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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Sarsen locomotion


One of my pics from the other day -- showing the glass-fibre sarsen stone on its cradle and rollers, just outside the new Visitor Centre.  No doubt these very large stones were moved from assorted locations (either near or far away) to their present positions, and we have reported often on this blog the latest experimental archaeology work in this field.  What interests me more than the rollers, cradles and sledges is the nature of the rope.  The ropes used to hold the stone in position here are very magnificent -- and very modern and shiny.  But what would ropes have been made of in the Neolithic?  Nettles?  Brambles?  And how strong would they have been?  And how long would they have taken to make?  And how long might they have been in order for very large groups of men to haul extremely large stones across country?

10 comments:

Evergreen said...

That's the real 'secret of Stonehenge' - the ropes. The fact is they spent most of their time making ropes about 100 miles long, then made a poor unfortunate soul walk to Wales and tie one end around a bluestone. He then walked all the way back to Wiltshire where he and his friends pulled the stone to Stonehenge. Same with the Sarsens (but shorter ropes).

Jon Morris said...

The thing they have built looks good given the limited resources that must have been available to them. Perhaps resources were not available to consult organisations who have expertise on appropriate transport mechanisms?

Their primary brief is the promotion of property assets. (See 'Charitable Objects' in link below). Given those terms of engagement, there would be no reason that they should have gone to the expense of employing consultants who are familiar with methods of transporting heavy objects over rough ground.

http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityFramework.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1140351&SubsidiaryNumber=0


If you think the priority should be education rather than tourism/entertainment, it might be worth lobbying to get the objects clause changed?

TonyH said...

Don't agree, Chris. Julian Richards, for instance, is the Archaeologist (formerly based in the Stonehenge landscape and worked for English Heritage) who has considered possible methods of Neolithic transportation of sarsen stones on and off over the last 30 - 35 years at least. Look him up on the subject of experimental archaeology and sarsens and Stonehenge. He has knowledge of what the various modern - day practical people have put forward an he has linked up with their practical projects and broadcast some of them via the modern wonders of televisual communication. He is an excellent communicator ("Meet The Ancestors" host).

Course, the advantage with making your ropes out of NETTLES is that you can brew up a nice bevy of nettle tea after a Hard Day's Night a- heaving and a-lugging. Nettle tea, as we all know, is miraculously restorative in its effects.

sarsen56 said...

Ropes of a very high quality, indeed all but indistinguishable from modern examples, were made in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. If Aylett Sammes really was on to something and Stonehenge 'came out of Africa', then so perhaps did the ropes *. It takes just a little imagination to envisage a seafaring trade in the most highly prized, curious, and exotic commodities of the period. Moreover ships need ropes, ropes haul rocks....

http://discovermagazine.com/2011/jun/02-egypts-lost-fleet-its-been-found

* ideas, mathematics and surveying skills.

BRIAN JOHN said...

"Ropes of a very high quality, indeed all but indistinguishable from modern examples, were made in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age." Evidence please?

Jon Morris said...

Don't agree, Chris. Julian Richards, for instance, is the Archaeologist (formerly based in the Stonehenge landscape and worked for English Heritage) who has considered possible methods of Neolithic transportation of sarsen stones on and off over the last 30 - 35 years at least.

That's your prerogative Tony. I don't know who came up with the ideas shown, but you only need to look at pre-Victorian methods, or those used on a modern wind-farm project (some similar transportation issues in places), to get an idea of more viable alternatives.

TonyH said...

For those who, perhaps unlike Jon, wish to see what Experimental Archaeology already has to offer, take a look at this website:-

www.ancienttechnologycentre.co.uk

Perhaps my last comment somehow had its cord cut between West Wiltshire and Pembrokeshire? Can't trust these new - fangled BT connections....I was remarking that maybe the folk over on the European mainland, say in Brittany, may have come up with their own notions of what material the ropes that manhandled the menhirs were made of. GeoCur??

PeteG said...

a write up of my last Stonehenge Adventure

http://www.silentearth.org/full-moon-rise-at-stonehenge-a-guest-post-by-cindy-chin/

PeteG

Jon Morris said...

Experimental archaeology sounds interesting Tony.

There was a chap (who claimed to be an archaeologist) who did a whacky site on Structural Archaeology (or something like it). He claimed that he could tell what a structure was from looking at the foundations. That might have been an interesting line of enquiry if he knew a bit more about why foundations are needed for buildings.

However, the likes of Julian are not here to defend themselves against being lumped in with that sort of chap. It's not that the Stonehenge roller thing is entirely wrong, but I seriously doubt that anyone has spent 30 years looking at this problem without it occurring to them that it might be worth asking experts.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Somebody said that honeysuckle rope is and was easy to make. Does anybody know more? One problem is that it is apparently too young if the strands are 1 year old, and too old and brittle if the strands are 3 years old. Any experimental archaeology on this?