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Friday, 4 March 2016

On Chris Catling, Trowels and Bluestones

 The chalk scarp at Westbury -- was this the 100m high barrier that prevented the ice of the Irish Sea Glacier from making any further eastwards progress?

Thanks to Tony for sending a photocopy of the "Sherds" section from CA 312.  It's mostly as I expected, but one other bit needs to be dealt with.........

To quote Chris Catling:  "Dr John and his supporters should be asked to present evidence that glaciation reached as far east as Stonehenge and was capable of carrying a large glacial erratic all that way from Pembrokeshire.  He might like, for example, to point to an example somewhere in the landscape of such an erratic, or even a small fragment of one -- for surely the Neolithic people cannot have found and exploited every single one."

Well, the evidence might just be staring us in the face, in the form of a strange assemblage of 43 erratic boulders, slabs and pillars,  of many different lithologies, picked up in the neighbourhood and  built into the Stonehenge stone settings.  That is just as feasible an argument as the one that says that Neolithic tribesment went off to Wales, collected them up and carried them eastwards.  We are not aware of any "anomalous boulders" in the Stonehenge or Salisbury Plain landscape, apart from the Boles Barrow spotted dolerite boulder which Prof MPP now appears to accept as authentic (rather than being a stolen Stonehenge boulder).  And there are plenty of unexplained fragments scattered about which seem to suggest that bluestones were lying around and were exploited BEFORE the earliest stone setting phase at Stonehenge.

For the moment, my gut feeling (based on what we know about ice edge behaviour) is that the ice reached the chalk scarp somewhere near Westbury -- and maybe pushed over it and onto the chalk downs.

The "every single one" argument is a strange one.  I have had this put to me over and again -- and behind it is the idea that there were 80 bluestones used at Stonehenge.  Surely it would have been beyond the bounds of credibility to claim that there were 80 bluestones available in the Stonehenge landscape, precisely the right number to be incorporated into the monument?  To counter that one, all we need to do is to say that nobody has ever demonstrated that there were 80 (or 82) bluestones at Stonehenge.  We only know about 43, which appear to have been used over and again in many different settings;  and the logical conclusion has to be that the Stonehenge builders did indeed collect up all of the bluestones and the sarsens they could find, extending their search area further and further afield, until the costs involved outweighed any benefits that might have accrued.  So in response to Chris, yes, I do believe that the Neolithic people did find and exploit every single bluestone lying on the surface -- and that they gave up in disgust when the stones ran out.  That does not preclude the possibility that there may be more, buried in the chalk rubble or the soil layer, waiting to be discovered by chance or through some systematic search........


TonyH said...

At least Chris Catling (described as Contributing Editor to "Current Archaeology") does take what the magazine describes as an 'irreverent take' on heritage issues in his "Sherds" column.

It is rare to find a dissenting voice to all things Michael Parker Pearson.

And I have only just noticed that the magazine has Facebook and Twitter links:-

We should avail ourselves of Facebook and Twitter to put forward the counter - argument to the human transportation claim.

And perhaps we should all also consider writing in to Ian Hislop's "Private Eye" magazine? Ian Hislop has just said how much his satirical magazine relies on its readers for contributions.

TonyH said...

Fellow Bloggers may also like to WRITE to:-

Current Archaeology Letters,
Current Publishing,
Thames Works,
Church Street,

or by EMAIL to:-