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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ten Bluestone Questions



 These are some of the questions I raised in my talk last night -- which do not have satisfactory answers from the archaeologists.  Still waiting.......

Ten Bluestone Questions for the Archaeologists:

1.  If the sarsens and the bluestones were carefully selected for use at Stonehenge, how come that there are at least 30 different rock types represented in the Stonehenge "bluestone assemblage"? (including fragments, orthostats, stumps, mauls and hammerstones)

2.  If the bluestones were really "the stones of the ancestors", carried to Stonehenge for ritual purposes, how come that all of the stones are from the west, with no bluestone orthostats at all from the north, east or south?

3.  If the spotted dolerites and foliated rhyolites were "valued" in some way, how come that they are not used preferentially in stone settings in West Wales?

4.  And if Rhosyfelin really did have a Neolithic orthostat quarry in it, how come that there is not one cromlech or standing stone setting in Pembrokeshire that uses stone from this quarry?

5.  If the West Wales Neolithic tribes were so clever at long-distance stone transport, how come that ALL of the cromlechs and standing stone settings in Pembrokeshire simply involve the use of stones collected in the immediate vicinity?

6.  How come there is no evidence anywhere in the UK of systematic long-distance haulage of orthostats intended for use in a large stone setting?

7.  If the creation of Stonehenge was dependent upon a successful "stone hauling culture" using some suitable technologies, how come there is no evidence (as per the innovation diffusion model) of a developing culture, a climax, and a decline -- from a wide variety of sites other than Stonehenge?

8.  If it is now accepted that the sarsens were probably collected up from the vicinity of Stonehenge, why should the builders of the monument have done anything different when it came to the smaller bluestones?

9.  If the bluestones were revered in some way, and carried as "ancestor figures",  how come they are not more standardised in shape, size and lithology? (They are immensely variable and come from a very wide variety of locations.)

10.  If there really was a strong cultural or "political" link between Stonehenge and West Wales, where is the evidence to support the idea?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

like Stonehenge, Avebury has an inner setting of smaller stones known as the Z Stones.
Why aren't these Bluestones?
PeteG

tom flowers said...

Did you miss Mondays dish-up from Timewatch called... 'Stonehenge; a look at the origins of the ancient site'?
I have it on disc if you want it.
Perhaps someone local to you can provide, otherwise... www.therealstonehenge.com
Tom.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Your list of 10) questions for archeologists left one out:

”How did the Craig Rhosyfelin rhyolite gravel got to be at Stonehenge?”

Kostas

Anonymous said...

I can never resist 10 daft questions lists.

Pay attention rock collecting club!

1. Your looking at this question as 21st century geologists rather than prehistoric man. They didn't care if the geological structure was this or that as it doesn't matter (sorry Rob!) - it's the 'function' that is of common value. i.e lots of different 'teas' in the world from different places but they have a common function.

2. I'm not so sure that our analysis of the stone (sorry again Rob!) is that thorough or (like tea) they just had a preference.

3. To answer that question you need to find out what they were used for? If it was just to stand up in the ground, you could be right, but clearly they were required for a 'special' purpose. another analogy with say 'clavier' it is rarely eaten by the locals.

4. Same as 3.

5. Same as 3 (were you a bit short of ten questions Brian?)

6. Depends what you call Long -Distance lots of 'long barrows' with large rocks brought 20 to 30 miles to areas with no natural outcrops of rock particularly in Southern England.

7. The megalithic culture is well known and unique in its growth and decline.

8. If you hypothesis is correct - why was Stonehenge not built by the Sarsen stones on the Marlborough Downs? Even Avebury is 'quite a distance' for lazy cave men

9. Same as 3 again.

10. Cheap shot Brian! You might as well asked "So what's the name of they guy that built Stonehenge?" - if you don't know it can't be true! The megalithic culture is throughout Britain and Northern Europe - the fact that these structures are unique to Northern Europe in design and construction shows they were built (or influenced) by the same civilisation - some would call that 'Political alliance' although I agree it's a confused wording.

This was fun we should do this again - must dash, I have some serious work to do now I've finished my morning tea!

MMP

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah......
Where to begin, this sounds a bit like the beginning of Dune.
Let's begin with Kostas, I have been following you in the HallofMaat.
There is no rhyolite gravel, there has never been any rhyolite gravel on Salisbury Plain, there probably never will be. Like your rounded volcanics with sub-planar texture,you give greater significance to sloppy talk.
The Stonehenge Layer is essentially anthropogenic. Just accept that from those who know.
Brian there are not thirty Stonehenge associated rocks in the landscape. See Ixers book review of your book to read the first time this is refuted.
At most there are 10 sorts of bluestones, probably fewer than the number of different roadstones and bulk aggregates now lying in the landscape and 20th century in age.
You do not aid your cause by exgerating the number.
I am pretty certain that we do now know the exact number of important lithologies from Stonehenge. No new classes have been recognised since 2011.
My view is that it is all to do with jointing patterns, off 'the shelf IKEA style.
What we don't know is their geographical origins.
M.

TonyH said...

Anonymous, or MMP, certainly WAS in a hurry! ["must dash, I have some serious work to do..."] as he didn't even remember Parker Pearson's initials right - unless he is. or is masquerading as, someone such as Mike Pitts].

Anyway, from his answers, he/she clearly is from the INTUITION school of archaeological thought, or Dream - Time School.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- you refer to orthostats, and I don't. I refer to foreign stones of all shapes and sizes, including mauls, hammerstones, stumps, flakes and fragments. They all got to Stonehenge somehow or other. An "erratic" assemblage. I don't see any merit in just looking at orthostats -- but if you want to, you can count those as a sub-set. I'm not exaggerating numbers at all -- I have listed the lithologies on this blog at various times, and neither you nor anybody else has contradicted me. You yourself have referred to five or six "unknown" lithologies that you and Richard are still working on -- eg rhyolites and sandstones.

TonyH said...

Myris old bean:

Would you care to patiently explain to us ignorant and uninitiated WHY... "There is no rhyolite gravel, there never has been any rhyolite gravel on Salisbury Plain.."

From a sloppy B.A. (Honours) Geographer now rather long in the tooth.

TonyH said...

Myris old bean:

Would you care to explain, patiently, for the uninitiated and ignorant, WHY "There is no rhyolite gravel, there never has been any rhyolite gravel on Salisbury Plain, there probably never will be."

From a B.A. Honours Geographer these days rather long in the tooth.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- comment refused. I am not going to allow all this again......

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah paranoia, the sloppy talk that was being castigated was that of the denizens of the Library of Alexandria, namely Myris, myself. I take sloppy talk from others as standard and do not feel any need to remark upon it.
Sometime ago I loosely talked about the volcanics as being rounded, nothing was meant by that but Kostas saw it as proof of tumbling stones,raging rivers from the local hills,vast forest fires and other grand phenomena. It is called Salisbury Plain for a reason.
The rhyolite debitage is of all sizes only some is gravel size and none has felt the cold hand of Jack Frost drag it across fair Albion.
No Brian I too am including all the prehistoric lithics. In truth I was not bothered to refute the lists, to do it in detail would take some time and involved explaining that lithic nomenclature changes in time and is often sloppy. A fair number of your different rocks are the same just given alternative names.
Enough already. Be content with a dozen or so I am.
M

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian,

First, let me introduce myself. I am Joost van den Buijs from the Netherlands (www.combuijs.nl, website in Dutch). I am

interested in megaliths since 1993 after visiting the Carnac alignments on a cycling holiday in Brittany. I got "megalithically"

educated by the Aubrey Burl books amongst others (my profession is totally different: computer programming and mathematics).

Every holiday I try to squeeze in some megalithic places to visit, and so last year I finally visited Stonehenge (and Avebury,

stoney Littleton and Stanton Drew) for the first time. At Stonehenge I bought your book and I had a very interesting read during

and after the holidays (I've reread it two times now). It was very nice to see questions asked which I had wondered about myself

and to see them answered (or not answered!) in a very scientific way. I really want to thank you for that book.

After the holidays I discovered your blog and I have been following it from then on. Apart from other things it's nice to hear

from South West Wales as well as I have visited places like Pentre Ifan, Castell Henllys, Cardigan and Cenarth.

While I strongly favour your views on the source of the Stonehenge Bluestones (and, as you, would like to have some extra

evidence on the extends of the Irish Glacier in the direction of the Salisbury Plain), I found some of the "Ten Bluestone

Questions" not that strong, certainly not seen from the "human transport theory" viewpoint.

For example if I were a humans transport fan I would answer question:

1): "because they wanted to have as many different rock types as possible"
2): "because their ancestors came from the west"
3): "because you usually value locally rare or unknown things more than well known things you have in abundancy"
5): "because it were the Salisbury Plain tribes who did the long-distance transport, not the West Wales ones. It was not export,

it was import.

These answers are all very reasonable, certainly from their point of view.

6) is however a very good question and is easy extendable to the whole of West Europe. The Dutch "hunebedden" for example are only built in places where there are enough erratics to be found. We luckily don't have anyone posing stone-transport-by-humans- from-Finland-to-the-Netherlands theories (although there is a "theory" about using telekinesis while transporting and positioning stones). The Carnac alignements for example were build on their own vein (if that is the right word to use) of granite.

Anyway, thank you for your contributions regarding megaliths. You are quite a bright light in an area where there is a lot of murkiness.

Regards
Joost van den Buijs