Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Was there a proto-Stonehenge near Heytesbury?

 The chalk escarpment, with the Westbury white horse in the distance.  Could the Anglian Irish Sea Glacier have skidded to a halt at this position, and could there subsequently have been a litter of erratics in the Heytesbury area, available for collection and use in stone settings?

In Rodney Castleden's book called "The Making of Stonehenge", on page 111, there is a suggestion that the simplest explanation of the presence of a bluestone boulder in the Boles Barrow long barrow is that the "bluestone expeditions" all took pace before 5,000 yrs BP and that a tribal group in occupation of the Heytesbury area (c 20 km WNW of Stonehenge) was responsible for the enterprise.  His theory is that the stone moving people then built the bluestones into long barrows like Boles Barrow (Heytesbury 1) and maybe also into a simple stone setting.  Several centuries later the inhabitants of Stonehenge and Durrington (maybe after one of their giant raves) decided that they rather liked the look of it, and either went off and pinched it, or else encouraged their neighbours near the chalk scarp to make a generous donation of the bluestones as a political gesture of solidarity.

So the bluestones were moved in two stages, first to the Heytesbury area and then maybe a thousand years later from there to Stonehenge.

It's rather a wacky idea, but I suppose no more wacky than the idea that there might have been a proto-Stonehenge near Waun Mawn, or at Castell Mawr, or near Cilymaenllwyd, or near Whitland in West Wales.  Nobody has ever found any evidence to support the idea, but I dare say bluestone hunters are looking for signs as we speak.........

Whether or not one likes the human transport hypothesis, the link to the Heytesbury / Boles Barrow / Chitterne area is an intriguing one, since the western edge of Salisbury Plain, and the chalk escarpment, is a natural obstacle to the ingress of Irish Sea ice moving from the west and north-west.  Forget human transport for a moment.  Could it be that the glacier during the Anglian glacial episode did indeed skid to a halt against the scarp?  If it did, could there have been a litter of erratics in the area around Heytesbury, Warminster and Westbury readily available for collection by those Early or Middle Neolithic enthusiasts who liked picking up monoliths and doing interesting things with them?

It's rather an intriguing idea, which might lead to a compromise between the glacial transport proponents and the human transport proponents, with both groups being (maybe) partly right.......

I'm not putting a lot of money on this hypothesis at the moment, since there does not seem to be any hard evidence in support of it, but it's worth devoting some thought to it..........


chris johnson said...

Now we are cooking!

This theory - or something similar - fits the known facts most plausibly.

- There is no evidence for quarries in Prescelli
- Glaciers could have moved the rocks to the south-east
- The debitage story at Stonehenge seems to point to bluestones being finished elsewhere.

So where is this mysterious place where the first bluestone circle was erected?

I feel a TV documentary coming on. Brrrr!

PeteG said...

a good place to start might be Sutton Veny Henge south of Warminster.

Myris of Alexandria said...

I am afraid Rodders was a liar when it suited him.
He released the canard that there were beached bluestones on Steep holme (or Flatholme).
Pet. investigation of the three 'bluestones' proved they were amphibolites and were Welsh erratics. Years later Rodders claimed a fourth, but this time genuine SH bluestone was also found, a stone acknowledged as such by Wainright, no less.
Dr Ixer who with the full proto pet rock boy ensemble disproved the earlier claims,publicly challenged, the existence of this stone, that promptly dropped from sight. It is not clear if Wainright ever saw this stone, but unlikely, as the whole thing was for the Daily Mail and its ilk.
All discussed a few years ago in "Waiting by the River".Stonehenge and the Severn Estuary.

BRIAN JOHN said...

There are various others who are liars too, and have persisted in their lies even when the truth is pointed out to them. Remember the nonsense from certain archaeologists about the Irish Sea Glacier never having crossed the Bristol Channel, or about no British glacier ever having travelled eastwards?

The spat about bluestones was a lot of noise about nothing in particular. If we are talking about bluestone monoliths made of spotted dolerite or rhyolite, maybe somebody has got over-excited about something that was misidentified -- but there sure are glacial erratics on Flatholm, as we showed on this blog a year ago, and some of them have come from South Wales and some from West Wales. We think some of them might be Fishguard Volcanics -- shall we call them bluestones? We are waiting for a provisional list from Sid, who still has the collected samples.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not sure why Castleden's integrity should be questioned here anyway. If one looks at his rather innocent speculation around p 111 about the Boles Barrow bluestone, there is nothing there that is inaccurate, as far as I can see, and he simply gives the same info as many others have done.

Myris said...

No there is a difference between being misinformed and intentionally misleading and fabricating evidence.
You persist in claiming 30 different bluestone at SH when it has been pointed out to you that it is closer to 3 than 30 the real number hovers around a dozen.
Does that make you a liar?
However were you to say that you have found 18 new types of rock at SH then I would suspect you of lying.
It matters because the bluestone on Flatholme/Steepholme is in the secondary literature.
As 'Agios K says truth is an absolute you cannot choose parts of it. Otherwise we wander into quarries of mass destruction and start fabricating vast number of bluestones littering Salisbury Plains in strategic dumps.
What is that Scottish Play quotation?
Not the daggers drawn or bubbling newts but the Other one!!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Partly it's to do with definitions, Myris. You and I define the term "bluestone" in different ways, and there is no way I'm going to accept your definition because it is in my view illogical. So we might as well accept the difference of opinion, and get on with life.......

What we are talking about here is pure speculation -- and for goodness' sake there is plenty of that around, especially in archaeological circles. I would defend the right of people to speculate, just as our friend MPP speculated on the presence of a "quarry" at Rhosyfelin on the basis of zero evidence, or on the transport of bluestones along the route of the A40, again on the basis of zero evidence. I don't think our friend Rodney or anybody else has fabricated anything, at least not in this instance.

Myris of Alexandria said...

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on. `I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least - at least I mean what I say - that's the same thing, you know.


TonyH said...

Sutton Veny Henge near Warminster may well be as likely a candidate as any, I agree, Pete.

Pity Brian and his Blogsite haven't managed to attract a few more sceptics like me and Pete who at least live fairly close to Salisbury Plain. Then we might really get our "troops" combing the terrain!!

TonyH said...

"The Salisbury Plain chalk escarpment, with the Westbury White Horse in the distance. Could the Irish Sea Anglian Glacier have skidded to a halt at this position?"

Some with some interest in Anglo - Saxon history may know that the Viking, Guthrum, probably did in effect "skid to a halt" very close to where the Westbury White Horse is now carved into the chalk. King Alfred The Great defeated him near Edington, probably at the Iron Age hill fort above the village of Bratton, in A.D. 878. Alfred almost certainly reached Guthrum by marching along the edge of Salisbury Plain from the vicinity of Warminster: his previous night's camp has fairly certainly been identified, not that far from Sutto Veny Henge, mentioned by PeteG recently in the context of a site worth investigating for signs of blue stone holes.

Just a few accidental similarities!

"Curiouser and curiouser". I must stop my intake of Yerba Mate, Patagonian Tea - though I believe Huw Edwards swears by it.

Another curious broad coincidence/alignment of geography and possible glacial geomorphology: Alfred The Great had emerged out of the Somerset Levels at Athelney and gathered his troops en route to the battle (that, incidentally, led to the eventual emergence of the country of England).

Myris of Alexandria said...

I start the day with red Bush before moving onto tea or on caffeine-free days.
Only tried mate once,I think it needs practice,a bit like pinotage.

TonyH said...

Sorry, folks, if I've veered off the Anglian glaciation thread here, it's just that Alfred The Great sorted the Danes out hereabouts tens of thousands of years later on! Excellent biography by Justin Pollard for those keen on A The G.

How many are still watching The "Last Kingdom" on Thursday nights?