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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Stones from west and east? And north? And south?

 This illustration from the recent Channel Four documentary shows the 56 hypothetical bluestones in position in the Aubrey holes, before they were moved into various settings within the outer sarsen circle.

 There have been a number of reports (like the one below) which have quoted MPP as saying that "stones were taken from west and east" and brought to Stonehenge as ancestral totems or symbols of dead ancestors.  But hang on a bit.  Where are the stones from the east?  And, for that matter, where are the stones from the north and south?  Unless MPP is now counting the sarsen stones as ancestral totems as well, there is rather too much poetic license here.  As I have frequently pointed out, ALL of the bluestones seem to have come broadly from the west -- and since we know that that is where the ice of the Anglian glaciation came from, I have persisted in the belief that the stones are most logically interpreted as glacial erratics -- either carried all the way to Stonehenge or left scattered about somewhere to the west of the monument.

If the stones used in the bluestone settings really were memorial stones celebrating the memory of the ancestors, WHY ARE THERE NONE FROM THE OTHER DIRECTIONS OF THE COMPASS?  It beggars belief that the only people interested in making this grand gesture, and in carting stones over a great distance, across land and sea, were those who came from the west.  Why didn't all those splendid Scots who came all the way from Orkney (or wherever) with all their cattle bring some nice stones with them as well?  Will somebody please try to give me a reasonable archaeological / anthropological / geological explanation of this rather wondrous anomaly?

From Stonehenge News:  "Parker Pearson believes Stonehenge was erected as a monument to the ancestors of all Britons. The aim was to unify the different peoples of the British Isles by honouring all their dead. Stones were taken from west and east and erected together to solidify alliances that had been struck up between these different people. "Stone is eternal and was used to represent the dead," said Parker Pearson. "That is the purpose of Stonehenge."


TonyH said...

I think Mike may be trying to take the Michael with us all here on this blog who dare to deviate from his own propogandist view! This view rather owes its origins to one - eyed Horatio "Ships? I see no ships" Nelson. In referring to stones coming from west AND EAST, he might just be mischievously alluding to his belief that bluestones were being moved from his proposed 'bluestonehenge' [whence he has not the smallest flake of a bluestone as evidence] from a south-easterly direction to Stonehenge at some stage. Even his pal Ramilisonina, 'The Man From Madagascar', seems to be under the illusion that bluestone fragments have been excavated at that site close to The Avon and the start of The Avenue, from what I've seen him quoted as saying in an interview.

TonyH said...

We, the masses, seem to be required to believe, now that George Orwell's 1984 seems to have come to pass, albeit over quarter of a century late, what the Archaeological Ruling State (or ARS) insists we believe, by the use of the dreaded Chinese Water Torture Method [say it often enough and it will slowly seep into the People's Collective Consciousness]. just lie back and think of a unified prehistoric proto - nation state, it's not so hard, is it? ....that's right.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

I don't think any of the archaeologists who have signed up to the human transport thesis have ever properly addressed this issue. It is a geographical issue -- maybe they need some trained geographers to help them. Whatever the supposed significance of the bluestones is or was (sacred healing stones? ancestor stones? tributes to a ruling elite?) you still have to explain why they have all come from the west, even though the areas to the N, E and S of Stonehenge were all populated and presumably subject to the same economic and socio-political circumstances. Look at the geological map again -- since quarrying for interesting stones was supposed to be all the rage, why didn't the locals quarry Triassic and Jurassic limestones or sandstones, or the interesting stones found in the Eocene sequences to the east and south? Some of those were full of fossils, so one might have thought they would have extra status. There were plenty of colourful hard rocks to be dug up in those areas, in addition to the sarsens found in association with the chalklands.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Tony / Brian

In the face of such gross errors with the 'facts on the ground', could it be these misrepresentations by MPP and others are deliberate efforts to deceive the people into believing “the narrative”? In which case, Brian, the last people MPP and others would want in their teams are those that will tell the truth!


Jon Morris said...

Can the errors in the public end product (in this case a documentary) be easily brushed off or will it become more difficult to get archaeology funded?

Perhaps the debate that has resulted will have more positive benefits than negatives?

TonyH said...


I'm a geographer,too,like Brian.

Another point: to the south - east lies the recently discovered Mesolithic springhead site within the mis - named and later Vespasian's Camp. This is about 1.2 miles from Stonehenge. The evidence from excavation suggests Mesolithic folk gathered there in some numbers. Were any of those hypothetical Aubrey Stone bluestones [or stones of other geological origin] remembering these near - at - hand ancestors? MPP neglected to mention this recent Mesolithic discovery in his 2012 book. There is to be a talk, by the Open University archaeologist who led this dig, at the Salisbury Museum on April 9th. Check their website.

Anonymous said...
thought you might like to see my friend Simon Bantons photos of comet PanStarrs over Stonehenge taken a few days ago,

Mary Baker said...

As an archaeologist who leads tours throughout the UK can I add to the discussion by saying how horrified I was with this so called documentary. MPP offered no scientific evidence it was a total flight of fancy and makes my job even harder. My clients come to visit ancient sites with lots of pre gleaned nonsense as it is and programmes like this add to perpetual ignorance and sensationalism. I recommend The Bluestone Enigma to customers and tell them to go and read it and to re examine the people carrying stone theories! In fact one of my guests asked the simple question "which ancestor would you most like to have, one that found some cool stones locally and said Wow let's use them here or the idiot that carried them over land and water for over 200 miles?"

Constantinos Ragazas said...


Geographer, hey? Interesting. And to think I only thought of you as a “know it all”.

You write, “The evidence from excavation suggests Mesolithic folk gathered there in some numbers.”

More heaps of pig and cow bones? Keep us posted!


TonyH said...

Myris, Great Bustards all doing well north of Stonehenge but Alan Whicker lookalikes still trapped in a time and space vortex within Stonehenge stones, many singing them HEALING blues on Tim Darvill's [the conjurer's] cue. Best ignore them and keep your eyes on the A303 road ahead.

moa. said...

Tony I hear the Siren call of Ithica with all this talk of the 303.
The pun has been used by the Pitts in his Heel stone paper. A famous road soon to be a Norwegian Blue road.

Tom Butcher said...

Ms. Baker,
There is abundant evidence that our ancestors were capable of transporting and erecting large stones over great distances. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that glaciers played any part in collecting the bluestones at a convenient location to allow assembly. I fear you do your followers an injustice.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Which evidence are you referring to, Mr Butcher? Pray tell us.

You say: "there is no evidence that glaciers played any part in collecting the bluestones at a convenient location to allow assembly." What do you mean -- at a convenient location? Convenient for whom?

I can assure you that there is abundant evidence of glaciers picking up stones in Ireland and Wales and dumping them much further east and south. It's all in the book..... and a lot of it is also on this blog.

T. B. said...

For evidence of the capability of our ancestors to tranport large stones over great distances, you only need to look at the many extant stone circles in the UK.

It is well known that glaciers have the ability to transport stones, but they fall short when having to place them in a recognisable geometric arrangement.

You say: "What do you mean -- at a convenient location? Convenient for whom?"

At a location that is very close to the proposed location which would be convenient for the architects of Stonehenge.

You say: "I can assure you that there is abundant evidence of glaciers picking up stones in Ireland and Wales and dumping them much further east and south. It's all in the book..... and a lot of it is also on this blog."

It is agreed that in general terms what you say is correct, however, with regard to Stonehenge glacial erratics from Ireland do not enter into the discussion.

I can do no better than quote from the 'Summary and conclusions' of a paper by H.H. Thomas, M.A. Sc.D, Petrographer to H.M. Geological Survey Survey, presented in the Antiquaries Journal n the 19th April 1923, page 259.

"From the foregoing facts and arguements it may be stated with assurance that

(1) All the Foreign Stones of Stonehenge, with the exception of the 'altar-stone', are identifiable with, and furnished by, rocks that outcrop at the eastern end of the Prescelly Mountains in Pembrokeshire.

(2) With the exception noted above they are derivitives from one source of a strictly limited area.

(3) The idea of natural transport from Pembrokshire to Salisbury Plain by ice during the Pleistocene Glacial Period is untenable, and

(4) They were transported by human agency, in all probability by an overland route.

It may also be argued that, as all potential sources of constructionally suitable material within easier access of Stonehenge were disregarded, some special non-material reason governed the removal of of these stones from Pembrokeshire to their present site."

Stated a few years ago, but still relevant today.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I fear, TB, that almost everything you say in this post is wrong. All I ever claimed was that glaciers transported an assortment of foreign stones to the vicinity of Stonehenge, where they were later collected and used. Has it occutrred to you that Stonehenge might be where it is because that is where the stones were?

HH Thomas got a great deal wrong. Just type "HH Thomas" into the search box on the blog for more info.

Anonymous said...

Tony H
Have enough Bustards bred for eating yet?

Always fancied one for Xmas Dinner.

Myris of Alexandria. said...

News flash from Delphi via Sublime Apollo.

This has just been accepted.

"Carn Alw as a source of the rhyolitic component of the Stonehenge bluestones: a critical reappraisal of the petrographical account of H.H. Thomas". Bevins and Ixer.

When this is out, read and weep.

It looks like he was a bit economical with the evidence- naughty man.

Myris of Alexandria. said...

T.B do read something a little more recent and accurate. There are plenty of I and B and B et al papers all sterling value. Both measured and lovely.
Cassandra beloved of Apollo.

TonyH said...

Easter approaches, and we would do well to continue in our custom of Doubting Thomas (1923 or even earlier).

TonyH said...


I recommend you stick "VESPASIAN'S CAMP" & "MESOLITHIC" into Brian's search engine (he won't mind). You will see a number of references from 2012 & 2011. I doubt I'll be going to Mr Jacques' imminent talk at Salisbury Museum.

There is more at:- which also has a search engine.Good luck!


TonyH said...


Great Bustards are from the family Otis, but Otis is sadly now an expired bluesman. Don't think there are enough on Salisbury Plain to permit eating them - a Steppe too far - yet. Will any of ther remains ever be recovered from an archaeological site??

T. B. said...

Myris of A -
The Bluestone Enigma by Dr. B. John is a more recent publication which has been read. Some say that Dr. John should stick to writing romantic fantasies.
Perhaps he did!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now then, TB. I know about geomorphology, and I know a fair bit about the Ice Age. A lifetime of publications will attest to that. Instead of making cheap jibes, perhaps you will explain what you don't like about my book?

TonyH said...

Our Brian is not to be all! Neither is he to be confused with ANOTHER Dr John, a musical and theatrical bluesman as distinct from a literary and methodical bluestone man. The latter, born in 1940 in New Orleans, played with, amongst others, Professor Longhair, has six Grammies, and has meddled with voodoo, but NOT geomorphology or glaciology.

Anonymous said...

Alex Gee
You have to be fair to MPP. He's obviously raising the important question, of why rock types were only of interest to or venerated by the people of west Wales?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon -- you say: "You have to be fair to MPP. He's obviously raising the important question, of why rock types were only of interest to or venerated by the people of west Wales?"

Sadly, you are off the wall here. There is absolutely NO evidence that the people of west Wales were in the slightest bit interested in using particular rocks because of their colour or texture, or because they came from a particular location. There is no evidence that they carried them over long distances. In every single megalithic structure that I know of in West Wales, the builders have simply used whatever rocks happened to be lying around. Do you have any evidence to contradict that statement?

Anonymous said...

In ancient times all blue stone was sacred to Hathor who was patron of farmers and sailors. On the island of Fladda a bluestone was kept in the chapel of St. Columba and the sailors and fishermen used to wash the blue stone for favourable winds. No doubt by the time this was recorded the fishermen and sailors had no idea that this was originally connected to Hathor. There is no real proof that anything in the UK was ever connected to Egypt but on Uist the people made mummies out of different people's body parts and do seem to have kept them above ground for at least five hundred years. This puts me in mind of the once a year parading of Osiris' mummy in Egypt, after all he was cut into fourteen parts. Did they have an Osiris cult on Uist? Makes you wonder. There is more than one place in Scotland called Egypt, one is in Gaelic.......Keppoch.

BRIAN JOHN said...

.... and in Pembrokeshire we have Tangiers, Sebastopol, Constantinople, Bethlehem and North Pole. Not sure I would read any great significance into any of those.....

chris johnson said...

Interesting. John North asserts the Avenue would have been aligned on Sirius in 3180 BC, viewed from the bottom of the slope