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Monday, 1 September 2014

Salon gets things slightly wrong



Thanks to Rob for alerting us to this, in Salon.  I note this comment ".........in the absence of permission to take new samples from the bluestone orthostats..."  Yes, it must be frustrating!  But keep asking, chaps.

Fourteen orthotats out of sixty?  Which 60 might they be?  Other orthostats come from Rhosyfelin?  Where did that idea come from?  That is something that the geologists have specifically NOT demonstrated. All they have done is tentatively suggest that some of the debitage might have come from one or two of the buried stumps.  There is also the suggestion that all orthostats are dressed in some way, and that because of the lack of appropriate debitage, the dressing must have taken place elsewhere.  That again is a very dodgy assumption -- as far as I can see, most of the bluestones are not dressed at all, but have just been used in their raw or natural state.  That's one reason why I think they are erratics.  I'd agree that it will be great to get provenances for the non-Preseli stones, but I repeat that I think the attempts to link Stonehenge with the Orkney and Isle of Lewis sites are fanciful in the extreme.
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Salon No 325, 2014 (1st Sept)

Bits of Stonehenge

Another subject that never seems to wane in media popularity is that of Stonehenge and the origin of its component stones. Fellows Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins have published several articles in recent weeks explaining their work analysing the thousands of lithic samples collected at Stonehenge from recent and historic excavations. In British Archaeology, they explain how their work began in the 1980s as part of the team working with our late Fellow Richard Thorpe to compare the geochemistry of the Stonehenge bluestones and data from the Preseli hills of Pembrokeshire. The breakthrough came with their development of a robust method of identifying the unique signature of specific rock outcrops.

Reporting on their results so far, Ixer and Bevins say that, in the absence of permission to take new samples from the bluestone orthostats, they have to work mainly with debitage, and they have to make assumptions about which orthostats this material came from. Despite this constraint, they have been able to pin down the sources of fourteen orthostats out of sixty, and seven come from a single outcrop — Carn Goedog — while others come from Craig Rhos-yfelin, both of them on the northern slopes of the Preselis, facing the Irish Sea. In matching debitage to orthostats, they have also observed that there is remarkably little debitage from some orthostats — what little there is coming from late or disturbed contexts, suggesting post-prehistoric breakage. In other words, the evidence increasingly suggests that there was very little in situ stone dressing, which must have taken place elsewhere.

With all this focus on identifying Preseli quarries, the authors say that it is just as important to identify the source for those stones that do not have a proven Pembrokeshire origin: they single out the Altar Stone — the biggest and most unusual of the bluestones — which they describe as a Devonian calcareous cornstone, showing much white mica, that ‘could be from anywhere in a large tract of south Wales and Herefordshire’. They speculate that it is not coincidental that the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, in Orkney, have a similar geology, and they ask could the Altar Stone be a deliberate reference to the Orkney monuments, and ‘could the beautiful gneiss macehead found at Stonehenge, if the gneiss is Lewisian Gneiss which is quite possible, be a reminder of the spectacular Callanish Lewisian Gneiss stone circles?’ An intriguing thought!

1 comment:

PeteG said...

I went to the Press Screening of Ancient skies today.
An absolutely stunning and unique piece of work.
A must see...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo/activity/ancient-skies-world-premiere-of-stunning-new-fulldome-film/occurrence/507618