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....
To order, click

Friday, 10 June 2016

Stonehenge: cremated remains from West Wales?

The latest twist to the MPP narrative of bluestone transport is revealed in the reports of the recent talk at the Hay Festival.  According to the Independent,  half a million cremated bone fragments at Stonehenge came from the west of Britain, potentially Wales.  According to the Telegraph, MPP says that 100,000 (just a fifth of the total)  fragments came from the west, possibly Wales.  That's a lot of fragments analysed and identified!

Apparently there is unpublished research showing that the cremations took place on pyres which were made of different types of timber.  We await with interest the results of that research, since presumably the thesis is that Pembrokeshire timber was different from that of Devon and Cornwall, or Glamorgan, or Somerset........

There is nothing in the recent article called "The dead of Stonehenge" to indicate the provenances of the cremated bones found in and near the Aubrey holes.   Age, sex and pathology, but nothing about origins.

The other piece of speculation feeding into this is the one about cremation / funerary customs being learned from Neolithic Ireland and then transported into Pembrokeshire and thence to Wessex, all before the start of the Bronze age.

It seems that the narrative becomes ever more complex........... it's just a pity that as ever, speculation  is used as a substitute for hard evidence.  Circular reasoning is never far away.  Let's hope that when this new research is published, it will be better founded and more convincing than the research a few years ago that centred on "cattle teeth from the west".....


They found around 500,000 bone fragments at Stonehenge which they say came from people who lived in the West of Britain, potentially Wales. They found around 500,000 bone fragments at Stonehenge which they say came from people who lived in the West of Britain, potentially Wales.

The team at UCL has also been studying half a million bone fragments found at Stonehenge and discovered that one fifth of them came from people who lived in the west of Britain, possibly in Wales. Some of them may even belong to the hallowed ancestors which were brought to be reinterred at Stonehenge.

“Where are the dead? The simple answer is Stonehenge, because what we hadn’t realised was that Stonehenge is the largest cemetery of the entire 3rd millennium BC in Britain,” added Prof Parker Pearson.

“Most of those remains are cremated. Just burnt fragments. There were several hundred people buried.

“Who were they, where did they come from? Latest scientific results not yet published tell us that we are looking at people being cremated on pyres made from different kinds of material.

“In other words almost certainly not all from Salisbury Plain. They are arriving from Stonehenge already cremated and we know from our own excavations that they were deposited in organic containers, which were probably leather bags.

“It’s very possible that among the cremated remains, those could actually be some of the dead themselves that were brought with them.”



TonyH said...

A little more nuanced..... and cautious..... in MPP's last book offering, page 77 of "Stonehenge: making sense of a Prehistoric Mystery", Archaeology For All, Council for British Archaeology, 2015:-

"Strontium isotope analysis of the teeth of two cows buried in the ditch at Stonehenge shows that on of them was raised in western could well have come from Pembrokeshire. Christopher Snoeck, a researcher at Oxford University, has discovered that some of the people whose cremated remains were buried at Stonehenge also came from Western Britain."

Pages 70 to 80 of Chapter 3, 'Stonehenge & Society' cover most of MPP's ruling hypothesis bluestone notion.

TonyH said...

There are 3,300 notable people's remains buried at Westminster Cathedral. So said the Dean on Radio 2 today. Presumably royals, scientists, poets, writers, satirists....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Do they represent a mass migration from the far west, and did they carry the remains of their ancestors with them, in little leather bags?

Neil Wiseman said...

Hi Brian.

Some of the remains in the Aubreys pre-date those holes by between 3- and 500 years, so it's possible some were carried from the West.

We know they liked to curate stuff, as shown in the cattle-skulls which flanked the Southern Causeway, so it's not a far stretch to think they lumbered around the countryside with a bag full of Ugge the Magnificent.


TonyH said...

Seems rather fey for brawny, ?bluestone - carrying, proto - Welsh boyos to be carrying little leather bags too, but I guess it would be understandable if, after one hundred and forty miles of heavy lifting, that their wrists would be rather weak......

TonyH said...

The archaeology research work took 4 years.

Have read elsewhere that researchers at Teeside Unversity looked at how hot the cremation fires were, and how long the bones were in there for:-

Read somewhere else, in Mike Pitts' Digging Deeper blogsite, 2016/02/03, that a research report is due out later in 2016.