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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Friday, 27 May 2016

Gordon Pipes and stone rowing

This is from the Heritage Journal web site.  Hadn't covered this experiment from 2005 before.  All very nutty and jolly.  Keeps people out of mischief, I suppose. Nice flat lawn, as usual, carefully manicured and smoothed poles, good solid rectangular block of concrete, and beautifully shaped timber beams on the ground, presumably cut and planed at the local timber yard for maximum efficiency.  No expense spared.  Why don't these hearty experimental archaeology gangs ever try to replicate real world situations, with bogs and terrain littered with boulders, forests, steep slopes, fast-flowing streams, fierce wild animals and hostile natives throwing stones and spears?  Now THAT would really be fun........


How DID they move the bluestones?

26/05/2016 in Experimental Archaeology, Stonehenge

An experiment by University College London has just shown that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected. According to Prof Mike Parker-Pearson: “It was a bit of a shock to see how easy it was to pull the stone.”

It reminded us of experiments starting in 2005 organised by Gordon Pipes, a carpenter from Derbyshire and a member of Heritage Action. He formed a group of interested amateur antiquarians, including mainly our members, called ‘the Stonehengineers’ and staged a demonstration (appropriately, at the National Tramway Museum) of a method he believed may have been used. He called it “stone rowing” and his idea was that lifting the stones on levers and moving them along in a series of short steps would involve less friction and therefore require less effort than hauling them on rollers – so far fewer people could have been involved.

Subsequently, joined in by many well-known archaeologists Gordon demonstrated both stone rowing and traditional hauling methods at the Channel 5 Stonehenge Live event. The spectacular feature was that about thirty people were easily able to pull a 14 ton block (equivalent to 3 or 4 blue stones) uphill.  As we wrote at the time …..

“It became clear that hauling could be made far more efficient than had previously been demonstrated, particularly by using far smaller rollers. In the end the consensus was that both methods might have been used – hauling for level, solid ground and rowing for when the ground was problematic or steeply sloping. It was certainly felt it would be difficult to imagine stones being manoeuvred around corners or over streams or lined up to precise positions without a degree of rowing being used.”

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