that a rather complex explanation. Thus my reference to Occam's Razor.

Brian is considering this possibility because he knows that 'pillar erratics' carried over long distance in glacier mass would be subjected to great stress and likely break up en route. Only if these pillar erratics were carried on the SURFACE of the glacier would these survive the journey.

To get around this weakness in his glacier transport argument, Brian is now hypothesizing that 'bluestone quarries' were carried by glaciers and these may have been either deposited near Stonehenge to be quarried by local people or they were quarried by Nature en route and deposited near Stonehenge.

The simpler explanation, in my view, is to consider a 'local ice cover' with pillar erratics riding on the surface of the ice. This has been my position for a long time. This explains all the 'facts on the ground'. Brian has always rejected this explanation in the past. Mainly because he is so entrenched to think only in terms of glacier ice. But most geologists find the evidence for glaciers advancing to Salisbury Plain rather lacking. I think it is fair to say that is the essence of the controversy.

Brian's argument with my 'local ice cover theory' is how did this ice cover form? I fair question. I cannot say for sure I know how it formed. But what is crystal clear to me is that it explains all the features associated with these prehistoric monuments in the UK and all over the world. Two possible scenarios come to my mind. But I am not an expert on this.

As for 'human transport'? It's a romantic idea, but lacks common sense. I think we'll do well to consider the role that Nature played in the construction of these prehistoric monuments. Rather than inventing prehistoric lost civilizations and capabilities of people that left no historical records behind.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

I am with Brian on this. We should first consider simpler and more natural explanations. Before we invent history to explain prehistory.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

George -- you shouldn't be asking me these questions -- ask somebody like MPP, GW or TD who thinks he has it all sorted! As you might have perceived, I am profoundly sceptical about the human transport idea. While you are about it, you might also ask about motivation and about the nature of the terrain. in my view the latter point is absolutely crucial -- I have always argued that no matter how easy -- or difficult it might be to transport one bluestone -- or 82 -- across the rolling grasslands of Salisbury plain, it would have been vastly more difficult to transport stones across the landscape I know and love -- in West Wales. Bogs, thick jungle, precipitous slopes, rushing streams with waterfalls and cataracts, and many other obstacles too......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- you are being very disingenuous in pretending that there "never is" evidence of human transport of stones over long distances. You seem to assume that we should accept your assurances that it did happen in the case of the bluestones, and that we shouldn't expect to find any evidence for it. Come off it. There are many types of physical evidence that might help to convince sceptics like me -- for example, find me an ancient sledge with a large stone on it in the mud of the Avon river mouth, and I might be impressed!

You don't have a "killer fact" any more than I do. Let's just be honest with one another and admit that we both have hypotheses that we think are reasonable, and which would each be strengthened or confirmed if such a "killer fact" could be discovered. Until that happens, no matter what fanciful "evidence" our 2 groups of learned professors might come up with, I continue to think that the glacial transport theory has more going for it than the human transport alternative.

Geo Cur said...

“Brian , you have misrepresented what I said on a few counts .I should know and I assure you I was not being “very” disingenuous or pretending . It’s simply a fact , there is no evidence for human transport over any distance ,do you know of any ? I don’t . By it’s nature it was simply effort coupled with organic tools and being pre recording what is likely to remain ? maybe one day something will come to light close to a major monument but so far there is nothing .
What assurances about the bluestones , how can I possibly give or have given any ? What hypothesis ? I don’t have a hypothesis .
“I thought current thinking was the ice stopped somewhere in a line between Bath and Bridgewater “ was ignored .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- I'm sorry if I have misunderstood or misrepresented you here, but you do seem to be arguing for one level of proof (ie zero) for one hypothesis (the human transport one) and quite another level of proof for another hypothesis (the glacial one). That's not very logical -- if a theory is to stand up, it has to be capable of "ground truthing" (to use a term that the modelling people use) -- and if there is no ground truthing then the theory should be nothing more than an interesting idea, given no more than modest respect. Instead of that, it has become an all-pervading ruling hypothesis, with learned professors inventing evidence which they hope will prop it up. Not good enough, as I hope you will agree.

Anyway, I accept your protestations of agnosticism in the matter -- and hope we can maintain a civilised dabate!

Sorry I forgot to mention your other point -- about the ice edge. I did not ignore it deliberately, I assure you. The current thinking, probably accepted by most geomorphologists, is that there are glacial deposits around Bath, around Kenn and Court Hill, and in the Somerset Levels. Some think the Mendips were glaciated, and I incline that way myself. That means an ice edge maybe somewhere near Glastonbury. But a group of geomorphologists and glaciologists, involved in the modelling work for the GBG, think that if the Anglian ice reached the Scillies and the Cornish coast, then a simple application of the laws of ice physics suggests that the ice may well have reached Salisbury Plain. So the whole discussion is up in the air -- and what we need now is field evidence.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

There is no mystery on Stonehenge other than the mystery “human transport” proponents make of Stonehenge. All this can be simply and naturally explained!

I am troubled by your statement,

“ It’s simply a fact, there is no evidence for human transport over any distance”.


You use this “no evidence of human transport” as a logical foundation to argue for “human transport.” This amounts to no more than Truth by Conviction. It is a statement of Faith and not a statement of Fact. The very logic used by some people to argue extra-terrestrials built Stonehenge or Merlin the Wizard carried the stones. No evidence for any of that! So what are we to conclude? It happened?

I hope you don't mean this!

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Brian , I’m responding to two of your posts in one here .
The nearest to a question was the comment “I thought current thinking was the ice stopped somewhere in a line between Bath and Bridgewater “ , I doubt that MPP , GW ,&TD are appropriate for a discussion on that .

I was simply stating facts there is no evidence for human transport of megaliths from prehistory in the UK . That does not mean “ humans did not transport megaliths in the UK in prehistory “ or “therefore humans transported megaliths from A to B in prehistory “ .What it does mean in relation to this discussion ,and I have said it before , is that there are different limits and constraints on human transport and glaciation and the evidence for both is of two totally different categories and should not get confused or conflated . I have also made clear previously that I have no agenda or axe to grind and am entirely agnostic about the bluestones being transported by humans or glaciers or a combination of both . I am however interested in discovering what is the most likely scenario , in the light of research and reasoned knowledge based interpretation .
My understanding was the glacier stopped on a rough Bath /Bridgewater line ,you seem to accept that. The other geomorphologists and glaciologists who may be favourable to a glaciation extending to Salisbury Plain clearly have something interesting to say ,who are they ,and how is this theory accepted in the mainstream ?

George

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- glad you agree that MPP, GW and TD are not the appropriate people to pass judgement on where the ice edge might have been. Perhaps you could say that to them yourself? They do have an unfortunate habit of publicly misrepresenting the situation, in their desperate attempts to underpin some of their fanciful ideas. Such misrepresentation is entirely unnecessary, and undermines their credibility.

Re the glaciological work, I have put up other posts on this -- some quite recently. See my post of 30th Sept:
http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2011/09/few-centuries-of-glacial-action.html

Not sure we can talk about "the mainstream" here -- sadly, this is not a topic that receives a lot of attention from geomorphologists and glaciologists, in spite of my efforts to get them involved! (Many of those whose opinions I would value are heavily involved in climate change research in Antarctica and Greenland -- and I do not begrudge them that. Hugely important research...)

I don't agree with Kostas on much, but I do agree with him that -- with respect to the human transport theory -- conviction is not a very good substitute for facts. If people want that theory to be taken seriously, it is incumbent upon them to apply the normal protocols and parameters of scientific research. The HHT theory was prematurely proposed and prematurely accepted, and that has got everybody into a fine old pickle.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , see above for explanation why “no evidence of human transport” as a logical foundation to argue for “human transport” is not the case .

“There is no mystery on Stonehenge other than the mystery “human transport” proponents make of Stonehenge. “

I hope you don’t mean this

Tony H said...

With regard to the issue of human transportation of megaliths over a fair old distance in the British Isles, I will just quote from the Yorkshire Journal, Spring 2000. The Rudston Monolith, which is 26 foot above ground, is foreign to the Rudston (near Bridlington) area. Its geological origin has been much debated. It is an extremely durable Jurassic gritstone, which "contrasts with the soft, easily eroded chalk of the Yorkshire Wolds." The Journal goes on to say its geological source has been much debated. Whether it arrived by natural forces or human agency has also been much debated.

"However, the stone, it now appears, may have been quarried from an outcrop at Bolton Craggs, above Grosmont. on the North York Moors (Letter to Mr W Burgess of Rudston, from the British Museum (Natural History): Geological Museum, 1986."

The distance involved is over 30 miles (50kms).

Do you have any expertise to share on the geology and geomorphology involved,Brian?

Anonymous said...

Brian
re:
"And as for "absence of evidence for glaciaton on Salisbury Plain" -- what if an assemblage of erratic stones at Stonehenge, from around 30 different sources, all from the west, is all the evidence you need -- staring you in the face? It's actually not bad evidence"

Do you know if there is a map with the locations of the 30 different sources identified on the map?

Thanks

Goronwy Thomas said...

Brian,
I think the question posed by George Peterson is valid.
He simply asked you to provide the figures for the weight of bluestone, number of men required, speed of transport and distance covered to establish what you, not MPP, TD and GW, think would have been the limit of human capability in prehistoric times.
Only you know what you think are the critical points at which humans fail, leaving glaciation as the alternative.
What figures are in your head?

Regarding motivation, it is fair to say that no one has the faintest idea what spurred these people on, but as far as terrain, waterfalls, cataracts etc. are concerned would they not simply have avoided them?

Can we have a straight answer please without recourse to wriggling?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon -- all those differebt bluestone sources? No may as far as I know (are you offering?) but I published a list here:
http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2010/11/more-than-30-different-bluestone.html

More than 30 different bluestone sources -- Nov 9th 2010.

of course, with the new work by Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins, the list has gone up even more. Some of the older rock identifications may be inaccurate, but that won't alter the fact that we have here a mottley collection or rocks from many different places.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Sorry -- I meant "no map as far as I know".......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Goronwy -- I'm not doing any wriggling here. I'm not doing any arguing for the human transport of the bluestones -- why should I? If you believe in all of that, give me your figures and I'll tell you if I think they are reasonable.

Let those who accept a theory support it themselves, if they can.

On the matter of avoiding nasty obstacles, come off it! What sort of world do you think those fellows inhabited? Come and have a look at the terrain for yourself, and then cover it with pristine woodland and undrained expanses of boggy land. Time for some reality here.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

What exactly you mean when you “hope I don't mean”?

Can we avoid such double talk and address the issues simply and straight on? No need for curlicues when discussing facts!

We will not resolve deeply rooted conviction now. But I put my faith on Truth to eventually answer our questions. I want to get a similar commitment from you!

If it should turn out there are stone fragments found in the Stonehenge Layer that with absolute certainty (because science so determined) do not trace to ANY of the stones standing, lying or buried at Stonehenge – whole or stumps – but do trace to various locations at Preseli and elsewhere, would you commit to accept this could not be the result of human agency, but only Nature?

Brian asks a very relevant question. Why is it that all the stones at Stonehenge trace to “points West” from where glaciers would have advanced – but not from the East or South or North? Just a coincidence? I have a very long list of “coincidences” to test your commitment to Truth!

Kostas

Goronwy Thomas said...

Dear Brian,
You were the one who said above that you "are happy to accept that human beings moved large stones for limited distances in places where there are no "simpler" or natural explanations".

In order that we are reading from the same Hymn book would you please give your definition of:
1). Large stones, and
2). Limited distances.

I have examined the area on several occasions, along with other parts of the country that may have been on the likely route taken by the people who moved the bluestones, and I fear the only insurmountable obstacle is the tunnel vision of one Dr. B. John.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

HTT proponents,

Seeking common ground, can we establish conditions for transport of megaliths and the construction of monuments by prehistoric people? I'll start.
favorable terrain
favorable climate
technical knowledge
social organization
sizable population
organized religion
charismatic leaders revered in life and in death
inter-generational transmission of knowledge and beliefs
economic well being
commerce with other people
application of technical knowledge to practical utility
public buildings with foundations
common purpose
leisure
Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Goronwy -- more respect, please. The whole of this blog consists of explorations of ideas relating to the natural and human movement of stones. You will see that if you read back through the blog. So please don't accuse me of tunnel vision.

Not sure where you are coming from on all of this. You seem to be outraged at the very idea that natural agencies might be responsible for the transport of an assemblage of large stones from A to B. What's your problem with that? Debris of all sizes is moved about by natural agencies all the time -- that's how landscapes evolve. On the principle of Occam's Razor, all I'm doing is asking whether we have evidence that ice might have moved bluestones over a greater or lesser distance. If that is established, would you find that to be some sort of ourtrage, or some sort of denial of the wondrous abilities of mankind? If so, there is no point in having this conversation. All we need is some calm science here.

Where would it get us if I was to say that a large stone was twenty tonnes and a limited distance was two miles? Precisely nowhere.

Tony H said...

RUDSTON MONOLITH: my comment, 20.42 16/10.11 above:-

I asked, Brian, if you had any knowledge of the likelihood of this huge 26-foot stone having been transported by human agency (a further considerable length of the stone is likely to be below ground), given that you were a Durham University geomorphology glacial specialist, and that you knew the North York Moors' geomorphology and geology as part of your practical fieldwork.


The Yorkshire Journal speculates on 2 possible human agency routes from the alleged quarrying source above Grosmont on the North York Moors; also a far less likely treacherous sea passage.
It then adds the Rudston stone MAY have arrived by natural means, viz glaciers, "and that it was merely dragged to its final resting place in prehistoric times." It continues: "This seems unlikely to the present writer given the general absence of similar pieces of rock - large and small - in the vicinity of Rudston village and the surrounding areas."

I would be interested in your opinion, Brian, on the likelihood, or otherwise, that the Rudston Stone was moved in the direction of the Yorkshire Wolds by glaciation. This is a massive megalith, one of the biggest in Britain.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , the “I hope you don’t mean this “ was direct quote from you ,so hopefully you will understand your own phrase .
There is no way you will get a commitment from me about putting faith “on Truth” .
Not all the stones at Stonehenge come from west , it was only yesterday there was a mention about sarsens which may have come from any other direction .

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , the “I hope you don’t mean this “ was direct quote from you ,so hopefully you will understand your own phrase .
There is no way you will get a commitment from me about putting faith “on Truth” .
Not all the stones at Stonehenge come from west , it was only yesterday there was a mention about sarsens which may have come from any other direction .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't know that monolith, Tony. But I will investigate and come back to you.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- you are right. That was badly phrased -- I should have said that the far-travelled monoliths all appear to have come from the west. Of course, both the sarsens and the far-travelled stones might have been collected up from a certain radius around Stonehenge -- from all points of the compass. I think this is what Pearson and Field seem to be suggesting in the latest EH publication.

And there are of course hammerstones, mauls and packing stones that seem to have come from Chilmark and other places with other compass directions. This "clutter" fascinates me -- and it has sadly received very little treatment in the published literature.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony -- that monolith. Really rather a nice one! I don't know the territory, but it looks as if the stone has come from the north. the glaciation of this area was complex -- Rudston looks very close to the Devensian ice edge. the pattern of glaciation in Yorkshire was complex -- it's thought that the North York Moors remained ice free during the Devensian, and that Scandinavian ice pushed down along the coast, pressing some way inland.

Overall, the directions of ice movement appear to have been broadly north towards south -- so whether we are talking about a Devensian erratic, or one transported in an earlier phase of glaciation -- it does seem to fit. My money would be on this being a glacially transported block or pillar -- especially since there seem to be other bits of the same rock type in the neighbourhood.

Geo Cur said...

Tony fwiw , Thorpe and O Williams-Thorpe accept that Rudston is 2 km outside the the limit of Devensian glaciation but with the caveat that the occurrence of earlier glaciations and proximity to limits of Devensain glaciation “indicate that it is not necessary to invoke human transport .”

Tony H said...

Brian/ Geo Cur RUDSTON MONOLITH:-

thanks for your expertise on the provenance of this monolith and its likely means of transportation. By chance, someone had given me this edition of the Yorkshire Journal, but I've not been to Rudston, though David Sterry, also ex-Durham, has. The article led me up the garden path so to speak, as it mentioned correspondance from the British Museum/ Geological Museum, 1986. The article goes on to say the Rudston monolith stands at the centre of a highly complex and structured, and nationally very important, prehistoric landscape, containing quite a few Neolithic cursuses and long barrows; a henge; and later round barrows.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo you write,

“There is no way you will get a commitment from me about putting faith “on Truth” .”


So Geo, no matter what the evidence is, you will stick to your beliefs. And your beliefs do not include 'believing in truth'. Sounds like a declaration of war. Just what those of us committed to truth seek to avoid.

I guess you are not willing to discuss 'conditions for human development' either in the list put forth in my previous post.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , Once again you have created a logical fallacy .
“There is no way you will get a commitment from me about putting faith “on Truth” .” .does not infer as you suggest " no matter what the evidence is, you (i.e. me )will stick to your beliefs."
In my experience "truth seekers " are frequently war mongerers .

Why guess ,you could have asked ?
Conditions for human development ?

Anonymous said...

Brian
Just as a point of discussion regarding the leading edge of any glacier.

Is it possible that the leading edge/front of any glacier would be able to pick up and move erratics over a significant distance?

and

Is it possible that erractics from further back on a glacier can be moved up to the leading edge of the glacier?

Thanks

BRIAN JOHN said...

Very occasionally the front edge of a glacier is capable of "bulldozing" soft sediments and debris ahead of it. In other cases there may be shear planes close to the snout, which carry debris up from the base of the glacier and deposit it on top of stagnant ice at the ice edge. That's what happens on some of the glaciers of Axel Heiberg Island and on parts of Greenland.

But generally the erosion and entrainment go on much further back in the body of the glacier. Put "entrainment" into the search box and you'll see some of my earlier posts on this. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Brian
Thanks for your response...

Regarding your reply and an earlier reply discussing the potential extent of glaciers in the area.

"The current thinking, probably accepted by most geomorphologists, is that there are glacial deposits around Bath, around Kenn and Court Hill, and in the Somerset Levels. Some think the Mendips were glaciated, and I incline that way myself. That means an ice edge maybe somewhere near Glastonbury."

"But generally the erosion and entrainment go on much further back in the body of the glacier. Put "entrainment" into the search box and you'll see some of my earlier posts on this. Hope this helps."

My question/observation about this statements would be.

If the entrainment does happen much further back in the body of the galcier (not sure if that has a measurement)does that not put the contents of the entrainment in danger/possibly of being deposited in the sea and not even reaching land?

Thanks

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

Not interested in a war of words. Just in knowing the truth about Stonehenge.

I ask, “what would convince you that the stones of Stonehenge were carried there by Nature”?

If, as Brian also stated, we find a barge or boat with a bluestone attached at the bottom of Avon River or in Bristol Channel (other than the 'millennium bluestone'!!!) then I will gladly retract all my claims that Nature carried these stones to Stonehenge. Certainly the likelihood of some barges carrying bluestones capsizing is great. Or you believe Neolithic men were more adapt at this than the men behind the 'millennium bluestone' expedition.

As for 'conditions for human development' ... don't you think that human capabilities are conditioned on certain development?

For example. If the population size consisted of couple thousand people struggling to survive with their families, do you think they would be involved in dragging stones over long distances?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Of course -- it is quite possible that large quantities of glacially transported material have indeed been dumped on the floor of the Bristol Channel. we know that it's there, from some of the sea floor studies that have been done. But there is no reason, either, why large quantities of material might have been carried by ice all the way to the Somerset Levels -- and there is no reason (in glacial theory) why materials should not also have reached Salisbury Plain.

For example, we have Pembrokeshire erratics on the Vale of Glamorgan -- they have been transported across Carmarthen Bay. And then we have the famous piece of Northern Ireland "white limestone" dumped in Somerset.....

Goronwy Thomas said...

Dear Brian,
I am far from outraged, simply mildly bemused that you will not furnish what you think would be the number of people possibly needed to transport a 4 ton bluestone from Preseli to Stonehenge.
I accept that a glacier could do the job, except the evidence of glaciation is lacking in the Salisbury Plain area, the vital spot. However, glaciation still wouldn't account for the fact that the stones would have to be moved prior to being erected.

My thanks to Kostas for providing a list, it is most helpful. It would seem that all of the points could have been met in prehistoric times.

You say "more respect please", but respect has to be earned, not requested. Consider it but a small reflection on the respect that you, and others on this blog, have shown for MPP, TD and GW. Other than that I enjoy the discussions.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I should have added -- if you have not been following this blog -- that at the time when the Irish Sea Glacier was affecting western Britain, these offshore areas would NOT have been submerged beneath the sea. Sea level would have been very much lower than it is today, so Carmarthen Bay and the Bristol Channel would effectively have been dry land.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Goronwy --

How much respect will I earn by telling you that in my view a two-tonne block (or whatever) could have been moved by 50 men (or whatever) across ten miles of countryside (or whatever) over the course of three months (or whatever)?

We have been over this territory a thousand times before -- whatever figures I might give you, you will come back to me and say "Well, that only goes to show that if you had twice as many men you could have moved twice as many stones over a distance twice as great."

We simply end up going round in circles. The questions are loaded, as you know full well, and I am not so stupid as to wish to answer them. Let those who are proponents of the human transport theory give us the figures they think are reasonable, and we can all then subject them to scrutiny. (And the literature is FULL of such figures, as you know full well....)

Perhaps you would like to ask our friends MPP, GW and TD for their figures? When you have them, feel free to pass them on to us, and we can all pass comments on how sensible they are.

And if our learned friends want respect, they could start by showing a little more respect themselves for the work of researchers like Aubrey Burl, Olwen Williams-Thorpe and Geoff Kellaway -- not to mention Judd and Jehu -- whose published materials they consistently ignore or misrepresent.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas ,I don't know waht you mean by "conditions of development " .Is it a type of Maslovian hierarchy of requiremnets ?
I don't know where you got a population of two thousand from but if you are talking about the Neolithic - Bronze Age then it is a long way off . I've seen 10,000 suggested for the Mesolithic Britain .
Some Eurpoean examples .Catal Hoyuk 7000BC estimated population of 3-8000 in 35 acres .
Dobrovody a village in the Ukraine (c 3700 BC )had a population of 2,000 people .
Bronze Age Knossos 15-20,000 .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Goronwy you write,

“My thanks to Kostas for providing a list, it is most helpful. It would seem that all of the points could have been met in prehistoric times.”


I appreciate your endorsement of 'the list'. I am hopeful we can have a good discussion over this. But I should add I believe Nature had more to do with Stonehenge and all other prehistoric monuments than prehistoric people.

Here is my problem with your quote above. If all the conditions I listed could have been met in prehistoric times, there would have been ample other evidence left behind. What we have, instead, is one controversy after another.

Furthermore, from studies published in academic journals, it is estimated that the population of the UK during the Mesolithic to have been just two thousand people. It just does not seem possible to me that such a meager population could have evolved to have the capability, motivation and economic resources for such grand scale public works with no practical or military purpose and utility.

Too often, when considering if prehistoric man could have built Stonehenge, we project capabilities of modern man using primitive tools. If we dress Einstein in a lion's cloth, does he become primitive? I don't think so!

But if, as Brian and I argue, there are simpler, sensible and consistent natural explanations to all this, shouldn't we at least seriously consider them? Rather than give in to our romanticism about prehistoric lost civilizations and fabricate their histories?

This is what frustrates Brian and me about current archeological narratives by GW, MPP and others ignoring science in favor of myth.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo you write,

“In my experience "truth seekers " are frequently war mongerers .”


Since I am a “truth seeker” but NOT a “war monger” I feel obligated to address this!

Don't confuse “seeking truth” with “proselytizing”.

Those that in earnest “seek truth” by their very seeking confess they don't know truth. Far from proselytizing belief as absolute truth. And therefore needing all others to be converted and to adhere to IT!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- as ever, your posts are a curious mixture of respect for the truth and a cavalier disregard of it! re the Mesolithic population -- we have covered this before. The highly debatable figure of 2,000 for the Mesolithic population of the British Isles (as cited by RL as well) is at the very least a gross oversimplification, given that the Mesolithic covered a period of 4,500 - 5,000 years. I have seen other figures of 10,000 and 30,000, and it is inevitable that over such a long period of time the population will have increased dramatically between 11,000 BP and 5,000 BP.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , what you say is actually a bit closer to the scientific method and more my cup of tea than truth seeking .

There were no monuments erected in Britain in the Mesolithic .
By the time of the construction of the major monuments there was a huge spike in the population .See Mark Collard et al “Radiocarbon evidence indicates that migrants introduced farming to Britain” J.S.A. Nov 2009 .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian et al,

The population figure I used comes from a University of Manchester study. I accept it may be one of several proposed, and possibly on the low side. I have no expertise in this area and so I am not beholden to it.

Rather, I simply want to raise a larger point. What are the prerequisite conditions for a people to engage in such massive public works? For example, population size must be one such condition. Can't imagine anyone would argue that a population of 2,000 people could have done any such work.

So if we agree there must be some minimal set of conditions required for such public works, and agree what these may be, then we have a 'common ground' to work on.

The fundamental question here is: Did prehistoric people have the capabilities, resources and motivation to built such prehistoric monuments? And what is the (independent) evidence for this?

Nothing “cavalier” about that, Brian! I don't even ride horses!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- I hear what you say, but you have repeated this figure several times now, in spite of strong evidence that it is way out. Just because the guy who came up with the estimate is from Manchester University doesn't mean it's sensible!! An as I have pointed out, the Mesolithic lasted a very long time....

Not that that's relevant to the building of Stonehenge anyway. By pretending that Stonehenge is a "natural feature" you are conveniently ignoring a vast mass of evidence collected in the field over many generations -- and properly published. Of course Neolithic people had the resources, motivation and energy to build Stonehenge. The only major point on which I part company with the archaeologists is on the matter of stone transport.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , do you believe that humans dug the ditch at Avebury which was 20 m wide x 9m deep and nearly a mile in circumference ?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

1)I don't believe that Stonehenge is a “natural feature”. But do believe that Nature had a much greater role in its construction than currently believed. Just like you do about the transport of bluestones!

2)If, as you argue, “ Neolithic people had the resources, motivation and energy to build Stonehenge”, why wont they also have “ the resources, motivation and energy” to carry the bluestones from Preseli? It's only a matter of degree of effort, As someone pointed out independently of me in a post here. You are undermining your own glacier transport argument!

3)I do not ignore ANY evidence that I cannot ignore! Like all the raw facts on the ground. What often passes as 'scientific evidence', however, make presuppositions that can be challenged. A false premise, as you know, does not make a conclusion true!

You write,

“...your posts are a curious mixture of respect for the truth and a cavalier disregard of it!”

The parts you find agreeable you see “respect for the truth”. While the parts you find disagreeable you see “cavalier disregard of it”.

Your statement, though about me, is more about you! It's all natural! Nothing personal.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

No! Can you tell me why?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas --you say: "If, as you argue, “ Neolithic people had the resources, motivation and energy to build Stonehenge”, why wont they also have “ the resources, motivation and energy” to carry the bluestones from Preseli? It's only a matter of degree of effort, As someone pointed out independently of me in a post here. You are undermining your own glacier transport argument!"

I am doing nothing of the sort. The building of Stonehenge is well supported by evidence on the ground. The human transport of the bluestones is not supported by any evidence whatsoever -- indeed, such evidence as we have, from other monuments, militates against the idea.

I am simply demonstrating a reasonable respect for the scientific method, and an acceptance of evidence that has been shown to be strong.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , no I can't tell you why you don't believe that humans dug the ditch at Avebury . Will you tell me why ?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian you write,

“The building of Stonehenge is well supported by evidence on the ground.”

I am sincerely interested in knowing what that evidence on the ground is!

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

Here are my reasons why I believe humans did not dig the ditch at Avery.

1) There is NO evidence that the wheel was even invented at the time! How can we think Neolithic people were even aware of circles and knew how to construct them?

2) I don't see WHY prehistoric people would spend time and energy digging such ditch. I think they were far more practical than that and far more preoccupied with surviving and providing for their families. To think otherwise is to diminish them!

Perhaps you can list your reasons why you think prehistoric people dug the ditch.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Evidence on the ground? Look at Atkinson, Johnson, Chippindale, Burl and a host of other authors, Kostas. I am not even going to try and summarise the evidence -- there is too much of it. Remember that we have 200 years of accumulated observations and deductions to work on -- some of it may be questionable, and some interpretations may have been tested and found wanting, but the essential sequence of events is now so well understood that I'm not going to waste time going over it.

Geo Cur said...

Kostas ,Why should the wheel have to have been invented prior to the concept of a circle . ?
Circles are everywhere have a look at the full moon , concentric rings in water and stone ,tree rings , the centre of flower heads , cup and ring marks etc
Anyway that is immaterial , have a look at the shape of the henge it is anything but circular much of it is actually straight lines

If you don’t see why people should do such a thing you are not far away from most of us who can only imagine why but don’t know why . But simply using not seeing why or understanding the motives of distant people is no reason for doubting anything , I don’t see why people should do countless things today , my contemporaries in my country it doesn’t mean that they don’t do but only shows my ignorance . Do you see why people should climb Everest ,write symphonies , build pyramids , paint in Chauvet , create polished axes then break or leave as deposits burial chambers without ever having used them , achieve excellence in games/sport etc all the essentially human pursuits that are not related to just “surviving and providing for families “ , partly covered by the term culture they are more telling of our nature which is not all superficially practical .

The ditch like all the other causewayed enclosures ,roundels and henge ditches was clearly dug ,among the evidence , apart from occam’s razor is the dumped tools often found , worn out singly and in clumps . A different type of deposit is found at entrances and causeways , these are obviously formal and consist of human and animal bone .The style of digging is often the same , rather than dig round in a circuit discrete segments or pits are dug that become joined up but occasionally the segments have a retaining section between them . At the formative henge at Flagstones ,possibly the closest monument we have to Stonehenge phase 1 , one of the ditch segments has markings on the wall .
I look forward to a non human explanation .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

You have spend years and volumes in this blog explaining matters concerning Stonehenge. Yet you are not going to “waste my time” and list even a couple of items of the "evidence on the ground" you alluded to in your own comment.

This speaks well of your conviction, but does nothing to advance our reasoning on this. Though I respect the courage you have shown defending your glacier transport theory of the bluestones, I can't say the same for your avoidance to answer my earnest and sincere question.

“What evidence convinces you that Stonehenge was built by Neolithic people'?

Just one will be fine.

I am not challenging your conclusions. Just want to know your reasoning for these. My question should not raise questions about Stonehenge.

Time will tell. I for one put my faith on truth and reason. But we should be able to ask questions if we hope to arrive at the truth through reason.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo you write,

“Why should the wheel have to have been invented prior to the concept of a circle ?”

This explains everything! Let me put it this way.

“Why should the alphabet have to have been invented prior to the writing of literature ?”


Can't argue logically with your logic! With your logic human intentionality makes everything possible. There is no need explaining anything!

You, as often, leave me speechless!

Kostas

Tony H said...

Kostas

Regarding man-made circles.
Thet just require a naturally-made rope or twine tied to a stake, post. or held firmly by one person.

The 2nd person may then create the circle by extending the twine or rope to its fullest extent.

Anthony Johnson reasons this way of creating the circular forms at Stonehenge.

No need to have the expertise to manufacture a wheel. The incentive to create the circle came from the sun and the moon and nature's rhythmical seasons.

Geo Cur said...

I can see how speechless you are Kostas , nothing at all about the content of the post i.e. a non anthro explanation for Henge and similar monument ditches .

The connection between an alphabet and writing is not analogous to that of the circle and wheel and anyway , you don’t need an alphabet to create writing the Chinese managed without an alphabet and there are others too .


Homeo erectus would have used round water worn boulders ,and sharp triangular pointed stones , later Acheulean hand axes had similar dimensions and geometry being unaware of the geometry would have had no effect on their decision to use and create them . A circle is a geometric shape found in nature and there are examples of circles in prehistoric Britain long predating any evidence we have for the wheel .
The earliest date for a wheel we have in Britain is the Blair Drummond wheel dated 1255-815 BC , using taphonomic logic there would have been much earlier examples but we have evidence of engraved circles ,never mind the engineered ones , from at least 3240 BC in the earliest dated rock art ,not only circles but concentric circles , and applying the same taphonomic logic there would have been much earlier examples .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Tony,

I don't mean disrespect to anyone's beliefs. All my questioning derive from a deep commitment I have to scientific truth and reasoning. My background is mathematics. I believe in logic. But if I should for a moment feel such debate is not productive, I will seize and desist.

There is a natural and logical hierarchy to human awareness and capabilities. And all this first comes about through practical necessity and the need to survive. “Necessity is the mother of all invention”! It's more than a question of 'tools'. It's not the 'tool', it's the 'mind' that makes things happen!

Modern man can do many things using primitive tools that primitive man could not do. We cannot project on primitive man modern man's intelligence and awareness. Though the moon may be round and many other things in nature may be round, knowing that points on a circle have the property of being at equal distance from a fixed point requires a 'higher intelligence' that supersedes the invention of the wheel.

Consider this. What can be more natural than gravity? We all experience it all the time. Yet how long did it take before Newton was able to identify it in his Universal Law of Gravity?

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

What is “taphonomic logic”? Does it derive from the Greek “taphos”, meaning grave?

If so, is this the “logic of the dead”? What a scary idea!

Give me Logic or give me Death!

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , yes from the Greek , taphonomy is concerned with what was once alive but the logic can be extended .

http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/shared_files/dummies.PDF
http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/shared_files/antiquity94.pdf

Anonymous said...

Brian
Has anyone seen/talked about the unique shape of the bottom of the stone in the second pic( the older pic with a crane hoisting a stone)?

It appears to have been worked on.

Maybe you can start a new tread to discuss,if you feel it is needed?

Thanks