Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Even more danger -- marine engineers at work

By popular request, here is my gallery of wacky transport systems designed for carrying 82 bluestones from Pembrokeshire to either the mouth of the Somerset Avon or the Hampshire Avon.   There are almost as many proposed transport routes as boat designs.........

This is the daddy of them all - Alan Sorrell's famous illustration done for the 1959 edition of Atkinson's book on Stonehenge.  It's a simple sailing and rowing raft -- shown here with 2 bluestones lashed in place.  I suppose the original idea was to show that sea-based transport was possible, but since this raft is about to be shipwrecked in a severe storm, I suppose it might have demonstrated for many people that this sort of transport was impossible, rather than possible.  However, undeterred, we have a veritable host of others who have entered the fray.

Atkinson -- triple wooden punts with a stone strapped to a top decking

Len Saunders -- simple raft with a bluestone pillar "underslung" -- at the water-line

The Ferriby Boat -- built of wooden planking.  Strictly Bronze Age, but some think the technology was available in the Neolithic too

The "curragh pontoon" used during the Millennium Stone fiasco.  These specially built curraghs were first fitted with decking to take the stone, but when this proved unstable, a rig was built so that the stone could be slung in  a harness below the water line.

Castleden's idea -- triple dugouts with a top decking lashed on, for the support of the stone

Single curragh with underslung stone, lifted off on a rising tide

Blunt-stern curragh, wide enough to take a bluestone sitting in the bottom of the boat 
(Michael Bradley)

And now the greatest of all -- Robert Langdon's reed boat -- a catamaran made of reeds -- with the Stonehenge harbour in the background.  No comment.

And here's the latest, courtesy of the Daily Mail -- the two-man bluestone punt, just perfect for shifting very large lumps of stone from Milford haven all the way up the Bristol Channel to the mouth off the Avon.  No doubt the stout fellows used punting poles at least 50 feet long.  And the practicalities?  Maybe the newspaper should consult t maritime transport engineer next time.........


The Stonehenge Enigma said...


I knew its a revolutionary thought, but then history shows that ALL ancient civilisations:

Greek - Reed
Egyptian - Reed
Tenerife - Reed
Mesopotamia - Reed
India - Reed
Polynesian - Reed
South America - Reed
North America - Bark
Ireland - Skins
Scandinavia - Skins
Russia - Skins
China - Reed
Japan - Reed

ALL had boats and with them they built stone monuments - like the pyramids. But in good old Britain, academics (and this site) seem to think we do it differently, we drag, roll or wait for an ice age to push our stones to the monument.

So did Britain have boats in Mesolithic, well we did find one at the bottom of the Solent dated 6000BC last year.

If you have a boat, somehow I think you would use it for the heavy stuff - wouldn't you?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Robert -- look forward to seeing your prototype boat built out of good old British reeds. If Garry Lavin is prepared to but his rolling wickerwork basket to the test, the least you can do is to build a reed catamaran with sails, big enough to cart stones about.

The fact that people had boats and built things out of stone does not mean that they carried the stones in the boats.

Oh dear -- back to that 8,000 year old Solent boat again.....

The Stonehenge Enigma said...


No need, it has already been done 30 years ago -

No need to reinvent the 'wheel' is there? And yes this could take a 4 tonne stone with ease.

Or do you think our reed is any different to the reed used in various places (as listed) around the world?

If so you need to inform all those people with thatched houses and tell them they are going to drown... Now thatched roofs, I wonder how we invented that concept?

Or perhaps the building instructions are too difficult... take some dried reed, tie the top and bottom with string or cord.... and oh look it floats.... wow that was really hard, lets chop down a tree and hollow it out as a canoe instead, that's much quicker!


heavenshenge said...

From earlier research:

Boats: large oak planks bound with yew withes and wooden joints caulked with moss

Dated 3700BP: Reference page 210-211 of Hengeworld ISBN 099278578 (multiple cross-reference back to data)

Don't know if of any contribution to the discussion, but remembered logging a reference to boats.

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Thank you heavenshenge.

The first planking of wood found at Star Carr 9000BC for a walkway (according to archaeologists) over a lake of water, which is currently dry land several miles inland would you believe - wonder were all that water came from or went Brian?

Happy to be proven wrong about the reed boat in favour of a wooden one!!


BRIAN JOHN said...

Water water everywhere -- and there's a gale coming, with pouring rain tomorrow. Quick -- sent me the design for a reed catamaran, in case I need it.

Anonymous said...

REEDS are now much in evidence on BBC2'S latest upper middle class offering from AVEBURY on Thursdays at 9 p.m.

No, RJL, this is not about any contagion of Mesolithic reed boats plying across the Wiltshire Seas of longa longago, as we say on walkabout in Australasia...., it concerns the usages of reed to give yet more character to the National Trust Manor House at Avebury {near the Great Barn & its museums, for those interested).

Personally, my favourite Reed is Peter Reed, formerly of England and Everton, one of the toughest wing-halves never to have thatched. But I digress.


The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Big Mac

Your quite right the humble reed has had a huge impact on our history and society.

The water companies now use it as a natural water purifier (by just growing it in the water)- just think of that our ancestors (primitive savages) purified their waters before drinking it - don't tell Geo Curs that this the reason they built Causeway Enclosures for archaeologists (and who knows maybe some geologists) are happy with that 'ceremonial' or 'cattle' enclosure tag which fits the hunter-gather myth much better.


NB. Anthropologists don't use that term any more (too old fashioned) is now foraging society... slowly but surely Brian.

Garry Lavin said...

My basket theory was tested in water from the start.... Way before my televised rolling of the stone in a basket.
I took a section of stone of the same cross section dimensions as the 4 tonne stone but of a shorter length, so that the weight was approx 1 tonne. The ratio of buoyant wood to stone was the same as it would be with a full size stone.
I made a basket around it with several layers of willow and packed it with saplings. We rolled it into a lake ...and it disappeared....and then bobbed up to the surface. Then we towed it with ease all over the lake.
Rafts and boats are non starters for all sorts of reasons. I simply wrapped the raft around the stone........obvious really.

Maybe floating down the Wye and Severn was a possibility? I'll have to dig out the photos.