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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Darvill and Wainwright come out fighting?



A little bird tells me that Profs Darvill and Wainwright have written another article concentrating on the perceived "remarkable properties" of the bluestones from Carn Meini and other sites -- and reporting on some of the more recent findings of the SPACES project.  Apparently there is a lot of emphasis on the "healing springs" idea -- yet again -- even though Robin Heath and I (and others who know the area) insist that there are NO springs with healing/sacred traditions in the eastern Preseli area at all.  I hope that we are not dealing -- yet again -- with fabricated evidence here.........

Here is the reference:
Current Archaeology (February 2014, issue 287, pp18 - 25), "Stonehenge and Preseli; exploring the meaning of the bluestones".



This isn't one of the journals I subscribe to, and it's not accessible via the web, so if anybody wants to post a note about the article, feel free to send it in!

40 comments:

Ben said...

Can healing springs lose their healing power over time?

geocur said...



Not that I accept their views for a minute but,I wouldn't accept local tradition /ethnography as being helpful either .There are plenty of areas with healing spring traditions ,we wouldn't consider that as having any impact on our understanding of prehistoric beliefs .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Most sacred / healing spring traditions are associated with the early Christian saints -- and are named accordingly. The two Profs might argue that these sacred sites were sacred in pre-Christian times as well. The trouble is that there aren't any such sites with saintly dedications in the area in question. We can of course never prove that there weren't some sacred spring sites which were forgotten about when Christianity came along......

chris johnson said...

My mother grew up in Eastern Preseli. In her youth there were superstitions taken seriously about the curative powers of the uplands - Frenni Fawr in particular. Presumably these beliefs were ancient because Christianity was not a part of it.

I think the beliefs that survived were often to do with healing and tried when all else had failed. Sometimes the cure worked and so the belief persisted.

I do not know anything about a specific well, or even wells in general, but I can readily believe that the abundance of clean spring water on the Preseli hills is viewed as a positive benefit since the earliest habitation.

BRIAN JOHN said...

The curative power of the uplands? She must have been reading all the PR pushed out by the operators of the Maenclochog railway and the Cardi Bach! They did some wonderful posters about the health-giving effects of visits into the hills -- and got quite a nice extra trade in day trips by train as a result. Frenni Fawr has a tale about fairies attached to it -- never heard anything about curative powers there.

TonyH said...

Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill's article is quite informative and certainly stimulating to a non - local like myself. The healing springs notion is just one of about 4 main points discussed clearly.We are informed that Geoff's PhD was on Mesolithic Preseli, and Tim's was on Neolithic Preseli. The 8 - page article is well illustrated and
includes maps e.g. of sites of oval stone circles. Comparisons are made between the distribution of various prehistoric features around the Greater Stonehenge Landscape/ area beyond and North
Pembrokeshire and beyond, in the Mesolithic and Neolithic. The article would repay closer study, and maybe the Authors would permit us displaying sections of it, with due acknowledgement of course. Back - copies of C.A. cost £5.

chris johnson said...

Well Brian, you have now heard of curative powers on Frenni Fawr. When we are sitting comfortably I will tell you the tale.

Tony, thanks for the recommendation. I decided to treat myself to a 12 month subscription so I hope the article will be in my first copy.

A.G. said...

I see that MPP has written an article in BBC History Magazine where he presents some quantitive data about the debitage.

Apparently "some 500 tonnes of rock were removed from the site between 2500BC and AD 1500", or not removed? as he then goes onto state that "much of the stone is still there as chips below the turf"

He refers to people taking stone to cure illnesses, but doesn't explain why they would then smash it into chips and return it?

He doesn't quote a source for the data. Anyone any ideas where he obtained such firm figures from?



TonyH said...

Geoff & Tim say (page 20):

'From 2005 we increasingly focused on the eastern part of the Preseli Hills where the greatest concentration of sites seemed to be, As a result, several hundred sites and findspots were logged and recorded.
Over a dozen geophysical surveys were then carried out within the [larger] survey area. These were followed up with small-scale excavations both to examine features visible on the geophysical plots and to determine date and form at the Banc Du causewayed enclosure, Carn Menyn walled enclosure, Carn Menyn Cairn, Croesmihangel round barrow, and the Cottesmore Farm timber circle. The peat bogs on either side of the main Preseli ridge were also sampled and studied by Ralph Fyfe. In 2008 we turned to the eastern end of the bluestone trail [!!] and excavated a small trench at Stonehenge to investigate the date and arrangement of the Double Bluestone Circle and its replacement, the Outer Bluestone Circle (Current Archaeology, issue 219).
Standing back from the results of our work over the past decade or so, three important dimensions of the ancient cultural landscapes of Preseli and Stonehenge have become ver apparent.'
I will attempt to summarise these 3 findings, one by one, in future comments here.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony -- I'm on tenterhooks!!

TonyH said...

PARALLEL WORLDS

'The 1st finding is that big visible monuments that have traditionally attracted attention are really hotspots within a long continuous sequence of occupation spanning 6th -2nd millenium B.C. In west Wales, the coastal settlement at Nab Head, 40km from Carn Menyn, was occupied in 2 main phases during the 8th & 6th millenia BC. Environmental evidence from peat bogs at the E end of the Preselis revealed an elm decline at c.4710-4500 BC, the oldest such event recorded within Wales and one of the oldest in Britain, Substantial changes to the vegetation occur at this time, which most likely reflects significant later Mesolithic impact on the local landscape, including burning, heathland development, and reduction of woodland cover.
Such changes provide strong evidence for human disturbance of the vegetation around Gors Fawr Bog, to the south of Carn Menyn, during the late Mesolithic. The effects are visible in both the nature of woodland composition and the character of open-ground vegetation, most likely controlled by fire. [TO BE CONTINUED below]

TonyH said...

'The causewayed enclosure at Banc Du investigated as part of our work was constructed early in the 4th millenium BC and its ditches recut several centuries later. Settlements of the 3rd and 2nd millenia BC have been identified south of the Preselis on the coast at Stackpole Warren and inland at Woodside Camp.

There is a similar picture around Stonehenge. Extensive occupation beside the River Avon at Downton (south of Salisbury) and Amesbury (only 3km E of Stonehenge) in the
6th, 5th, and 4th millenia is well
represented. The causewayed enclosure of Robin Hood's Ball, 4km to the NW of Stonehenge, was built around 3640-3500 BC, and probably continued in use for
several centuries. Houses of the mid 3rd millenium BC have been found around Durrington Walls, 3km NE of Stonehenge in the Avon Valley, and settlements of the 3rd and 2nd millenia have been investigated elsewhere in the area
at Downton and Easton Down.

In its later stages, Stonehenge was surrounded by round-barrow burial monuments of many shapes and sizes. Rings of pits, known as
the Y- and X- Holes, were dug around the monument's central stone settings in the mid 2nd milennium BC as if to enclose it. On Carn Menyn, barrows were built at either end of the ridge. To the
west, the Carn Menyn Cairn was erected after 1420-1260 BC, covering an embanked stone circle that stood within a henge-like circular enclosure. To the east, a turf barrow was raised over a
small palisaded enclosure with a foundation deposit of cremated human bone that was dated to 1930-1740 BC.'

chris johnson said...

Thanks Tony for this tantalising glimpse. It reminds me how much of Pembrokeshire has a long history and how much might be buried under the peat.

Do you happen to know if there is more information/evidence published on, eg, the Carn Menyn Cairn. The idea that there was a stone circle up there is completely new to me.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I think they are talking about Bedd Arthur. Well, what's a bit of poetic license among friends......??

TonyH said...

I have yet to visit Bedd Arthur and have seen Carn Menyn merely on the skyline.
I don't possess the expertise to forward it onto Brian's blog, but there is a detailed map of the great density of sites claimed around Carn Menyn reproduced in colour on page 21 of Tim and Geoff's article. The so-called "Carn Menyn Cairn" is located at the NNE tip of'Stone River' at
above 310 metres height.

TonyH said...

Tim and Geoff also have a coloured aerial photo of the Carn Menyn Cairn, alongside of which are illustrated Phases 1 to 4 of its excavation. Excavation, they say, revealed that this was constructed after 1420-1260 BC and covered a stone circle set within a henge-like enclosure.
I do not think this can be Bedd Arthur.

BRIAN JOHN said...

The Carn Meini (Menyn) cairn is minute -- how can it have covered a stone circle? Maybe the circle was about 2 yards across.......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not having seen the article, it sounds like a re-hash of stuff already published quite a while ago. Have already done a few posts on the D/W ideas re eastern Preseli...

TonyH said...

The circle was somewhat less than 5 yards across, I estimate, based on the scaled excavation plans (reproduced rather small). There was already an extant standing stone just beyond the bank to the south.

Incidentally, Current Archaeology magazine may well be found in larger public libraries. Back issues cost £5.

TonyH said...

"WRITTEN IN STONE"

Here following is TD & GW'S 2nd main finding from their 10-year SpACES research findings.

'The 2nd factor is that stone was hugely important to these [Pembrokeshire and Stonehenge area] communities, a kind of raw material singled out for special attention in both areas. What exactly different kinds of stone meant to prehistoric people is unclear, but we can be certain that perceptions were different to those common today. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder (AD 23-790) for example talks of stone in terms of its magic power, supposed healing properties, and even gender, all of which provide interesting new ways of thinking about the meaning of stone.
At a very personal level, stone was used selectively. At Nab Head, slate and shale was exploited during the Mesolithic period for the production of beads, while dolerite and sandstone was used to make axes and perforated stone rings during the 5th millenium BC in a way that echoes traditions in NW France at the time.
Inland, Carn Menyn is a distinctive jagged outcrop of dolerite composed of columnar slabs rising to a height of 365m above sea-level on the southern fronge of the Preseli Ridge. Its summit offers commanding vistas: north to the Lleyn Peninsula and S to the Bristol Channel and the Devon coast. Although the ridge is best known as one of the main sources of dolerite for Stonehenge, that was not the first kind of stone exploited here.
Our excavations at Carn Menyn show that light-coloured meta-mudstone was being quarried in the 6th & 5th millenia BC, exploiting a narrow band of workable material. Exactly when when dolerite began to be extracted at Carn Menyn is not known, but a working floor investigated in 2012 that it was certainly taking place in the last few centuries of the 3rc millenium BC, exactly the time that dolerite bluestones were being set up in the central area of Stonehenge. Our excavations also showed that meta-mudstone was again exploited in the later 2nd millenium BC, and pieces have been found sealed under round barrows and cairns of the period nearby.

In the Stonehenge landscape, there is evidence for flint-mining at Durrington 3.5 km NE of Stonehenge, and abundant evidence for flint-knapping sites throughout the area. Bluestone of all kinds was broken up and worked for the production of axes, discs, and amulets at Stonehenge itself. Pieces also leaked out into the local area, where some were deposited with burials and in the Wilsford shaft.
At least a couple of pieces found hteir way north to Silbury Hill, overlooking the Swallowhead springs and the source of theRiver Kennet (C.A 215).
CONTINUED ON MY NEXT COMMENT

TonyH said...

CA article by TD & GW (CONTINUED):-

' Blocks of stone in the landscape were given special treatment. In the Preselis there are propped rocks, dolmens, and portal dolmens that all involve lifting great slabs of rock out of the ground and supporting them in a way that emphasises their shape and form. Natural boulders were sometimes given special attention by having cup-marks carved into them and platfroms of smaller stones built around them. In the Stonehenge landscape, natural boulders again seem to have been accorded special attention. The Cuckoo Stone, lying W of Woodhenge, is a good example of this. Investigatios by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2007 showed this naturally occurring sarsen had been raised upright over the hollow in which it originally lay.
CONTINUED ON MY NEXT COMMENT

TonyH said...

'Circular and oval monuments built out of stone are a feature of both landscapes in the 3rd millenium BC. In thePreselis such monuments are widely scattered. Single and multiple concentric stone circles occur mainly on the south side of the Preseli Hills at Gors Fawr, Dyffryn Syfynwy, Eithbed North, and at the ceremonial complex centred on
Glandy Cross.A curious stone oval is known high in the hills at Bedd Arthur, one of few direct parallels for the oval in the central setting at Stonehenge.

TO BE CONTINUED

chris johnson said...

Very interesting Tony.

TonyH said...

"WRITTEN IN STONE" Concluding part of this GW/TD factor:-

More than a dozen stone pairs have been recorded in the Preseli Hills, one of the highest concentrations in Britain. In every case they sit like portals or doorways in the landscape at the boundary betwwen contrasting environments, perhaps to mark routeways. Excavations in 1979 revealed that the Heel Stone at Stonehenge was originally one of a pair os standing stones. As with such settings in the Preselis, the Heel Stone stands right on the edge of the plateau on which Stonehenge is built. To the NW the ground dips down to Stonehenge Bottom.

Whereas in Preseli the circles and ovals are dispersed, at Stonehenge they are gathered together on the same spot, combining circles, concentric circles, and an oval. One of the things that makes Stonehenge unique is the fact that circular structures, which elsewhere were made of wood, were here made of stone. This is
especially the case with the Sarsen Circle and Sarsen Trilithons, where the uprights and lintels were squared - up and dressed like over-sized planks secured together with mortise and
tenon joints. Some of the bluestones may also have been treated in this way in an earlier configuration at Stonehenge or elsewhere.

TD and GW'S 3rd key theme will follow when I have time to submit it. It is the link betweem the monuments and water.



BRIAN JOHN said...

Many thanks, Tony, for these concise summaries. What strikes me immediately is that there is nothing new in any of this -- not sure what this article is for, and why it is being published.

The agenda simply seems to be to flag up Eastern Preseli as a sort of Neolithic Holy Land -- shades of Rev Done Bushell....

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/preseli-stone-age-holy-land.html

TonyH said...

Brian and All:

I suppose this has been published now in Current Archaeology to extend it to the more generalist archaeological enthusiast around the UK and beyond.


What may assist is part of "Acknowledgements" section tucked away at the end of Tim and Geoff's article, which I will quote below:-

'An introduction to the Strumble-Preseli Ancient Communities and Environment Study (SPACES) was published in Antiquity 76, and between 2003-2011 there have been regular interim reports in Archaeology in Wales and updates in CA (issues 212 and 252). The re-dating of Stonehenge is published in Antiquity 86.

chris johnson said...

Maybe it is late in the evening and I just spent 5 frustrating hours on a task I did not enjoy and so I am not in the best of moods, but I find this MADDENING! It is OUR heritage he is digging up, not his personal back yard, and if the only reporting is via magazines then .... Brmmmph, academia is going to the dogs. Is this guy a Professor or what?

TonyH said...

To quote the "contributors" section of this issue of CA,
"Timothy is Professor of Archaeology in the Dept of Archaeology & Anthropology at Bournemouth Uni; Geoff was formerly Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage, and now lives in N Pembrokeshire.

Tony said...

'WATERY WORLDS'

'The 3rd key theme that has emerged from our work is the link between the monuments and water. In the Preseli Hills, many of the stone monuments lie close to natural springs and watercourses. At Carn Menyn, springs issue from the rocks that were the focus of quarrying and extraction. Some of these springheads have even been elaborated with the construction of a wall to create a small pool. Cairns sometimes stand around the springhead, and some springs were enhanced by the addition of rock art on stones around the rim. Water from many of the springs is considered to have healing powers, and some were adopted as holy wells in recent times.

Springs are increasingly being recognised as important focal points in the Stonehenge landscape. Investigations by David Jacques [Open University] at Blick Mead on the west side of Amesbury have revealed that the spring here is associated with activity from the 6th millenium BC through into recent times (CA 271). As well as thousands of pieces of worked Mesolithic flint, his excavations revealed a broken Bronze Age dagger, a lead object likely to be a Romano- British curse, and a 5th century AD Anglo-Saxon disc brooch. Most importantly, at Stonehenge itself, the reconfiguration of the bluestone setting in Stage 3 coincides with the construction of The Avenue as a ceremonial way leading to whatever watercourse lay in Stonehenge Bottom at this time, and then onwards 2.1 km SE to the River Avon.

The final brief section of this CA article is sub-headed "The Healing Hypothesis" and will follow shortly.

Tony

chris johnson said...

Leaving the healing aspect aside for a moment, it is indeed increasingly obvious that neolithic sites like Preseli/Stonehenge/Avebury are notable for the supply of spring water. In the case of Avebury the water is warm which must have seemed miraculous.

To my mind the presence of spring water would have been more than important for a cattle herding culture - a key factor for healthy living.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- this spring water obsession is a complete waste of everybody's time. There is no greater density of springs in eastern Preseli than there is anywhere else in Pembs -- it rains a lot there, as it does elsewhere in Pembrokeshire. All uplands have springs on them, and all have been used for centuries for moving cattle (viz the drovers) and for grazing because of the open terrain and lack of trees. Exactly the same reason why the Norwegians and the Swiss traditionally have moved cattle and sheep from the lowlands to the uplands every summer -- strictly utilitarian, and nothing sacred about any of it.

chris johnson said...

You have a good point Brian.

I remember reading that the Presceli area and Teifi Vally is actually much LESS good than e.g. Aberystwyth area for delivering a sustainable flow of spring water. The amount it rains is less important than the capacity of the geology to store ground water and allow it to bubble to the surface. So if spring water was the criteria for deciding where to settle then somewhere else than Preseli might be better because too many springs in Preseli dry up.

It would be nice to have some comparative data and we can but hope that Darvill will provide it - storage capacity, flow rates, that kind of thing.

TonyH said...

"Some of these these springheads have even been elaborated with the construction of a wall to form a small pool" [TD/GW WATERY WORLDS, above]

They IMPLY that the walls were constructed in prehistoric times, but give no evidence, at least not in this CA summary article. Rather like their comment which appeared just before:-

" At Carn Menyn,springs issue from the rocks that were the focus of quarrying and extraction."

TD relied on these notions when publicising his large coffee table book on the Stonehenge region about 10 years ago. You have to speculate to accumulate, an old adage, applies here.

BRIAN JOHN said...

The springheads I have looked at (quite a few of them) are entirely natural.

They are quite incorrigible, aren't they? I should have thought a more sensible tactic would be to just keep quiet........

TonyH said...

I think when you are alone on the hilltops or moors and you are aware of prehistoric features, the imagination may tend to run somewhat feral, unless kept under control....

TonyH said...

PART THE LAST

N.B. As the person contributing this section of the article, I must point out that the exclamation marks contained within the [ ] brackets are there because that is my, brief, succinct reaction to one or two of the statements therein:-

THE HEALING HYPOTHESIS
'So where does that leave the bluestones and Stonehenge? At the western end of the bluestone trail [!] we have a mountain from whose flanks around 80 stones were extracted and carried to Stonehenge in the late 3rd millenium BC [!!]. These sources, spread over a fairly wide area, were closely associated with springs and watercourses, many of which were believed to have healing properties in Medieval and later times.

Over on Salisbury Plain we propose that, after the eartwork enclosure at Stonehenge ceased to be a major cremation cemetary sometime about 2500BC,bluestones from Preseli were brought and set up within a temple whose structure had already been constructed from sarsen stones. It would be naive to think of Stonehenge having a single unchanging purpose, bu one of its roles we argue is that of a shrine to which people were drawn because of the supposed healing powers of the bluestones.

Ina a prehistoric context, the idea of healing should be taken to mean pastoral and medical care of both body and soul: tending the wounded, treating the sick,calming troubled minds, promoting fertility, assisting and celebrating births, and protecting people against malevolent forces in an uncertain world. No doubt the great deities, perhaps the gods of the sun and moon, presided over the ceremonies, immortalised in the Trilithons. But the stones were not just memorials to the gods, they were active agents in promoting the well-being and fecundity of the people. We believe that, in its heyday, Stonehenge was a palce for the living.'

chris johnson said...

Tony, thanks. My copy of this magazine has yet to arrive and had you published your summaries earlier I doubt I would have subscribed

It would seem the professors have found exactly nothing after 10 years or more of work The entire piece could be bracketed it seems..

TonyH said...

Chris

Have you tried Mike Pitt's British Archaeology magazine, published under the umbrella of the C.B.A.? Somewhat more cerebral and considered, overall, in my opinion, though C.A. does have its decent features.

chris johnson said...

Thanks Tony, I gave up on my subscription to Pitt's magazine a while back. Main reason was the way it was delivered over internet. Adding insult to injury all the back copies I had paid for disappeared when my subscription lapsed - this was not the deal but I really could not be bothered to complain. Not going back there any time soon.

TonyH said...

I think we should at least reflect upon the affinity that Geoff and Tim must have for the Preseli landscape, Geoff all the more so, as he has also retired to north Preseli. Like Brian with his PhD, Geoff & Tim both studied Pembrokeshire at Doctorate level, on the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods respectively. I guess it is left to those coming after all three of them (also us here on Brian's Blog) to take from each person's contributions what we may in order to reach our own conclusions. We should at least be grateful for their contributions to our greater understanding of the Preseli and Pembrokeshire landscapes, whilst at the same time using discernment as regards our own conclusions.