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Monday, 2 March 2015

Stonehenge's Stone 38


I have been looking over some of the images on the excellent "Stones of Stonehenge" web site, and have realised what a very strange little stone number 38 actually is!  It's the small stone bedded in the ground in the centre of the photo, with a larger sarsen (number 14) lying on top of it.

http://www.stonesofstonehenge.org.uk/search/label/Stone%20038

This stone has been described petrographically in the following paper:

IXER, R.A., BEVINS, R.E. 2011. The detailed petrography of six orthostats from the Bluestone Circle, Stonehenge. WANHM, 104, 1-14.

In shape, it's rather elongated, but no way is it a pillar, or a slab, or a rounded boulder. But it looks natural (with smoothed or abraded edges) rather than "shaped" by human hand. Does anybody have further info on this stone?

12 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

So what is it about stone 38 that may be revealing of an underlying truth?

From the photos of it it looks rather crooked at the middle. Totally useless as an orthostat! As useless as the Alter Stone, IMHO!

If so, why transport it from Wales and use it at Stonehenge? Are you suggesting stone 38 is a natural stone lying just where nature dropped it? And not touched by human hands for any conceivable purpose?

Kostas

chris johnson said...

Reminds me of one of those dear little stones at Gors Fawr.

Myris of Alexandria said...

The next pet rock boys featuring Andy Gize paper in the ferret club news, next month is devoted to SH38.
M

Tom said...

A quick check of Wood’s 1740 plan of Stonehenge, (when Stone 14 of the sarsen circle was still standing) super-imposed on top of Petrie’s 1880 plan, shows that Bluestone 38 was not displaced out of position when 14 fell on top it. This occurred sometime after 1847 (Cleal and Walker). So, as you say Brian, 38 never was a pillar. Also, both plans show Stone 39 in its original position beneath 14, and to have suffered the same fate.
The real puzzle to me, is why 39 (if it is 39) according to the latest English Heritage plan, shows it to be in front of and well clear of Stone 14 and no longer underneath it.
What has been going on here? Has someone been digging beneath 14 to rescue 39 and place it in what is obviously an incorrect position? Or has an extra Bluestone been imported from somewhere else?
The only way to discover the truth is to lift 14 and take a look.
Wood's plan can be seen on my website.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agreed, it is a pathetic little stone, with a highly irregular outline. Is that all there is, or is it a very substantial stone, most of which is buried? Has it ever been excavated and revealed in all its glory?

ND Wiseman said...

BS-38 is definitely broken, but, according to the 2012 laser scans, there is some slight evidence of tooling.

The area around the head of S-14 has never been excavated, but they did shovel a bunch of gravel under there in the 60s when the site took on its decidedly utilitarian aspect. (Looked like a shipping yard!)
Some of this gravel was kicked out by a rabbit in 2013, causing some short-lived excitement when found. Either Tim or Simon have those pictures.

Stone-14 was NOT standing in 1740. Nice try, Tom ...

Neil

Tom Flowers said...

Is ND Wiseman trying to say that I am being subversive in some way? Stone 14 WAS standing in 1740 when John Wood surveyed Stonehenge, even though the result of his survey was not published until 1747. My book Stonehenge 1740 AD has been in the major libraries for some time now, and I suggest that ND requests it!

Tom Flowers said...

William Stukeley made some excellent drawings of Stonehenge in 1722. These pictures were used by English Heritage for a set of four notecards to be sold in the on-site gift-shop. My set was obtained during a visit to Stonehenge some years ago, and I have dug them out for another look.
The picture Stukeley described as “The north-west prospect of Stonehenge” shows Stone 14 to be leaning at a greater angle even than 56 of the great trilithon. It also appears to be supported by bluestone 38 as a pillar.
A second card described as “A direct view of the remains of the adytum of Stonehenge” shows what again can only be Stone 14, by sporting a pair of tenons, and also appears to be supported by BS-38. What I believe to be Bluestone 39 can be seen leaning into the circle at an angle of about 8-degrees, but it is well clear of 14 and not in contact with it.
It seems that I have been caught out by Flinder's Petrie, mainly because his plan of Stonehenge shows Bluestone 39 to be in two places at once, and shows the existing stone by dotted line. As you know, modern draftsmen use dotted lines for components that are hidden and not seen.
In his write-up Petrie says: The five stones “standing in 1740” are from Wood’s plan; and as they are overthrown, or much shifted since his time, it seemed desirable to make this plan as complete as possible by inserting them. They were plotted from Wood’s measurements, in connection with neighbouring stones still unshifted... Their present positions are also shown in unshaded dotted outline. Flinders Petrie, 1880.
So Petrie’s plan of stones 14, 38 and 39 is a strange amalgam of his own work together with John Wood’s.
After carefully checking his plan again, I do find that Petrie shows Bluestone 39 to be jutting out from beneath 14. The conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that the English Heritage plan places 39 correctly.

ND Wiseman said...

Well, Tom - I very nearly stand corrected. Not quite, but almost.

According to Stuckeley's drawing it does indeed appear that S-14 wasn't quite flat on the ground in 1722.

But this is not to say it was 'standing' either.
Good catch.

Neil

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Any convenient place on the internet where we can see Stuckeley's drawings?

Kostas

ND Wiseman said...

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/str/index.htm

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for that, Neil -- looks very interesting.