THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click
HERE

Friday, 10 February 2012

The meteorite -- another "blau stone"?



Some time ago on this site, I reported receiving a paper from Geoff Kellaway,  in which he argues that the bluestones were never described as BLUE stones by the early visitors to Stonehenge, but that in the Middle Ages (ie around the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth and later) they might have been referred to in Ango-Saxon as BLAU stones — with the word “blau” meaning striking, different, or of unusual or striking appearance.  I thought that rather interesting......

Of course, this would make sense, since the stones are not actually blue at all — no matter what people might pretend, they are not that different in colour from the sarsens. But it’s intriguing to think that from an early stage people might have recognized them as simply DIFFERENT.

There is of course a tendency for people to see different, unusual, or striking stones in the landscape and want to collect them.  How many of us have done just that when collecting stones for our garden rockeries?   I think it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that when the Neolithic people living on Salisbury Plain wanted to put up the early stone settings at Stonehenge, they gathered up as many stones as they could find, showing particular interest in any stones that were "different" from the common sarsens which were widely distributed across the landscape.  Maybe they even invested these "different" stones with magical or sacred significance -- with those special qualities entirely unrelated to source of origin or distance carried.  I agree with many others who have suggested that the builders of Stonehenge did not have a clue where the bluestones had come from.

So a meteorite lying about in the landscape, or a Boles Barrow bluestone boulder, or even a piece of elongated bluestone suitable for use as a lintel later on -- all these were rather attractive things to collect, since they were different enough to be invested with status or significance.

8 comments:

Tony H said...

Fair enogh, prehistoric peoples MIGHT have behaved rather like the magpie or is it the jay bird, who enjoys collecting striking, shiny objects.

At the Stoney Littleton Barrow, near Wellow, south of Bath, Neolithic folk placed a large attractive ammonite fossil within the door jambs of the long barrow. The ammonite had been carried up from the Dorset coast for its inclusion in the monument.

BRIAN JOHN said...

.... and Newgrange, with all those nice white quartz stones brought in just for effect......

Anonymous said...

not sure where the Dorset connection comes from but I know of several ammonites in the immediate area (Faulkland) and they seem pretty local fossils to me.
Some are in garden walls and there is one in the wall on the way into Stanton Drew.
I discovered two very worn one's on the Deer Leap stones on Mendip recently.
Pete

Anonymous said...

Brian

Blau is German for Blue, Anglo-Saxons are Germanic.

So were do you get the 'Striking' from?

Annie O

BRIAN JOHN said...

Just citing Kellaway here -- he seems to have gone into the origins of the word as used in Old English.

Geo Cur said...

Not having read the article it’s difficult to say if it’s a case of “oh dear geologists resorting to playing at etymology “ but
how did GK know the early visitors didn’t describe some of the stones as being blue ? They are certainly more blue , particularly when broken which seems to have been a pastime for visitors of all periods , than “strikingly different “ .As Annie suggests Blau comes from Middle High German bla ‘blue’ .The Bosworth Toller A.S. dictionary has bleo ,blae and bleo for various hues of blue . What is the word he actually suggests the Anglo Saxons were using to describe the stones ?
We are on safer ground with Sarsen , almost certainly from Saracen either foreign ,strange or possibly non Christian /heathen .

Tony H said...

I thought I'd seen the Stoney Littleton ammonite's provenance referred to as the Dorset coast in "Where Wiltshire Meets Somerset", an account of best walks by Roger Jones. But I discarded my dilapidated 1982 1st edition and the 2nd edition (2006) does not have this detail. No one seems to mention it on the web - Bristol Museum may know, for it has the barrow's occupants; or Tim Darvill, or English Heritage.

Geo Cur said...

What hasn't been mentioned about Stoney Littleton is the Blue Lias slabs of the entrance , gallery and chambers ,nearest known source 8Km (3Km greater than OWT allows for )away at Newton St.Loe .