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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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Millennium Stone Fiasco




Just in case there is still somebody out there who thinks that the bluestones at Stonehenge were transported by enthusiastic (or reluctant) human beings all the way from West Wales to Stonehenge, here is the chapter from my book that deals with the great Millennium Stone Fiasco, just to put you right off the idea.......

https://www.scribd.com/doc/231584137/The-Millennium-Stone-Fiasco

Of course, Prof MPP now thinks that all this stuff about sledges and rollers and rafts is nonsense.  The stones were simply carried by groups of volunteers, resting on a sort of lattice work of bamboo (oops -- sorry -- substitute oak or whatever, and forget the weight of the lattice cradle....).  The latest theory is that the stones were carried in relays of about 2 miles at a time, with one carrying team passing the load on to another all the way along the A40 and thence to Bristol and thence to Salisbury Plain.

46 comments:

Myris of Alexandria said...

At least the book plug is overt.
"Other Stonehenge stone transport books are available".
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, everybody who reads this blog knows about the book -- it's flagged up under the big title. Since you ask, I can't get any sense at all out of EH, or the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, or the bookshop manager, about whether the book is still available at Stonehenge or in any other EH outlet. They all shunt my requests for info on to others. I think the book has been banned on the grounds that it is too scientific and subversive. If anybody knows anything more, I would be pleased to have news. And if anybody who lives nearby feels inclined to pop in and have a look, to see if it is on sale or not, that would be appreciated.......

TonyH said...

I do know that English Heritage's HQ at Swindon does possess your book on its shelves, and also that David Field, an archaeologist suspected of possessing an over- abundance of common sense (sadly he is now retired), has his own copy and has read it.

I'll send you his last - known email address, Brian.

myris said...

Why not try to buy a copy from them.

My Opaque Atlas has also been lost from the web recently and I am getting many irate emails from users and am getting no help from SME who host it. "Refurbishing the site but have encountered problems" MMMMMM.

As I am very fond of saying, my atlas was once reviewed as the 'most dangerous book in the world'; read that and weep. THAT is subversive!
My publishers were very sanguine and it sold very well in hardback and better as a CD_ROM, indeed the faults of the printed version became lauded in the aether.

M

TonyH said...

ODE TO MPP & ASSOCIATES/ RHOSYFELIN BLUES

Woke up this mornin'...

Blue on blue
Heartache on heartache
Blue on blue
Since you've gone away
Blue on blue
Heartache on heartache
Now your smokin' gun is overlaid.....

TonyH said...

Apologies to the early '60s U.S. song, "Blue On Blue", whose lyrics I have slightly mangled.....

Myris ofAlexandria said...

This is better.

Superb parody idea. And saves reading the first book.


"The spice melange, it's so cinnamon sweet,
I put it on most everything I eat.
It's addictive, too,
And don't it make my brown eyes blue.

Dad got control over all that spice,
But Baron Harkonnen had him iced --
Tried to kill me, too,
And don't it make my brown eyes,
Don't it make my brown eyes,
Don't it make my brown eyes blue.

So me and my mother ran away across Dune,
Got found by the Fremen, not a moment too soon,
They said it was easier to leave us behind,
But if we went with them, it would stillsuit them fine.

Now I'm dreamin' of a huge jihad,
And the Fremen all think I'm God --
Maybe I do, too,
And don't it make my brown eyes,
Don't it make my brown eyes,
Don't it make my brown eyes blue".

credits

from Who Let Him In Here?, released 20 January 1991
Music: "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Richard Leigh







BRIAN JOHN said...

This is not better at all. All most irregular and confusing -- back onto the topic, please chaps, before I threaten you with the whole libretto for "Dream of Gerontius".......

Myris of Alexandria said...

What no Ring Cycle threat or plot of the Mahabharata.
You are not trying, those some might disagree.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Funny you should mention the Ring Cycle. My wife Inger was brought up on it, having had a Wagnerian heldentenor as a father!

Upn Attum said...

Please don't feed the alligators,
They don't like your beans and 'taters.
They like their food warm and moving,
So leave them alone while they be grooving.
Please don't feed the alligators,
And they won't be feeding on you.
Ooo, Koo Koo Cach Ooo.

Phil Morgan said...

I would say the Millenium Stone Fiasco was akin to climbing Mount Everest in flip-flops; in theory it could be done but in practice -------.

An ill thought out and ill executed assignment.

Given the funding that the project received, with no need to obtain permission to cross property boundaries,it wouldn't be too difficult to transport the bluestones from Preseli to Stonehenge.

BRIAN JOHN said...

You offering, Phil? Your faith in the ease of the project is touching.....

Phil Morgan said...

Young Brian,

Although you can't see it, I'm smiling. :-)

Me

BRIAN JOHN said...

I was one of the volunteer pullers on the last section down to Blackpool Mill-- seriously hard work, it was! And that was on roads, going mostly downhill, and using Netlon. Could the stone have been carried on a cradle instead of being pulled? In the Neolithic, no way, unless an advance guard had cut a swathe through the forest first. Has anybody ever thought seriously about the logistics of this heroic effort? Navigation party, tree-cutting party (no iron tools), swamp track-making party, rope-making party, sledge, cradle and boat-making parties, relay teams, and so on and so on. Been over all that before, many times, but some people apparently still want to believe it all..... and MPP still says "Oh yes, they just picked the stones up and carried them off to Stonehenge!"

Myris of Alexandria said...

In October's Antiquity there will be a multi-authored paper on the feeding of the Stonehenge workers Craig et al.
You omitted from your long list the ladies or hairy, woad-bedecked men making the cup cakes.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, back to the barbies again. Double beef burgers for the builders please, and make it quick....

Phil Morgan said...

Hello Brian,
Cancel the post that said I'm smiling, and substitute 'beeming serenely down from Shropshire'.

A more detailed reply to follow.

myris said...

builders and quick in the same sentence.
please keep it real
M

Evergreen said...

Brian,

"Has anybody ever thought seriously about the logistics of this heroic effort?"

Yes, Aubrey Burl, but not over land, he wrote about the possible journey by sea and it is very amusing. "Kamikaze crews" I think he called them.

Geo Cur said...

Dunno about the heroic bit , but in what way would it differ from other prehistoric and recorded historic long distance transports that we know about ,with the same logistical problems and use of similar primitive techniques .The only difference is that in some cases real jungle is encountered , bigger stones are moved etc ?
Maybe the heroism is found in those participating in modern attempts in allowing their efforts to be compared with the older and also more recent successful attempts outwith Blighty .No need for serious thought , we have the direct evidence including on the spot reports and film of the modern examples .

Phil Morgan said...

Hello Brian,
You list a series of obstacles that you believe would put the transport of the bluestones from Preseli beyond the capabilities of our ancestors, particularly in relation to the method and organisation of the Millennium Stone Fiasco as follows:

1). Hard Work ----- A basic principle of organising a project such as manipulating awkward and heavy loads is to reduce the workload to manageable proportions. I suggest that machines along the lines of the ‘A’ frames demonstrated and tested at the National Museum of Wales in 2011 would have been used. In the past you have cited Andy Young’s (Exeter University) comments regarding the practicalities of such a method. However, Andy Young was only present for the first day of a two day event, he missed the second day where the bugs had been removed and it was shown that eight people could transport a four tonne load without too much hard work.

2). Roads and Netlon -------- A fundamental property of modern day roads is the high coefficient of friction generated between vehicle tyres and the road surface to reduce the danger of skidding to a minimum. Fortunately tarmac roads weren’t available in Neolithic times. It is generally accepted that rollers would have been used to reduce the frictional resistance; however, there is a school of thought that thinks the wheel may have been in use in Britain at the time of the stone-moving exercise. It is relatively easy to put wheels on a sled; the wear on the axles is overcome by using wheel bearings formed solely from wood.

3). Cut a swathe through the forest ----- No need for a great deal of cutting for animals and humans had been making tracks across Britain for millennia before the time came to shift stones. The tracks may have been improved in places but they would have avoided swamps and dense forest, land animals dislike swamps.

4). Logistics:

a). Navigation --------The eight prominent hills and mountains listed below provide sufficient way-points to walk the 150 mile journey from Salisbury Plane to Preseli.

i). Amesbury to Milk Hill, (51.376549, -1.850252) = 14 miles apart;
ii). Milk Hill to the Malvern Hills, (52.104766, -2.338886) = 32 miles .. ;
iii). Malvern Hills to Hay Bluff, (52.009586, -3.086171) = 40 miles .. ;
iv). Hay Bluff to Pen y Fan, (51.883511, -3.436704) = 17 miles .. ;
v). Pen y Fan - Fan Brycheiniog (51.881021, -3.707156) = 12 miles .. ;
vi). Fan Brycheiniog -Trichrug, (51.890319, -3.891735) = 8 miles .. ;
vii). Trichrug to Pen-crug-melyn, (51.934820, -4.179311) = 13 miles .. ;
viii). Pen-crug-melyn to Foel Drygarn, (51.970606, -4.683437) = 21 miles.

b). Tree cutting and

c) Swamping, have been discussed above.

d).Rope making --------- Long lengths of rope are not required when using the machine cited I (1) above. Ten ropes each of ten feet in length would be sufficient.
The use of excessively long ropes, as shown in your photo, simply would not work in even a lightly wooded area, for as soon as the lead pullers have to negotiate a bend the ropes foul the trees, which reduces the effort imparted to the sled. The more pullers that go at a tangent around the obstacle, the greater the effort needed from those people between the obstacle and the sled, until the load is greater than the effort when operations come to a halt.

e). Sledge, cradle and boats ------ Yes to a sled but cradles and boats are not required, although a team recently demonstrated taking a bluestone from west Wales , across the Bristol Channel and into the Bristol Avon in a replica prehistoric boat. Aubrey Burl's kamikaze crews may not have been so crazy after all.

f ). Relay Teams ----- nothing ridiculous about that, most industries operate on a shift system today which is a workable form of relay teams, and motor vehicle rescue services pass broken-down vehicles from one team to another to cross the country.

And I’m still smiling.

Phil

BRIAN JOHN said...

All very jolly, Phil, and of course many people have spent thousands of hours on splendid experimental archaeology projects -- many of them faithfully reported on this blog. But in the end we come back to the same old problem. No evidence. It does not help to resolve the arguments to say "they could have done it if they had wanted to" or "they had the skills to do it" or "they did it in the jungles of Nagaland and therefore they did it here"........

Quite simply, on a cost/benefit analysis, no matter what their technical skills might have been back in the Neolithic, it just doesn't make sense.

Evergreen said...

re cost/benefit, you'd have to understand what the benefit was before making any judgement along those lines, no?

Geo Cur said...



Brian ,the comment "they did it in the jungles of Nagaland and therefore they did it here " is a straw man .
Nobody has ever used that argument just as ,hopefully, glacial proponents wouldn't argue " a glacier entrained stones from A to B and therefore it did from Presceli to Somerset " .
There are ethnographic reports and film of people moving stones and cars ,heavier than bluestones , through jungle , across lakes , and over hills ,(worthy of the name )using technology that would have been available to anyone in the Neolithic/EBA ,if you are interested in the logistics there is a source for the how's and even contemporary why's .You might also discover to what extent cost benefit analysis would be appropriate , or more to the point, applicable .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so, Evergreen. Any suggestions?

Phil Morgan said...

"We come back to the same old problem" -------- no evidence of glaciation in the Stonehenge area, no Blue Pennant Sandstone erratics on Salisbury Plain even though over 200 cubic kilometres of the stuff has been removed from the valleys of the South Wales Coalfield, the sticky point being the sandstone glacier joined the bluestone glacier in the Bristol Channel, thetwo types of stone caught the same bus.
Never mind, Brian now posts a new topic to divert attention.

Evergreen said...

Who knows, we could list a thousand possibilities, but taking into account the nature of the site, I don't think it would be particularly outlandish to imagine it may have been a matter of life or death to them.

Or not.

Just think how many alterations, nuances in thought there must have been in just one 50 year period, in one place. Then look at the dates for SH, Avebury. Discussing the Neolithic or BA in an attempt to discover why they moved or erected stones is a pleasurable waste of time.

Geo Cur said...

If cost benefit analysis could provide anything useful regarding the reasons why anyone might transport stones long distances in prehistory , it would be interesting to hear the results of similar analyses to the erection of prehistoric monuments like Stonehenge , Newgrange ,cursuses or even a family sized portal dolmen etc and how that might “ make sense “ to moderns .Whatever the conclusions ,applying them to transport might help , although Louis’ response to the question on swing might be the best answer .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Phil -- why this obsession with Pennant Sandstone? However much of it was removed from the South Wales Coalfield, it fades into insignificance by the many cubic km of rock of many types removed from the whole of southern Britain prior to the onset of the Ice Age. Where on earth did you get the idea that the Pennant Sandstone was all removed by glaciers, and that somehow there ought to be Pennant Sandstone erratics everywhere? We have dealt with this before, and your argument is no more sensible now than it was then.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo, nobody has ever used the argument that human transport of the bluestones probably happened because it has been shown elsewhere that big stones can be moved over considerable distance by people who have the motivations and the skills to do it? Excuse me -- but are we reading the same books and articles? Or listening to the same lectures? Every time Prof MPP opens his mouth he uses exactly this argument. In fact, I sometimes think that this is the only argument people have to support the hypothesis......

Geo Cur said...



Brian , you have changed the "therefore" to "probably " .
That's due to no one having used that argument . Not quite René is it ?
Do the glacial proponents argue " because glaciers are capable of entraining stones from A to B , others "probabaly " entrained the bluestones from Presceli to Somerset " ?
Or is it more nuanced ?

Phil Morgan said...

Brian,
The 'fall-back" position with glaciers is, if the latest glaciation didn't cause the erosion then a previous one/s did. It covers everything and nothing. The South Wales valleys have clearly been glaciated, and the Pennant Sandstone hypothesis stands until you provide a more substantial answer.

BRIAN JOHN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- now you are being pedantic. We all use analogies. What I am saying that this human transport one is a hoary old favourite, used all the time. How many times have you or I heard this argument in a talk: "So you think the human transport theory doesn't stand up? Of course it does -- just look at what happens in India / Madagascar today and look what happened yesterday on Easter Island / in Egypt... no problem. Case proved. Next question?" Hmmmm.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Your hypothesis stands? Not with me it doesn't, Phil. Because a valley or a trough is glaciated, that does not mean it created the trough or valley from scratch. Nearly all glaciated troughs (including the Greenland fjords)started life as river valleys -- it is these pre-existing valleys that direct or channel the glaciers to start with, when a glacial episode comes along. The glaciers may deepen and widen the troughs as the glaciation proceeds. I can recommend a good text-book for you......

Geo Cur said...

Brian , I wasn't talking about analogies ,it was the use of "therefore " ,later downgraded to "probably ". You continue to provide straw men . The mention of prehistoric and modern long distance transport of stones is not one of "case closed " either . I have never heard anyone make the argument you suggested ,it's as daft as "glaciers can shift rocks all over the place , therefor they moved the bluestones , case proved " .At least the human transport proponents don't make that straw man claim .
The prehistoric examples , including the European ones you excluded , get ignored , that is why you are reminded about them .They are no more evidence for the human transport of bluestones than you mentioning an erratic in Greenland is evidence for the glacial transport of the bluestones . The human transport examples also provide clues to moderns about the how's and maybe an insight into the why's and possibly why cost benefit analysis is not a useful tool when dealing with thinking that is far removed from modern western economies with an emphahiss on profit and least effort .

Phil Morgan said...

Brian,
The 'fall-back" position with glaciers is, if the latest glaciation didn't cause the erosion then a previous one/s did. It covers everything and nothing. The South Wales valleys have clearly been glaciated, and the Pennant Sandstone hypothesis stands until you provide a more substantial answer.
Away for a few days now, perhaps we can continue the discussion when internet access is restored.

TonyH said...

Of course, we know for sure that plenty of Celtic Saints whizzed across the Seas, what we don't know is whether they lugged any stone chapels, pulpits or sculptures, though, since there's no evidence they did, that's similar to the evidence we have for the Neoliths transporting whopping megaliths, proto or otherwise. In my opinion, the latter notion is where National Geographic and Parker Pearson and Crew meet Walt Disney: all good entertaining fun, but........nah!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony -- interestingly enough, our local saint, St Brynach, is reputed to have travelled from Rome to Milford Haven on a slab of rock, since he did not have a boat at his disposal at the moment of need. Divine intervention, I suppose. I'm not sure how solid the evidence may be in support of such an hypothesis........

Myris said...

So did St Joseph of Arimathea plus/minus Mary's boy child. He taught Him to be a Cornish miner so, that and a bit of carpentry know how would make him a forerunner of the iconic Polish all-round builder.
I had some 'knock-up' my seven-sided conservatory (Excellent job, only sticky patch was when I made a joke about illegal immigrants). I left them to it, Brits said it was too difficult to make, an asymmetric, odd angled glass roof without lots of money, wrong!!.
M

TonyH said...

Alfred The Great, unlike your local Brynach, Brian, made more than one pilgrimage TO Rome, the first when he was knee - high to one of Merlin's leprechauns, but his journeys, like GLACIERS, were fairly prosaic and not particularly magical. He WAS Alfred the Great, however, and he was a good 'un all round, though the Vikings probably didn't think so.

Phil Morgan said...

Hello Brian,
It now seems that it was rivers that formed the deep valleys of the south-Wales area which were then slightly modified by several glaciations. I am slightly confused for the following extract from the Rhondda Cynon Taff Earth Audit appears to paint a very different picture.

Rhondda Cynon Taf
Earth Science Audit
2003-2004
By Lesley Cherns1, Michael G Bassett2 and
Andrew Haycock1,2

2 Department of Geology1 School of Earth, Ocean and
Planetary Sciences
Cardiff University
Box 914
Cardiff
CF10 3YE

cherns@cf.ac.uk
National Museum and Gallery of Wales
Cathays Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NP
Mike.Bassett@nmgw.ac.uk

During the Pleistocene numerous glacial and interglacial stages affected the
Coalfield, though evidence from the last, late Devensian glacial stage has
obscured older deposits. Large masses of ice built up across the region as the
Brecon ice sheet spread south towards the Coalfield. This ice sheet remained
unaffected by local topography until it reached the huge Pennant sandstone
crags of Craig–y–Llyn (Barclay et al. 1988), southwest of Hirwaun, where it
split into two major lobes. One lobe migrated southeast into the Taf and
Cynon Valleys, while the other lobe continued west into the Neath Valley.
Ice built up in the heads of the Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach, and
migrated along the valleys southeastwards to join the larger Taf and Cynon
ice masses near Pontypridd. Ice from both Rhondda valleys also migrated
southwards round Mynydd Dinas near Trebanog and Williamstown into the
Ely Valley.
Towards the end of the Devensian glacial period, ice built up in cwms
across the region forming glacial corries or cirques, suc h as Craig–y- Llyn
southwest of Hirwaun, Tarren Saerbren, Graig Fawr and Graig Fach west of
Treorchy.
As ice masses melted during the onset of a warmer interglacial period,
glacial sands and gravels were deposited widely across the region. These
deposits are largely confined to the shallow valley sides and bottoms.

p.s. Thanks, but the text book isn't required.

BRIAN JOHN said...

You misunderstand things, Phil. This is all perfectly consistent. The valleys are very old indeed, freshened up a bit by ice.

Phil Morgan said...

A plaster for every sore comes to mind, but so be it; we still don't know where all the scoured Pennant Sandstone has disappeared to, for its not on Salisbury Plain.
The maps produced on pages 113 and 117 of your book imply that the Irish Sea Ice and the Welsh ice joined forces somewhere along the present day Gower to Cardiff coast, and then jointly travelled towards Stonehenge, where (using the scale on the map on page 117 as a guide) the arrow head on the dotted line is only 3.2 kms from Stonehenge. Not much to misunderstand there, unless some exaggeration or poetic licence has been used!

BRIAN JOHN said...

You still misunderstand things, Phil. Nobody has ever said that the South Wales valleys are entirely cut by glacial erosion. I do not understand this obsession with Pennant Sandstone. there are no contradictions in anything I have said, or in anything said by other geomorphologists about the nature of glaciation in South Wales. Please read some of the standard texts.