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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bluestones and the houses of the holy -- new article by Tim Darvill

 Here is a new article from Tim Darvill, containing a lengthy section on the bluestones and their part in the evolution of the stone monument.  It's a nicely written and coherent account of what went on at Stonehenge, aimed maybe at people who are more interested in ideas than facts.

TD suggests (of course!) that between 50 and 80 bluestones were imported from Wales around 2500 BC or 4500 BP. That's a thousand years later than the date suggested by MPP.  This was for a double bluestone circle or arc.   The Prof does not seem to think that there were bluestones in the Aubrey Holes earlier than that.  Later on, he thinks the bluestones were removed from this initial setting and re-set on at least three more occasions, including a bluestone oval of c 25 monoliths and a bluestone circle of  40-60 monoliths created around 2270 - 2020 cal BC.  He suggests that more bluestones might have been brought in.   He also says:  "It is possible that one final reworking of the bluestones was planned when the Y and Z holes were dug between 1630 BC and 1520 BC outside the Sarsen Circle (Cleal et al. 1995, 256–265). With 30 holes in each ring, mimicking the 30 stones of the Sarsen Circle, they could have accommodated some or all of the remaining bluestones, but in the end the sockets were left empty."

TD thinks that right from the very beginning, bluestones were put up and then taken down and used for tool making or for the distribution of sacred lumps of rock.  Look at pp 105-116 for much more detail.

Another quote: 
The disposition of the various bluestone lithologies in the Stage 4 monument suggested to Richard Bradley that these elements of the monument were essentially a microcosm of the landscape of southwest Wales (Bradley 2000, 92–95), an idea developed and expanded as the complexity and diversity of stone sources within and around the Preseli Mountains became clear from new fieldwork (Darvill 2006, 136–141). Now it is clear that the central Bluestone Oval comprises only dolerites from outcrops on the high ground of the eastern Preselis, while the Outer Bluestone Circle includes dolerites from these same areas interspersed with rhyolites and tuffs from outcrops on lower ground around the central ridge.
Not only is the pattern of lithologies different between these two components, but also the preservation of the stones. The pillars of the Outer Bluestone Circle are very fragmentary, many are missing, and they do not seem to have been very consistently shaped. By contrast the dolerite pillars of the Bluestone Oval were well finished, graded in height from the lowest in the northeast to the tallest in the southwest and survive rather better.

All just as fanciful as the writings of MPP, albeit with a different emphasis.

As one might expect, the emphasis here is on Stonehenge as a sacred place, although there is less than one might expect about healing stones and hospitals.   That having been said, TD cannot resist repeating this hoary old piece of nonsense:

In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered to have healing properties. On the main Preseli ridge the outcrops around Carn Menyn are associated with enhanced spring- heads, some of which have been significated through the application of rock art (Darvill and Wainwright 2011, 2014). Carn Goedog, an important source of pillarstones (Bevins et al. 2014; Parker Pearson et al. 2016), stands above springs feeding the Afon Brynberian. While to the north of the ridge the well-explored outcrops of Craig Rhos-y-felin which appear to have been a key source of rhyolites (Ixer and Bevins 2011b; Parker Pearson et al. 2015, 2016) stand beside the Afon Brynberian and less than 1km from the holy well (Ffynnongroes) at Crosswell, Meline (F. Jones 1992, 215). At Stonehenge itself there is a long tradition that pieces chipped from the stones there had a curative effect (Grinsell 1975), and the connection between the site and water in Stonehenge Bottom and the River Avon was formalized by the construction of the Avenue at just the time that bluestones were introduced into the central setting.

 This is of course sheer invention:  "In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered to have healing properties."  Why do people keep on telling lies, even after it has been pointed out by those who know these hills that there is NO tradition of healing springs in the eastern Preseli area?

TD thinks that the Boles Barrow bluestone was taken to Heytesbury from Stonehenge in prehistoric times and built into a much earlier long barrow as part of the process of blocking its entrance.  That seems rather fanciful, as does the attempt to explain other bluestone fragments in "inconvenient" contexts as stones taken from Stonehenge and put in other places so as to spread their magical or sacred qualities -- in other words for ritual purposes.  Hmmm...........

In short, a strange mixture of erudition and fantasy, with a sprinkling of falsehoods.  There is nothing here to show that there was human transport of the bluestones.  It is simply assumed.  There is nothing to show that Stonehenge was ever complete, or that there ever were 80 bluestones in the stone settings.  All that is assumed too.  And there is no consideration of the possibility that the bluestones were simply picked up in the local area, or that the builders of Stonehenge had not the faintest idea where they had come from. Another assumption seems to be that the bluestones were all pillars -- which they clearly were not.   The guiding principle seems to be, as ever:  if you are short of facts, throw in an assortment of assumptions and fantasies, and with a bit of luck people will think you are giving them a reliable history.


Timothy Darvill (2016) Houses of the Holy: Architecture and Meaning in the Structure of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK, Time and Mind, 9:2, 89-121.
DOI: 10.1080/1751696X.2016.1171496
To link to this article:

Stonehenge in central southern England is internationally known. Recent re-evaluations of its date and construction sequence provides an opportunity to review the meaning and purpose of key structural components. Here it is argued that the central stone structures did not have a single purpose but rather embody a series of symbolic representations. During the early third millennium this included a square-in-circle motif representing a sacred house or ‘big house’ edged by the five Sarsen Trilithons. During the late third millennium BC, as house styles changed, some of the stones were re-arranged to form a central oval setting that perpetuated the idea of a sacred dwelling. The Sarsen Circle may have embodied a time-reckoning system based on the lunar month. From about 2500 BC, more than 80 bluestones were brought to the site from sources in the Preseli Hills of west Wales about 220km distant. Initially arranged as a Double Circle they were variously rearranged at least four times over the following centuries. The diverse lithology of the bluestones reflects the landscape from which the stones derived so that the monument embodied a microcosm of the distant land. Associations with water and healing suggest one reason why Stonehenge became such a powerful place in prehistoric times.


TonyH said...

Brian's mention of falsehoods set me recalling Fleetwood Mac's 1987 memorable song, "Sweet Little Lies", which, in the current Tim Darvill context, has these lines, which seem curiously appropriate today to this particular Post:-

"if I could turn the page
In time then I'd rearrange
Just a day or two
Close my, close my, close my eyes
Little lies

The power of the Imagination, ah, it is very strong!.... but we should remember it is just that, imagination. We can end up in the realms of Arthurian legend.

Tim is very skilled at sewing together his what many would consider half - truths or whatever, into seemingly valid facts, with his references to ideas on Stonehenge apparently developing over time e.g. he quotes Leslie Grinsell''s observation of folk chipping off bits of bluestone AT STONEHENGE in relation to Tim's own pet (ghost) hobby - horse, namely that the bluestones have always been imbued with healing powers from Time
immemorial. Brian clearly strongly refutes the idea that that has been the case in Preseli, and I am inclined to believe Brian, not Tim on that point.

Alex Gee said...

"In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered to have healing properties." Why do people keep on telling lies? Lies is a bit harsh Brian!

Agree however that a more precise sentence would have been more informative?

Perhaps: "Two people only; Professor Wainwright and myself,hold this belief,

and have done so for less than a decade"

As I've said befor; Darvill really should pursue his giant xylophone


BRIAN JOHN said...

Oh all right, Alex -- maybe it's a bit strong to accuse GW and TD of telling lies -- maybe they are just being economical with the truth, or are just innocently misled by their own fantasies? Maybe TD should rephrase this bit, and say: "In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered by Geoffrey Wainwright and myself to have healing properties." Yes, that would be OK. It's rather ungrammatical, but we can forgive that.....

TonyH said...

I think I heard that Tim D plays the guitar rather well.

Maybe he should form the Darvill- Wainwright and The Extravagant Healers Band, performing on Preseli Pinnacles in all weathers.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, I still have happy memories of seeing Messrs DT and GW on the telly, up on Preseli, in the bucketing rain and lost in the mist, showing their rather insignificant Neolithic mini-orthostats to the lovely Alice.........