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Friday, 2 May 2014

Garn Turne excavation report

Adam Stanford's photo of the Garn Turne excavation 2012.   If you can't read the annotations, the large rock in the foreground is the Foss Stone, the one on which the diggers are sitting is GT Major, and the big one to the right of that is GT Minor.

This is an interesting excavation report (as required by RAI funding) describing the history of the "megalithic" occupation of this site.  I remain sceptical about all this "quarrying and moving" stuff, since it seems to me that the large stones have effectively been used where they were found, having been levered up to allow their use as cap-stones.  That does not, it seems to me, entitle the archaeologists to use the word "quarrying."  There is also reference to the big capstone having been quarried and "flaked into shape" through the use of "massive hammerstones"........  How big can hammerstones be before they become too heavy to manage?  Not very big, I suggest...... unless the Neolithics were mighty powerful muscular specimens of manhood.  30 cms in diameter?  About 15 kg? Does anybody know of hammerstones heavier than this actually being used?

And what's the evidence for the flaking or shaping of the big capstone reputed to weigh 80 tonnes?

======================== 
Building the Great Dolmens: Excavations at Garn Turne, Pembrokeshire
Vicki Cummings and Colin Richards
http://www.royalarchinst.org/sites/royalarchinst.org/files/Newsletter_47.pdf

Our second season at Garn Turne (GT) has
revealed multi-phase activity at this extra ordinary
site, including remains of at least two dolmen
monuments. There had appeared to be a natural
outcrop in the middle of the forecourt, unpar -
alleled at other dolmen sites in Britain or Ireland.
Excavations revealed that this is not an outcrop but
a quarried stone — the Floss Stone — sitting on
the edge of a pit, probably its source, which had
evidence of intense burning in one area. It was also
partly set on a rammed-stone platform, cut by the
digging of a large pit (probably the pit for the main
capstone at the site) so we know that its quarrying
and moving predates the main dolmen (GT
Major).

Also pre-dating it are remains of a smaller
dolmen (GT Minor) directly to north-west of the
main site. Before excavation only the capstone was
visible above ground. In our trenches, though, we
found collapsed orthostats alongside the large
prostrate capstone. This monument once stood in
a large pit, much like Arthur’s Stone on the Gower.
At a later date, and once the monument had col -
lapsed, the dolmen was surrounded by a platform
of stones and soil so that the pit and collapsed
uprights were no longer visible. We were able to
explore this dolmen in only one small area because
after construction of the platform, smaller stand -
ing stones were added around the collapsed cap -
stone.

The main monument (GT Major) was con -
structed after both the quarrying of the Floss Stone
and the construction of GT Minor. A large pit in
the forecourt was almost certainly the original
location of the 80-tonne capstone for GT Major. It
was quarried, flaked into shape using massive
hammer stones, and the pit from where it was dug
partly backfilled. It was then elevated onto its
supporting uprights, before collapsing, presum -
ably due to sheer weight. Later, a forecourt of sorts
was constructed, partly in the remains of the
massive quarry pit. We also identified a series of
standing stones nearby, demonstrating that this
entire landscape had seen monumental construc -
tion.

7 comments:

TonyH said...

I share your scepticism about the free and easy use of the word "massive".

The Championship level football club I support has frequently been described as "massive" over the past two decades, and the PLC clings to that vain description.

Mine may be a flippant remark in the present context..... but I long for a return to the days when my Club really WAS massive, having supported them mostly through thin and thin!

Phil Morgan said...

Hello Brian,
Not a football club, but a club of sorts.

When discussing the dressing of the sarsen stones of Stonehenge Aubrey Burl in his book ‘A Brief History of Stonehenge’, (2006, pages 234 –235), states:
The tools used for this architectural metamorphosis were recognized in 1901 by Gowland during his excavations around the dangerously leaning Stone 56, the survivor of the tallest trilithon. He recovered over a hundred rounded mauls of sarsen, some no bigger than a tennis-ball but others as large as a pumpkin and weighing up to 64lb (29kg), more than most men could lift easily. It was with this repertoire of rough stones that people had shaped the pillars and lintels of Stonehenge. Jagged projections had probably been heated and then suddenly chilled with cold water before the largest mauls, encased in slings of leather with long handles ‘in order that they might be used by two or more men’, were whirled in high loops faster and faster then smashed down onto the sarsen, gradually pulverizing uneven lumps, slowly smoothing the surface. ‘A more economical or efficient tool can hardly be imagined.’


Not necessarily the most economical or efficient use of the implement, but on the right lines nonetheless.

Phil

BRIAN JOHN said...

‘A more economical or efficient tool can hardly be imagined.’ ??!! Sounds totally lethal to me..... and rather fanciful.

Phil M. said...

Lethal is correct and so is the idea, it's how its employed that's adrift.
There's no need to increase the mass of the hammer-stone, you have to increase the kinetic energy in the machine.

Phil

p.s. It takes me about four tries to get past the anti-robot thing these days.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anti-robot thing? What's that? Nothing to do with me, Guvnor! I just see a comment box open and ready for comments, and a "publish" button. Is that something that can be dealt with on your preferences / settings, or mine?

Phil said...

The 'anti-robot thing' wasn't a criticism, it's the box that says "Please prove you're not a robot", I can only ever read one of the words clearly, I shall really have to upgrade my spectacles.

Anyway, back to the hammer-stones, I'm not sure if they are Aubrey Burl's, or Gowland's thoughts on how these large stones would have been swung by two people, and then smashed onto the stone being shaped, but I fear the leather slings would become trapped between the hammer-stone and the target and be the first items broken, followed by a few toes.

The use of large mauls is quite reasonable, provided we accept that our ancient ancestors were capable of making tools to cope with the heavy-weight stones.

TonyH said...

"EASTER ISLAND:MYSTERIES OF A LOST WORLD" was repeated on BBC4 at 9 p.m. Sunday May 4th, 90 minutes long. Not sure if its on I-player now.

'Dr Jago Cooper looks at the latest scientific evidence to re - examine what happened to the civilisation that once thrived on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean more than 300 years ago.'

Two of MPP's Stonehenge Riverside Project chaps, Joshua Pollard and Colin Richards, have been out there in recent years.

I've also spotted this coming up on Channel 4 on Friday 9th May at 19.35 hrs (30 mins):-

UNREPORTED WORLD. THE CURSED TWINS
Kiki King reports from Mananjary, Madagascar, where taboos handed down by the ancestors rule every aspect of behaviour. She focuses on the belief that twins are bad luck which leads to their abandonmentand the mothers being ostracised.