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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

More on ropes


 Ropes found near the Red Sea -- reputed to be the oldest ropes ever found -- around 2,000 BC.

Some time ago I did a piece on ropes, and I have been thinking more about this.  The archaeologists want 80 or so bluestones to be moved from West Wales to Stonehenge -- and MPP now wants them to be moved not by sea but overland.  He suggests that the 80 or so stones, each weighing between 2 tonnes and 4 tonnes, would have been moved entirely by pivots and levers -- which is stretching fantasy to absurd lengths, if you will forgive the pun.  Maybe he has realized that "long rope" technology at the time was completely inadequate for the task of strapping big stones onto sledges or frames, or for pulling large stones across difficult terrain?

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/rope-technology.html

In the little research that I have done, it seems that there was some knowledge of ropes back into the Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic,  but the ropemakers of the time would probably have used wild vines, brambles or nettles for the task, and to make ropes long enough and strong enought to shift a 4 tonne monolith would, I think, have been far beyond the capabilities of those early people.  Some authorities say that the art of making long and thick ropes (ie involving some sort of mechanical process for twisting the strands) started in China around 2800 BC and gradually spread into Europe and eventually into Britain.  On this schedule, the technology would not have been available at the time the archaeologists want big stones to have been moved from Wales to Stonehenge.

This seems to me to be an insurmountable technical hurdle.........


17 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I have a different explanation why MPP switched from “dragging” to “pivoting” megaliths to Stonehenge.

“Dragging” by ropes would surely have left unmistakable rope marks on the surface of the stone. No such marks exist on the surface of the 'pristine' Rhosyfelin “proto-orthostat”. And since his whole chaos of cards depends on proving this lying stone was quarried by humans for transport to Stonehenge, he revised the moving of stones to “levels and pivots”. These do not mark the sides and top of the stone and leave only some nondescript marks along the bottom.

Can you perhaps identify the spot where along the rock face this “proto-orthostat” broke free? It may help put this sorry “quarry” out of its misery.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- please stop pronouncing on what the surface of that orthostat may or may not have in the way of markings. You have not seen it except in photos, and with all due respect your pontifications do you no credit at all. By the way, you mean "levers and pivots"??

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

The many photos I've seen show no surface bumps, dents or rope wear on the stone surface. But since you have seen the stone can you tell us and set the record straight? Are there such markings? Perhaps you can take close up photos of these as you have of the “dragging stripes”.
“levers” or “levels” … did I confuse you? Sorry.
Kostas

Jon Morris said...

He suggests that the 80 or so stones, each weighing between 2 tonnes and 4 tonnes, would have been moved entirely by pivots and levers -- which is stretching fantasy to absurd lengths, if you will forgive the pun

It's not quite so daft as you would imagine: In this environment, I would probably choose to use a lever type of system to move stones for at least a portion of a journey. If you planned it out and prepared properly, the speed of travel could be quite a lot faster than using ropes. I was thinking of doing a post showing how it would be done (but for the sarsens rather than the bluestones). Unfortunately I don't have much time to spend on Stonehenge these days so did not get round to it.

Here's a couple of earlier posts showing how to use levers to raise the larger stones using levers:

Lifting objects part 1
Lifting objects part 2

but the ropemakers of the time would probably have used wild vines, brambles or nettles for the task

Unless they knew about lime bark; This is a failrly simple process which produces a relatively strong rope:
Lime bark

BRIAN JOHN said...

Jon -- there are endless experiments on how to move big stones on nice flat surfaces in convenient locations. Many of them have been described on this blog. I still haven't seen anything remotely capable of moving 80 irregularly shaped stones (some of them very fragile) from many different locations across hundreds of miles of territory in an environment dominated by steep slopes, bogs and jungle, and in a hostile climate as well. You can NOT extrapolate from cosy little experiments into the real world of the Neolithic.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not sure that there ever were lime trees in this area -- I must check that out.....

geocur said...


Like the Sumba stone pulling mentioned previously and also recorded since the 1920's the Maram Naga manage fine in real jungle .Maybe we shouldn't extrapolate that just because they can then 21 st C north western european experimenters on flat surfaces can too .
There are three vids scroll down to get last one .
http://infomaram.wordpress.com/videos/

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon,

In my humble opinion, modern men using primitive tools to do difficult tasks does not translate to prehistoric people doing the same tasks. Clearly, its not the “tools” but the “minds” that directs the tools doing the tasks.

Further, if such technology had existed it would be manifested in many variety of other ways as well. If such evidence is lacking the sensible conclusion is no such technology existed.

We must resist filling in the prehistoric void with our own fantasies and capabilities.

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

"I still haven't seen anything remotely capable of moving 80 irregularly shaped stones (some of them very fragile) from many different locations across hundreds of miles of territory in an environment dominated by steep slopes, bogs and jungle, and in a hostile climate as well."

I'll write it up one day Brian. I haven't seen that particular method described on your blog. Usually this sort of thing requires nice 3-D pictures to show how it's done. Doesn't mean that they did it, but the technology was certainly available and would have been capable of moving those stones at a reasonable pace. The stuff I have seen which had to use modern roads is, I agree, a bit daft.

Been doing 'archaeological research' into a building in Westminster all day (aka structural research using scanning kit). The lack of records of what was done, and how it was done, keeps me very busy ;-)

You can NOT extrapolate from cosy little experiments into the real world of the Neolithic.

Quite. Just because they could have done it does not mean that they did. However, even if the stones were deposited by glacier, they would still have had to transport them some distance (unless you go with the alien theory). So they probably did move the stones.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Jon you write,

”even if the stones were deposited by glacier, they would still have had to transport them some distance (unless you go with the alien theory)”

I disagree! People or Aliens is a false choice. There are sensible explanations for all we see. Glaciers may only be one piece to this puzzle.

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geocur,

Thanks for the link. But why go to such extremes? A video clip of the 'millennium stone' pull would have been more appropriate! Perhaps a clip showing Brian in the pull!

In your link there was also a tractor pulling a stone. Was that Neolithic depiction too?

Kostas

geocur said...

I mentioned that there were three clips of stone pulling , they were quite obvious , none featured a tractor .The millenium stone pull did not involve "jungle" or steep slopes .
To repeat the point ,".Maybe we shouldn't extrapolate that just because they can then 21 st C north western european experimenters on flat surfaces can too ."

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- thanks for the videos. Yes, these are interesting examples of a modern tradition involving ceremonial stones that have to be shifted from A to B. But re your statement; "Maybe we shouldn't extrapolate that just because they can then 21 st C north western european experimenters on flat surfaces can too." Er -- your point being.....??

geocur said...

Brian ,the stones didn't have to be shifted the punters chose to do so.
The point I thought was obvious . I imagined that any filmed evidence for the human movement of ceremonial stones over relatively rough terrain by basic technology would be of interest to anyone with an interest in the movement of the bluestones .However any successes or failures should not be extrapolated to the actual movement of the bluestones i.e. because A could or couldn't doesn't mean B did or didn't any more than , because a glacier could it did .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree with that, Geo. One should never use the word "impossible" -- and what we all need is EVIDENCE.....

Anonymous said...

Brian

The only method I can recall seeing that doesn't make use of using ropes, was the Conveyor system mention in an earlier post http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.ca/2011/11/danger-engineers-at-work.html.

Woulds this be what MPP is referring to in as “levels and pivots”

Jon Morris said...

Thanks for the link anonymous: I don't recall this post. I think every engineer approaches this task in a slightly different way. My method would be different from all of the ones cited in the link (especially for the sarsens, but not so much for bluestones)

I don't know what MPP is thinking of, but it sounds similar to the way I would do it (though levers and pivots is a bit misleading)