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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Deja vu all over again

I've been reflecting on all this Neolithic quarry mania, and thinking to myself:  "Haven't we heard all this before?"  Well, of course we have, but last time it was in relation the the famous Carn Meini Neolithic Quarry, which now seems to have been given the push........

Let's remind ourselves.

Two craggy outcrops -- two quarries? 

The Carn Meini "Quarry"

The prsence of a quarry at Carn Meini was hinted at by HH Thomas and promoted with even more enthusiasm by Richard Atkinson in his 1956 book on Stonehenge.  Since that time it has been more or less accepted as fact, on the following grounds:

1.  The stone is very special, since the whitish spots in the local dolerite made it appealing to our ancestors, since maybe it reminded them of the starry night sky.

2.  The stone breaks naturally into tubular columns which are ideal for use as orthostats at Stonehenge.

3.  There are several stones in the bluestone assemblage that appear to match geologically the outcrop at Carn Meini.

4.  The site is an easy one from which to extract elongated blocks of stone and to trundle them off towards Stonehenge.

5.  There are traces of prehistoric activity in the immediate vicinity -- cf the "enclosure" described in the last few years by Darvill and Wainwright.  Perhaps the enclosure was to protect the quarry or to provide shelter and protection to the quarrymen who lived inside it?

6.  There is a splendid stone lying right in the middle of the supposed quarrying area which is just perfect for use at Stonehenge.  This is "the one they left behind" for some unknown reason.

7.  There is a nearby ancient trackway which shows that the area was a centre of Neolithic activity  -- there is also a small burial site nearby, assumed to be Neolithic.

8.  There is a "broken stone" not far away -- damaged during transport and subsequently rejected.

9.  According to Roger Worsley, there is a length of "hidden track" leading downslope from Carn Meini towards the "stone stream" where resistivity and other measurements show heavy compaction of the soil, consistent with heavy loads passing across it.

10. There are occasional small sub-angular or rounded stones in the area -- assumed to be hammer stones used in working the rocks taken from the quarry.

 The ones that got away -- or rather, that didn't get away, and stayed where they were.......

The Craig Rhosyfelin "Quarry"

1.  The stone is very special, since the bluish colour in the local rhyolite made it appealing to our ancestors.  Maybe its sharp edges also made it desirable for cutting or slicing tasks.

2.  The stone breaks naturally into elongated columns which are ideal for use as orthostats at Stonehenge.

3.  There are many fragments in the bluestone debitage that appear to match geologically the outcrop at Craig Rhosyfelin.

4.  The site is an easy one from which to extract elongated blocks of stone and to trundle them off towards Stonehenge (according to MPP).

5.  There are traces of prehistoric activity in the immediate vicinity -- cf the "hearth" described recently by Prof MPP.  Perhaps the hearth was used by many generations of quarry workers?

6.  There is a splendid stone lying right in the middle of the supposed quarrying area which is just perfect for use at Stonehenge.  This is "the one they left behind" for some unknown reason.

7.  There is assumed to be a nearby ancient trackway which shows that the area was a centre of Neolithic activity  -- there are also burial site nearby, including Bedd yr Afanc.

8.  There are abundant "broken stones" in the quarry -- damaged during quarrying operations and subsequently rejected.

9.  According to MPP, damage to smaller stones beneath and downslope of the "proto-orthostat"  is consistent with heavy loads passing across it.

10. There are occasional small sub-angular or rounded stones in the area -- assumed to be hammer stones used in working the rocks taken from the quarry.

 Broken stones galore -- not good enough for Stonehenge?

It's almost spooky how similar the "case for Carn Meini" is to the "case for Rhosyfelin."  It's also rather entertaining that the case for the former is now dismissed as unreliable, while the case for the latter is being trumpeted from the rooftops as the latest great archaeological discovery.  

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mpp's real name isn't Von Daniken is it? reminds me of his alien laser cut tunnels from the 1970's

These remarkably square tunnels turned out to be natural cave passages. The square sides and roof being due to collapse along joints and bedding plane partings.

chris johnson said...

Nicely crafted piece Brian and perhaps prescient. You made me smile....

The Rhosyfelin Altar Stone - colloquially known as the big orthostat - is a curious object. As Kostas noticed, the top surface is very flat. It seems to me that an effort has been made to position it horizontally too, using stone wedges. The position has now shifted slightly and a crack is apparently to be seen and the wedges (now known as pivot stones) have moved. I suppose the top surface would reveal a beautiful blue colour should the chalky weathering be polished away.

Probably Brian will say there are thousands of stones like this in the Prescelli hills. It seems too me to be just a little too far from the cliff, just a little too flat, and a tad too horizontal. It looks more like a worktop than an orthostat but then what would I know.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Two possibilities regarding this big flat stone. (a) it was a picnic table used by the campers at Rhosyfelin when they were enjoying their barbeques. (b) it was a mini-stage used for dancers / stand-up comedians / singers for the entertainment of the campers. That's all sorted then.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

The top is flat and smooth because it was part of the flat and smooth NW rock face. The lying “orthostat” is horizontal because when sliding down a firm snow embankment (packed with previous fallen “orthostats” at the base of the face) the “orthostat” would come to rest only when it reached the horizontal.

And this points to winter as the time when this “orthostat” likely went sliding. As ice freezing in cracks and fissures cracked the Crag freeing the “orthostat”. And this likely happened higher up the rock face. Since more and wider cracks and more water accumulating between fissures are more likely to occur higher up the Crag. Brian has in fact identified such spot on the NW rock face. If only he could show us with photos of this.

It's all so sensible. You don't see it?

Kostas

chris johnson said...

Take a close look at the rock face, Kostas, on any of the many photos. It is not so smooth as you seem to think.

H.H.Thomas & Co said...

BRIAN JOHN said...
Two possibilities regarding this big flat stone. (a) it was a picnic table used by the campers at Rhosyfelin when they were enjoying their barbeques. (b) it was a mini-stage used for dancers / stand-up comedians / singers for the entertainment of the campers. That's all sorted then.

Or a third possibility, (c) an altar stone where a geomorphological theory was finally put out of its misery.

26 September 2013 13:07

BRIAN JOHN said...

My suggestions are much more fun.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

Certainly if we consider all the cracks and fissures on the rock face you can argue the rock face is not as smooth. But if we consider sections of the rock face comparable in size to the lying “orthostat” any reasonable person will agree the rock face is as smooth as the “orthostat” face.

Your comment is avoiding my reasoning on this!

Kostas