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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Where were the bluestone erratics dumped?


 

Two maps previously published on this blog, showing the ice limits proposed in various publications by other authors.


I gather from one of our little blogging community (for which many thanks) that this is what MPP says about the glacial theory in his new book:

"John thinks that bluestone erratics could have been dumped south of Bristol in the area around Glastonbury where perhaps some remain to be found, buried beneath the peat. Even if this hypothesis were correct, Neolithic people would have had to move the stones forty  miles from Glastonbury, or anywhere else in the Severn Valley, to Stonehenge."

I'm sure that this is a quote taken out of context, and that there is much more in the way of detailed discussion and analysis in the book, but just for the record here are a few brief points:

1.  I do indeed think that bluestone erratics could have been dumped south of Bristol,  but I also think they could have been dumped south of the Mendips, across the Somerset Levels, in the Glastonbury area, or up against the chalk escarpment, or even on the western parts of Salisbury Plain.  All of that would have been perfectly feasible from a glaciological point of view.  I am not THAT keen on Glastonbury as the dumping ground for bluestones from the west -- although I admit to being rather taken by the romantic idea of these two great iconic locations being connected by bluestones!  As readers of this blog will know, I have played around with various ideas which are sensible when we look at the field evidence of glaciation in the South-West.  But as ever, we need more evidence on the ground......

2.  Yes, wherever the stones were collected from, they would have been moved over a greater or lesser distance by the stone gatherers.  I have never denied that -- and as readers of the blog will know, my current theory for bluestone transport is in the nature of a "hybrid hypothesis" involving glacier ice (initially) and human agency (subsequently).

3.  The Severn Valley?  MPP has got his geography a bit wrong here.  I have never suggested that the bluestones might have come from the Severn Valley -- the Severn Valley carried material broadly southward along the eastern edge of the Welsh uplands, and the ice affecting the area might have incorporated north or mid-Wales erratics, but not erratics from west Wales.

4 comments:

chris johnson said...

Recently you mentioned Westbury as a target area for fieldwork - is this still your view? It might be helpful to narrow the field; a geomorphologist equivalent of a senior archaeologist deciding where to dig a trench.

Westbury would have the advantage (in my eyes) that the human transport element would have been closer to 12 miles than 40 and all the more plausible therefore.

Personally I don't think the transportation mechanism detracts at all from the story of Stonehenge or the possible link with Presceli. I think the stonehenge people travelled big distances and knew their stones.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, I still think that the Westbury area deserves some decent fieldwork, as a reasonable target area in which bluestones might be found. Working hypothesis -- not ruling hypothesis!

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Mike PP does make much (too much?) of the fact that no bluestones have [as yet] been found within the stone circles of Stanton Drew, about a dozen miles south of central Bristol, and peruses that this may be surprising had the bluestones been deposited in his rather vague and geographically inexact/ inaccurately described zone. But Stanton Drew has never been excavated, nor seriously analysed by geologists as far as I am aware, and is a long way north of other such potential bluestone erratic train locations as the Plain chalk escarpment [Warminster/Westbury vicinity], or, as Brian says, 'even the western parts of Salisbury Plain'.

A glacial erratic train may have been dumped so much closer to the future site of Stonehenge than, say, to the future site of the Stanton Drew circles, however helpful it might now be to modern archaeologists were bluestones to be found at Stanton Drew, with its broad similarities in scale to Stonehenge and Avebury.

First, we need to find traces of a glacial erratic train by careful scrutiny of the various landscapes. Perhaps there may yet be evidence of bluestone in the historic built environment e.g. field walls, old farm buildings? That is to say, elsewhere, other than the possible suggestions of traces closer to the Stonehenge monument, which might always be dismissed (by some) as examples of stones subsequently removed from the circle itself.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, Stanton Drew is interesting -- it will be VERY intriguing to have some proper identifications of the standing stones there. There might be erratics in the stone assemblage, and they might have come from the west or north. The traces of old till at Bath, not all that far away, are most likely to have been introduced by ice from the north, but more work needs to be done on that too.

I agree that fieldwork is desperately needed in the hunt for erratics (and by "erratics" I do not necessarily mean "glacial erratics". Let's find the erratics first, and then work out how they arrived at their present locations.

We shouldn't get too concerned about "erratic trains." As I have often pointed out, the search for a continuous -- or even discontinuous -- train of erratics from Pembs to Stonehenge has greatly exercised archaeologists, and when they fail to find it they assume that the glacial transport thesis is dead and buried. Bad mistake. See lots of my earlier posts on this!