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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Modern people in fancy dress

This is a rather charming Danish cartoon which I used in my book on Scandinavia more than 30 years ago.  It's a gentle dig at the manner in which the comfortable, placid Danes like to remember their past and imagine themselves as heroic and seriously nasty Vikings.  I also recall that when I started to write historical fiction, the most significant piece of advice I received was this:  "Rule Number One for historical fiction writers:  take great care that in defining your characters you do not create modern people in fancy dress."

I guess the same advice might be applied with advantage to archaeology,  which is full of people who talk about Ancient Wisdom and who imagine their ancestors of more than 5,000 years ago as having extraordinarily sophisticated belief systems and social structures, not to mention high technical ability including the ability to undertake long-distance navigation in complex terrain and the ability to transport very large stones over great distances.

80 comments:

Evergreen said...

Brian, I take your point but when you look at some of the achievements of people living in the Neolithic and BA, they are remarkable. The rock cut ditch at Brodgar, the stupendous ditch at Avebury, the corbelled roofs of passage graves, the movement and erection of large stones, the construction of a gigantic artificial hill that still stands some four and a half thousand years later. Are you happy to imagine the sarsens were brought to the site from the Marlborough downs? No mean feat. Bringing 2 ton stones from SW Wales to Salisbury plain would be an incredible achievement but given the rather 'ambitious' nature of these peoples projects, it doesn't strike me as necessarily beyond their ability.

Dave Weston said...

Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but what a blinkered assessment of the abilities of our ancestors, nonetheless, it’s only to be expected, for in the world of Brian everything prehistoric was created by, or involved, glaciers.

I support Evergreen’s comments and add the following:

a). recently, a 2 tonne stone was successfully transported across the Severn Estuary in an accurate reconstruction of a Neolithic rowing boat, Brian’s Blog neatly avoided this accomplishment;

b). methods have been demonstrated that can easily transport 2 tonne stones overland, but Brian’s stock answer to this is insurmountable problem posed by the impenetrable bog-lands and forests of west Wales, but these obstacles would simply have been avoided, just as the cattle drovers of later years avoided them, and,

c). with regard to long distance navigation I recommend --- Das Raetiasein GPS, in German with English translation, The Raetiastone GPS, Rediscovering a 6000 year old Prehistoric Navigation System, Thomas Walli, Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt. Also recommended is The Ancient Paths, by Graham Robb, Picador, 2013.

Why have frozen when you can have fresh, use water.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now then Dave -- calm down. " .......in the world of Brian everything prehistoric was created by, or involved, glaciers." That is a travesty of what I think, and you know it. I have never denied the wonderful things that prehistoric people were capable of, and have devoted scores of posts on this blog to examining them and -- I hope -- increasing our sense of awe about them. My core belief is that prehistoric peole were intelligent and occasionally ambitions and even brash, but that they suffered -- inevitably -- from technological limitations and that it is a false argument to say "Because they were clever enough to do this or that, they were obviously clever enough to have moved 80 bluestones from West Wales to Stonehenge if they had really wanted to." What I want to see is some hard evidence to back up that assumption (the evidence thus far is very feeble indeed) and some evidence of technological continuity: what happened before, and what happened after, this miraculous achievement? In answer to that question, I see no development of this brilliant stone-hauling technique, and no evidence of its decline, in the British prehistoric period. No end of experimental technology is going to overcome these problems.

Tell us more about this stone transport across the Severn Estuary -- happy to cover it.

Geo Cur said...

“What I want to see is some hard evidence to back up that assumption “

What I want to see is some hard evidence that glaciers extended to Stonehenge , or that anything resembling bluestones were entrained in that area .

“ I see no development of this brilliant stone-hauling technique, and no evidence of its decline , in the British prehistoric period.”
Interesting qualifier about the British , why are all the other areas , where glaciation can’t be used as an “explanation “ , exempt ? Is it because the locals they were brighter or stronger ? They managed it Brittany, and the Irish managed to get their huge capstones erected , neither are too far from Wales , not to mention the plentiful supply of evidence in north Africa . Johnny foreigner can do it , why is it Wales can't ? Maybe you should be considering the effects of glaciation on strength and intelligence ,important minerals missing from the diet etc .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- we all ant to see killer facts in support of our hypotheses, whatever they might be. I quite accept that there is no "killer fact" relating to glaciation on Salisbury Plain, as there is no killer fact relating to long-distance human transport of bluestones. Bluestones would not have been entrained on Salisbury Plain -- they would have been entrained well up-glacier and then dropped on or near Salisbury Plain in what we refer to as the glacier's ablation zone. Looking for a nice assortment of erratics? Just take a look at my post of 12 Feb 2015 and the interesting web site published by Simon Banton.
http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.se/2015/02/the-erratic-bluestone-circle.html
http://www.stonesofstonehenge.org.uk/
As fine a collection of glacial erratics as you are ever likely to see. They just happen to have been gathered up and built into a monument.

No devious motive in using the word "British" Geo -- I was just trying to be accurate, and not wishing to generalise about features elsewhere. Just what is Johnny Foreigner supposed to have done? We have argued endlessly about this before -- but what Johnny Foreigner did not do was cart 80 bluestones for almost 200 miles across land and sea just to build them into a strange stone setting. At Carnac he used what was there. And so on and so on.

Geo Cur said...


Brian , there is much more to Brittany than Carnac ,which I wasn’t even considering , any transport there would have been minimal and the stones are hardly huge , just about the right size for the suggested undernourished , incapable Brits , maybe they were used as slaves .Try the Grand Menhir Brisee , the Kerloas menhir (100-150 tonnes) Dol menhir (50-125 tonnes ) stones etc , they dwarf the Carnac stuff and were moved greater distances .

Limiting the potential to “ British “ is convenient as it includes those areas where glaciation can always be used as a possible explanation and excludes the multiple examples where glaciation cannot be used as an explanation . However Orkney is a part of Britain , which didn’t appear to suffer from the possible mineral deficiencies due to glaciation .The direction of glaciation on mainland Orkney was SE-NW , (known since the late 19 th C. see The Glaciation of the Orkney Islands Peach & Horne 1880) yet the source of the Vestra Fiold components of the Ring of Brodgar involved a NW-SE journey , stone 16 came from Staney Hill which is to the NE of the site , again ,a different direction from that of the glaciation , there are components of the monument from Houton , which is to the south , and it could therefore be argued that they were erratics but there is no more evidence to support that conjecture than the equally feasible human transport ,which obviously applies to the other examples .

“Just what is Johnny Foreigner supposed to have done?” As mentioned earlier , those above , the erection of bigger capstones on dolmens than those found locally in Wales , the multiple , contemporaneous with Stonehenge monuments , in north Africa etc , none are suppositions . Shifting a bunch of bluestones is small beer in comparison .

myris of alexandria said...

As I always say both explanations are improbable.
Quarry-like structure and long orthostat-like stone at a proved geographical origin for some of the debitage at SH is as strong as 60+ bluestone PLUS ALTAR STONE being dumped together close to SH.
Although I am no lover of Joe or in these inclusive and for many of us, exclusively sober, times, Josephine-public, a dozen of our peers -if disallowed an open verdict would, I think, like warm-blooded man rather than icy frost.
I am afraid Kostas (hello you are not forgotten or unloved)would not be allowed onto the jury.
M
One for the archies.
Why did proto-Welsh BA potters like igneous rock clasts as temper. In south Wales these include lots of preseli rocks but I am afraid erratics not taken from the precious sacred hills.

Geo Cur said...


"As I always say both explanations are improbable."

Quite , if we were to consider probabilities and exclude the evidence , most surviving Neolithic and some BA monuments would be considered unrecorded historic period follies .

Groggy q. Why shouldn't local igneous rock be used as temper ?

Evergreen said...

Myris, easy, because of the pretty patterns. Next please.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah sorry I was not specific enough.
When choosing erratics they selected igneous rocks, this is not a Neolithic trait, think of all that crushed quartz and quartzite. Mind you I can never understand why in the British Isles slag is rarely used as temper, albeit not a lot of BA slag in these isles probably even less than has been " recognised".
Perhaps I am seeing too much?

Pretty pattens, a little too Tridentine for me.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, Geo, your comment illustrates my point perfectly. Ancient people A,B and C were capable of technical feats D,E and F in countries G, H and I. Therefore the equally ancient people J,K and L living in parts M, N and O of the British Isles could have been just as clever if they had chosen to be, and could have achieved technical feats P, Q and R if they had wanted to. They probably wanted to, and so they probably did...... Assumptions and fantasies built one on top of another.

OK, analogies are very fine, and we all use them in developing our hypotheses, but they are not a substitute for evidence on the ground.

We have been over all of this before. Many times!

As for Orkney, the Ring of Brodgar and Vestra Fiold, we have been over that too. Use the search box to find the discussions. The directions of glaciation swung about quite a bit -- there are striae showing E-W flows in some places, and S-N flows in others. The geological information re stone provenancing is not as "obvious" as you seem to think. I did write a long time ago to see if I could get the hard geological info, but I never got a reply.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Oh I put my foot in it Boom boom I meant patens.
That is spell checker for you.
M

Myris of Alexandria said...

Dr Ixer knows the geologist who did the provenancing and would take his thoughts seriously. However provenancing sandstone is not easy, else we would be precise in our geographical origin for the Altar Stone.
My belief is to go along with Dr I and assume the Orkney sst is correct. The travel distances are less than Brian is happy to accept for Stonehenge sarsens.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris, you say: ".......a dozen of our peers - if disallowed an open verdict would, I think, like warm-blooded man rather than icy frost." Which peers are you talking about? Archaeological ones would, I suppose, favour the work of our ancient ancestors, because that's what they know about. They might not recognize till and erratics for what they are even if they were standing on a glacier snout.......

"One for the archies" ???? Come off it -- have you been contaminated by too much contact with archaeologists? This is one for the geomorphologists, as any self-respecting earth scientist would agree. What we need is fieldwork, sediment mapping, erratic gathering, glaciological modelling and cosmogenic dating. Then we might be getting somewhere... Maybe the new "Bristol Channel" project currently being set up in Cambridge will deliver the goods.

chris johnson said...

Brian, I am not so unconvinced about the analogies. We need them in order to have something to go on.

I am left wondering, after trekking around North Prescelli and find no evidence of a lost civilisation so far at least, why people might have thought these rocks so special that they would have moved them to salisbury.

Myris remark on the temper is interesting. Is there really enough evidence to be able to talk about a preference?

And, by the way, who are the "Peple"?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well spotted, Chris! Had not noticed! Will deal with at once, since we strive for perfection......

Geo Cur said...



Brian , the peoples of these "countries" were a boat ride away and may even have been of the same haplotype/related , they were also achieving greater efforts than hauling 4 tonne stones across non mountainous terrain .
Are you really suggesting that the people who lived in modern south Wales were incapable of a such a feat, .if they wanted to they could have ,it is hardly "clever" or particularly difficult .Their near neighbours in Brittany were moving far bigger examples much earlier .
It doesn't prove anything , other than it can be done .The same applies to glaciation , we know it can be done but it doesn't mean it was, and if there was no glacier then it cetainly wasn't done .

We have evidence for the direction movement of glaciation in Orkney , where is the suggestion that there is any from Vestra to Brodgar ?
If you don't have the evidence for the provenacing why is it not as "obvious " as I think , ,plus see the Myris comment for that same provenacing .

Myris , the heavier rhyolite or dolerite temper ( for pots in the borderlands ?) will produce sturdier vessels .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Analogies -- quite agree that we need them and have to use them when we try to make the leap from hard evidence to an understanding of links, patterns and purposes. The use of analogies in support of hypotheses happens all the time, in all subjects. But using them too often, when there is remarkably little hard evidence to go on, can cause problems.

I also tend to agree that there is no sign of a lost "high civilisation" or a great reverence for certain types of stones in the Preseli region. Certainly there are abundant traces of occupation of the landscape by Neolithic and Bronze Age tribal groups, but as most archaeologists have agreed, there is no greater density of features here than in other parts of Pembrokeshire, in spite of the rather picturesque fantasies of our dear old antiquarians.

Geo Cur said...


Chris ,
" wee arra peeple " , although rarely heard these days .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- we won't get anywhere on what man or glaciers might or mifght not have done. Let's wait for more evidence to emerge, as it surely will....

I tried to get confirmation that the stones purported to have come from Vestra Fiold did indeed come from there, and not from locations near the Ring. Maybe from the S or SE. Perfectly adequate outcrops there too. No evidence of accurate provenancing was forthcoming.

Geo Cur said...



" Let's wait for more evidence to emerge, as it surely will...."
I couldn't agree more about the waiting ,although we might have to wait for ever before there is any to support glaciation ever having reached Stonehenge and even longer for evidence that anything was entrained in Wales and deposited in Wiltshire .
Meanwhile the evidence could build up to support the human transport hypothesis over an even greater distance than is already suggested by the current evidence .

Adequate outcrops all over Orkney , but the provenancing for the Brodgar suggests Vestra , Staneyfield and Houton . I would be interested to see the evidence for any glaciation suggesting a movement from either of the first two towards Brodgar .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- "....... the evidence could build up to support the human transport hypothesis over an even greater distance than is already suggested by the current evidence." And pigs might fly. Let's wait and see.

Reference please, on this provenancing?

Geo Cur said...


Brian , "the evidence could build up to support the human transport hypothesis over an even greater distance than is already suggested by the current evidence." is far more likely than any evidence supporting the entrainment of rocks from Wales being deposited near Styonehemnge , that really would be "pigs might fly " .

Ref for provenacing "Monumental Risk : megalithic quarrying at Staneyhill and Vestra Fiold , Mainland , Orkney : Richards , Brown , Jones ,Hall & Muir . chap 5 of "Building the Great Stone Circles of the North :Colin Richards ."

Refs please ,on movement of glacaition from Vestra Fiold and or Staneyfield towards Brodgar ?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Your opinion, Geo, with which I disagree. Thanks for the ref -- don't have that book, and since I'm in Sweden there is not a lot I can do to check it out for a few weeks yet!

The same is true of all my glacial references.

I did not suggest that ice had flowed from Vestra Fiold towards Brodgar. Wherever did you get that idea from?

Myris of Alexandria said...

Brian I think you misunderstood the question. It was why would ancient potters choose erroneous erratics from mixed erratic till for temper.
This is not a geomorphological question. Read carefully what I write.
They rarely use slag but seem to like erratics. Note I and Vince show that AS people did the same.
Iron slag and mafics are not that much different in their tempering characteristics.

The Richard's book has excellent tables giving the lithologies of the Ring of Brodgar
And the Stones of Stenness and local outcrops. I am sure you were URGED to read it months ago before your Northern Isles trip.

M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- Not sure what I am being rebuked for. I haven't commented at all on the potters and their stones.

I may well have been urged to read up about Orkney -- on my list of "things to do." Only got as far as Lewis and Callanish. Orkney one day, I hope......

Geo Cur said...

Brian ,
I mentioned that the glaciation on Orkney was in the opposite dirction to the movement of stone from Vestra to Brodgar ,you replied that "the directions of glaciation swung about a bit " .
If there is any evidence to refute my comment I would like to see it .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- your interpretation of what I meant is somewhat extreme! I said what I meant and meant what I said. Just look at the map showing striae -- I have published it on this blog more than once.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah you thought my note was all of one piece.

My question to archives had nothing to do with Stonehenge as you believed but was a new question no wonder I doubted your sanity, my rebuke has hard-love. The erratics as temper was not intended for you and I was surprised as your vehement reply.

Geomorphologists whoever learned have little to say on ancient potting practices. Or do they.
You do not have to convince me that geomorphologists have an important perhaps the most important voice when discussing the travels of preselli rocks. But not the only voice.M
M

Geo Cur said...


Brian , I meant what I said too i.e. as noted earlier the glaciation on Orkney outlined by Peach and Horne then confirmed by Wilson et al in 1935 and re-confirmed more recently by Rae with more detail than is on the striae map show that there was no glaciation in the direction of Brodgar from Vestra .Fwiw the map also shows the same findings .Rae also goes into detail in realtion to the erratics on Orkney and there no mention of anything like any of the slabs found at Brodgar or any of the other monumnets south of Vestra or Staneyfield .

Myris of Alexandria said...

In addition the peers I mentioned were ordinary jurors not archives just ordinary Joe public.
In a court of law my guess is they would side with MPP once the meagre evidence on both sides was presented.
Before Cryf I believed the glacial theory could be correct, post Cryf I think anthropogenic transport the more likely.
But as a born mugwump I think both implausible.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah yes -- I see it now. Sorry about that. Far be it from me to say anything at all about what the ancient ancestors did with their potties.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- I grow weary of this. I never said, or implied, that the ice ever travelled from the NW towards the SE on Orkney.

Phil Morgan said...

Regarding Dave Weston’s reference to rowing a boat and stone the programme it was a Darlow Smithson Production and was shown on the Discovery Channel with the title ‘Stonehenge’. A flat bottomed boat was made from planks stitched together with thin yew branches and the joints sealed with moss, no nails were used in the construction. I was consulted on methods of loading a two tonne stone into a fragile boat, fortunately all went well.
Thirteen experienced male and female experienced rowers took the following route from the Lougher Estuary – Bury Port – Oxwich Bay – Barry – Cardiff – Portishead – Bristol. The aim was to finish at the Keynsham Lock at Bath, they completed the journey as far as Bristol, however, the very wet August of last year produced torrential rain resulting in an amber flood warning on the Bristol Avon River. The safety people stepped in and stopped the trial.
I feel this experiment demonstrated that not only could a boat be built solely from materials available in Neolithic times but that the severe tidal currents of the Severn Estuary could be safely overcome.
Dr Steve Burrow and I demonstrated an efficient method of transporting a two tonne load overland, at the National Museum of Wales in July 2011, and I feel that the combination of sea and land transport, is the most likely way by which the bluestones reached Stonehenge, and I won’t mention the absence of Blue Pennant Sandstone erratics on Salisbury Plain. Ooops, gone and mentioned it.

Phil M.

Geo Cur said...


Brian ,
I never said you you did say the ice travelled from NW towards to SE .
My original comment was "The direction of glaciation on mainland Orkney was SE-NW , (known since the late 19 th C. see The Glaciation of the Orkney Islands Peach & Horne 1880) yet the source of the Vestra Fiold components of the Ring of Brodgar involved a NW-SE journey " and I have seen nothing to refute that .
Further , as Rae has pointed out there are no erratics resembling any of the slabs that are components of the monuments on the mainland , and as also has been noted , the lithography of the components have been available for some time .
Thus , what we have in Orkney (Britain ) are monuments in an area that had been glaciated but the components of the monuments came from sites that are 10 km , as the crow flies , distant , and in the opposite direction to glacial movement .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah Phil I wondered what happened to that little scheme a few of us in this aether brotherhood were approached by them. They were dismissed by the archaeological community and were very put out by that.
Were you paid? I certainly would have needed a great deal of money to have been associated with them, they were not motivated by anything that appealed to me.
All a bit rugger club wheeze.
M

Geo Cur said...



If not seen before worth a watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ0ONJpas
Interesting take on on non rugger stone boating ,starts at approx 17 mins .
The rest is good fun too .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Computer tells me that the video does not exist.....

Geo Cur said...



Same here . God knows where that came from .

This one should work .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sovvzUAVoA

Phil Morgan said...

Hello Myris,
Was only involved in a small way, which was perhaps for the best.

From what was shown on the documentary the sailing part went OK, and then they spoil it by demonstrating how to put a lintel on a trilithon. The method worked on a single trilithon, but would fail if trying to place a lintel on the sarsen ring-beam, because the lintel has to simultaneously engage in the tongue-and-groove joint and the mortice-and-tenon joints. Why don't they think the process through to the end!!
Mini rant over and peace once more decends.

Alex Gee said...

I tried the link, but all |I got was some nonsense about South America?

As a Yachtsman having navigated a yacht from the Bristol docks to Milford Haven, I'd always been skeptical about the ability to move a bluestone by boat.

So i was quite impressed by your account of rowing a boat. until someone mentioned a sailing element. Was this true? mesolithic/neolithic sailors? oh please come on.

Geo Cur said...



The link ,as noted, was about boating (and moving stones for that matter).There was no suggestion that bluestones or the Vestra stones were moved in a similar fashion , anymore than a mention of the Lambert glacier suggests they were entrained from Wales. However in the case of Vestra the similarities are fitting i.e. boating not entrainment, though not implied .
I didn't mention rowing or sailing .

Phil Morgan said...

Alex,
I don't recall anyone mentioning a sail being involved in the exercise, but from memory there was Bronze Age plank boat excavated at North Ferriby in the East Riding of Yorkshire, with evidence of a slot which may have been used to locate a mast.

Phil

Phil Morgan said...

Alex,
I think I see where the 'sailing' element has entered the conversation. It was in my last reply to Myris. Please insert the 'rowing' part went OK, rather than the 'sailing' part went OK.
Landlubber I are see now isn't it, (said with my natural Welsh accent).

Evergreen said...

Can anybody in camp glacier tell me why they are happy to accept that they moved 20+ ton stones on land from the Marlborough area but not that they moved 2+ton stones on land from further afield?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Are we happy to accept that? News to me......

Evergreen said...

Ok, so how far are you willing to accept they moved the stones Brian? (the sarsens or the 'bluestones')

There is obviously a cut-off, a distance beyond which you cannot accept they moved them.

1 mile? 40 miles? Or are you suggesting they put them up where they found them?

Geo Cur said...



Moving stones on Orkney (parts M or N ) , which is much further than Brittany from Wales or Stonehenge as the crow flies , and a far more awkward journey , is acceptable because it is part of modern Britain but because they did it with much larger stones in Brittany that is somehow discounted as they are johnny foreigners and from countries (A or B ) ,despite being much closer to Wessex and Pembs .

Maybe moving the bigger sarsens in Wessex is somehow different from the wee bluestones in Pembs ,something to do with the de-mineralised diet again ?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't be so sarcastic, Geo -- and don't put words into my mouth. I have never denied that some of the big menhirs in Brittany were moved by the people who erected them. How far they were moved is still a matter for debate. As it happens my thoughts about both sarsens and bluestones being gathered up in the vicinity of Stonehenge are not at all original -- geomorphologists Mike Summerfield and Andrew Goudy suggested that many years ago in the context of a study of Salisbury Plain silcretes. And no less an authority than David Field has suggested this too, in a conversation with Ed Pegler and I think also in print. Shock! Horror!

Geo Cur said...


Where was my sarcasm ? where did I say you said something you didn't ?
Sarcasm is hardly something new here .

I never said you denied the movement of menhirs in Brittany , how could you ?
You do ignore it or see an association with the transport of the bluestones as being an assumption or even fantasy , despite that transport being much closer to Wales than Orkney , of much bigger stones than the bluestones ( 4 tonnes compared with the Grand menhir brisee at 280 tonnes )and much earlier than the erection of the bluestones .

Another example of an assumption is , thinking that because one glacier did entrain another may have , but if the assumed entraining glacier didn't exist ,then even the assumption has to go .

chris johnson said...

South America is the perfect place for ....
Well you know

Evergreen said...

Building the Great Stone Circles..Ch 4 :

'..it was noticed that there was a correspondence between the position of Stone 3 and the ditch segment being excavated. Accepting the small scale of the excavated section in comparison to the massive size of the Brodgar ditch, it is suggested that the differential organization of labour as represented by segmented construction compares with the material citation embodied in different lithologies of the stone circle. Under such circumstances, both the distributed practices embedded in the construction of the stone circle and the situated practices of segmented ditch construction fuse to ‘provide a basis by means of which communities create and understand their collective experience’' (Tilley 1999, 10)

I'm aware in previous discussion that Myris suggested 10 lithogies for the SH Bluestones, Brian suggested more.
Despite the groupings, is it still a possibility (again discussed earlier) that each Bluestone came from a different location within the general area?

I've read there were 28 ditch sausages in the SE half of the first SH ditch, excavated by Hawley. Reasonable, if thats correct, to imagine 56 in it's entirety. With 56 Aubrey holes, with at least some evidence (hole 7?) of Bluestones, it's tempting to imagine 56 original Bluestones, 56 ditch segments. Does anybody know if the Aubrey holes in the SE correspond to the 28 known first ditch segments? Could the 'jumble' of stones, sometimes used as evidence against the quarrying and human transport theory, actually be supportive of what is being suggested at Brodgar in terms of differing lithogies and corresponding sausages?

Ooh, i'm hungry now.

BRIAN JOHN said...

'..it was noticed that there was a correspondence between the position of Stone 3 and the ditch segment being excavated. Accepting the small scale of the excavated section in comparison to the massive size of the Brodgar ditch, it is suggested that the differential organization of labour as represented by segmented construction compares with the material citation embodied in different lithologies of the stone circle. Under such circumstances, both the distributed practices embedded in the construction of the stone circle and the situated practices of segmented ditch construction fuse to ‘provide a basis by means of which communities create and understand their collective experience’' (Tilley 1999, 10)

What a load of old cobblers. Why can't people write in plain English?

Evergreen said...

As a side note, I remember reading Francis Pryor on the segments/sausages at causewayed enclosures, imagining them as family 'burial plots'. Whilst no direct comparison in terms of burial, 'sausage per group' at SH may have some mileage. That they were then joined to form a continuous ditch seems almost too obvious.

Evergreen said...

My guess Brian, is its guarded rather than cobblers.
Plain English may be a little too dangerous for the area full of pitfalls in which they are playing.

Geo Cur said...



Evergreen ,
The Aubreys are fairly regular in their spacing but the segments are much less regular e.g. segments 23-27 occupy about the same length of ditch as segments 15-16 .

Evergreen said...

Thanks Geo.

TonyH said...

With reference to Evergreen's quotation from the very verbose "Tilley 1999 10" it may be of value to the discussion to Point out that P. Tilley is a self - confessed Phenomenologist. As well as being given to using many words. I wonder what a North American native would make of HIM? "White man speaks with garbled tongue"?

Geo Cur said...



The C(hris ) Tilley quote is only the very last part i.e. " ‘provide a basis by means of which communities create and understand their collective experience" .

Evergreen said...

Tony, as Geo has pointed out, the authors are quoting Tilley at the very end of that piece.

As I said earlier, it may be slightly guarded, or perhaps cautious would be a better word, but it's not difficult to understand. Which part are you struggling with?

BRIAN JOHN said...

It's me that complained. One might understand what is being said or implied, but one has to defend the Plain English Campaign. One prefers it when people say what they mean directly, rather than trying to impress readers with convoluted phraseology designed purely to impress.

Evergreen said...

I see language being employed out of necessity rather than any attempt to impress.

Myris of Alexandria said...

I am in agreement with Brian, try reading any post processualist bit of writing and not wwant to reach for a sharpened stake.
Mind you I am reading a well known 1970s standard work on BA gold work, the loooongest 70 pages of convoluted text and written before many ardent post professionals were born but the style is there. It is a learned trait.
The third person passive voice is also an anathema.
M

Evergreen said...

It's definitely better read in context. I think it's a great book.

Myris of Alexandria said...

What context, it is very dated now the data handling chapter is a historical document, the text is divorced from the plates and text figures making fluid reading impossible.
I am genuinely interested in why it is great, clearly not my opinion, perhaps I maintain in reading it after reading (nd as background to) the recent bling book ,now that IS great and its younger bracer brother (pc persons read sibling).
I find it a chore to read.What science there is so dated, so imprecise it only leaves the collecting of the artefacts and the art aspects.
But I am open to being led up any sweet smelling garden path to gaze in awe at the look Golden Vanity.
M

Geo Cur said...




I think the confusion still reigns about what book is being discussed .
My guess is that Evergreen is talking about BtGsCoftN ,whilst Myris is referring to "Metaphor and Material Culture " .

Myris of Alexandria said...

No Myris is talking about BA Gold work of the British Isles, sorry he moved on from Colin's enveloping book via The Sound of Crack'd Bells to a discussion of Woodward and Hunter's new Bling book (and their earlier Bracer volume).
His main point was that the style complained about by Brian In Great Circles is not a recent aberration but is deep rooted and as pernicious as Japanese knotweed.
My experience suggest that it is a pan-European curse made worse when read in translation.
Colin's book is certainly very good to read, interesting and valuable and I suspect will be influential. The blog may well return to it later this year perhaps on the year's shortest day.
The bling book has little of the knotweed style and all the better for that.
M

Evergreen said...

Aha, correct Geo! I was v confused, couldn't recognise the 'building..' book from Myris' description at all.

Geo Cur said...

Myris , I realised that you were talking about the bling and bracer books at various points but thought the post processual criticism applied to Tilley rather than Richards et al .
The PP style criticism dates from it's inception , it's a bit like the poll tax , I don't anyone who doesn't find fault with it .The source I believe was hasty reading of Heidegger and lesser extent Merleau Ponty ,followed by Derrida and Bourdieu (who is accessible ) . It's a course followed by many in the humanities , with the addition of even more gallic influences .

BRIAN JOHN said...

This is quite wonderful -- and a complete mystery to me. We need to get Nigel Molesworth on the case......

Evergreen said...

Marvellous, we're back on track, apologies for my part in any confusion. Would very much like to read the Ann Woodward book, have also been meaning to get a copy of 'British Barrows'.
Just to reassure Brian, the 'stone circles' book is well worth the effort, even the 'cobblers' bits, given a chance. (All IMHO of course)

Myris of Alexandria said...

I concur and also urge reading of both books.
Despite my mantra my knowledge of pp is not from the primary sources but Germano-Iberian
secondary sources.
I know many of the good and great who are not fans but there lots who are.
I think given a choice I would take Tilling over Tilley.
Au reservoir.
M

Geo Cur said...



Have to say that I found " British Barrows ", dull . There has been a great shift in understanding of BA barrows , particualrly in relation to chronology (Garwood , Last etc) in the last decade maybe it just can't compete .

I prefer anyone called Millie to Tilley .
I've mentioned it a few times but "phenomenology of landscape " along with a few other lighter and earlier elements was part of the problem allowing for max subjectivity whereby punters felt they were able to put themselves in the minds of the "ancestors" and discover all manner of auspicious features in the landscape .It puts the Watkins and pre war ley hunters and night time ramblers into the shade .

Evergreen said...

Geo, thanks, I will investigate.

I hope that's not Millie Tant?

Geo Cur said...



Even then Ms Tant or tante Millie might just squeeze it , if you get my drift .

Don't let me put you off BB , just didn't do it for me .
Certainly cheaper than the recent bling volume which I have yet to read .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Note the bracer volume is now very cheap.
M

Evergreen said...

No, I'll give it some more thought though, still not cheap, think it's around the £30-40 mark. Might wait to see if I stumble across a cheaper copy at some point, I've waited this long!

Evergreen said...

Thanks Myris, will take a look but would really like a copy of the 'loadsamoney'
I can stare lovingly at it on my bookshelf after reading

Myris of Alexandria said...

No at Oxbow it is 9.95 sterling. Down from 45.0 sterling.
I have having a second copy and was even tempted to use it as a stocking filler.

Don't know why so cheap.
One of life's great pleasures is seeing rival academic's books on the remainder table and letting them know, or better still charity shops. This does not apply to the bracer book well not most of it.
The bling book is superior and better considered.
M

Evergreen said...

Sorry Myris, regarding price I was replying to George re "British Barrows"! Perhaps we should all make more use of the 'reply' function, I think it puts the message directly underneath the post that is being replied to.