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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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Brit Arch letter published

I'm grateful to Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology, for publishing this letter which I sent through to him back in September.  A faithful reader of the magazine has now informed me that it's been published.

This is the letter which I submitted:

Erratic Professors

On two occasions within the last twelve months or so,  I have heard
eminent professors holding forth in defence of their ideas about the human
transport of bluestones from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge.  On both
occasions it was stated that the Irish Sea Glacier had never reached the
English side of the Bristol Channel.  On the contrary, it is fully
accepted by geomorphologists and glaciologists that during the Quaternary
Period, this great glacier crossed the Bristol Channel on at least one
occasion, and affected the coastlands of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and the
Scilly Isles.  This is based on our best understanding of scores of
papers published, over many years, by field geomorphologists, in the
specialist peer-reviewed literature.  What we do not know, at present, is
exactly when the most recent glaciation of these coastlands occurred, and
how far to the east and south the ice edge might have progressed.  The
directions of ice movement, insofar as we understand them, suggest that
glacier ice crossed Pembrokeshire broadly from NW towards SE, and that
erratic boulders from Pembrokeshire were entrained and transported
eastwards within the ice.  We know where some of those boulders were
dumped, but other erratic transport routes are still to be ascertained.
This information clearly has a direct bearing upon the ongoing discussions
about the origins and transport of the "bluestone assemblage" at
Stonehenge, involving at least 24 different rock types.

Brian John, Newport, Pembrokeshire

I gather that there has been some slight editing, and a new title has been used:  The Irish Sea Glacier.   That's fair enough.....

If the letter encourages archaeologists to think about the real situation, rather than some mythical and misleading one perpetrated by senior academics, all well and good.

PS.  I would normally put a link in here to "British Archaeology", but given what has happened today with the Bournemouth University blog site (trojan horses etc) I will delay until I am sure that the problem is solved, and add a link later....


Tony H said...

The actual title of Brian's published piece is "THE IRISH SEA GLACIER".

Good that it really does seem that Geomorphology and Archaeology do not have to exist in parallel universes.

Well done Mike Pitts for publishing, one small step for man..........

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah -- correction! Thank you Tony. Will change that on the post...

Bob said...


Congratulations on the letter - do I try (in vain) to get Mike to publish my 'observations' on the many paradoxes published in the CBA - But its like being a human rights activist in a 'Putin' democracy.

Sadly, just when I thought I understood your hypothesis, I read more and then I'm back to square one again!

In your letter (and I notice the dates were not transferred in your post) that 2.6 million years ago the great glacier crossed the Bristol channel. If that is accepted, why could your bluestones not have been transported then? - why do you need a second incursion 400,000 years ago?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Robert-- where do you get this thing about 2.6 million years ago? I do not recall ever having referred to such a date.

We know that there were several big glaciations during the Pleistocene. In general, if you are trying to match up glacial deposits to particular glaciations, you go for the most recent one that makes sense, simply because the older the glaciation, the more its traces will have been messed up by subsequent events. Also, in trying to interpret stratigraphy, you work from the top down -- ie most recent back down towards the oldest in a sequence.

Tony H said...

British Archaeology magazine themselves inserted thus, in the square brackets:-

.........during the Quaternary Period [2.6 million years ago to the [present], this great glacier crossed the Bristol Channel on at least one occasion, and affected the coastlands of Somerset.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, that explains it! The dating of actual glacial cycles is still a matter for debate -- see my book called "The Winters of the World." Old but still reliable, I think...

Jon Morris said...

Well done Brian

Sadly don't get the magazine do don't know what you've said! Will there be a public link?


Jon Morris said...

Sorry about that: Just realised your original text was the letter!