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Sunday, 21 August 2016

The human transport ruling hypothesis: the key issues



I keep on coming back to these, because they are fundamental points, consistently and conveniently ignored by those who are intent -- for a variety of reasons -- on promoting the bluestone quarrying and human transport hypothesis.

1.  There is no sound evidence from anywhere in the British Neolithic / Bronze Age record of large stones being hauled over long distances (more than 5 km or so) for incorporation in a megalithic monument.  The builders of Neolithic monuments across the UK simply used whatever large stones were at hand.

2. If ancestor or tribute stones were being transported to Stonehenge, why have all of the known bluestones come from the west, and not from any other points of the compass?  Were belief systems and "local politics" quite different to the north, east and south?

3.  There is no evidence either from West Wales or from anywhere else of bluestones (or spotted dolerite or Rhosyfelin rhyolite in particular) being used preferentially in megalithic monuments, or revered in any way.  The builders always used whatever was available to them in the vicinity, and it can be argued that stone availability was a prime locational determinant for stone settings.

4.  If long-distance stone haulage was "the great thing" for the builders of Stonehenge, why is there no evidence of the development of the appropriate haulage technology leading up to the late Neolithic, and a decline afterwards?  It is a complete technological aberration.

5. The evidence for Neolithic quarrying activity in key locations is questionable.  No physical evidence has ever been found of ropes, rollers, trackways, sledges, abandoned stones, quarrymen's camps, or anything else that might bolster the hypothesis. 

6.  The sheer variety of bluestone types  (near 30 when one includes packing stones and debris) argues against selection and human transport.  There cannot possibly have been ten or more "bluestone quarries" scattered across West Wales.

7.  Bits and pieces of experimental archaeology on stone haulage techniques (normally in "ideal" conditions) have done nothing to show that our ancestors could cope with the sheer physical difficulty of stone haulage across the heavily-wooded Neolithic terrain of West Wales (characterised by bogs, cataracts, steep slopes and very few clearings) or around the rocky coast.

8.  Neither has it been shown that the Stonehenge builders had the geographical awareness,the social organization or the navigational ability to undertake long and highly complex journeys with 80 very heavy loads. 

9.  And if there was a "proto-Stonehenge" somewhere, built of assorted local stones and then dismantled and taken off to Stonehenge, where was it?   The mooted "Preselite" axe factory has never been found, and neither has the mythical Stonehenge precursor.

10.  Analyses of bluestone monolith stone shapes does not suggest that elongated “pillars” were preferred.  Slabs, stumps and boulders of all shapes and sizes are highly suggestive of a glacial erratic assemblage.

7 comments:

Jon Morris said...

"2. If ancestor or tribute stones were being transported to Stonehenge, why have all of the known bluestones come from the west, and not from any other points of the compass? Were belief systems and "local politics" quite different to the north, east and south?"

Out of interest Brian, if it were later shown that one or more of the stones of Stonehenge came from a source that was a long way away and definitely not a potential glacial transport, would that kill the glacial transport hypothesis in your eyes?

On another subject, have been thinking about your site: It's a marvellous resource regardless of whether you subscribe to any particular theory. Have you thought about making sure that it stays available after your passing (morbid thought I know)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Oh, I don't know. Depends on the colour of the evidence. But if stones were shown to have come from all quarters of the compass, that would certainly help the argument about ancestor stones or tributes being brought in to Stonehenge.

I'm not planning any imminent demise, but don't old web sites just stay there, on the web? I don't pay any money to Blogger, so they are not going to react as they would if one stopped paying one's annual fees.......

Does anybody know the answer to this one?

Jon Morris said...

Thanks Brian

I have no idea.. haven't touched my main Stonehengey blogger site since 23-Oct-2014 according to the stats and nothing's happened (ridiculous amount of work on, though no signs that Brexit will change that). I imagine I'll get an email one day saying they'll close it down: They must have a method of dealing with 'deceased' blogs. I'll let you know if something happens.

Joost van den Buijs said...

"2. If ancestor or tribute stones were being transported to Stonehenge, why have all of the known bluestones come from the west, and not from any other points of the compass? Were belief systems and "local politics" quite different to the north, east and south?"

If you formulate it like that, then the answer is simple: "because the ancestors of Stonehenge came from the west". (OK, you would expect tributes to be different and more centralized). Which leaves the question why we have never seen a repeat of ancestor stones being moved large distances (at least I don't know of a site in Europe where this happened).

As for the blog, old blogs just stay there as long as www.blogger.com is alive. The trouble is it won't have eternal life either, so it might be an idea to regularly backup your blog. If the site dies before you, you could move it to somewhere else. Long may you live...

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Joost. On the stones from the west, exactly my thinking ----- not only would the long-distance transport of 80 bluestones be an aberration, but so would the long-distance transport of "ancestor stones." I have done a number of posts on technological and cultural innovations,and am comfortable with the view that they do not just come out of the blue. They develop and then decline, so you would expect to see a development phase and then one in which the technology becomes redundant and is replaced by something else. That could be plotted as a curve. As far as I can see, there is nothing in the record that makes any sense.....

I wonder if I will outlive Blogger? Must keep an eye on its behaviour and its prospects....

chris johnson said...

There is of course nothing like Stonehenge anywhere. This is what makes it so special.

TonyH said...

Yes, Chris, Stonehenge is rather unique.

However, the link between Stonehenge and Preseli is reinforced in the minds of those who wouldst propound the Human Transportation Cause, by the superficial similarity between Pentre Ifan tomb, these days exposed to the elements as it has been excavated so that its upper stone appears to "float" in the air above its supporting uprights, and the Stonehenge trilithons.

This image remains in the minds of the casual interested member of the public who visits archaeological sites whilst on holiday, or reads archaeology/ tourist books, and a link between Preseli and Stonehenge is mentally, probably sub - consciously, reinforced. I think Pentre Ifan is the most- photographed archaeological site in the whole of Wales.