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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Latest Discovery Channel spectacular


Thanks to Robin Heath for these photos -- published in various places, including here:
http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/category/megalith/

There is also an article with the following title:

Moving the Stonehenge Bluestones; at last a successful method is demonstrated!


I won't reprint the article, since it's full of inaccuracies.  No matter -- the main point  is that the Discovery Channel team from the US of A was determined to get their nice little project off the ground, and set up this experiment at Gwbert, near Cardigan.  The location was probably chosen in deference to Mike Parker Pearson, who now thinks that the Stonehenge bluestones were taken out to sea from the North Pembrokeshore coast, and not from Milford Haven.  (The Discovery Channel producer made contact with me some months ago, but when I tried to explain to her how ice worked, she quickly lost interest.  Glaciers are clearly not sexy enough for an American TV audience. A pity -- I was looking forward to a trip to Greenland with a film crew........)

You can see the method here -- a big wooden frame built between HWM and LWM in a tidal estuary,  and a system of rolling logs and ropes to lift the stone on its cradle and to move it along on the raised "rails".  Then as the tide rises the boat is floated in beneath the stone and its cradle, and when the cradle fits snugly in the bottom of the boat, you release the ropes.  Then, with the cradle and stone fitted snugly into the bottom of the boat, the boat floats free and goes zapping off to the mouth of the River Avon, or wherever.......

This is not the first time we have boats, stones, cradles and tides invoked as a means of lifting and shifting bluestones.  But this one does have the merit of being quite simple and straightforward.

But now to the problems.  First, the Ferriby boat is far too late -- the three Ferriby boats are dated to c 2,000 BC or younger, and they are always thought of as Bronze Age.  If the bluestones were moved by human beings from Wales, they must have been moved around 4,500 BC, if MPP is to be believed.  that's 2,500 years before the Ferriby boats were built.  It's easy to say, ah yes,  boats with sewn planking COULD have been built much earlier than the ones at Ferriby -- but I and many others have serious doubts about that that was possible without metal tools.  Second, I still have problems with the use of long and strong ropes -- such as those used on the famous Millennium Pull in the year 2000, and the ones used here in this experiment.  Did our Neolithic ancestors have the technology to make ropes like this?  I have never seen any evidence that they did..........

But what the hell.  These guys have had a lot of fun on this experiment, and the TV programme will probably give an hour of innocent escapist fun to TV viewers worldwide when it is shown.







30 comments:

TonyH said...

On a slightly different issue, but also a TV programme about Stone-henge (with the American emphasis naturally on the first syllable!) - I caught by chance the tail end of the "Secrets of Stonehenge" U.S. production a couple of nights ago, repeated on "Yesterday" Channel.

And just in time to see MPP explaining all about those darned Periglacial Stripes. (see Brian's very recent postwhich mentioned them). On this TV occasion, he simply described their interpretation as having been done by Soil Scientists, without naming them.
It was the same programme that featured the American guy with his ball-bearings technique for moving megaliths; and also featured so-called bluestonehenge.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Taking your skepticism one step further, if such technology (boat building, rope making, etc.) was known to Neolithic people, wont it have also been applied to other things as well and for more practical purposes?

Technology does not exist in isolation and only for very narrow and specific purposes like moving bluestones to Stonehenge.

Kostas

Geocur said...

"they must have been moved around 4,500 BC, if MPP is to be believed."

How is that date calculated ? Did MPP say that ?

chris johnson said...

Difficult to imagine how people arrived in Ireland or Orkney without boats.

Difficult to imagine how stones and big trees were moved and erected without ropes.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I think he did, at the Brynberian lecture. I was surprised by it -- and didn't get a chance to question him, in all the rush. I giot the impression he was basing this on the fact that the age of Boles barrow is being pushed back, and from the new radiocarbon dates from the Aubrey Holes -- he still thinks that the bluestones were in the Aubrey holes at a very early date.

In his book, of course, he refers to the arrival of the bluestones at Stonehenge around 2950 BC or 4950 BP -- so now I am a bit confused, like everybody else.

TonyH said...

What did you understand when you said, Brian, that MPP "was basing this on the fact that the age of the Boles barrow is being pushed back". Who or what has pushed its date back, or is this MPP in effect speculating an earler date, to fit with his other hypotheses? I ask because MPP has often said he'd like to DNA the Boles Barrow occupants' bones to, ideally, establish the geographic origin of those Old Boys (and Girls).

BRIAN JOHN said...

Can't really add much -- I think he did mention Boles Barrow, but then he was on to other things... all will be revealed in time.

Anonymous said...

Did our Neolithic ancestors have the technology to make ropes like this? I have never seen any evidence that they did..........

Ropes were used 17,000 years ago in France, which at that time was still connect to Britain, approximately 500 miles away.

Thus the technology would have need to travel a massive 62 yards per annum to reach Stonehenge by the date of construction.

Yet another "incomplete" rationalised theory of yours Brian?

B & T

BRIAN JOHN said...

Any fool can make a bit of rope out of bramble strips and animal hair. But these ancient ropes -- how long and how strong? Do you know the answer to that?

Anonymous said...

Chris,

If people from Europe could have walked to the UK without boats why couldn't people from the UK walk to Ireland under similar circumstances? Did the polar bears (found in Ireland long ago) also used boats? And all other animals and forms of life? Did they need boats too? If it is difficult “to imagine how stones and big trees were moved and erected without ropes” try imagining these were not moved and erected by people needing such ropes!Imagine "Natural agency"!

Of course, none of this answers my key question: What happened to such advanced technology? Why we don't see evidence of it in other areas of human activities?

Kostas

Geocur said...

The earliest Long barrow that we are aware of is Ascott under Wychwood at 3760 -3695 BC and the tradition continued until approx 3000 BC . Boles could be earlier than Ascott but is that likely ? therefore not unreasonable in thinking in terms of between 3700 -3000 BC . The Aubrey Holes (with or without Bluestones ) may well be contemporary with the bank and ditch and the earliest date for a cremation deposit from an A.H. is 3030-2880 BC .
If the putative Bluestone from Boles is genuine then the earliest date of possible human transport suggests some time before 3760 BC but the barrow could be earlier and the Bluestone not belong to the barrow .We are on safer ground with the Aubrey Holes but it is not certain that they did hold bluestones . So earliest ,if unlikley , date is some time before 3760 BC ,possibly some time before 3000 BC and also possible ,if the bluestones arrived at the same time as the other megaliths closer to 2600-2500 BC .That's quite a bit different from the suggested 4500 BC .

BRIAN JOHN said...

I'm not bothered too much about all of this -- this is a matter for you archaeology guys to sort out. As far as I am concerned, the stones were in the area long before any monument was built here.

Another thing said by MPP in his talk was that the bluestones were in the Stonehenge area even before the bank and ditch were built -- maybe he thinks that the Aubrey Holes were there, with stones in them, before the bank and ditch were created?

Geocur said...

Kostas ,outwith zoos, no Polar Bears have ever been found in Ireland. The Irish Brown Bear is considered to be the maternal ancestor of the Polar Bear but this was before or during the Devensian at the latest and before Ireland became an island .
What is the advanced technology used in those cases where humans did move big stones and or trees ?

chris johnson said...

Kostas,
You have done more reading than I on chronology so I would like your opinion.

My opinion is that Ireland, Britain, and the Continent were connected at the last glacial maximum - around 18000 BC. The sea levels started to rise, with Ireland separating finally in 10000 BC, Southern England around 7500 BC, and Eastern England (Storegga Tsunami) around 6100 BC. Subsequently sea levels continued to rise.

Farming seems to have arrived around 4500 BC, long after Britain and Ireland were surrounded by sea. Around 2750 BC the Beaker culture seems to have arrived - either they were very good swimmers or the message arrived by boat.

The Megalithic Culture also seems to have arrived after the separation of the islands and have spread up and down the coasts and river systems. Most likely the origin was Brittany - sea travel again.

Your theory of natural agency is ridiculous so I am not going to get into that. Still I am interested in your ideas of chronology and those of others.

chris johnson said...

Brian, at the risk of jumping to conclusions, the sub-text of my discussions with several people in Brynberian was that we should be looking further back in time. Whatever facts the archaeologists think they might have soon seem to be pointing back in time and not forward with respect to the origin of the monuments.

One thing seems to be clear in their minds. The bluestones (my definition) were on site BEFORE the sarsens. Perhaps the Bluestone people relocated to Amesbury and decommissioned their own monuments in Prescelli, or the Bluestones were already nearby in a convenient pile.

Geocur said...

The point is that " If the bluestones were moved by human beings from Wales, they must have been moved around 4,500 BC, if MPP is to be believed. that's 2,500 years before the Ferriby boats were built. " could lose two millenia in it's calculation .Potentially there is only 500 years between the date of the Ferriby boats and erection of bluestones .

Anonymous said...

Geo,

Brown bears will do just fine! Point being? We do not need boats to explain life (human included) found in various islands. This was in response to Chris's comment, as you know.

As to “advanced technology” … such does not exist in isolation. The technology would show up in a broad variety of ways in the culture that produces it.

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Aah Chris Johnson! I have no chronology to give you! I was only responding to your flawed logic with sensible arguments. But Stonehenge chronology has been a fickle affair! Personally, I don't much trust it as being faithful.

Kostas

Georcur said...

Kostas , point(s) being " Did the polar bears (found in Ireland long ago) " is not true
and no need for advanced technology to move big stones .

Anonymous said...

It's the argument, Geo! And the argument is valid. Had I used brown bears instead of polar bears. Or any other creature living in Ireland!

As for “advanced technology” needed to move megaliths, don't look for microchips! And microliths littering the landscape are useless. For the prehistoric times we are discussing, making long strong rope can be considered “advanced technology”.

What kind of rope available to prehistoric people could be used to move sarsen? From tree barks? Wont that easily wear and tear? And if we consider rope made out of wool, wont we also expect herding and wool cloth? Or was the rope entirely made of leather? How many wild animals would have to be killed to make such thick long rope? And wont that rare commodity better have been used for desperately needed clothing in a very cold climate? Any which way we look at this, we see ice and improbable human agency.

Kostas

biocowman said...

Carreg Sampson appears to have hemp retting ponds next to it; probably not as old as the burial mound but hemp has been grown since the birth of organized agriculture to make ropes and nets.
Damn-good name for a rope company though;..sampson.

Anonymous said...

Geocur

You seem trapped in time.

Archaeologists have been re-dating monuments for over 400 years - each time going backwards. What make you believe that something has changed in the here and now?

An article in the 'new scientist' this week reports that memory is not for just reporting facts remembered in the past, like a book. But its primary function is to assess and plan the future by relating to past events.

That being the case, you should welcome MPP's insights that these monuments are far older than the text books currently state, for this is the true lesson of history.

Schama

BRIAN JOHN said...

Biocowman -- hemp retting ponds next to Carreg Samson? First I've heard about that... evidence please?

Geocur said...

Kostas , If you were alluding to the land bridge why not just say so instead of mentioning an animal that never lived in Ireland but did have an ancestor from there that was in the news in the past year ?
Simply because you don't understand the motives and technology used in moving big stones or trees doesn't mean that people didn't move them .

Geocur said...

Schama ,any relation to bob ? what comments that I have recently made are you referring to ? We have been constantly refining the dates for monuments for a long time but they do not always go back in time . Recent instances are Clava cairns and stone circles e.g. Croft Moraig which are much later builds than previously believed . We should welcome accuracy not findings not suppositions that suit agendas .If you had other pots here you might have noticed I have often made the point that monuments that are built upon the sites of earlier monuments or activity that does not mean if we ever find signs of Mesolithic activity at Stonehenge that the bank and ditch are Mesolithic .

Anonymous said...

Geo, do you understand the motives and technology? Does anyone understand?

Your argument, “people move stones ; prehistoric stones have been moved; therefore prehistoric people moved the stones” is rather cyclical. As all “belief based arguments” are. Don't you think?

Kostas

chris johnson said...

I miss your point Kostas. Sophistry, dementia, original thinker who I am too stupid to comprehend?

Please help by spelling out your insights.

Geocur said...

Kostas , Not helpful to misrepresent ,I don't do it with you please don't do it with me .
I won't be boring and list some of the countless examples ,but are you suggesting that prehistoric peoples didn't move big stones e.g. 20 tonnes and much more .When it comes to , evidence free beliefs ,it's hardly an argument , I can think of none better than yourself .

Anonymous said...

Chris,

No need for name dropping! Even when referencing yourself. I have always sought to “spell out my insights” to the extend permitted by Brian in his blog and appropriate to the evidence and the arguments made.

Which point do you miss? The one about “rock art” at SH or the one addressed to you about needing boats to explain the existence of Irishmen in Ireland during the Neolithic. And the “rope technology” needed at that time that even Brian questions.

Or are you referring to the “cyclical arguments” comment to Geo? If so, let me re-state my comment. If we start with the assumption that prehistoric people could move megaliths over long distances, then we interpret and explain all the evidence of moved megaliths in light of that assumption. Is that better?

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Geo,

Sorry you feel I have misrepresented you! I was only making the point (often also repeated by TonyH using Paul Simon lyrics) we 'hear' (and I add 'explain') what we want to 'hear' – what we believe. And dismiss all else as being untrue, irrelevant and heretic. These are true testaments of 'faith' rather than reason.

I will not expound on my views in Brian's blog beyond simply responding when appropriate to the evidence presented and arguments made. In an effort to present another view to balance an open and honest discussion. Something that Brian has shown with great personal courage we have the right to do. Unlike Chris Johnson who advocates censorship and would rather exclude me from such exchanges in this and other blogs.

Kostas