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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Monday, 30 January 2012

Bluestone haulage for wimps

I came across this photo today, in connection with a review of a new book about the Preseli Hills called "Ancient Wisdom and Sacred Cows" edited by Hefin Wyn (£14.95).  No idea who the photographer was, but he was clearly dangling from a tree at the time.

The pic is of course an addition to our photographic history of the ill-fated Millennium Stone Pull in the year 2000.  Very much a matter of stone-pulling for wimps.  Note the great lengths of nylon rope, the compulsory gardening gloves for all pullers (to avoid chafing and blisters), the excellent asphalt road surface, the beautiful masonry bridge, and the extensive use of low-friction nylon netting to reduce the friction on the underside of the sledge.  We were wimps, the whole lot of us!  (Yes, I was one of them.........)

In the old days, our heroic ancestors needed none of this -- they just went ploughing straight across the sort of terrain we see in the top right of the photo.  My God, they were tough in those days.  And they were probably naked too, just for good measure......


chris johnson said...

Well, ho,ho ho!

What is the point here?

Having read-up on the re-erection of the Brithir circle I am tempted to conclude that you all were trying to pull the stone in the wrong direction, otherwise it would have gone a lot easier.

Brian, I think the few remaining contributors to your blog are convinced about glacial transport. Maybe it is time to move on?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Historic photo, Chris. When I come across such pics I try to share them -- and people do seem to appreciate that. Have our faithful contributors become convinced about glacial transport? Not at all sure about that.......

Where do you want me to move on to? I hop about a fair bit, as it is......

chris johnson said...

I think your blog is a serious resource for people wanting to understand the neolithic and stonehenge.

Your thesis about glaciation is well understood; no point to flog an almost dead horse although new info is welcome. The only people who don't take the glaciation theory seriously are either paid by the BBC to make popular fiction, are establishment archaeologists with a non-vested interest in tourism (silly them), or punters who read Neil Oliver's recent book in the expectation that it might lead them to the truth. In any case, not worth worrying about.

Where you take the blog from here is obviously up to you. I'll be interested as long as you retain your editorial control (fact based), stay faithful to the period (any mention of Pytheas and I am gone), and tell us more about the suspected prehistoric culture in Presceli (or however you like to spell it).

More power to your elbow!

Jon Morris said...

Isn't the point of a blog to stay with the theme of whatever you've chosen to look at?

Still trying to find the correct balance for my newly formed blog but I suspect that whatever you set at the start is what people know you for and come back to when they want to know about that specific thing?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Very true, Jon. My own expertise is in geomorphology and glaciology, and I suppose in the landscape history of Pembrokeshire -- so I want to concentrate on the things other blogs don't cover very well, including the contribution that the earth sciences can make to our understanding of Stonehenge. That means a fair coverage of geology, geomorphology etc.

chris johnson said...

Brian says it very well, He brings a lot of authority to some interesting aspects and can legitimately claim to own his space.

Other blogs flourish partly due to contributors and people like Geo-cur have definitely added to my understanding here.

I do think Brian knows a lot more about some other aspects than he admits - especially the history of Presceli - and I for one am delighted when he shares his opinions, even when they are more tentative than his opinions on glaciation.

Stella Artois said...

Hello Chris,
You say "Your thesis about glaciation is well understood; no point to flog an almost dead horse although new info is welcome. The only people who don't take the glaciation theory seriously are either paid by the BBC to make popular fiction, are establishment archaeologists with a non-vested interest in tourism (silly them), or punters who read Neil Oliver's recent book in the expectation that it might lead them to the truth. In any case, not worth worrying about."

If all contributors to Brians Blog were glacial transport converts it would lead to a large circle of people each patting the back of the one infront.

I am neither paid by the BBC, nor an establishment archaeologist nor tour operator, and I have not read Neil's book. I am just a person of average intelligence with an interest in archaeology; and even though I do not fully support Brian's theory I still enjoy the various posts.

No one has the monopoly on wisdom, so for any meaningful discussion to take place we must have differing points of view; only then can we perhaps unravell just a small portion of the mysteries left by our ancient ancestors.

Anyway, keep posting people, otherwise the blog dries up.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Stella -- I agree that there are plenty of "glacier theory sceptics" out there among our faithful readers and contributors; and one of the nice things about this blog (as far as I am concerned) is that it subjects the glacial transport theory to more intensive scrutiny than I have ever seen anywhere else. That's great.

So thank you guys. Keep contributing! Forgive me if my responses are a bit erratic -- I have to try and make a living too.... and am finishing off a novel just now. (That keeps the "fantasy" side of my brain in good nick... but maybe not... I heard on the radio the other day that this right side / left side stuff is all nonsense.)

Anonymous said...


Why are there little to no recent blogs from Kostas, Robert or Geo?

Are you editing out any objections to your theories? If so, that kind of censorship will turn this site into a boring monogamous essay and not a debate worth visiting.

Annie O.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Annie -- Kostas has left of his own accord after I had declined to accept several of his contributions on the basis that he was simply repeating, over and again to the point of absurdity, his strange theory without ever providing a scrap of evidence to show that it bore at least some relationship to the laws of physics. I want this site to be about science, not pseudo-science. I have also declined to accept several of Robert's posts, on the basis that he was contributing nothing worthwhile to our debates and simply using this blog to perpetrate his own particular brand of pseudo-science. He has his own site, and he can trumpet his ideas as loudly as he likes on that.

I have never declined to accept any objections to my theories -- in fact I welcome critical scrutiny so long as it is creative, supported by evidence, and done in a good spirit.

I would rather retain the respect of serious scientists than allow this blog to become a publicity vehicle for theories that bear no relation to the facts on the ground.

Geo is still around, as far as I know -- and will no doubt enter the fray again when he feels that he has something to contribute!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that you have difficulty in separating fantasy from reality - hence the 'glacier theory'.

Sigmund Freud

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you Sigmund -- your reality is maybe different from mine.

Anonymous said...

"Bluestone transport for Wimps":- the Title of this Post!

Perhaps its Title is more revelatory than intended. WHAT IF it was only the "wimps" [ incidentally,from Wales, but obviously it wasn't called Cymru back then] who transported the [relatively lighter] Bluestones, and perhaps the individuals involved in transportation along the A40 route, each only lugged it a few pre-Roman miles before passing the batton on to the next "wimps" along the road/ next valley.

Whereas the Good Ol' boys who stirred their stumps to (allegedly) shift the more substantial Sarcens from wherever it was closer at hand (Avebury or not?) were made of sterner stuff, and were more technical with it?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Dream on, Arnie! A sort of Neolithic bluestone relay race? I love it!!

Anonymous said...

Could this be the origin of your Welsh rugby game, played with an oval-shaped ball, I mean, longer than it is wide??? Just a thought, Brian.....and, say, don't you folks in Wales play a much earliear oval ball game??


BRIAN JOHN said...

Dear Guvnor

Good thinking! The old game was called Cnapan -- I actually have a little book about it for the Kindle -- available for a very small price from Amazon.

chris johnson said...

I am enjoying dropping into your blog and I hope you have the perseverance to make it into something long lasting.

I think you are right that a blog should represent a particular expert opinion, but it should also be a place to chat in a relaxed and private way with other people who share an interest. So, for example, I am interested why Brian sees similarities between Ireland and Wales in the neolithic, although I don't expect him to be an expert on this. I am not going to think worse of him because he cannot lecture me about it although he is welcome to try.

One thing I learned from running sites is that it does not really help to moderate comments before posting. The community tends to sort things out and people soon feel when they are not appreciated. Moderation just interrupts the flow of ideas and the conversation - my 2 cents.

I enjoy dropping in to Brian's site and really appreciate the pearls of wisdom that I gather from Brian but also from the other contributors and the odd bit of banter. It would be nice if more people chipped in, but that is often the way. Sometimes I think people get a bit intimidated here, I know I do.

Stella makes a good point. We can learn from each other. And thanks for putting me straight Stella, I was a bit over-the-top.

Anonymous said...


You said (to Jon) "It would be nice if other people would chip in [with contributions] but that is often the way.Sometimes people get a bit intimidated, I know I often do".

Well, my friend, my answer is, make your contributions and don't allow others to bully you! It probably seems hard to imagine, but I used to be bullied long before I took up weightlifting and then acting and governing. Find an interest and nurture it.My good friend Clint, who used to be a Mayor over here, has a few good ideas to put forward too.

Brian seemed to accept my little contribution just recently, so, you know.....I'll be back!!!


Stella Artois said...

Hello Chris,
As the old song says --"It's all in the game".
My comment really wasn't designed to put you straight, it was just my point of view.
I'm going out tonight with my old friend Jack; Daniels that is.

Best (Hic) washes,

FRANKIE GOES TO.... said...

I'm somewhat concerned by Brian (and others) blithely suggesting that, to avoid a choppy Bristol Channel crossing, our intrepid Bluestone Hauliers must have taken the A40 landward route towards Wiltshire.

Don't you guys realise that, once past Crickhowell, Abergavenny, and Monmouth, you'd have to be careful or you might end up in Oxford or High Wycombe? (perish the thought!)

Mind you, it wouldn't take much of a northwards deviation and you could end up amongst the ROLLRIGHT STONES stone circle? Well...I mean....stands to reason! Should we get Dr Ixer to take samples of the Rollrights? Just in case??


chris johnson said...

Frankie, sometimes I don't like this pseudo-anonymity and this is such an occasion. The re-use of the word "intrepid" inclines me to think that Brian might even be spamming his own blog, heaven forbid, (smile).

Whoever you are Frankie, you missing the main point. Did neolithic tribes communicate or did they not? And did they communicate overland?

The A40 route is logical for one communication. As would a mid-wales route from Aberystwyth be for a coastal community there. Had we more evidence of neolithic activity around Aberystwyth or on the way then we might have an opinion - but then nobody has looked properly. The majority of funding is directed to Wiltshire. There are evident similarities between remains in Cornwall and West Wales - and likely there was a sea route as you can see Western England with you own eyes from Western Wales on a clear day, even now.

Personally I do not believe that 80 bluestones were lugged in any direction from Wales to England, and definitely not via the Bristol Channels which is more than "choppy". Time to move on, accept glaciation as a likely mechanism, and wonder instead about the cultural imperative to include the "bluestones" in the stonehenge monument instead of simply breaking them up to make the Avenue easier to walk in wet weather.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Me putting anonymous comments onto my own blog? What would be the point? Life's too short to spend even a part of my time talking to myself..... and I have my work cut out as it is trying to keep you lot under control....

Anonymous said...

Don't blame me, Chris love, blame my scriptwriter [who is NOT Brian], I just do the stand-up.

And, incidentally, I recommend a butchers at archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richard's useful book, "Stonehenge: The Story So Far" (hmmmm, yes!) because it contains his overview of the pros and cons of this whole bluestone human transport, 'did they or didn't they', tangled web. It's very good, and fairly recent. Probably an e-book too. But it does possess th inevitable bias towards the paid establishment archaeology view. Boles barrow is mentioned a good deal.

Sorry you don't like all this "pseudo - anonymity", but I'm sworn to secrecy, you see. Heads might roll, corridors of power> Even some irony.

F HOWERD (No....really!!)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Goodness me -- the shadowy world of the archaeology underground.......

Sounds far too dangerous for me. Glad I'm just a simple and unattached geomorphologist.

Mike G. said...

Hi Brian.

'I agree that there are plenty of "glacier theory sceptics" out there ...'

Too right, and I'm one of them. The glaciation theory of Bluestone transportation is not settled by any means - the jury is still out. MPP's book 'Stonehenge' addresses this issue (p. 268), as you know.

The problem is - erratics are just that. It is very convenient that 80 odd stones landed in the vicinity of Stonehenge, just waiting to be picked up and incorporated into the monument - in the Aubrey Holes, c 3000 BCE. Does this mean that Stonehenge was designed exclusively around this batch of glacially -deposited rocks?

That does not square with the history of Stonehenge as it is emerging in the early 21st century CE.

Stone technology is by far the oldest we have - modern humans have been around for what - 100 000 years? But metal has only been used for 4000 or so. These people knew stone, how to work and how to move it. Also the use of animal power should not necessarily be discounted. Teams of oxen could move these blocks.

Me? I'm not a paid archaeologist either nor do I work for the BBC, &c. But I'm as puzzled as everyone else. Clearly, there is a huge amount of work to do on this before there is a definitive answer.

I think only a robot could read your security code.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Mike -- thanks for the post. We are all puzzled -- hence this blog. Who said that 80 odd bluestones landed somehow at Stonehenge? Not me -- I suspect there never were more than 43 or so bluestones large enough to be used as orthostats, although there might have been other smaller stones of various types.

OK -- there were earthworks there before stone was incorporated into the building site, but I think it perfectly reasonable that once the builders started to use stone, they scoured the surrounding countryside for stones of all sorts, and when they ran out, that was that. End of project. Unfinished monument.