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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Altar Stone surface markings (revised)


The is a really interesting photo of the surface of the Altar Stone -- with surface textures and markings freakishly revealed.  Click to enlarge.  Forget about the shadow -- but what is the explanation for these markings?

Some info kindly added by Geo -- worth adding.  Here is another pic, acknowledged as from the Modern Antiquarian site.  Its from Turrerich, near Aberfeldy in Scotland, posted by Tiompan.

 Although the Altar Stone appears to be much finer grained, both stone surfaces suggest thin-bedded or laminated sediments with some contortions.  the cup marks on the Scottish stone are rather typical, but apart from one suspicious feature in the foreground of the top pic, the Altar Stone seems to be unmodified by the hand ogf man.  Unmodified by the foot of man too, I suspect -- there might have been a small amount of "polishing" over the centuried by people walking over the stone, but my suspicion is that these features are the result of many thousands of years of surface weathering.  Acid waters in the Scottish case and calcium carbonate waters on Salisbury Plain?

47 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Look like glacial striations to me, Brian! Proving what you have been arguing the Altar Stone (and all Stonehenge stones) are glacial erratics.

But Geo will likely see "rock art".

Kostas

Geo Cur said...


About as likely as you talking sense .

Geo Cur said...



Atkinson said "it has been carefully dressed to shape ,but it's exposed surface is now considerably abraded by the feet of visitors " .
I apprecaite that due to it's surroundings it's not the easiest surface to photograph ,but worth mentioning that a sprying with water or simply wetting then taking the pic in low sun ,winter being best ,with the picture taken into the sun helps bring out the shadows of any markings .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't look in the least like glacial striations to me, Kostas. They must be something else...

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Look carefully at the stone surface from the lower right quadrant to the upper right quadrant formed by the shadow of that cross on the surface.

I see a series of small parallel grooves. These surely are not footwear made by people stepping on the stone. And they do not seem to be formed by any action of rain water on the stone surface.

And according to Geo, they are for sure not "rock rat". So what else could they be?

Kostas

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

If not glacial striations, could these possibly be solutional? When small pools of rain water form on the ground. With grass roots systems protecting the rock surface and thus imprinting impressions on it?

You know I rise to the bate of any enigma! And venture forth when others dare not!

Kostas

Neil Wiseman said...

Clearly c.1000 years of footfall.
The end.

GeoCur: Good idea, but the winter sun never hits the Altar Stone in that narrow stripe between S-55-b & L-156.

Kostas: Please stop talking and do some actual research for a change.

Neil

Geo Cur said...

Neil,
Surely late October -mid November around 3-4pm with the sun about 19 degrees altitude and also avoiding SH 56 it would illuminate the surface ?
Spring and summer early mornings / evenings will work too , as long as the sun is not high .

Myris of Alexandria said...

I suspect they are sedimentary structures, some may be cross bedding
or even scour marks.
Look up sed. structures in sandstones.
In thin section the Altar Stone shows signs of non-planar bedding.
See Ixer and Turner 2006.
M
My best guess, certainly some are bedding.

Geo Cur said...

I’ve just posted a couple of pics from finds from a few years ago ,not particularly interesting examples of rock art , but I wondered if they were good examples of
Sedimentary structures . see
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/10383/black_burn.html
btw Myris might remember this golden area .

Scroll to the last pic for another possible example .
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/14850/turrerich.html

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Geo. Fascinating photos!! The one I really think might give us guidance here is one from Turrerich near Aberfeldy. Will revise the post and add it in......

Myris of Alexandria said...

Golden indeed, Calliachar-Urlar Burn.
M

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Neil,

"Kostas: Please stop talking and do some actual research for a change."

You can choose to respond (or not) to my comments and arguments. But you cannot tell me what to do or think! That is pure arrogance and snobbery.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

" Golden indeed,Calliachar-Urlar Burn."

Which turned out be one of the most productive areas for rock art in Scotland ,also some of the most decorative ,over a hundred panels to date ,no doubt more to come .
See .
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/6641/craig_hill.html
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/10383/black_burn.html

Geo Cur said...



Neil ,
a tecnique that might be ideal for the situation is night photography with a side flash .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Very nice,more than the usual cup marks.
Teopan,there must be a Maya site with this name, is to be lauded for his Heather removal.
M

Geo Cur said...



Teopan does sound a bit more Mayan , bit it's actually Tiompan .
Heather is so is much more difficult than turf and it does get replaced .

Myris of Alexandria said...

I knew I knew the word.
It is the sacred enclosure where the temples are.
Strangely there appears not to be a Maya site called teopan, or any Mesoamerican site either.
For purists, Mayan is the name of a language, Maya is the adjective.
M

ND Wiseman said...

[I had responded to GeoCur's remarks, but for some reason it never appeared.]

These very questions had plagued me for some time, so last year, while he was at the site taking photos for my new book, I asked Pete G to shoot a few pics for me - coincidentally just as has been suggested by Geo.

I'm convinced that the Altar Stone is shaped and has no 'glacial stripes'. The pock-marks are due to marginally different densities, and the polished shine is from the footfall of ten thousand people in 2000-plus years.

[No idea why my original remarks didn't post.]

Bucky the Crack-Head

BRIAN JOHN said...

Sorry Neil -- something must have gone astray. I post everything that comes in, unless it involves Kostas and others being very naughty......

ND Wiseman said...

Brian,
I'm away from home this week, visiting my son and his wife and am compelled to use 2 random tablets and a really old laptop. I'm quite sure I did something wrong when posting ...

Rock Art. The fantastic examples as shown by GeoCur do little more than drive me further up the wall! (I really have to buckle down and study these things in more detail, in that I'm woefully ignorant on the subject.)

Though I think I have a possible explanation for Spirals, at this point anyone's more informed suggestion is probably better than anything I might come up with.

That said, I'm certain the dimples in the Altar Stone are not Rock Art. I believe that Stonehenge - even in its oldest incarnation - is more recent than any of the examples I have seen. I want to suggest that the traditional motifs are firmly in the Mesolithic - but again - I'm hardly qualified to make an informed assertion.

Due to being protectively nestled as it is between S-55-b and L-156, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that evidence of campfires might be found around this little exposed stretch of the Altar Stone.

Neil

Geo Cur said...



Neil , the Atlantic rock art style is usually attributed to Neolithic to Bronze Age , secure datd sff from chambered tombs , passage graves etc . Very uncommon in Wiltshire ,although there are the chalk plaques .Axe markings are rae throughout the UK but they are found in BA burials and on a stone circle ,as well as Stonehenge but they are not considred to be part of the Atlantic tradition which is mostly cup marks, rings etc .
Consequently it is sometimes suggetsed tha Stonhenge has no rock art , which seems a bit unfair and should perhaps be qualified .

Geo Cur said...

apologies about the spulling , in general , but particularly last post .

ND Wiseman said...

GeoCur. AKA: The Manchurian Candidate ...

I was aware of the lack of rock art in Wilts, but wasn't aware that some of it had been securely dated.

Some folks would like to call the Axe & Dagger carvings at SH 'Rock Art', but I'm pretty sure it doesn't qualify.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me - with some notable exceptions - that generally, Rock Art is fairly random in location? "Here's a good slab. I'll learn you some ciphers, boy."

The carvings at Stonehenge are purposeful, singular, and they don't overlap. Individually I believe they marked a certain recurring event. Collectively they tell us how long that culture was in business. ie: A good long while.

Neil

Geo Cur said...

We can’t date the open air examples , the dating comes from secure Long barrows passage graves and cists passage which have the same type engravings as found in the open air , although passage graves tend to have motifs that are rare in the open air e.g. spirals .
Dalladies , a Long Barrow in Kincardinshire is the oldest mainland UK date in the late 4th millennium , the Irish and Breton passage graves are earlier . In some cases the engravings are weathered showing re-use and thus predating the monuments .
Choice of situation , like the reasons for carving is varied , they are found on what would have been through routes through hills where settlement would have been less likely and also found where settlement is most likely ,in areas of productive soil/good pasture and extreme edges of productive soil , very high and very low but very rarely at the highest points in the micro or macro region .
The reason for picking a particular surface over others is also varied sometimes it is relatively low lying smooth bedrock , others might be rough , ignoring the neighbouring smooth area .These will take little time to be covered in turf/heather etc and thus more difficult to find suggesting that if an audience was being considered they would have to be aware of the site to see it . These tend to be the most ornate , other times it is the most obvious rough boulder in the area , again suggesting a different type of audience ,if that was a consideration .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Geocur why are you, elsewhere, contesting with that dust mite on the book of history (better still)drowning water flea in the fount of knowledge.
Ignore him save your erudition for those that deserve or will benefit from it.
What is the saying if you lie down with dogs.
M
Move on, concentrate on achievable goals.

Geo Cur said...

Myris ,
I’m sure you’re right . I did enquire a while ago if it was counterproductive pointing out the errors of nutjobs ,but there was no response , maybe it was all too obvious . Experience shows they never learn , the same nonsense just gets repeated months later despite clear refutation . Burke’s urging re. doing nothing has always been the spur .
I’ll heed your advice , although fleas are not a problem .
The ticks are early this year , (seriously ) , mite seems too grand , phage ?

ND Wiseman said...

Myris,

I assume your remark about mites, falling as it did 11 hours after GeoCur's explanation about rock art, was directed toward someone other than myself?

I have been called many things before, but never 'a water-flea on the book of history' !

Neil

Geo Cur said...



Neil ,
note the "elsewhere " and think of the some of the most entertaining and funny Stonehenge and prehistoric "revelations " of the past decade .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Neil
You did not read my words carefully enough. ",elsewhere'"
is the key -namely another blog!!

My words are not randomly written but crafted with much skill.

I did say something about American paranoia please do not prove me correct unless you and Kostas are pairing up.

Also it was not "water flea on the book of history" that makes little sense.
Dust bite on tomes, water fleas in founts. The latter is the clue.

No Neil nothing was aimed at you I would be direct had it been so.
Anyway I would not be able to resist a Cape Cod pun.

Martha
see

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Myris,

May I suggest posting such comments to GeoCur "elsewhere" on that other blog? That way you can avoid confusing Neil and others here. Which you characterized as "paranoia". Which it isn't. Just reasonable doubt needing to be cleared.

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

"prehistoric" being yet another clue?

I had a chat with someone just like that on yet another site. Mentioned that his entire hypothesis could be dismissed in two minutes using standard engineering methods (and then wrote it out on yet another site just to see if I could do it in the time allowed): It took somewhat less than the two minutes allotted.

For some reason, he didn't ask to see it.

ND Wiseman said...

Gentlemen,

I have received an email directing me to that other blog, and though the message was scrawled with nearly incomprehensible chicken scratches, I was able to glean the context. Clearly my English-to-English translator is on the fritz.

I, like Jon and Geo, have sparred with this individual in the past, but have found it too tiresome to continue; the entertainment long gone out of it. But there is little need to look 'elsewhere' for fresh fodder.

Mentions of American Paranoia are deservedly understandable, but derogatory references to Cape Cod - pun or otherwise - cannot be tolerated!
(lol)

Neil

BRIAN JOHN said...

I'm sure Cape Cod is a delightful place -- but I gather that the cod are somewhat smaller than they used to be.....

Myris of Alexandria said...

I am not certain what Mr Wiseman's cod piece is about. Not making a mountain out of a molehill surely.

M

ND Wiseman said...

WoW

No quarter given from the Land of Make-Believe.

hee hee

Constantinos Ragazas said...

GeoCur,

I am working on an explanation for these pock marks on your stone. But I need to know. Are these marks all over this stone, front, back, sides, top? Or only along the side of the rock visible to us in the second photo.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...



The rock is bedrock , it is flush with the ground . The markings natural and man made are therefore only to be found on the upper surface .The bedrock is extensive but the makings are only found at that particular point .

“Or only along the side of the rock visible to us in the second photo. “
The second photo is the only photo of that particular rock . Side of the rock ? See above .
An “ explanation “ from someone who knows nothing about geology or rock art and is looking at a pretty duff pic ?

BTW Brian , I could send the original pic which is slightly better quality if that is any help .

BRIAN JOHN said...

That would be useful, Geo. Happy to publish it again at higher definition -- it is rather interesting!

Constantinos Ragazas said...

GeoCur,

Thanks for that. The personal comments were not necessary, however.

Is the bedrock where these pock marks are showing raised some and rounded above the surrounding ground? And is the topography flat or sloping down in the direction towards the camera in the photo?

Very interesting and potentially relevant these pock marks are only on that spot in the photo!

Kostas

Geo Cur said...


The comments about anyone coming up with an "explanation " when they have no knowledge of any the subjects related to the matter in hand were entirely relevant .
We have seen many examples of the same lack of knowledge involving different
subjects but the arrogance and hubris involved in thinking that you might actually come up with something worthwhile is so immense the ensuing dismissal and laughs make it just about tolerable .

The hollows are cup marks .
As mentioned earlier the bedrock is flush with the ground . It is on a relatively flat terrace with all that entails in slopes below and above .
The cup marks and sedimenatry structures in the pic are the only ones in the pic . There are however other , more interesting cup marks including a ring on another outcrop nearby which does not have the sedimentary structures .There are a further six marked rocks on the terrace about 120 metres away and another 18 metres away .
You can look at the physical situation (the rocks are found at 380-405 m OD , the Glen floor is 260 m OD and the highest nearest point is approx 600 m OD .) and get descriptions on Canmore .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Cut out the personal comments please, chaps, or I shall get into deletion / spamming mode again. Please stick to a straightforward discussion of what the evidence is and what it means.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Thanks, Brian!

Geo,

Interesting what you say, about the other similar pock marks elsewhere along that same terrace where the bedrock in the photo is located.

Are these other pock marks all facing the same direction as the pock marks in the photo? And is the terrace at a higher elevation from the camera position of the photo? How much higher? How big generally are these pock marks?

Forgive me if you already answered some of these questions! But, what the hell! No harm asking if you want to know!

I have no problems believing these pock marks (cup marks ??) are man-made. But I don't believe they were intentional. More, imho, "collateral consequences" to human activity. Certainly, I don't see "art" in these.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

The reason that particular rock was mentioned was nothing to do with the cup marks , it was because it was possibly an example of sedimenatry structures . Some of the other marked rocks within approx 120 m of the first pic can be seen as noted previously ,at http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/14850/turrerich.html .
The average width of cups are approx 40mm with a depth approx 15mm .
I don't understand the questions about the markings facing in the same direction or the terrace height . I'm standing on the terrace taking the pic ,maybe the other pics will help ,although they are only of the rocks not the context .
Rock art is an unfortunate term .
Art is modern concept and is also unknown in some contemporary cultures . The fact that many moderns see the markings as being artistic is of no more consequence than the fact that you don't .
If they were man made then they were intentional .
There have been countless "explantions " over the years I haven't encountered a new one for a long time .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

GeoCur,

I do nderstand the context for your photo in Brian's post. But I was seeking an explanation for these pock marks independent of this context.

What you said is helpful. The size of these pockmarks fits well my thinking about the cause of these. But I will need to know more of the local setting where these are found. So I'll drop this for now. I will likely need to be there to see for myself.

You write, "If they were man made then they were intentional".

I don't agree. One word! "unintended consequences". Of which there are plenty. With no one taking responsibility for them.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

The "if" was unnecessary and a result of being discombublated by the lack of outrageous "explanation ."
Of course the cup marks are man made but they are also intentional . There will be no reasonable explanation that will entail unintended consequences .
Many of the cups and other motifs actually have something resembling "pock marks " but are more accurately described as pick marks , these are where the stone chisel creating the markings has knocked out small pieces of the rock and the are still evident today , this in itself couldn't be achieved without the intention of creating the markings in the first place . I have mentioned this often enough in the past , but have a look at the engravings in passage graves , they are on vertical orthostats and clearly not a by product or secondary effect and there is nothing you can suggest that produced this end result apart from intentional engraving .
It is quite simple to get an idea of the local setting , I have already mentioned Canmore , hich will provide 10 figure grid refs you can look at large scale maps of the area from the 19th C until the present , Google Earth is always useful etc . As far as the markings are concerned you can't beat first hand experience .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Round and round. Leaving this one now -- no more posts please.