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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Sightlines and Neolithic navigation

View from Hay Bluff towards the Malvern Hills

View from Hay Bluff towards Pen-y-Fan

From Phil Morgan:

As you well know I am a member of the 'human transport' camp and I have pondered the problem of how our ancestors may have navigated the route if the bluestones were transported overland. While driving from the Midlands to south Wales, along the M50 there was an excellent view of the Black Mountains, which prompted the following:

The co-ordinates below are for the end points of sightlines and are taken from 'Where's the path?' on the Internet.

a).  Amesbury to Milk Hill,                 (240 metres, 51.376549, -1.850252)      =   14 miles apart;
b).  Milk Hill to the Malvern Hills,       (400 metres, 52.104766, -2.338886)      =   32 miles     ..  ; 
c).  Malvern Hills to Hay Bluff,           (700 metres, 52.009586, -3.086171)      =   40 miles     ..  ;
d).  Hay Bluff to Pen y Fan,               (860 metres, 51.883511, -3.436704)      =   17 miles     ..  ;
e).  Pen y Fan to Fan Brycheiniog,    (780 metres, 51.881021, -3.707156)      =   12 miles    ..   ;
f).   Fan Brycheiniog toTrichrug,        (400 metres, 51.890319, -3.891735)      =     8 miles     ..  ;
g).  Trichrug to Pen-crug-melyn,        (300 metres, 51.934820, -4.179311)      =   13 miles    ..   ;
h).  Pen-crug-melyn to Foel Drygarn, (340 metres, 51.970606, -4.683437)      =   21 miles    ..   .

I'm not suggesting that the people would have moved from one mountain top to the next, but they may have initially used the peaks as land marks. Moss would have grown on the north facing side of tree trunks, just as it does today, and they could have used this feature as a reasonably accurate compass, which would overcome the problem of mental maps.  With the trackways becoming more established the navigation problem would disappear.

As your blog is world-wide it follows that many of the readers/contributors would have no knowledge of the topography of the land between Preseli and Salisbury Plain. Attached are two photos which may assist, both were taken from Hay Bluff (a) looking to the Malvern Hills and (b) looking towards Pen-y-Fan.

Comment:  On looking at the "overland human transport" hypothesis (favoured by MPP and others) it's indisputable that people would have wandered about over considerable distances in the Neolithic.  And yes, we can assume that they would have used landmarks and sightlines, as well as navigating by the sun, moon and stars.  But I have particular problems relating to the nature of the terrain.   As Aubrey Burl and others have pointed out, anybody proposing to carry one large stone (let alone 80) overland over a great distance would have to cope with what was essentialy a trackless jungle, in which long-distance sightlines would have been very difficult to follow, except maybe on the high ridges.  Sorry Phil -- I don't buy it!  (And by the way, in Wales there is moss everywhere, not just on the northern sides of trees.......  not that people would have had any problem distinguishing north from south.)

59 comments:

chris johnson said...

Fantastic post, Phil, I have printed out your route and will take a closer look.

Recently I mentioned walking in the Cheviots without referring to map and compass much. You do become sensitized to relatively modest landscape features, partly because the bigger peaks are maybe obscured by cloud and - in the Cheviots - there are not many big peaks.

My own feeling is that the Prescelli-Stonehenge route might have been simply a case of keeping the sea in sight - "heads of the valleys" route and some basic star navigation. Cross at the ford and head south.

Brian, first we should establish a likely contact route. Next step, maybe, is whether stones could have been transported by people or not. I think you (and Burl) exaggerate your jungle view. The land was thinly populated, not unpopulated, and had been for thousands of years. There would have been game trails and we have many reasons to assume cattle herding. Talking about jungles is counter-intuitive and over-sexes the argument.

I do believe it is possible, even likely, that glaciers helped with the transport . However, a real puzzle is why Stonehenge tribes should have attributed so much cultural value to the "bluestones" that they put them in the middle of their monuments instead of simply breaking them up for hardcore or tooling.

Finding a human contact route does not invalidate the glaciation theory, rather the contrary.

Robert John Langdon said...

Sadly, I agree with Brian - no way could you walk stones from Preseli to Stonehenge as at the time of the original construction you would have had forests, bogs, rivers and wild animals waiting for lunch - take a boat much more sensible and quicker.

In the Late Neolithic though, once the land had dried sufficiently, you could use the routes suggested by foot (most wild animals had left by then) but you would need a series of markers to point you on your way - shame they didn't have stone circles and standing stone markers on the route your described (as suggested by Alfred Watkins), that would have really helped before the invention of the map.

RJL

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris, I don't think that referring to "jungles" is over the top -- I use the term advisedly. Not a tropical jungle, but a temperate one. And sorry, but I don't agree that any great "cultural" value was attributed to the bluestones. Some of them were broken up completely -- that is the implication of the Rhosyfelin fragment identifications. The conclusion has to be that there were some stones (maybe just one stone?) from the Craig Rhosyfelin area, but that they were broken up. (Maybe there were several smallish boulders, too small to be used in any of the stone settings.) And I continue to think that small sarsens may have been used in the "bluestone" settings as well. I think they were used in the bluestone circle and horseshoe not because they were blue or magical in some way, but simply because they were small.

Phil M said...

Hello Brian,
Thanks for posting. With reference to moss I should have said it grows 'predominantly' on the north side of trees, well in the part of Wales where I live it does.

Robert - If the Early Neolithic starts at 4000 BC and the Late Neolithic starts at 3000 BC, then assuming that the installation of the bluestones at about 2500 BC followed reasonably soon after their transport we are well into the late Neolithic, and past the perils that you list, but hey who knows?
I think way-points were in use, if you Google 'Maen Llia' you'll see a short article dealing with a standing stone whose co-ordinates are 51.861885, -3.567443.
It is also possible that there were circles along the suggested path, but not necessarily of stone.

Phil M. said...

I forgot to say that the rock outcrop in the first photo is part of the Senni Beds formation mentioned so often in discussions on the provenance of the Altar Stone.

chris johnson said...

Thanks Phil, I had just figured that out!

Maybe a route march map would be helpful as I am slowly going nuts trying to join up your dots on my iPad.

Coming back to the "jungle". We have a couple of factors, one is the likely tree-line, the other is the amount of wild animals.

The closer you get to the sea, the lower the tree-line. My supposition is 300-500 metres max in SW Wales around 3000 BC. This makes it likely that the easy routes would have been on the higher ground - or by boat as RJL believes.

The wild animal thesis I do not buy. All evidence from causeway camps suggest that we had hundreds of years earlier a pastoral semi-nomadic society with a mix of cattle, pigs, and (wildish) red-deer. No tigers in the woods.

I reckon it would have been fairly simple to trek back and forth from West Wales to Wiltshire. in 2000-3000 BC. Heavy lifting of stones was done 450000 years earlier by glaciers in the Anglian, perhaps with rare exceptions moved manually to fill the gaps.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- "The closer you get to the sea, the lower the tree-line. My supposition is 300-500 metres max in SW Wales around 3000 BC." Don't know what you are talking about here -- the tree line is related to all sorts of things, including exposure, rainfall, topography etc. What is your evidence?

chris johnson said...

As you say, tree line is difficult to calculate which is why I gave such a broad range. Type of tree also makes a difference, as I am sure you know. Why is tree line near the coast lower? Prevailing ocean winds, storms, salt.

Recent studies in Sweden around global warming are tending to show that relatively minor temperature changes over relatively short periods are having a noticeable affect on tree line. So tree line is very sensitive to minor environmental changes.

A study of Gors Fawr in the neolithic showed a mixed shrub/flower environment, even crops, few trees, definitely not heavy forestation and, as you know, Gors Fawr is in the lee of the "mountains" away from the prevailing winds. There is no evidence I am aware of that might suggest Prescelli uplands were heavily forested in the neolithic, no jungle. The climate would have been too hostile - imo.

My understanding is the uplands of UK - moorland - have not changed substantially in character. When you can point to different evidence then I am all ears and eager to learn.

Please pick your number for me to work with. My view is that uplands of UK would have been easier to navigate and this is supported by the number of ridgeway tracks dating into pre-history. You tend to show absurdist river valley bottoms when making your point about human transport and, while amusing, this is the least likely route for long distance communication as you well know.

Robert John Langdon said...

Phil

I don't believe the blue stones were moved 2500BC and I think you'll find that most archaeologists (incl. I guess Geo) would place Phase I of Stonehenge (because of the finds in the associated Cursus section) more at about 3100BCE to 2900BCE.

My dating is taken from the Carbon Dating of the Car Park at Stonehenge 8500BCE to 7500BCE

RJL

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- you are mixing up all sorts of treelines here. The lack of trees on the coast is related to exposure and salt spray -- at higher altitudes inland you may have perfect conditions for tree growth. Other treelines may be related to the presence of limestone -- leading to highly calcareous soils and lack of surface moisture -- or to conditions of excessive waterlogging. This is a very complex matter!

We know that there were more trees in the uplands in the Sub-Boreal period because there are many tree stumps etc buried in upland peat beds. So I'm not sure we can make any assumptions about the upland ridges of West and South Wales being free of trees -- I suspect there was a scrubby woodland at the very least. The Elm Decline probably also has a climatic origin -- although woodland clearance by humand may have had something to do with it. (By the way, Carn Goedog -- one of the likely sources for the spotted dolerite stones at Stonehenge -- means "woodland carn", and it also has bluebells growing around it -- and bluebells are typical woodland plants.)

Phil M. said...

Hello,
Regarding the land surface in late neolithic times, Rodney Castleden, 'The Stonehenge People, an Exploration of life in Neolithic Britain 4700-2000 BC', page 18, states "The calcarous uplands of the Cotswolds were used for pasture and wheat. In Wales there was pastoral activity on upland sites while cereals were grown in the Wye valley." Additionally, he states at pages 22-23, "It is likely that transhumance was practised in some areas, especiallyif population increased and the area of usable new land decreased during the later neolithic. The seasonal movement of cattle and sheep could have been the best way of exploiting poor, marginal lands in the mountain areas. The Pennines may have been used for summer grazing by cattle herders based in the neighbouring lowlands of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham. The mountains of eastern Wales could have been used in a similar way by herders based in the Severn valley. Short distance transhumance may have been common even in lowland Britain."
Cheers,
Phil

chris johnson said...

Carn Goedog a sacred grove? Now there's a thought.

I did not say "no trees" on the uplands, I said no jungles.

Phil.M said...

Hello Rob,
How is it that by the time I've typed a post three others have arrived on the blog?
Never mind.
The carbon dating of the Car Park post holes is not disputed. However, I was led to believe that Phase 1 of Stonehenge, which contained no bluestones and consisted solely of earthworks and Aubrey Holes, was laid out at about3000 BC. Bluestonehenge was tentatively dated to 3000-2500 BC, with the bluestones removed and transported to Stonehenge around 2500 BC. However, I accept that the re-siting has no bearing on when the stones of Bluestonhenge arrived at their original location.
Cheers,
Phil
Damn but I find it difficult to decipher the new anti-robot words.

Tony H said...

Brian, I think you need to reiterate that your use of the word "jungle" is not meant to evoke images of impenetrable evergreen trees in Britain's prehistoric past. However, there was plenty of deciduous tree coverage in South Wales in the Neolithic and beyond.

Much of Britain's "moorland" is an exotic recent product of the development of upland shooting estates, particularly since the development of railways enabled the rich to travel quickly to these uplands to kill grouse and pheasants.

And, back in the Neolithic, there were plenty of wolves and bears in South Wales to discourage even the best - organised, most intrepid, well - oriented, megalith carrier.

Tony H said...

Phil

Not sure I follow your route map as stated, i.e. you say Amesbury- Milk Hill [Wiltshire's highest point]; THEN you say Milk Hill - to the Malvern Hills and say this is 32 miles. It's a lot further.Have you forgotten to mention another end point?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Regarding Carn Goedog, watch this space. The MPP team were digging there for quite a while last summer -- results will no doubt be forthcoming in due course. There are many prehistoric features (settlement features?) on the sloping ground beneath the rock outcrops.

Gors Fawr? Not in the lee of the mountains, Chris. Fully exposed to the prevailing south-westerlies.

Phil said...

Hello Tony,
My fault.
The exercise was conducted over a few evenings, and in between other jobs, and then the senile dementia set in.
You are correct, the straight line distance between Milk Hill and Worcestershire Beacon in the Malverns should have read 54 miles rather than 32 miles.
Well spotted, 10 out of 10.

Robert John Langdon said...

Phil

The Aubrey Holes were made for the bluestones which is known as Phase I.

Bluehenge - sorry MPP if you watching - is much later date than Stonehenge Sarsens(Phase II) or at the same time as Phase III+ (When the Avenue was extended).

RJL

Tony H said...

Phil

It was just an instinctive notion that Milk Hill to the Malverns must be further than 30-odd miles made me query it. As I live in Wiltshire, I thought it might be more. Must get to the Malverns. I often view them from the Bristol - Brum train window, longingly And 40years ago my regular motorbike route took me from Abergavenny to Bulth Wells, Rhyader and beyond to the sea.

Phil said...

Hello Robert John,
You are probably correct but the concept of farming reached Britain between 5000 BC and 4500 BC with forest clearance being well established by 4300 BC and continuing until about 3500 BC, which covers the early neolithic period.
Regarding your earlier post you said
"Sadly, I agree with Brian - no way could you walk stones from Preseli to Stonehenge as at the time of the original construction you would have had forests, bogs, rivers and wild animals waiting for lunch - take a boat much more sensible and quicker."
It has been shown that using suitable 'contraptions' such as an 'A' frame and sled, a team of 25 people could transport a 4 ton bluestone, without undue fatigue, at a speed of 2 miles (3.2km) per 8 hour day; or 100 days for the complete journey from Preseli to Stonehenge. The track for the contraption need be no wider than 2 metres. Experiments have shown that 3 men can clear 500 square metres of forest in 4 hours, or 250 metres of track, using polished flint axes.
I think they would have accurately surveyed the route in order to avoid bogs, and it has been shown that rivers can be crossed with ease, provided the banks are graded.
The sound of 4 ton of stone sliding along, and 25 people shouting, would have frightened off even the bravest bear, and no doubt they would have had sufficient good sense to carry spears and other weapons with them.
I cannot see them risking the precious bluestones on water, after all it's difficult to misplace a 4 ton rock on dry land.

Robert John Langdon said...

Sorry Phil !

Absolutely disagree with your analysis. The idea of a team of men clearing a forest to drag a 4 tonne stone 200 miles is totally 'nuts'.

The path you would need to travel would increase the distance three or four fold to avoid the rivers and marshlands. Moreover 3 men trying to cut trees down with stone tools is just fantasy stuff like Monty Python and a herring sketch.

One man can 'burn' then cut down one tree in a day (the tree trunks in the Car Park of Stonehenge are 1m wide) - 3 men three trees a day, 500 metres is about 250 trees (remember this was a forest not and English wood you see today) equates to 80 days and that's not including the removing the roots and tree debris that is more of a problem than the tree trunk, which is quicker to go around the tree than to cut down!

History is full of such stone monuments being constructed with much bigger stones than a small 4 tonne bluestones - ALL of the ancient stone monuments have transported their stones by boat.

If you going to make a road for your 'A' frame you might as well invent the wheel as well.

RJL

PS as for the myth of 'forest clearing' read up on the Amazon, which tried to do the same (not with stone axes) in recent years to find that forest ground was totally unsuitable for farming!!

chris johnson said...

We need to be careful with this jungle/thick forest notion, especially on the high ground.

A factor to consider is the red deer population, intensively utilized from early mesolithic (see Star Carr) to the period we are discussing.

Forestry commission studies illustrate just how destructive deer are in upland wooded settings. On Exmoor it is estimated that a population of 5 per sq km will prevent the regeneration of oak woods. Left unmanaged, the deer population in Britain will average 25-40 per sq km, with over 50 being known.

I suspect the combined effects of deer, fire, climate, and man will have resulted in uplands that were a lot easier to navigate on foot than some of us seem to think.

The bear fanciers among us will know that brown bears are not known for preying on deer. In fact, red deer have few/no predators other than man as they become adult.

Robert John Langdon said...

I agree Chris, I don't think forest would effect the tops of hills/mountains and I remember reading about a two-thirds rule for trees?

But you can't move from Preseli to Stonehenge on just high ground the majority of the journey would be below the two/third height of the hills.

And a publication called 'comparing axe heads of stone, bronze and steel' by James Mathieu - Journal of field archaeology volume 24 number 3 1997 - shows academics cutting lots of trees down with stone tools in 40 mins -unfortunately they are only 15cm wide (not a real tree) but with a bit of maths, you can calculate that a 1m Car Park tree would take one man 60 hours to cut down - non stop (not taking into account how many stone axes would break in the process and need to be re-knapped).

That's why they burned them first - much quicker and save your precious axe.

As for forest clearance, I would go for something natural like 'disease'?

RJL

Phil said...

Hello robert,
There's no need to say sorry for disagreeing with me, I'm reasonably bruise resistant.

I don't see that the posts in the car park have anything to do with forest clearing, you wouldn't chop huge trees down, you'd go around them.

I like your ideas about boats and wheels.
Perhaps they made the boats amphibious by fitting them with the wheels which would allow them to cross rivers and climb mountains with ease.

This discussion is getting silly.

chris johnson said...

Phil, the car park instance is not silly. It shows that people 10k years ago had the technology to cut and shape and move very large trees. I agree it likely does not connect with forest clearance as a generality.

Going around trees has a long tradition in Wales, as anyone who has driven A40 knows. I always see it as a fundamental difference in culture between the British and e.g. the Dutch. We Dutch would not think twice about making the road run straight.

Phil said...

Hello Chris,

Interesting points that make sense.

Cheers,

Phil

Phil said...

Chris,
I think the terrain of Wales has something to do with the curvature of highways.
Straightening the roads would require many tunnels; but it may be correct when you say it's a cultural difference, for perhaps the Welsh dislike cutting corners. :-)

Tony H said...

Wonder how any bluestone transporting teams would have dealt with the attentions of the aurochs [now extinct wild ox weighing over a ton]? They were certainly around in Wales & England. One of the largest aurochs skulls ever found, mentioned in Figgis' "Prehistoric Preseli", came from Borth, just 60 miles north of Newport (and Brian).

Quite a few remains were also found at Goldcliff, near Newport {Gwent]. These awesome beasts must have been still around in the Neolithic. Their remains have also recently been found at the so-called Vespasian's Camp, Amesbury, close to Stonehenge. And an aurochs skull was found at the bottom of the famous Windmill Hill Causewayed Camp site, at a point, Neil Oliver was told by eminent Neolithic archaeologist Alisdair Whittle, that would have represented the edge of the 'wilderness' beyond the camp.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thinking of Borth, they have been investigating the submerged forest there in the last few days of low tides, and have found more Mesolithic footprints -- and animal prints too. More info will no doubt follow. Maybe they were hunting an aurochs in the deep oak forest?

BRIAN JOHN said...

... or maybe the aurochs was hunting them?

BRIAN JOHN said...

I don't think anybody would argue with the idea that woodland cover would have been less thick on the ridges and interfluves than it would be in the lowlands and valleys. There may have been openings and glades and even some areas where a "savanna" landscape would have replaced a densely forested one. But remember that this more open aspect would have been down to great exposure and very unpleasant environmental conditions. (It's been argued that the cooler and wetter Atlantic period caused the forested uplands of the Pennines and Wales to be replaced by peat bog....)

Anybody trying to haul very large stones along a "ridgeway and interfluve" route would have had to cope with this great exposure -- wind and rain and often very boggy conditions -- as well as a route scores if not hundreds of miles longer than the "direct" route involving transport straight down to the coast.

I am entirely unconvinced that a interfluve transport route for the human bluestone argonauts (if you insist on believing that there were such people) would have been any easier than a route following the valleys full of jungles......

chris johnson said...

My interest in this question was to establish the feasibility of human contact overland between Prescelli and Stonehenge in the Neolithic. It does seem we have moved forward on this one.

My own feeling is that the bulk of the stones were transported by glaciation in the direction of Stonehenge during one or more ice ages. I think it likely that the provenance of these "erratics" was recognized by the builders of Stonehenge and there was some cross-cultural reason to include them in the monument.

Brian seems to disagree; arguing that the builders saw nothing special about the stones or where they came from - they were just the right size and handy. So I am wondering why the "right size"? And where did this collection of erratics actually land? Was it on the overland route where they would have been noticed?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Just testing the human transport hypothesis, which is one of the real purposes of this blog........

I still don't think the stones were selectively chosen or selectively used -- except maybe in the final stone setting. They were (are) of many different shapes and sizes -- too much has been made of the supposed fact that the bluestones were uniform in some way. They were incredibly varied -- long, short, stumpy, thin, flat, thick, rough, smooth, flaky, hard etc etc. A typical collection of erratics....

Where were they collected from? Still working on that one....

chris johnson said...

Maybe I being too fanciful. I think context is vital to understanding history and why people do what they do. In pre-history people would have understood stones, perhaps in a similar way that you yourself do today as a geologist. Dolerites and Rhyolites would have stood out as "alien" to people growing up in Wiltshire and they would have been quickly recognized by visitors from Prescelli.

One thing puzzles me in all these speculations. The Afon Nyfer, Avon, and the Kennet are all salmon and sea trout rivers - or were. Rhos-y-felin and Avebury are in the breeding grounds, Stonehenge too - presumably there was something magical about the new fish being born amongst the stones of the river? Surely here is a connection, yet I never hear about the big sea fish in the context. It is difficult to imagine that neolithic people did not utilize the big fish in their rivers and yet we never hear about it.

Anonymous said...

...............Short, stumpy, long, thin, fat, smooth, flaky, chipped - around about half past ten - Halleluyah, it's Raining Men, sorry, Stones!!!

THE WEATHER (or should that be weathered?) GIRLS

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't forget, girls, that the ones that are short and stumpy, broad and flat, and sort of curvacious, are supposed (by certain of our learned professors) to be FEMALE stones......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now this is a new one on me -- Stonehenge as a meeting place of anglers, or a place where local people might worship the fish gods?

Tony H said...

Chris

I agree with you that humans originating in what we now call West Wales may have recognised any rhyolites and dolerites that nature may have moved by glacial means towards the future Stonehenge vicinity. Perhaps, way back in Mesolithic times, some hunter-gatherers may have travelled such long distances. So, they could have recognised these bluestones, and a human connection between the two regions could have originated way back then.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I don't see any evidence at all that spotted dolerite, dolerite of rhyolite was used preferentially in any of the Neolithic or Bronze Age monuments with which I am familiar in Pembrokeshire. There was no special respect or reverence for it -- anybody who claims that there was is living in a fantasy world. The builders of all the monuments I know about simply used whatever raw materials were readily available in the immediate vicinity -- sandstone, limestone, dolerite, gabbro -- it made not the slightest difference. The only question that seems to have mattered is this: "Is the stone the right sort of shape and size for our purpose?"

Tony H said...

My point was that maybe Mesolithic hunter - gatherers from the West might well have been observant enough to recognise those erratic rocks, were they noticed on their long - distance travelling Eastwards, as originating where they had come from to the West (or at least being similar rock types they'd noticed there.).

Their more sedentary Neolithic or Bronze Age descendants needn't use any of the stone types in their monuments.

What may have been important was that the [hypothetical] Mesolithic people arriving in the region that was eventually to be known as Wessex, recognised the stones [hypothetically lying in an erratic train] as coming from further West. I am not postulating that folk back West revered those stones, of the same geological types, that they saw in their "homeland" Western landscape. But that some deep human connection at the level of a folk memory may have developed between West and East.

The archaeologists certainly seem to have got it into their heads that there may well have been contacts between "Wales" and "Wessex" all those thousands of years ago. They keep mentioning similarities of design of the earliest bank and ditch at Stonehenge, and early henge monuments in Wales, such as Llandegai. I am proposing that our rather observant wandering Mesolithic forebears may have kicked this whole thing off.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Interesting thoughts, Tony. But I'm not sure why you are invoking a MESOLITHIC folk memory here? Surely the Mesolithic population was quite small, surviving by hunting and gathering and maybe migrating seasonally between favoured areas where resources happened to be available. There is no evidence -- as far as I know -- that they had any great interest in stones of any type -- except maybe for making microliths and little arrow heads?

Robert John Langdon said...

"There is no evidence -- as far as I know -- that they had any great interest in stones of any type"

Amber (in the past) was seen as a stone, because of fossilisation.

What you refuse to consider Brian, is that at the same time Bluestones were being brought from the west, from an even greater distance from the east Amber was being transported from the Baltic Sea.

Both are linked to medical use - one you bath with the other you drink.

RJL

BRIAN JOHN said...

"Bluestones being brought from the west...?" Not in my book they weren't. i should have been more specific. as you know, I was referring to BIG stones -- of course Mesolithic people placed some value on flints and other materials suitable for making tools and weapons, and they probably collected pretty coloured stones as ornaments for personal dress, or maybe as tokens for bartering and exchange. Maybe amber was used for these purposes? Carring a small lump of this or that pretty stone in a knapsack is quite a different matter from shifting 4 tonne bluestones around the place.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Not sure it matters that much whether the Mesolithic wandering population was small.

My point is they were no doubt very observant of landscape features. A folk memory is a folk memory. Australian Aborigine populations passed down folk memories, despite having small population groups. Similarly, by analogy, there weren't too many original disciples and committed followers of Jesus around even 30 years after his death on the Cross. But the message spread, like a mustard seed grows.

And haven't you mused yourself, Brian, that Early Prehistoric Man may have pondered long and hard as to why your postulated glacial Erratic Train had a broadly West-East track? You say yourself in "Stonehenge Enigma", Chapter 7,"The Irish Sea Glacier", page 137:-

"It is probable that the Neolithic peoples of South-Western England had a similarly* intimate knowledge of their land. They could have recognised a similar* trail of blocks that could be traced Westwards or North-WestwardS towards some mysterious 'source'. They would have been similarly intrigued by it. They might even have attributed a supernatural origin [like the Blackfoot Indians did] to this ribbon or linear arrangement of bluestone blocks and smaller debris. They may have woven tales around them, and given them symbolic powers like the chips from the giant rock that rolled after [Blackfoot North American Indians' legendary figure] Napi."

* i.e. similar to the Blackfoot Peoples of North America and their Foothills Erratic Train landscape feature

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so, Tony. Not averse to a bit of speculation myself! I agree that people would have had mental maps and would have speculated about alignments and the origins of things. All we can do at present is muse about all of this -- maybe some sort of truth will emerge eventually......

I still don't see any reason at all to push back this "folk memory" thing to the Mesolithic -- although I have also speculated about this with respect to the submerged forests and Cantre'r Gwaelod. A folk memory of some great inundation in the past might persist over scores of generations, but that would have been an "event" with a massive impact. I don't see distant folk memories about the origins of certain rock types (even if they could identify them) as being at all likely.

Saying that Neolithic tribes might have "explained" erratic tails or woven tales or myths around them is not the same as having a geological knowledge about the places of origin.

chris johnson said...

Is there some reason you did not pass my latest post in this thread, or did you simply not receive it?

Happy to submit again or receive an explanation via mail.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I put up everything I receive, Chris -- unless it causes me great angst, which yours tend not to! Something must have gone astray -- please post it in again...

Tony H said...

Brian, I'm speculating that the Mesolithic folk might have kicked this folk memory off, simply because it is the senior archaeologists who keep mentioning a very early origin/similarity between henges such as Llandegai in North Wales near Bangor, and the earliest earthwork at Stonehenge i.e. the bank and ditch.

They are claiming there may have been some movement of ideas back then. We could postulate that this could have occurred somewhere at the period which was the cusp between the Neolithic and the Mesolithic.

And don't you think prehistoric peoples could have discerned, had they the opportunity to see both in the landscapes, that the tabular blocks of bluestone from the Preseli area reminded them of the blocks they would eventually carve out of the conveniently - located massive erratic(s) they found somewhere to the East or North-East of the Stonehenge "zone"?

chris johnson said...

Thanks, Tony covered some of the ground but I send you the post again.

My impression is that there was a gradual change from mesolitihic lifestyle to the neolithic and actually the terms don't add a lot of value these days. The ideas of farming pre-date the adoption of a more sedentary farmstead type lifestyle and the speed of adoption depended, many think, on the availability of natural resources like red deer and winter/summer pasture land for herds of cattle or droves of pigs. Farming is not something you rush into as it is hard work.

In Wiltshire there is little evidence of permanent farmsteads before the Bronze Age as far as I know. Such cereal crops as were consumed seemed to be incidental rather than a main feature of diet and perhaps associated more with feasting events.

When farming did become a way of life it would have shrunk the horizons because farmers stay home to milk the cows.

On stones I think you are overstating the case Brian. There seems plentiful evidence that different stones were highly prized - langdale axes, ceremonial mace heads like the extraordinary find at Newgrange. Welsh axes from Graiglwyd are found in Cornwall and SE England, and many other examples. We talked earlier about the use of white quartz and the flint mines indicate an ability to appreciate the different grades of flint available. Whether one calls it mesolithic or neolithic does not matter so much to me - it was all Stone Age, as were the circles, standing stones, and chambered tombs.

On the Prescelly "Bluestones", you recently published a photo showing one of their special qualities - the star like patterns. Around 3000BC the horizon around Windmill Hill would have been a spectacular display as the Milky Way dominated the night-time skies. You would have to be a complete cynic to deny any connection in the minds of star gazing bands of the time.

Added: your idea of trinkets in knapsacks is not doing justice to the evidence.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Chris -- yes, I can see that the Mesolithic - Neolithic transition is difficult to date, and was probably out of phase in different parts of Britain. That's the way with cultural diffusion -- or even with parallel development in isolated and independent communities. But there is a logical progression from small and highly mobile hunters and gatherers, who would have no great wish (or need) to move big stones about, but who might have used small stones for ornamental / trading purposes, on to more sedentary farmers who were more solidly anchored to "their places" and who then sought to delineate those places, protect them from outsiders, and use their very special places for burials. So standing stones and cromlechs come into the frame -- maybe with Stonehenge becoming the culmination or high point of this "megalithic" culture.

It's evading the issue of evolution or development just to talk about "The Stone Age." After all, as I have said very often, if big lumps of bluestone were used in Boles Barrow before people were supposed to be capable of humping big stones about, that is a point of considerable significance in the human transport / glacial transport debate.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony -- it's a jolly thing to think that the builders of Stonehenge not only knew where the bluestones had come from, but had a sort of folk memory relating to their significance. but as I have said, I see no trace of any significance in west Wales -- so why should there have been any significance at Stonehenge? In any case, what we have at Stonehenge is a mottley collection -- there is no evidence of any reverence directed at spotted dolerite, whatever Chris might claim about the similarity of that rock with the night sky. Was sarsen revered because it reminded people of a cloudy grey sky? Was Rhosyfelin foliated rhyolite revered because it reminded them of a flowing river? Not much reverence there, since they seem to have smashed up the only stones from that site that they could find...

chris johnson said...

Interesting thought in that last sentence - that the Rhos-y-felin stones were deliberately smashed up.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, this seems to be the thinking of Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins -- since there is a lot of debitage and no standing stone of this type. They think that one of the stumps may be made of this foliated rhyolite, but that is not backed up by hard evidence as yet -- just an impression obtained from a close examination of the old Atkinson photos.

chris johnson said...

If so, it would seem these stones were destroyed selectively and thus that whoever did it could see a difference.

BRIAN JOHN said...

"Crap stone, chaps. Smash it up, for goodness sake...."

Tony H said...

Interesting to learn from David Field of English Heritage that there are large sarsens lying around next to Robin Hood's Ball, the causewayed enclosure 5 kilometres north of Stonehenge, and dating from the Early Neolithic.

chris johnson said...

Interesting news Tony. I had not realized that sarsens are to be found so close to Stonehenge.

The idea of salmon streams made me think of the sarsen streams. Correct me if I am wrong Brian but are these not the effect of solifluction and thus associated with glacial times very close to Stonehenge?

Boles barrow came up again from Brian. If we could be sure that Cunnington was right to report Prescelli stones in Boles Barrow then it would be a very important proof point in support of glacial transport. However when I looked at this a couple of months ago there were many plausible reasons advanced why we cannot be sure of the evidence. However, Cunnington was an amateur geologist so presumably knew what he was saying and why would he have lied? The only reason I can think of is that the Bluestone came by Stonehenge by cart and he became embarrassed about vandalizing the monument - a bit unlikely in his context.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, David Field has made this point in print as well. The idea is not new. Andrew Goudie and others were making exactly the same point 40 years ago -- namely that there was no need to collect sarsens from the Marlborough Downs because there were plenty of them on Salisbury Plain, close to Stonehenge. I say the same thing in my book.

Sarsen streams? Yes, it has been speculated that lines or "streams" of sarsens can occur downslope of sarsen outcrops, with downslope movement facilitated by periglacial conditions. Stone streams belong in the "mass movement" category of landforms. But I haven't seen any great evidence of sarsen streams either in the Vale of Pewsey or elsewhere.

And the Boles Barrow bluestone? Coincidentally I was reading Burl's account of it last night (light relief after the Grand Slam) and was impressed, once again, by his complete conviction that there WAS indeed a bluestone boulder there, in a long barrow, well before Stonehenge was started. I'll come back to this -- it's an interesting topic.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Not only did David Field mention the large sarsens lying close to Robin Hood's Ball causewayed enclosure, which is effectively within the Greater Stonehenge Landscape, 5 kms N of Stonehenge, but he also pointed out that there are sarsens close to the Deserted village of Imber, in the valley near it on the Salisbury Plain. Both of these sites are within the Army's Salisbury Plain Training Area, an effective protection from predation by the farming community!