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Saturday, 1 September 2012

THAT meteorite to go on display



The Lake House Meteorite (which we have discussed earlier) is due to go on display in Salisbury Museum this autumn.  No doubt there will be more interesting discussion of where it was found, and how it got there...........  but since Colin Pillinger is not an archaeologist, forget about the Druids.

I found this on the BBC web site:

14 February 2012

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-16986737

Wilsford-cum-Lake doorstep meteorite 'biggest to fall in UK'


Mystery had always surrounded the origins of a 200lb (90kg) meteorite that had been on the doorstep of a Wiltshire house for more than 80 years.

Experts had wondered if the space rock had initially landed in another part of the world several thousand years ago and had been brought at some stage over to England

However, researchers now believe the 1.6ft (50cm) long rock may have landed 30,000 years ago closer to home - making it possibly the largest meteorite ever found in Britain.

What was known about the rock was that it had been on the step of Lake House near Wilsford-cum-Lake since the early-1900s.

But when the family, who wished to remain anonymous, wanted to sell property in 1991, they decided to take the rock, which they had always referred to as "grandfather's meteorite", to the Natural History Museum.

At the time, museum experts confirmed it as a meteorite but were unable to verify if it had been found in the UK.

It had been assumed the rock, which is four times larger than any other meteorites that had been previously found in the UK, had been collected by the family's grandfather on his travels abroad.
But Professor Colin Pillinger, from the Open University, who has been researching the meteorite's history for more than a year, said there was photographic evidence of the rock being on the steps of the house which predates the family.

He said he was now "99.9% certain" the meteorite had landed in the UK.

"It's very unusual to find a meteorite this big in Britain," he said.

"They are very unstable, they contain a lot of metallic iron which oxidises and the meteorite falls to pieces.

"So the only logical explanation of how such a big meteorite may have survived being on Earth for 30,000 years is that it fell on or near a glacier and was in a deep freeze for 20,000 years."

'Scavenging druids'

Professor Pillinger, famed for his work on the Beagle II Mars explorer, said he believed the low-humidity and freezing conditions would have protected the rock from weathering.

"Then along came some druids, scavenging on Salisbury Plain for strange or interesting stones, and it was picked up and used in a chalk mound," he said.

Professor Pillinger believes the giant meteorite was unearthed in an excavation of a burial mound
"And the 'reducing environment' of chalk - the anaerobic environment - would have prevented the iron from oxidising."

The giant fragment of asteroid is then thought to have been unearthed by a previous occupant of Lake House, who is known to have excavated several nearby burial mounds.

"He was an archaeologist and was digging every barrow up in sight trying to find treasure," said Professor Pillinger.

"And we think he got it out of a barrow and added it to his collection."

The meteorite, known as a common chondrite, is due to go on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in autumn.

Adrian Green, the museum's director, said there was still "a lot of debate" about how the rock came to be on the doorstep of Lake House.

"But it's not uncommon for exotic rocks to be built into burial mounds," he added.

"And it's still covered in chalk which is the bedrock of the landscape.

"And it's colossal - it would take four people to lift it - and it's not aesthetically pleasing, so common sense dictates that this has not been shipped from abroad at ridiculous cost and significant effort, but that it came from the UK."

18 comments:

Myris of Alexandria said...

I wonder at the phrase "Grandfather's meteorite"- most people who think they have meteorites have iron pyrite/marcasite nodules or anthropogenic slags and tell fabulous stories (I had someone tell me the meteorite had come in through the window and burned his mother's bed clothes- it was fused bottle glass!!)
I a not certain that seeing this (although it is BIG)limonite-stained mess people would think meteorite without cause. Perhaps opa did collect it.
Pilinger is being disengenuous when he says most iron meteorites would be lost due to weathering in Britain. That is very true but this is a stony meteorite a very different fishy kettle.
Love the scavenging Salisbury Plain Druids related to the Wimbledon Common Wombles?
Madame Cholet's Stargazy Pie anyone.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Where did the 30,000 year date come from? Is that established by cosmogenic dating or some other method? If reliable, then of course the meteorite must have been lying about somewhere during the coldest and iciest part of the Devensian. Where? On Salisbury Plain?

Anonymous said...

Talking of moving stones, I ran across some info about the stones in the West Kennet Long Barrow. Apparently some of them (limestones) come from the River Frome, about 20 miles distance.

This is cited in a Wessex Archaeology brochure so it must be true, still it would be interesting to learn more detail if anybody knows?

There would seem to be some interesting implications. 1000 years before SH3 people were moving stones an interesting distance despite the availability of sarsen closer by. As far as I know neither volcanics or meteorites are included in West Kennet so perhaps wherever they sprung from it was NOT the River Frome.

Chris J.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Do we have anything more reliable on this? The River Frome is quite long and of course it is to the west of Salisbury Plain and west Kennet. People were moving stones? Maybe -- but maybe ice was moving stones too. Could these be glacial erratics? Serious provenancing needed. Myris?

m said...

This is part of my report into the ?only bluestone from West Kennet

Identification of a lithic found at a Roman well. West Kennet.

Lithology
A flaked rhyolite. The rock has strong affinities with IPG Axe Group VIII.

Comparison with Implement Petrology Committee Axe-head Group VIII
The Implement Petrology Committee Group VIII artefacts are described as manufactured from rhyolites with ‘an even and finely-textured micro-crystalline mosaic of quartz and possibly feldspar with scattered irregular non-homogeneous accumulations of leucoxene’ (Keiller et al. 1941, 63) cropping out at Carnalw just north of the spotted dolerite exposures of Carn Menyn in the Preseli Hills.
The presence of ‘spongy clusters of fine-grained titanite up to 1mm in diameter are the defining feature of this lithic’ (Jenkins in David and Williams 1995, 459) and a very typical example of the group is shown in photomicrograph A, Plate VI in Stone and Wallis (1951, 131). The Roman Well rhyolitic lithic conforms well with this description and is similar to photomicrograph A.
Ixer and Bevins, 2010 have discussed and dismissed Carnalw as a source for Group VIII axes and this is in broad agreement with Jones and Williams-Thorpe (2001) who have shown that a number of Group VIII axe-heads are chemically different from rocks cropping out at Carnalw. Those authors suggest that the axes were manufactured from ‘rhyolites’ from a number of unspecified localities in Wales.

Comparison with provenanced Stonehenge material.
Approximately 50 fine-grained bluestones from Stonehenge were examined and directly compared with the West Kennet lithic. The Stonehenge material comes from Aubrey Hole 7, The Stonehenge Avenue, The Heelstone area and from the April 2008 excavation of Darvill and Wainwright.
The Stonehenge lithics include fine-grained rhyolites/rhyolitic tuffs informally called ‘rhyolite’ and ‘rhyolite with fabric’ (Ixer and Bevins 2010: 2011). These lithics include the type specimens of the sub-groups ‘snowflake’ and ‘zebra’ that are characterised by pale-coloured areas within the uniform blue matrix. Comparison with the West Kennet lithic show the Stonehenge bluestones to have a strong planar fabric (foliation) and that the pale areas are discoidal in shape. These Stonehenge bluestones can be matched to specific outcrops on Craig-y-felin at Pont Saeson (Ixer and Bevins 2011).
All the required macroscopical characteristics for inclusion within rhyolite with fabric as defined by Ixer and Bevins (in press) are missing from the West Kennet lithic.
Similarly comparison with argillaceous tuffs from Stonehenge (informally called ‘rhyolite with sub-planar texture’) and calcite-bearing tuffs (‘rhyolite with sub-planar texture and voids’) show the West Kennet lithic to have none of the characteristics required for inclusion into those two groups, notably a lack of a foliation, voids or presence of fine-grained mica.
In addition the lithic is most unlike the Altar Stone sandstone, the Palaeozoic sandstones, the spotted dolerite and types of sarsen found at Stonehenge.
Conclusion.
The West Kennet lithic is identified as a rhyolite and in particular has petrographical characteristics with the rhyolite that defines the majority of Group VIII axes. Despite being a Welsh rhyolite the west Kennet rhyolite lithology is one that has not been recognised from either the extant orthostats or debitage from Stonehenge.

Not in report.
Possibly a fragment of an axe-head.
M

I know nothing of any lmsts.The only SH lmst I have seen have been from unstratified locations and have been modern Mendip quarried Lmst.

geocur said...

Oolitic limestone in the facade ,it's only a ton of walling and could have come from Calne 7 miles away .

Tony H said...

Sadly, I see (according to Wikipedia) that Colin Pillinger developed Multiple Sclerosis in 2005.
Perhaps others may find out how we could contact him to ask him more about his theory that the meteorite fell into a glacier where it was protected for tens of thousands of years.
This obviously has bearings on the extent of glaciation in The West Country.

As Brian says, it may have been on earth in the Devensian glacial period if 30,000 years ago is accurate as a date.

We need to do some metaphorical digging, some further enquiring. And there are, indeed. lots of barrows close to Lake House, e.g. the Lake Group, the Normanton Group, etc, etc. And Mesolithic sites have been found all along the river Avon, e.g. close to "Bluestonehenge"; and also on the higher ground near Avebury. So who saw the meteorite first??

Anonymous said...

Aubrey Burl, in Prehistoric Avebury, 2002, says well over a ton of oolitic limestone was imported for the building of West Kennet. Still more was used in other long barrows on the Marlboro' Downs such as Adam's Grave. "Its presence shows that contacts between Avebury and the Bristol area were strong".

West Kennet long barrow is classified as part of the Severn- Cotswold group of barrows.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Another comment from Tony - which failed to get through the system for some reason...

Going back to Lake House and the apparent meteorite on its doorstep, the current incumbents of Lake House [when they choose to live there] are Trudie and Gordon Sumner - think I've spelt the surname correctly. As I have observed before, Gordon is quite keen on archaeology himself, and a prehistoric burial was excavated for him within the grunds of Lake House in the last 15-25 years (reported in WANHS Wiltshire Studies).

Gordon, also known as Sting, wrote and sang "Walking On The Moon", and "Alien In New York" (altogether everyone..). Is there some kind of subtle extra-terrestrial influence going on here?


Going on to Chris' mention of the limestone of the West Kennet long barrow, I believe this is primarily in the dry stone walling
of this chambered tomb. Pieces of oolite are also known from unchambered mounds in the Marlborough Downs; and from Windmill Hill
[where there is the early Neolithic causewayed camp as well as barrows] according to Stuart Piggott(1962).

Josh Pollard says the import of the limestone from the Frome - Bath - Box/ Corsham /Atworth (near Melksham, Wilts) region makes little sense if simply a building material. I will quote what he says in his book: Avebury - the biography of a landscape, co-authored with Andrew Reynolds (2002).

"Instead its incorporation in these monuments served as a physical link between the region and far - off places".He goes on to wonder if aesthetic qualities, such as its whiteness, which was akin to that of bleached ancestral bone, might have led to its choice."

"Perhaps it was even held to contain the essence of ancestral or spiritual beings, in the same way that quartzite is believed to do so by aboriginal groups in West Arnhem Land, Australia (Tacon 1992, p 205)"

There is more on pages 73-74 of Josh's book - has anyone elso read it & noted it's similar conclusions to a more current debate?

PeteG has remarked in the past about having found oolitic limestone in the Avebury landscape. Are you there, Pete?

Anonymous said...

I sent two detailed posts on this a few days ago but they don't seem to have got through.

There is some confusion about the WKLB limestone.
The Original material came from Calne but Piggott restored the barrow with pieces from Frome.
Several journals get it the other way around.

PeteG

BRIAN JOHN said...

Sorry Pete -- Tried to upload them as normal, but from my laptop in Brittany (on a walking holiday just now) and they seemed to go through as per normal. Strange things happening.....

Tony H said...

Our good friend Aubrey Burl (Prehistoric Avebury)claims that at West Kennet L B "calcareous grit came from the region of Calne seven miles away".

Julian Richards may well be a prime source of up-to-date knowledge. He's recently given a talk on WKLB to the gathered thongs, sorry, throngs, of Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes. Perhaps PeteG got his info re the source of the limestone from Julian, or maybe the Museum?

Josh Pollard's book and his NEXT bit [Previous Comment @ 21.17 0n 03 Sept above] will follow ASAP.

Tony H said...

Avebury: the biography of a landscape by Josh Pollard & Andrew Reynolds [pages 73-4] continues to talk about the oolitic limestone of WKLB in these terms:-

"Could it be that this stone was perceived to come from an 'ancestral homeland', an area from which some of the 1st Neolithic communities came into the region? In which case its importation reinstated links between past & present, between different landscapes, and between spiritual & wordly realms. This is just speculation, but it raises themes of time, identity and the complexity of relations with the sacred that are important for understanding developments in the 3rd millenium BC."

Myris of Alexandria said...

I would make it mandatory to take everyone who speaks in TAG-speak up against a wall (oolitic or no) and dispatch them to their ancestors.
Or stone them with pristine milky quartz with just a hint of carnelian and sard.
I supect it is all a vast academic joke.
M

Anonymous said...

Take me home Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Preseli
Bluestone Mountains
Tourists a plenty
Life is older there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Growin' like a breeze.
Yee - hah!
Hot digatee

Tony H said...

TALK ON TWO METEORITES

Prof Colin Pillinger C.B.E. is giving a talk NEXT TUESDAY at the Salisbury Museum on:

the archaeological aspects of 2 meteorites found in Southern England: the meteorite from Lake House [on display from Sept. 10th] and another meteorite found at the famous Danebury hillfort in 1974 during a major dig led by Prof Barry Cunliffe.

The talk is at 18.30 hours and costs £10 to non-members.More information on the meteorites from the Director, Adrian Green on 01722 332151 or adriangreen@salisburymuseum.org.uk

Tony H said...

Salisbury Museum is also running a 2-week programme, 10 to 22 September, of FREE supporting events for schools.

It will include Prof Colin Pillinger co-leading special workshops aimed at GCSE & A level students.

Tony H said...

'Twas on BBC Points West on Sept 11th, with an unshaven but nevertheless smiling Colin P CBE holding forth.

But are there MORE meteorites to be discovered under the barrows of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site....or even under the Amesbury Council's car parks?? Only time will tell....