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Thursday, 12 February 2015

The 43 Stonehenge Bluestones


Anthony Johnson's invaluable "stone plan" for the stony section of Stonehenge.  The numbering may be indistinct -- if you cannot read the numbers please refer to the last post.

Further to the last post about Simon's excellent new blog, here are some further notes about the bluestones which we know about.  Adapted from the relevant chapter in The Bluestone Enigma:

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Immediately inside the sarsen circle there is a circular setting of smaller standing stones without lintels. These are all bluestones, in what is currently called “The Bluestone Circle.” This is how Aubrey Burl describes them: “In contrast to the towering sarsens, they are like unkempt urchins slouching and flopping beneath the disapproving glares of their elders.” Rodney Castleden says “...... they skulk among the sarsens, like dwarfs among giants, in an irregular ring.......” However many there may have been originally, only six are still standing. Another thirteen are leaning or have fallen over onto the ground. That makes 19 stones, numbered 31-49 in the "stone catalogue" started by Flinders Petrie.  The “stumps” of ten others have been found during excavations at or beneath the ground surface.  That makes a total of 29 stones. Archaeologists assume that many of the original "bluestone circle" stones have been removed or broken up, and the evidence for this is based upon findings of flakes and chips in holes and in the "debitage". The remaining standing stones are about 2m tall and weigh between 2 and 4 tonnes apiece. At least two of the bluestones have been trimmed, probably for use as lintels, and the possibility must be considered that many of the “missing” bluestones were small sarsens later rejected or used in a later phase of building as lintels for the sarsen circle.

The “Bluestone Horseshoe” is an arrangement of smaller stones inside the sarsen horseshoe. There may originally have been nineteen or more, of which six are still in position with a further five fallen. There are two “stumps” below ground level. So there are 13 stones here which are capable of examination. They are numbered 61-72 and the group includes stone 61A. It is assumed by the archaeologists that a further six (at least) have disappeared. All of those that remain above the ground surface are dressed into square-section pillars about 60 cm across. As with the free-standing trilithons, the shortest stones (up to 2 m tall) were at the ends of the horseshoe, and the longest (about 2.5 m tall) stood immediately beneath the Great Trilithon on the axis of the monument. Because at least six of the bluestones bear traces of mortise and tenon joints and other signs of working, it is argued that they must have been used at one time in a setting of bluestone trilithons. In his book "The Making of Stonehenge" Rodney Castleden develops this idea to a considerable degree; but it’s fair to say that most other authors are more circumspect. Castleden also claims that the stones in the bluestone horseshoe were smoothed into alternating tall slim pillars and tapering triangles, presumably intended to portray “male and female” shapes; and he claims to have seen “humanoid” parallels in other monuments. Most other authors mention no such arrangement or intent, and this may be another example of an author finding what he wanted to see.

Lying on the ground inside the apex of the bluestone horseshoe is a large slab of grey-green sandstone about 5 m long and weighing between 6 and 9 tonnes. This is (by one calculation) the 43rd big “foreign” stone on the site, and it was possibly the last one to be put into position. Or was it the first one, found lying on the ground, and ultimately responsible for the location of Stonehege? It is referred to, fancifully, as the Altar Stone, but some archaeologists believe that it once stood upright as an impressive pillar. Rodney Castleden refers to the Altar Stone as a revered “goddess stone” which was once standing proudly as the centre-piece of the whole monument. Aubrey Burl begs to differ -- and he argues that the stone was laid flat quite deliberately and used more or less as an altar in a church might be used today. It is not known how or when it came to be in its present position, but two fallen members of the Great Trilithon rest upon it, and it seems even today to be surrounded by a mayhem of fallen and leaning stones.

Nobody is quite sure how many “bluestones” there are today at Stonehenge. The traditional numbering system has proved difficult with these smaller stones, and originally some “stumps” were uncounted. Later on, they were counted in and given letters as well as numbers. And to make matters worse, some were fragments of stones already counted, while some that were assumed to be parts of a single monolith later turned out to be geologically distinct from one another. So there is a good deal of double counting and false counting. Let us assume, at any rate, that there are 43, including the Altar Stone -- as indicated in the careful geological study by Olwen Williams-Thorpe and colleagues from the Open University in 1991. These stones are observable. They can be analysed and even sampled. Rodney Castleden says that 29 bluestones have disappeared, including 11 from the Bluestone Circle and 8 from the Bluestone Horseshoe.  He gives no evidence to support the view that the stones were bluestones rather than sarsens. Others have speculated that there may have been between 50 and 82 genuine bluestones in total, and indeed we know from historical records that many have been smashed up and taken away. But until the Stonehenge scribes can demonstrate the characteristics of those “assumed stones” we will leave their figures on one side.

So for the moment we will continue to assume that there are 43 known bluestones on the site, with 19 (numbered 31-49) in the Bluestone Circle, 13 (numbered 61-71 and including stone 61A) in the Bluestone Horseshoe, making a total of 32 stones that are visible and accessible, and a further 11 buried stones or stumps whose positions are known but which can only be reached by excavation.

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When Simon has done some more work on his site and has added notes about the geology of the stones and the references which deal with petrology and provenancing, it will be incredibly valuable for researchers and argumentative bloggers.





11 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I want to know. What is the evidence for "missing stones"?
Buried stumps I understand!

Kostas

Tom Flowers said...

Brian
I see that an axis is not ventured in Johnson's plan seen above.
The only one I can find among his work can be seen on page 198 of his book Solving Stonehenge, where the axis of the outer circle of sarsens can be seen not to pass between 55 and 56, but cuts through 55.
John Wood came up with the same result in 1740.
Meaningful solstice photo's, therefore, have to be taken along said line.

Tom Flowers said...

Brian
An old friend of mine annoyed me greatly when he remarked that archaeologists do not know what Stonehenge was. So much so that I wrote the following...
29½.
Twenty-nine and a half is the number John Wood was looking for when he surveyed Stonehenge in 1740.
29½.
John Wood, visionary, surveyor extraordinaire, architect and designer of the world famous Kings Crescent and Quadrant in the City of Bath, was so convinced that the first Stonehenge was dedicated to the moon that he went looking for 29½ to prove it!
What was so important about 29½?
It‘s because 29½ is the number of days it takes the moon to complete one cycle---Her monthly cycle, in fact! (For the purist, one Lunation period is actually 29.53059 days long).
Skilled surveyor and man before his time, John Wood considered that because Stonehenge’s outer circle once consisted of 30 stones, if he could only prove the next circle in to have had 29, he would have had his 29½! He even claimed it was so!
Unfortunately for John, the number of stones in the bluestone circle has never been proven, some claiming there might have been as many sixty! Personally, I think 56 is possible - the same number as there are Aubrey holes.
But where was the elusive number 29 that John was looking for?
When the Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie surveyed Stonehenge in 1880, he measured the innermost bluestone setting and came up with a figure that converts to a very accurate 14½ megalithic yards.
And twice 14½ is 29.
So that’s where it was John!
According to Petrie the innermost bluestones measure 472.7 ± 0.5 inches diameter. From ‘Stonehenge: Plans, Description, and Theories, by Flinders Petrie, 1880’. Also Atkinson, in 1965, agreed with him.
(472.7 inches is equal to 14.472 megalithic yards).
Strangely enough, Professor John North also used Petries 472.7 figure, but calculated it to equal only 14Megalithic yards. For a man who believed in Professor Thom’s megalithic yard this had to be accidental or deliberate (Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos. North J 1996)
Before moving on, here are a few more Stonehenge facts.
1) Stonehenge is or was an internal device, purposely designed to collect light and amplify it, and that is why the best faces of its stones were placed inward and polished. Its outer ring was placed on a 36 megalithic yard diameter circle - An internal circle, that is. Also note at this point, that 36 is divisible by three.
2) Stonehenge’s Altar Stone measures an accurate six megalithic yards in length and this is also divisible by three. Representing the family, the number three is known to be the most important Stone Age number. John also concluded this as a fact when comparing Stonehenge against the stone circles of Stanton Drew.
There is more to this story, Brian, but it will have to wait.
Tom

BRIAN JOHN said...

A bit off topic, Tom -- shall we stick to the numbering and characteristics of the stones here?

Jon Morris said...

Stonehenge is or was an internal device, purposely designed to collect light and amplify it, and that is why the best faces of its stones were placed inward and polished.

When this theory first came up, you said it was all a "just another Red Herring" (quote from a comment you made on the book). Have you changed your mind?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RR1OYH8CEYK89/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00A25VWYG&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=266239&store=books#wasThisHelpful

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- if a stone is missing from a place where it is assumed that there should be one, and if there is no stump beneath the ground surface, it is deemed to be missing!

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

You write, "Kostas -- if a stone is missing from a place where it is assumed that there should be one, and if there is no stump beneath the ground surface, it is deemed to be missing!" [bold face is mine]

Sounds like an assumption to me!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite right, Kostas. When something is assumed, it is deemed to be an assumption.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

So there is no evidence for "missing stones"! Just as I thought!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Why the excitement, Kostas? This is no big deal -- if there was evidence of stumps etc they would not be counted as missing. We have debated at length whether the presence of Rhosyfelin fragments indicates "missing stones" -- Rob and Richard suggest that two of the buried stumps may be all that remains of the stones from which the fragments have come. Then there are the parch-marks described by Pete G. Do they suggest that there were stones in the places where the marks appear in the turf, or do they just suggest that there might have been holes there which might or might not have held stones? Much in the way of speculation.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Just keeping this controversy honest! I have no problems with "speculation" or with "assumptions" or "beliefs". As long as these are clearly acknowledged and not passed as "facts".

But what really gets my goat is the indignation and animosity directed against anyone even suggesting that what is deemed factual is really belief.

Kostas