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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Carvings on the sarsens

I have received a message from Lloyd Matthews, relating to the carvings on the Stonehenge sarsens.  The letter is below, with Lloyd's permission.  Can anybody help please?

I spent five years researching and studying Stonehenge so I could build an exact scale model of how it now stands, and then to build a second model as to how it might have looked when it had been completed. Should you like to see photographs I can forward them to you. 

This model was built 1:158 scale and is now on display at the Maryhill Museum, Washington

During the building of the model I recorded shapes on the stones that appeared to have been carved when built, yet cannot find any information on this subject.

English Heritage have recently published a report of a Laser Scan carried out on Stonehenge which, was also featured in Nov/Dec British Archeology. I had hoped this would give me answers, but on Stone 059a the report attribute the parallel ridges to stone dressing. No mention was made of Stone 053 external SW face, or Stone 052 external SE face.

The Maryhill Museum has challenged me to see if I could find answers to these questions.

Could you recommend any online academic sources, I might research concerning stone carvings. Currently I am finding much of the information cannot be accessed unless a payment is made.


Timothy Daw said...

I think the "carvings2 he wants details of are what some people see as faces. They consist of a a heavy eyebrow and straight nose shape, with smaller undulations seen as other parts of the faces. The official EH view is that apart from the axes and dagger there are no other meaningful carvings, just marks from the dressing of the stones. They note that the dressing was done in square or rectangular patches, maybe done by different people. It might be thought then that the horizontal and vertical lines are artefacts of the different patches not joining up smoothly, almost like the central drainpipe on a pair of semi-detached houses not being painted as the neighbours disagree over whose responsibility it is.
Other may disagree.

Terence Meaden said...

Take a look at this while I go looking for another URL to post probably tomorrow:

Terence Meaden said...

Testing Stonehenge Experimentally Using a Replica Full-Size Altar Stone Positioned at the Focus of the Monument pages 73-78 in the BAR Oxford book (International Series 2389) titled Archaeology of Mother Earth Sites and Sanctuaries through the Ages: Rethinking symbols and images, art and artefacts from history and prehistory. Edited by G. Terence Meaden (2012)
(Extract) There is a major image purposefully carved into a trilithon orthostat at Stonehenge. This is the human face on the west-facing side of Stone 54. The image is readily visible when shadows are cast if the sun is shining between 1300 and 1430 British Summer Time or 1200 and 1330 GMT wintertime. The fine image is optimum in the summer months when the sun is high in the sky because this emphasises the eyebrows, nose and lips of the face. This sculptured carving had been overlooked until first reported by the author (Meaden 1998).

Jon Morris said...

I'm inclined to agree with Terry. The T shape on 54 (and apparently replicated to some extent on 53) does not look like dressing patches to me because its prominent vertical feature is central to the short dressing face of the stone.

From a construction logic perspective, you would assign masons to work in strip segments, not halves of a stone. Doing it in half segments would be either unproductive (if not worked simultaneously) or dangerous to the eyes of the adjacent worker (if worked simultaneously).

Geocur said...

The “longitudinal and transverse tooling “ on stones 52 , possibly 53 and 59a has never led to any suggestions of simulcra but the simpler T shape on stone 54 , a result of the same process , has ,but is an obvious case of pareidolia . It is in the eye of the beholder and not the intent of the engraver or possibly more precisely the dresser(s) . Representational engravings are very uncommon in Britain in the period , the exceptions are axes ,daggers and feet ,and there are no examples of faces . When heads are engraved in other traditions from much the same period , as in Scandinavian engravings , the T form is not used . Surprised that Tony hasn't mentioned the Bonzos i.e. "Pink half of the drainpipe "

Timothy Daw said...

From the EH report with regard to the "Breton Goddess" on Stone 57

The laser-scan model reveals this ‘quadrilateral’ to be part of a much larger complex of lines that appear to relate to the pick dressing of the surface. Notably, rectangular panels, possibly representing the working area of individual stone masons, are present on a number of stones (e.g Stones 12, 54 and 60).

More at:

Timothy Daw said...

Slaps head! Yes of course the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. How could I forget where the reference came from. Thanks.

The song is at

Jon Morris said...

Could well be pareidolia Geo. It's a nice coincidence though. But I wish you wouldn't keep using words that I have to look up.

Terence Meaden said...

Much of the western side of Stone 54 is really quite flat, and purposefully so--- to the measure of a few millimetres or so. Nonetheless when one studies the area of the stone where the face is, the stone has been removed to a depth of 25 mm, and 50 mm and even to nearly 75 mm where the eyes are. It is a low relief sculpture in which seven facial elements come together, namely the two eyebrows, the sunken eyes, the nose, and the two upper lips. This is no accident of tooling or of nature.

Geocur said...

The dressing isn't an accident of tooling it is intentional and in some cases it is 5-7 cms deep but it is not represenational as can be seen on those surfaces where simulcrum are not reported eg 59a .
A useful collection including Stonehenge .

Geocur said...

Lloyd this pdf is very helpful if you are not already aware of it .​2012web.pdf · PDF file

Anonymous said...

Carved faces at Stonehenge? I can also see “gods and heroes” looking at clouds!

Some argue “perception is reality”. I disagree. Are the “gods” I see real? Reality (by definition) is what is for everyone. Reality is Truth! And Truth endures.

Looking at any random surface we can often “see” what exists only in our minds. And never intended to be. The same is true for Darkness. And revered places of mystery have the magic to do the same.

Carved faces at Stonehenge? I doubt. Carved figures in the marbles of Parthenon? No doubt!


Geocur said...

Jon , pareidolia is a useful concept when dealing with over interpreation in rock art, it is a form of apophenia which is even more useful ,particularly in science where apparent patterns in numbers can lead to false postives , skewed data & wild goose chases .

BRIAN JOHN said...

A lot of resonance here -- harks back to my comments a while ago about artificial significance.....

Terence Meaden said...

Yes, a lot of resonance--some from correspondents who have not been to the stone in question and examined the surface as I have.

Anonymous said...

Hi LLoyd I share the same problem and frustration with pay per view access to academic papers as you do.

As the reviewer of Mr Warbrick's fine tome suggests. Only poxy amateurs do it for the love these days.

Academics today are not so much about "standing on the Shoulders of Giants" more "standing on the shoulders of Margaret Thatcher"

The payment stops the F**king plebs spoiling the rarified atmosphere they enjoy.

A very fine model by the way.


Anonymous said...

November 16 2012: Bad Day at Black Rock? Or Good Day At Black Rock? The World War I trains no longer run from Larkhill Camp past Stonehenge....


Myris of Alexandria said...

The reviewer of "Mr Warbrick's (sic) fine tome" was making a far more important point than the role of amateurs (I believe him no fan of theirs). Mr Swarbrick was as far from an amateur as is possible.
It is that for decades money has been wasted on ‘innovative’ methods e.g. provenancing flint using stable lead isotopes (7 figures was wanted!) rather than using it for systematic work with tried, tested and effective methods- in the cited case detailed micropalaeo using thin sections would be a good bet. The funding system demanded this. This is not confined to scientific archaeology but to all the natural sciences –try to find a professional botanist who can go out into a flower meadow/walk along the Upper Tees Valley and identify all the species –I defy you- they have all been let go. Not just the baby, bathwater but the gold-plated taps as well, all thrown away.
In the 19th cent geology, archaeology and the natural sciences were the province of (self-financed) Victorian Divines and a splendid job they made (Maskelyne would have identified Craig Rhosyfelin as the source of some of the debitage in 1878 IF the first section from there had been made in the 1870s rather than the 2010s ie 140 years before Ixer and Bevins).
Amateur has nothing to do with funding but the mind set, only amateurs avoid the rigours of systematics.
Enough polemic even the divine Apollo grows weary.
Here in Alexandria we have mathematicians to burn. Try it??

Lloyd said...

Thank you Geocur for your advice, it is appreciated; I found this link by accident several days ago, and consequently discovered the ‘Laser Scan Report’ which, initially I thought would help me in my quest, but in fact was a little disappointed with regards what I am researching. Whilst they say that they believe the first recorded carvings are the axe head’s 1,000 years after Stonehenge was built, to me this is a challenge to see if there is a possibility that the ‘shapes/carvings’ on the stone did originate from the builders. When one considers that ‘Fire’ has now been proven to exist long before established wisdom (Prehistoric Autopsy), then perhaps there is hope?

Lloyd said...

Thank you Fidel for your comments; the model is now being used at the Maryhill Museum, they say:-

“Every year we offer programs to school groups on the history of Stonehenge . The programs are presented at the monument. I see the model as a valuable tool for students, who could see both an all-encompassing view of Stonehenge (impossible to do when one is at the location) and satisfying the curiosity of students about how the original structure has eroded over time. I am pleased that Mr. Matthews included a compass in the model. That makes it a particularly valuable instructional piece, as it can be lined up to the sun to demonstrate how Stonehenge was originally used.”

With regards to how the original structure has eroded over time, their students can clearly see the conservation carried out on Stone 060 and Lintel 122. I hope that this will encourage their students to take a more serious look at Stonehenge; new information that can be found can be shared with the students of Maryhill.

Lloyd said...

I agree with Terence Meaden; ‘The Stones are not seen for the Monument’. As I tried to replicate each individual stone as close as possible to the original in the model, many hours were spent looking at each individual stone, and it as a result of this that I started asking questions. I wonder how many contributors are aware that there is a ‘bird’s nest’ under Lintel 152 which, with a good magnifying glass, can be seen in the model?

Brian, I have emailed you photographs.

Geocur said...

Lloyd there are much earlier carvings of axes than the date attributed to the Stonehenge examples but they are found in pre -metal contexts and the style of axe is different from those at Stonehenge which are much closer in style to the Bronze Age hafted axe , hence the suggested date . See comments and discussion here “Thor's hammer2 23 October and “Stonehenge was a prehistoric art gallery “ 10 October .