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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Times revisits the bluestone issue

Last Saturday The Times revisited the bluestone issue, with another short article from Norman Hammond.  It is based almost entirely on an interview with Olwen Williams-Thorpe.  What she says appears to me to be eminently sensible..... and let's hope that a few archaeologists read the article.


Back to the bluestones of Stonehenge

Norman Hammond
The Times, Sat 7th January 2012

One of Britain’s leading geoarchaeologists has challenged the recent claim that the“glacial theory” for the origins of Stonehenge’s bluestones is “out cold” (The Times, Dec 17, 2011).
Because of variability in the bluestones’ composition, numerous sources were involved, says Dr Olwen Williams-Thorpe, making human transport so complex as “to look supremely unlikely”.
 

She calls the work of Dr Rob Ixer and Dr Richard Bevans, who have pinned the source of several of the stones to a single outcrop in Pembrokeshire, as, “an important step forward in bluestone research, applying the most precise petrographic analysis to the stones”, but says that this does not in fact negate the idea that Ice Age glaciers transported the rocks eastwards from Wales.
“Studies indicate glaciation east of the Bristol Channel and probably further into southern England. 


This offers a far more likely explanation for the mixed bag of Welsh bluestones at and around Stonehenge than the increasingly contorted special pleading invoked by the human transport supporters,” she says, noting that in some of these scientific models, “the ice may only have been present over Cornwall, Devon and Somerset for around 1,000 years”.
 

Dr Williams-Thorpe, who worked on the first modern analysis of bluestone origins more than 20 years ago, underlines “the great variety of bluestone types” and points out that “none of the four remaining rhyolite orthostats above ground (those numbered as SH 38, 40, 46 and 48) matches the source at Pont Saeson, near Newport, that has been pinpointed by Drs Ixer and Bevans.
 

“The Open University’s geochemistry work has pointed to various north Pembrokeshire outcrops as the probable source area for these orthostats, but we did not find exact petrographic matches in our work. Quite apart from the rhyolites, there are of course at least three Preseli outcrop sources for the spotted and unspotted dolerites; and then there are the several types of sandstone bluestones.
“These come from varied sources, the exact localities of which are uncertain but likely to be in west or south Pembrokeshire, perhaps even the Brecon Beacons. So, if it is human transport, we are looking at many different and dispersed outcrops all regarded as “special” or “magical”, with transport of stones north from Pont Saeson, south from the Preseli Mountains, from west and south Pembrokeshire and possibly from Brecon — all sort of routes and mechanisms would have to be invoked.”


Back to the bluestones of Stonehenge | The Times
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/courtsocial/article3278922.ece

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a dumb blonde and clearly not a highly skilled geologist, when I see the picture of ice coverage with its peaks on certain land features, I ask my self the question - did Britain actually look like that at the end of the last Ice Age?

I have a book about Doggerland on my shelves and that takes up most of the North Sea and Orkney/Shetland was not islands but part of this huge land mass - if that was the case, these pictures are completely bogus.

Sadly, I have to conclude that if the Geologists can't even get the land masses correct what chance do they have of predicting ice deposits and flow?

A.N.Other

BRIAN JOHN said...

Relax, Brother (sister?) Other -- the BRITICE people are perfectly aware that the coastline was not then where it is today. They simply put the current coastline onto the models so that we can see what is where.

If you look up BRITICE and Doggerland in the search box you'll see some other posts on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Again BRITICE looks nothing like ICEHUS or your last blog which covers Britain with the European ice sheet.

In fact Doggerland sinks according to one of the BRITICE animations at about 20K BP - obviously Geologists and Archaeologists don't talk to each other as under the 'flooded' area some Mesolithic findings have been dredged - either their map is wrong (and hence the ice flows) or the Mesolithic Period started in 20,000BC and no-one told the archaeologists!

Do these people get paid for this work or is it like the charity shops students and volunteers?

Annie Other

Tony H said...

Back to Norman Hammond and his interview with Olwen Williams- Thorpe for the Times.

Mr Hammond's Organ, The Times, used to have a towering reputation as "the Thunderer" for accuracy and caution in its reporting. What a pity Norman Hammond could not have simply provided us with ONE,BALANCED article on this subject, instead of the two he has given us, the first being about the Rob Ixer/ Richard Bevins geological analysis. Less hype please and more facts, Norman!

chris johnson said...

I fully agree Tony. "Organs" like the Times, and the BBC for that matter, should go out of their way to check stories and try and report the truth.

Had it not been for Brian's blog I would not have known about the Times stories even. Google and Times seemingly do not cooperate, so even when googling explicitly for Olwen Williams-Thorpe I failed to pick this up. Thanks Brian!

BRIAN JOHN said...

My pleasure! I see it as one of life's missions to draw attention to the importance of that seminal OU publication from 1991 by Olwen and her colleagues -- cruelly ignored by the archaeological establishment and not even properly promoted and publicised by the OU. I wonder why?

The Times is rather strange because it charges for access to web content. So maybe that is why many of its articles are lost in the ether somewhere, and take a bit of tracking down....

chris johnson said...

The Times has been sliding downhill ever since News International took over. I don't read it anymore since the few things I know about are covered in a biased way and either misinformed or using carefully selected facts to bolster pre-determined opinions.

I am surprised Olwen bothers to "write a letter to the Times". From several perspectives she would be better advised to post on your blog - better coverage for one!

I am actually more annoyed by the BBC. These guys are using public money, given to provide the great British Public with accurate and balanced reporting. I recently tuned in to a piece on the Orkney dig presented by Neil Oliver. There is huge public interest in Archaeology but this member of the public would prefer more actual information next time and less of Neil Oliver and his highly speculative 3D simulations.