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Saturday 30 March 2013

More on bluestone shapes

Rodney Castleden's Stonehenge Plan -- showing an accurately measured arrangement of stones before lots of them went missing, started falling over and getting in the way.    The black symbols show stones still in place.  White symbols show stones fallen or missing.  Note that neither of the circles is perfect, and the same is true of the horseshoes.  Castleden thinks that the surveying and setting of the stones at Stonehenge was all somewhat approximate.  He thinks that mathematical accuracy was neither desired nor achieved, with some stones almost a metre away from their "perfect" positions.

Rodney Castleden's "panorama view" from the centre of the monument, looking along the MSSR line and taking in a span of 180 degrees.  The trilithons to right and left are the end trilithons of the sarsen horseshoe.  Note the "scruffy assortment" of bluestones visible here in the bluestone circle -- but note that only 4 of them are standing today.  The other shapes are assumed.

Anthony Johnson's reconstructions also show the use of random stones of various lithologies, shapes and sizes in the bluestone circle.  he says:  "... we find, especially in the circle, stones of all shapes and sizes used in seemingly random way, almost a "garden ornament" phase........ the idea that something meaningful or precise can be read from the plan of this disparate collection of reused stones is untenable."  This has been known for a very long time --  Atkinson stated that apart from 2 fallen lintels found in the circle (numbered 150 and 36) "ALL bluestones of the circle are in their natural state and none show any sign of deliberate tooling or dressing."  So where did this myth of the hunt for pillars and columns come from?  Answers on a postcard please.........

There was clearly a much greater degree of selection when it came to the bluestone horseshoe.  For a start, all of the 11 remaining stones (some standing, some fallen) are made of dolerite -- spotted and unspotted -- rather than rhyolite or volcanic ash or anything else.  We can't be sure that the missing stones were also made of dolerite, but it's a possibility.  Another possibility is that other softer stones were used, and that they have been destroyed deliberately or have been broken down by natural processes.  In the above photo we see bluestones 62 and 63 -- one a tapered pillar and the other a pillar, assumed by Castleden to be the "preferred" female and male shapes which supposedly alternated when the horseshoe was originally created.  As most commentators have pointed out, a lot of smoothing and shaping went on on these dolerite stones -- with mortice and tenon and tongue and groove features still causing archaeologists to scratch their heads as to the whys and wherefores.......

The spectacular groove cut along the length of bluestone 68. What was the groove for?   Stone 66 might have had a long tongue on it, but only a part of that stone remains.  Maybe the two fitted together at some stage.....

Back to the bluestone circle chaos.  Below is another picture, this time showing some of the bluestones of the circle. 

This gives a good representation of the jumble of stones used in the circle.  (These are stones 46, 47, 48 (fallen), 49 and 31.)  The more one looks into this, the more one is convinced that the builders of Stonehenge were simply making use of a pretty random collection of stones of many lithologies and many shapes and sizes, which were lying about somewhere in the neighbourhood.  Having assembled the stones together in one place, they used them many times in various settings -- we know this from the extraordinary "honeycomb" of stone holes revealed during various digs down through the years.  In the final settings, the rough and irregular stones were put into the bluestone circle. The hardest and most elongated were used in the bluestone horseshoe -- and some of them were shaped and smoothed.

What we still do not know, of course, is whether there ever were more than 43 bluestones on the site; whether the bluestone circle and the bluestone horseshoe ever were finished; and whether at some stages sarsens and bluestones were mixed together in various settings long since abandoned.

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