THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 9 August 2015

New paperback: The Stonehenge Landscape



Thanks to Tony for drawing attention to this new book, which was published in July.  Looks very interesting.......

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/stonehenge-landscape/

There is a review in "British Archaeology" by Mike Pitts (Sept / Oct issue, p 54) which highlights a number of interesting issues.  The book summarises many of the free online publications arising from recent EH work -- we have referred to some on this blog.  The argument is given for the use of LOCAL sarsen stones at Stonehenge, rather than sarsens carried or pulled all the way from the Marlborough Downs / Vale of Pewsey.  Apparently there is also an examination of the question "Was Stonehenge ever finished?" -- or at least "Was the sarsen stone setting ever finished?"

There are clear signs here that the authors of this book are rather sensible people!  And even more to my liking is the idea that Stonehenge was created by "trial, error and humour".  I love it!  I have always had a feeling that Stonehenge was a folly, and now I am even more convinced.......

All that having been said, I have obviously not read the book -- so if anybody wants to add a review or report on it in detail, let me know....

26 comments:

TonyH said...

The B.A. review by Mike Pitts concludes with this paragraph.

"The book, and the research behind it, make clear that even now we have much to learn about Stonehenge. Current university field projects have been immensely productive, as generators of new information and as forces for intellectual change. Yet there is also a need for calm survey and inquiry, AWAY FROM THE DRIVERS OF FUNDERS, MEDIA AND PERSONAL CAREERS. Historic England has here shown magnificently that it can offer the essential alternative service - it is the Reithian BBC, perhaps, to the archaeological equivalent of the anarchy of independent broadcasting. Our national heritage needs both."

BRIAN JOHN said...

Would agree with all that -- with respect to many different research fields, including geography and geology. The need to attract funding, and indeed the need sometimes to get into bed with funders, is very dangerous indeed. It is but a short step to delivering spectacular results which the sponsor can use for his commercial advantage -- and objectivity and sound science go out through the window. Unless, that is, a few honest citizens and independent scientists can stand up and tell it like it is.

Evergreen said...

A folly?! Are you referring to the Sarsens only here?

The cursus', numerous Bronze Age barrows, avenue, large henge, wooden circle, LBs etc etc would seem to indicate a site of some importance Brian.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so, Evergreen! All the best follies I know are built on sites of some importance. Grand landowners in the 1700s and 1800s loved building follies on their stately estates, just to show how powerful and important and frivolous they were.

Evergreen said...

Indeed they did, but SH was a cremation cemetery with, almost certainly, stones (not sarsens) in place as it was being used for that purpose.

I wouldn't be tempted to call the Sarsen monument a folly either. If you do, you might as well refer to all megalithic monuments as follies, it's meaningless.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Talking in the dark here, because I don't actually know what David Field and the others have actually written. Maybe "folly" is the wrong word, since it implies something frivolous -- maybe the word "aberration" would be better? And indeed that word has often been used for Stonehenge. It is an aberration, since there is nothing like it anywhere else -- and all that was needed was for somebody (or a group) to have a wacky idea about building something rather extraordinary, for some reason that we clearly do not understand.....

Evergreen said...

There is nothing like it in stone, obviously. The sarsen element appears to be unique amongst stone circles. It has lintels, the assoc working is unique. SH itself partly consists of stone quarried and transported from many miles away (take it easy!) But i'm not so sure it was unique in terms of overall concept, it may be a stone representation of a wooden circle. The way the stones were worked in order to lock them together must surely have been a method used by it's builders on wood previously.

ND Wiseman said...

I would introduce the term 'End-Product' to this, Brian.

In my view, Stonehenge is unique for a couple of reasons. 1) It's among the last stone monuments to be built. 2) It's the distillation of several thousand years of study; firmly nailing down those things the builders wished to pass along by illustration. (Some say demonstration - which may be more accurate.)


It was a working statement monument which employed the final word in capability, both in engineering skill and exemplified metaphor.

Neil

Hugh Thomas said...

I travelled to Portsmouth earlier in the week and stopped off at Stonehenge for a stretch of the legs and a break from driving. What the hell are they doing with the place ? It has been turned into a rat race.. I can understand the removal of the road and wanting to return the monument to the landscape and the ferrying of people by bus to the site , but the visitor center? It is nothing but a giant money making machine ferrying people like sheep through the shop on the return from the site, nowhere to just sit quietly and ponder. It is obvious they want money and not understanding, I had a long chat with the guides present I think they thought I was one of those visitors they wish would never turn up, my questions were "not the norm" as they said . I was shocked by the lack of knowledge of Preselau beyond " The bluestones are quite portable and came from there". I asked if they had ever tried moving one over boggy grassy uneven ground and was met with blank stares " No but they did it".... As if by magic I suppose... There was easily a few hundred tourists milling around the monument , never heard an English accent once, not calling them sheep but they were all taken in by the sales pitch and taking selfies is the order of the day. The only things truly missing from the Americanised , Disney style presentation are people dressed up as the neolithic heroes who are paying their wages. I feel quite sorry for the poor sod (or sods ) who designed the monumemt back then missing out on the free flow of cash passing through the till that could be the cash cow to turning them into millionaires today as it is £17+ plus just to go look at their work. Look out Craig Rhos Y Felyn a t shirt and mug selling visitor center will be bulldozing your way . Questioning will bulldozed by the selfie and understanding will mean doung nothing more than adding to the cash flow....I did point out to them their route for transportation was slightly off given the quarry making process going on at Rhos Y Felyn, I do not believe even "they " would have used the eastern cleddau from here... Was met by yet more blank stares and " Yes but they did it sir".... Hurrah for 21 century dumbing down of facts and wrapping a myth up in bullsh*tting, sheep herding " dont ask searching questions , give us yer money" candyfloss......Anyone not taken in by the sales pitch is in for a bumpy ride, you have been warned.... ;)

BRIAN JOHN said...

That's a pretty depressing report, Hugh -- although this is not the first time people have complained on this blog about the current ~"Stonehenge experience." Sounds horrendous -- I think I might stay well clear....

What is more serious is the "dumbing down"of the displays and information provided to visitors -- maybe it is actually designed for those with zero understanding, or even for those from abroad? Your average Chinese tourist is presumably not deemed to be capable of taking on board more than one interpretation of what happened at Stonehenge -- so "the approved Stonehenge narrative" is what is fed to them, with nobody trained to deal realistically and politely with alternatives such as the glacial transport theory. Several people have said to me that my book is no longer on sale in the shop. I have been trying to find out whether that is true, but the chain of command at the Visitor Centre is now so convoluted that I can't find anybody who will give me an answer. Maybe it is too "radical" for the current management to cope with?

What is more serious still is the change from "showing" things to "telling" things. To hell with the evidence -- let's just give people a story. That, ultimately, is anti-science, and we see it in many fields as well as in archaeology. One of my biggest gripes about what has been happening at the Rhosyfelin dig is that we have been told quite a lot but shown absolutely nothing, since 2011 when the dig started. No evidence at all, in print or on the web. There are lots of reasons for that, which we can explore some other time....

chris johnson said...

I have not been tempted to visit the new Stonehenge experience. The cost is wicked but becoming typical for UK. My daughter just visited the historic dockyard at Chatham with her boyfriend and they were charged 38 GBP just for entry. I feel these places are part of our heritage and I am sure many British people cannot afford these prices.

On top of the cost, the amount of time involved and the commercialism and the crowds and having to make a reservation. Gone are the good old days of stopping off for a quick ciggie, with no fences and no company - just the sky and the birds and the wind and the stones.

I don't mind so much about the story being told. It might even be true :)

Myris of Alexandria said...

Now is there not an irony in decrying the commercialization of Stonehenge and also complaining about loss of book sales from said location.

Only those of us who have made nothing financially from Stonehenge,indeed have spent much money on discovering the truth of it can afford to be so lofty.

Is the present set up at Stonehenge more a dog's dinner than the dog's bollox sounds very like it.

Dr Ixer I hear is busy writing the penultimate debitage paper for the ferret club. Material with no known orthostat parent or exact geographical origin. But possibly the most abundant debitage numerically. It is the beloved gravel of blessed Kostas who is making his mark on britarch where he gives praise to Brian but little for others.
We miss you Kostas.
M

Hugh Thomas said...

Hi Brian I looked for your book, I could not find it with other books on sale on the bookcases, but it was heavingly busy , I could have missed it but am sceptical. I did though find a single copy in the middle of a glass top table display of bluestone jewelry ..... That is the only one I personally saw .

chris johnson said...

Hi Myris,
Thanks for the Britarch tip. I'll check it out although Brian's blog is my go to place for stonehenge and preselli. Glad you find a place to chat with your blessed friend. Please let us know when he tells something new, fact based, and relevant. Anyway, you don't need to be missing him.

Look forward to hearing more about the debitage.

chris johnson said...

Myris (again),
Re your special friend. The post by Angela Mitchell on 14 August at 21.01 sounds very very familiar. Not long before you two will have to find a new place to cozy up.

chris johnson said...

and another one...

"Members are dropping like flies.

We have lost more than 45 members since Costas first posted on February 27
this year.

I am receiving requests from members wanting to know how to get off britarch
citing costas' postings as their reason.

Orion"


BRIAN JOHN said...

Strange how our friend Kostas appears to be causing mayhem over at Britarch. Why don't they just send him packing? As I have discovered several times, tolerance, and a vague hope that somebody will go away and leave you in peace, doesn't get you very far......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris, I am mortified by your comments and feel that I am deeply misunderstood! I'm not complaining about commercialization -- I'm complaining about dumbing-down. Different thing entirely. And there's nothing ironic about me complaining about the apparent disappearance of my book from the Stonehenge bookshop. As you should know by now, I am not in the least interested in filthy lucre. If I was, I would be doing something else. All that motivates me is the desire to spread peace and enlightenment into the darkest corners of the Neolithic world. So it saddens me to hear that the only decent book on the bluestones may not be available to all those who might benefit from it. My philanthropic activities are well known -- just look what a vast amount of free evidence I have donated to Prof MPP and his friends over the years. I have been unstinting in my generosity, and as a consequence sleep very well at night.

TonyH said...

It grieves me to hear of your Stonehenge Visitor Centre experience, Hugh, and I am thankful I've not yet succumbed to coughing up the £17 for the dubious "experience". I'm so pleased I managed to again get there about 4 years ago, had a good walk around the Greater Stonehenge Landscape, taking in, for example, the Greater Cursus, The Avenue, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge; The Cursus; the Mesolithic posthole markers in what was then the car park; also the Winterbourne Stoke crossroads barrow group (adjacent to the A303).

All that was free: then the bonus: I had booked my WANHS Devizes ticket to go within the Inner Stones of Stonehenge, which was truly awe - inspiring. No need for any Visitor Centre experience! Myself and a fellow Geographer from one of Brian's Durham Geomorphology intakes of the late '60's accompanied me. So we scrutinised the bluestones as well as the Sarsens etc, even if warned not to touch them!! Plenty of fresh air, a stunning sunset, and hardly a foreigner in sight, though there was an American musician wearing his OWN branded teeshirt, at least he seemed to have had a respected career.

I recommend this map: "Exploring the World Heritage Site Stonehenge & Avebury 1:10.000 scale, water - resistant sheet, double - sided. £9.99 English Heritage (as was).

A walk around the Greater Stonehenge Landscape is possible without forking out at the Visitor Centre, and is recommended as you see Stonehenge in its context, plus the myriad of other ancient monuments.

Myris of Alexandria said...

It is wonderful to know that between you and Dr Ixer the tradition of academic potlach is in good hands. I too know to my cost the intense grief of shining a pure white light in the gloom of ignorance only for the gaberdine swine to avert their eyes.
Ever is fate of dispensers of Truth.
Speaking of that I must admit to introducing Kostas to britarch, I think I have been a member for a decade and there are many sub-Kostas on it, it has been like watching tares sown amongst tares, with Kostas as Japanese Knotweed. Rarely has there been anything of value on britarch and very very few mainstream archaeologists contribute or I think read it.
Amazed and of course delighted to know of your sleeping habits oh were they but universal.
If they have stopped stocking your book shame on them as their supplier you must know.
M

Hugh Thomas said...

This morning I went for a walk into the Waun Mawn area, I believe this suspected remains of a stone circle were investigated by and rejected by MPP as proto Stonehenge site . There are mini quarries all over the summit of this small hill and a small cairn,I wonder if he knew about the large ring to the west around half a mile away ? I went to find it and soon located it, it is, for want of a better phrase a much more heavily eroded version of the enclosure north of Carn Goeddog. A low grassy bank which becomes a grass curve at the most eroded parts and its eastern quadrant has a standing stone leaning heavily which once would have been four feet high. Around five feet away is a rounded boulder and few other very low stones close by...

TonyH said...

It's alright Myris/ confidant of Dr Ixer!

Your cryptic mention of "potlatch" does not befuddle me: I have studied the NW of N America potlatch ceremonies of the tribes therein!

TonyH said...

Perhaps Kostas has an alter ego: could he also be Costas, as played by Tom Conti in the film "Shirley Valentine"? Anyway, at least he's got as far as contributing to BritArch, but, as Myris has often urged, maybe Kostas also NEEDS TO READ THE PRIMARY LITERATURE!! i.e. the frequently - academic level articles within the body in British Archaeology.

chris johnson said...

Hugh, I always thought one of the missed opportunities is for MPP to have spent time with more people who have an intimate knowledge of the hills - thinking of Brian in particular. On the other hand it is difficult to see through another's eyes and so we will just have to look at the evidence whenever MPP sees fit to publish, if ever.

There is an abundance of interesting sites that might repay proper archaeological study. Rhosyfelin must qualify top of the list based on the provenancing although it is frustrating that so few resources are made available.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hugh -- yes, I know that strange round feature on the hillside above Waun Mawn. And yes, it reminds me of those other strange rings on the Preseli - Brynberian Moor area which we discussed earlier.

Those mini-quarries near the summit of Cnwc yr Hydd -- agree they are very strange, They remind me of the mini-quarries around Carn Briw on Carningli Common -- used in that case to provide loose stones that were then built into the conical mound always assumed to be a Bronze Age burial site. There is no similar conical mound on Cnwc yr Hydd -- but I have always thought that there must have been one at some stage. Maybe it has been completely destroyed by farmers who have used it as a convenient quarry for stones for buildings and stone walls?

TonyH said...

With regard to Hugh and Brian commenting above upon the failure of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre to keep up with the stocking of Brian's "Bluestone Enigma" (Greencroft Books, 2008), I have suggested to Brian he contact Tim Daw, as he is known to us on this Blog, and also has a significant role at Stonehenge. There seems to be an indifference/ inertia at the Visitor Centre to providing the broad spectrum of opinions on Stonehenge.