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Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Erratic boulders or quarried blocks?

 One of the slides used in my talk at Castell Henllys the other evening.

The Myris Challenge!  Our beloved colleague Myris seems to think that all sensible geomorphologists would have a problem with my description of these bluestone boulders, slabs and blocks at Stonehenge as "typical glacial erratics" that would not look out of place close to any modern glacier front.  There are plenty of other photos on the "Stones of Stonehenge" web site, here:

http://www.stonesofstonehenge.org.uk

Look in particular at the photos for stones 31 to 49.......

So let's have a straw poll.  Do YOU think these stones look more like ancient glacial erratics, or Neolithic quarried blocks?

30 comments:

TonyH said...

Thing is, when even JUST the upstanding bluestones at Stonehenge are discussed by what we might call the "Photogenic TV Archaeologists" of the MPP and Julian Richards' variety, they always tend to zoom in on the pillared bluestones and/ or the ones with fluted, shaped edges, etc, and....hey presto!..... we are off with the fairies and the angels in Preseli before we know where we are.

Basically, this type of TV archaeologist is simply not given to scientific and properly - deductive reasoning. They just want to tell us a Story, reminiscent of the Max Bygraves era, boys and girls....

Myris of Alexandria said...

They look like quarried block
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

I know you are just winding us up, Myris, but in case any impressionable or gullible person should read this, I have to say that if you, as a geologist, have ever seen stones like these dropping out of a worked quarry face, you have probably never visited a quarry.

cysgodycastell said...

To his credit MPP said that the bluestones at Stonehenge were not worked.

He said that there had been laser scanning of the sarcens and this new evidence suggests that they were worked length ways and then width ways across there faces.

An unrelated point. Can you clarify for me that other than the bluestones situated at Stonehenge and possibly the much travelled Boles Barrow blustone, no other bluestones have been found on Salisbury Plain or its environs?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Actually some of the bluestones ARE worked -- for several of them the shaped features are well authenticated. What I'm saying is that all the bluestone boulders in the bluestone circle are largely forgotten about because of the obsession with "monoliths" or "pillars." As for "bluestones" elsewhere, it's true that no large bluestone boulders of pillars are known from the Stonehenge landscape. That does not mean that they do not exist -- Olwen Williams-Thorpe and Richard Thorpe have studied the issue and are quite convinced that they may well have been present in this open landscape before thousands of years of stone clearance got rid of them. They think (as do I) that some of those that were discovered have now turned up at Stonehenge. As for smaller bluestone fragments, they do exist in many locations, suggesting that they were present in the area well before 5,000 yrs BP.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Smaller bluestone fragments do NOT occur in many locations.
Name an occurrence outside of the immediate Stonehenge Landscape.
OWT and her late, now very late, husband who once with Dr Ixer undertook a pilgrimage to the Wigan All-nighter have been shown to be mistaken in many of their beliefs and conclusions. The pet rock boys have been unravelling and correcting them for half a dozen years now.

Examination of any of the 'distanced' bluestones has so far shown them ALL to be misidentified or even modern road stone for example the West Kennett Longbarrow is not a bluestone but clear Group VIII struck flake.

Rounded cobbles are common in quarries that have Pleistocene overburden so yes common, not typical - go to any roadstone quarry in the Midlands and northern England..

There is not one convincing erratic large or small on Salisbury Plain. They have been looked for for over 60 years. Your saying there is is just wilful book thumping.
M


Peter Dunn said...

Tony,
Sometimes your comments are insightful and knowledgeable, sometimes as far from the mark as you can be. You are very keen on promoting the idea of “myth creation and off with the fairies” in some of the more speculative of MPP’s theories, these may be proved right or wrong in the future, the team in Preseli may be looking for something that isn’t there but if you don’t look you don’t find. I heard similar criticism after the first year of digging of the Stonehenge River Project at Durrington, would you disagree that the SRP has profoundly added to the dating and understanding of the Stonehenge/Durrington landscape? You don’t have to agree with all their interpretations to see that it has.
“Photogenic (amused smile) TV Archaeologists,” well they have both been on TV, Julian not so much these days which is a shame, some of the programes good some not so, but not given to scientific and properly deductive reasoning? Have you read Julian’s Stonehenge Environs Project Report or any of Mike’s list of academic publications?
Others have pointed out before that this blog has created its own myth of cynical, money grabbing , off with the fairies archaeologists, leading gullible and impressionable people away from the truth. It is not helpful.
I live half way between Avebury and Stonehenge as I think you said you do, if you want to have a walk around Stonehenge and discuss ideas let me know, it would be interesting.

Worked Bluestones, as Brian says some of the Bluestones are worked 2 buried lintels finely tooled and shaped and 2 or is it 3 pillars in the horseshoe with the remains of tenons to receive the lintels, also 2 shaped as a tongue and groove (presumably) pair.
Peter

Jon Morris said...

Worked Bluestones, as Brian says some of the Bluestones are worked 2 buried lintels finely tooled and shaped and 2 or is it 3 pillars in the horseshoe with the remains of tenons to receive the lintels, also 2 shaped as a tongue and groove (presumably) pair.

It's a fascinating combination and obviously the remains of a past project. Anyone know why the archaeologists thought this would be a circular monument?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Peter -- the problem with MPP's theories (or at least the ones related to West Wales) is that some of them tend to be promoted -- very prematurely -- as established fact, without going to the bother of analysing the evidence prior to promoting the conclusions. That is not good academic practice, in archaeology or any other discipline. So in a sense MPP and his colleagues are their own worst enemies, and they will be -- and are -- heavily criticised for their method of doing business, especially with a generation of students and a multitude of interested but not well-informed members of the public looking on. They in the business of myth-making -- no doubt about it.

I have never referred to them as money-grabbing -- just as academics seeking to fund their projects from whatever sources are open to them. Whether their applications have been honest, nobody knows except those who wrote the applications and considered them in committee.

TonyH said...

CYSGODYCASTELL

Good afternoon. With respect to laser scanning, I was recently told by Adrian Green, Director at Salisbury Museum, that the alleged Boles Barrow bluestone had been thoroughly examined by laser scanning by the team linked to MPP, including the base on which it currently resides (I had just enquired for permission to photograph it for my own use only).

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- this blog does not exist for the sole purpose of flogging books. Its purpose is to spread light in a dark and miserable world in which untruths and lousy science proliferate. How many is "many"and how few is "few"? We will never agree on how the word "bluestone" should be defined, so let's agree on the word "some".....

You are being rather rough on Olwen and Richard -- of course their work contained some misidentifications and needed correcting -- just as your work will be corrected in the future. Happens to all of us.

Rounded cobbles from quarries? Of course if there is an overburden of fluvioglacial materials that stuff will fall down a face if it is being worked. But it's more than a little disingenuous to pretend that the large boulders with irregular shapes and heavily abraded edges were targetted or quarried from gravel pits in the Preseli area and then carted off to Stonehenge -- or maybe some of these gravel pits were sacred sites inhabited by the ancestors?! As I have argued before, why would Neolithic man want to create a gravel pit anyway, when the landscape was littered with boulders like these? This quarrying business is getting more than a little ludicrous.

TonyH said...

PETER DUNN

I am glad you think some of my comments are insightful and knowledgeable.

The Comment you were particularly addressing above, which was the first one submitted by anyone on this specific Post, perhaps was a little harsh in its second paragraph. However, my comment was entirely to do with the Bluestones, and their relationship to Preseli, which is, in fact, what this Blog is all about.

This Post is considering whether or not the MAJORITY of the bluestones found within the perimeter of Stonehenge are, or are not, worked pillars.

I of course agree that the Stonehenge Riverside Project contributed a great deal to our knowledge and understanding, I have never said it hasn't. I have been to 4 of MPP's talks, and to numerous talks given by Julian Richards over the past 30 - plus years. Both of these gents are very personable characters. I have been a Member of Wiltshire Archaeological Society for 35 years, and have a lifetime's enthusiastic interest in British archaeology.

Whilst Mr M.P. Pearson is entitled to operate on the basis of a ruling hypothesis regarding human transportation of bluestones, with no other factor, not even glaciation, being even considered as a partial cause, I am not impressed by his continued and deliberate complete ignoring of the valid point of view Dr Brian John and his two colleagues have taken in a properly peer - reviewed Paper.



BRIAN JOHN said...

On Tony's last point, I have this very day received messages from people who attended MPP's lectures at Bluestone Brewery and at Castell Henllys. They both said that MPP completely ignored the two papers published by Dyfed, John and myself and spent his whole time going over old territory and continuing to develop the myth. Apparently he did not even mention the perfectly valid alternative thesis that the stones were transported by glacial ice. That is at best deeply disrespectful and unscientific, and at worst deeply insulting to three quite senior earth scientists.

TonyH said...

Here's one for all you ageing hippies, and younger ones, or even proto - hippies:-

Have a listen to this:

www.last.fm/music/The + Who/_/Won%27t+Get+Fooled+Again/+wiki


....and read the lyrics to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971)

Let us know if you manage to read this, our old friend, GeoCur, we miss you. I know you like good music with meaningful lyrics.

Tony

Myris of Alexandria said...


We have heard much about the three "senior academics".
Can we have some proof please of their academic credentials, a list of their publications or even their three most cited publications, or a few from this millennium. Something to assure ourselves we are not dealing with the lunatic fringe (I strongly suspect we are not but doubt is a wicked thing. I am sure the MPP boys and fellow travellers could oblige.
Prof Parker Pearson has many, as do all his team in heavily refereed journals. Not all refereed journals are the same. My guess is that Antiquity and PPS ask for heavier referees than Arch In Wales. (Lovely journal that it is)
Dr John is well-enough known to be given a by/bye or even BUY on this one. incidentally I have never hear anyone bleating on, on this blog, that Brian's book is not free.
Give it away (trust me I hear it is very liberating and allows for one to look a long way down from the moral high ground).
So a couple of impressive cvs and list of papers from the other two senior academics and free copies of the little blue book. Please.
Your idea that they took preselite erratics from quarries to Stonehenge has merit
I shall make sure you will be credited with that. It has the appeal of combining the IKEA quarry idea with that of skip-diving, very green, one for the Middle Age Travellers.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

The three "senior earth scientists" to whom I referred are John, Dyfed and myself. All retired. I am not getting into silly games relating which of us has the greatest weight of publications, and in which journals, some of which are worthier than others. Do your own background research, Myris, is this is something that exercises you.

I would still consider the attitude of MPP and his colleagues to be deeply insulting even if we three were young researchers straight out of university.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Oops -- should have been "if this is something that exercises you"..........

Myris of Alexandria said...

Oh it is not me but is your insistence of claiming your equally authoritative co-writers.
Of course there is no contest in terms of papers etc between yourselves and MPP and his fellow travellers and it would have been too cruel to have suggested that sort of competition.
We do need to know the standing of your 'senior academics', after all SH studies are littered with ex-heads of (Non-archaeological and often Engineering)departments(AKA senior academics)with totally loopy ideas and published books. I include past and current geos (sl!) some of the sillies ideas have been proposed by good geologists my especial favourite of the moment is that the mica on the surface of the Altar Stone would flash back the sun-light on special days.
I am trying to ensure that you are not shackled with them.

Give us some data after all this blog is for openness and enlightenment and the weighing of authorities is the best rule of thumb we have before closing our open mind.

Just a couple of recent papers will suffice and give us a flavour.
Some indication that this work is not a couple of days wandering in the field but has a depth and scholarship behind it.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Be very careful, Myris. This is getting sillier and sillier, and does your reputation no good at all......

Tylwyth Teg said...

A suggestion --------- If our ancestors placed the blustones on sleds made of ice, then it could be both human and glacial action that delivered the goods.

Myris, did you find the present in your mail today?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah -- a suggestion straight out of fairy land. Thought of many times before. The trouble with it is that if the surface is icy enough to move sledges with stones on them, it is also too icy for human beings to haul the sledges -- unless, that is, they are wearing spiked running shoes. If we are talking about snowy landscapes in the middle of winter, with steep slopes and thick woodlands enveloped in snowdrifts, that's another nightmare scenario.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I just realised you said "sleds made of ice" -- now that's a great idea. They melt away when you reach your destination, and you can make a nice cup of tea out of the resulting pool of water.

Tylwyth Teg said...

I notice the reference to fairy land, perhaps you should provide a translation for the non-welsh members of the blog.

Tylwyth Teg said...

If they mixed wood-pulp with the water, with the wood being about 14% of the mix, and then froze it they'd have a material called 'wood-ice', also known as 'Pykerete', which has the same characteristics as concrete and is very resistant to thawing.
Now that would make a fine sled which would travel downhill at a tremendous pace.

BRIAN JOHN said...

My pleasure! The Tylwyth Teg were "the fair people" or fairies -- reputed to live in the sea in Cardigan Bay. Their land was of course enchanted, and if you were lucky (unlucky?) enough to be taken there by the fairies you would have a very jolly time, but would not age at all, and eventually come back to the mainland and the land of humans to discover that all your family members were long since dead and gone. Lots of tales -- all in my folk tales books, free online to anybody who wants to read them!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Sounds like a wizard wheeze. Zooming downhill all the way from Preseli to Stonehenge......

Tylwyth Teg said...

A further thought -------- seeing as about 20% of an iceberg remains above water, then if a blustone was completely encased in ice, and the additional mass of the bluestone was less than 20% of the little iceberg, then the whole thing could be floated around the Welsh coast by pulling on long ropes, the pullers wouldn't even have to get their feet wet.
This is getting silly.

TonyH said...

Brian (re Myris, above, 10.15 a.m.)

Perhaps it should have been:


"if this is something that exorcises you [and brings you to your senses)"

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah -- now there's a thought. Do you think that Myris has been taken over or possessed by something or someone dark and disturbing? Exorcism can probably be arranged. There are apparently still people around who can do it, for a small fee......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tylwyth Teg -- I quite agree.