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Monday 7 December 2015

Amazing, or not so amazing?

Here is the Guardian story, posted today.  People love a good Stonehenge fable -- and there have been 11,000 views of the online version already! Much more interesting than sober science.......

Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, evidence suggests

(First posted with the heading: "Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, ‘amazing’ finds suggest".  Then changed.  Maybe the Editor thought that it wasn't all that amazing after all.....)

Evidence that bluestones were quarried in Wales 500 years before they were put up in Wiltshire prompts theory that Stonehenge is ‘second-hand monument’

Monday 7 December 2015

by Dalya Alberge

Evidence of quarrying for Stonehenge’s bluestones is among the dramatic discoveries leading archaeologists to theorise that England’s greatest prehistoric monument may have first been erected in Wales.

It has long been known that the bluestones that form Stonehenge’s inner horseshoe came from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, around 140 miles from Salisbury Plain.

Now archaeologists have discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to the north of those hills, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape. They have also found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted but left behind, and “a loading bay” from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Carbonised hazelnut shells and charcoal from the quarry workers’ campfires have been radiocarbon-dated to reveal when the stones would have been extracted.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson, director of the project and professor of British later prehistory at University College London (UCL), said the finds were “amazing”.

“We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” he said. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

The dating evidence suggests that Stonehenge could be older than previously thought, Parker Pearson said. “But we think it’s more likely that they were building their own monument [in Wales], that somewhere near the quarries there is the first Stonehenge and that what we’re seeing at Stonehenge is a second-hand monument.”

There is also the possibility that the stones were taken to Salisbury Plain around 3200 BC and that the giant sarsens – silicified sandstone found within 20 miles of the site – were added much later. “Normally we don’t get to make that many fantastic discoveries in our lives,” Parker Pearson said. “But this is one.”

Parker Pearson heads a project involving specialists from UCL and the universities of Manchester, Bournemouth and Southampton, among others. Their findings are published on Monday in the journal Antiquity alongside a new book by the Council for British Archaeology titled Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery.

Prof Kate Welham, of Bournemouth University, said the ruins of a dismantled monument were likely to lie between the two megalith quarries. “We’ve been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot. The results are very promising. We may find something big in 2016,” she said.

The long-distance transport of the bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge is one of the most remarkable achievements of Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than two tons and that people or oxen could have dragged them on wooden sledges sliding on rail-like timbers.

Parker Pearson said people in Madagascar and other societies were known to have moved such standing stones long distances and that doing so created a spectacle that brought together communities from afar.

“One of the latest theories is that Stonehenge is a monument of unification, bringing together people from across the many parts of Britain,” he said.

He recalled the moment he looked up the near-vertical rock-face and realised that this was one of the quarries. “Three metres above us were the bases of these monoliths that were actually sitting there ready simply to be lowered out of their recesses,” he said.

“It’s the Ikea of Neolithic monument building. The nice thing about these particular outcrops is that the rock has formed 480m years ago as pillars. So prehistoric people don’t have to go in there and bash away … All they have to do is get wedges into the cracks. You wet the wedge, it swells and the stone pops off the rock.”


Here is the reference to the article in "Antiquity":
Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge. Antiquity, 89, pp 1331-1352 doi:10.15184/aqy.2015.177

UCL has now posted this onto its web site:

To get away from all the hyperbole, here is the other story:


chris johnson said...

Glad to hear Prof. Kate Welham is taking a close look at the area between Goedog and Rhosyfelin. We speculated here a couple of years ago that this would a more sensible place to look that some of the alternatives being explored. It does sound like Castell Mawr has dropped out of the story.

The rest of it leaves me speechless for the time being.

Unknown said...

There is only one site between CRYF and Carn Goeddog and that is the ring feature out on the grassy area before the land drops down into Brynberian moor . It was being referred to as "Carn Goeddog 1 " by MPP and I have to admit the site looks like it was a focal point in the landscape when we take into account features on the surrounding skyline , it DOES seem to say " This was originally a stone circle" . This does not mean that a very old site started off as a bluestone circle and emigrated its parts to Salisbury plain by human hand , it means the site " feels right" that it was originally very important .
I always felt this site performed a function on the northern slope similar to that which the Gors Vawr circle does on the southern aspect of the ridge. It does not mean that the stones which may have been at Carn Goeddog 1 were transported (they could be in gate posts across the moor today for all we know) , it means the site could be a remnant from a lost ceremonial landscape taking in the Preselau ridge as its focus.

TonyH said...

Beam me up, Scotty, I have all the bluestones we need to transport to that place near the Mesolithic posts......who needs Merlin?