But at another level this illustrates the obsession with archaeological myth-making, and the manner in which the scientific method has been subverted or even abandoned. There is, as far as I know, no evidence whatsoever (to do with petrology, surface characteristics or morphology) that the big sarsens have come from far distant territories, and what Katy is doing here is throwing out an hypothesis which will presumably, at some stage, be tested by a search for evidence. Create the story first, shunt it off to the media -- and no matter how wacky it is, is then becomes invested with a degree of respectability. Look at the Telegraph headline, and look how "supporting information" is pulled in to suggest that the thesis has some credibility.......... and from now on Katy will no doubt be looking at field evidence through her rose-tinted spectacles and citing it in support of a wildly premature hypothesis.
I venture to suggest that a geology or a geomorphology research student would NEVER operate in this way -- and indeed would not be allowed to by his / her supervisor. It all tells us a lot about archaeology, and helps to explain why MPP, Josh Pollard and the rest of them thought it would be OK to tell the world that there had to be Neolithic bluestone quarries in Pembrokeshire, to announce within a few days of starting their first dig that they had found one at Rhosyfelin, and then to spend six digging seasons looking for and describing "evidence" which does not actually exist.
Massive 25 ton stones of Stonehenge may have come from further afieldby StonehengeNews
The builders of Stonehenge are known to have sourced the smaller bluestones used in the 5000-year-old monument from Wales.
But a new theory suggests that the entire monument might have come from elsewhere, even the huge 25 ton Sarsen stones which make up the large circle of the Wiltshire megalith.
The huge sarsens at Stonehenge could have come from elsewhere
Katy Whitaker, of the University of Reading, will present a new paper at symposium at University College London next month suggesting that the sarsens could have come from sites as far away as Ken. (Kent?)
“Most people are aware that some of Stonehenge’s stones came all the way from south-west Wales,” she said.
“The really huge sarsen stones at Stonehenge are assumed to have come from sources on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, about 30km to the north of Stonehenge. Sarsen stone, however, is found in other locations across southern England.
“There are sarsens in Dorset, spread about dry chalk valleys similar to the locations on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, and as well as locations in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Sussex, there are even sarsens in Kent.
“The distribution is quite broad, there are sarsens in Buckinghamshire and even across to Norfolk.”
People in the Neolithic are known for trading stone across large areas, including from the Lake District to the East of England.
Huge Sarsen boulders from outside of Wiltshire are known to have been used in other prehistoric monuments including Kits Coty House in Kent, and Wayland’s Smithy, a burial mound, in Oxfordshire.
“People were clearly aware of, and using, these stones in prehistory.” said Miss Whitaker. “Why not think about the possibility that sarsens came from further-afield too?”
The idea could also challenge that Stonehenge represents a peak of monument construction which could only have been achieved through organisation by a hierarchical leadership.
Instead, it may show that smaller groups had banded together to bring meaningful stones to a central area.
“Maybe it wasn’t a large group of people under the control of a tribal leader ‘cracking the whip’ to move all the rocks from one location down to Stonehenge as has been suggested before,” added Miss Whitaker.
“What about groups of people related in different ways, working collaboratively to move a special stone from one area to another? “
The source of the Stonehenge stones was first determined in the early 1920s by H.H. Thomas, an officer with the Geological Survey of England and Wales.
He determined that the so-called ‘spotted dolerites’ matched a small number of outcrops in the Mynydd Preseli district in south-west Wales
Latest theories about Stonehenge also suggest it was once an impressive Welsh tomb which was dismantled and shipped to Wiltshire.
An experiment this summer by University College London found that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected.
They discovered that a one tonne stone could be pulled on a raft by just 10 people at around one mile per hour, far faster than experts believed.
MS Whitaker is presenting her work at the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium at University College London from 18th to 19th of November.
Katy Whitaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is the impact of the historical exploitation of sarsen stone on the understanding and interpretation of the prehistoric archaeology of southern England?
Supervised by: Dr Jim Leary , Josh Pollard (Southampton University)
ANARCHY IN THE UK?
We are happy to announce that the 2016 Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium (NEBARSS) will take place at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th November 2016.
NEBARSS is an annual symposium organised entirely by postgraduate students, to showcase innovative research by postgraduate and early career researchers.
11:20 Katy Whitaker, University of Reading
What if…none of the building stones at Stonehenge came from Wiltshire?
Over the past 20 years archaeologists have been exploring the idea that Neolithic monument construction provided conditions in which social differentiation could develop. This is in contrast to earlier interpretations of cursus, barrow, enclosure, mound, henge, and stone circle building in which perceived growing complexity of construction through time, and thus of inferred complexity of resource-management, were seen to indicate an increasing centralisation of prehistoric political authority. The henge earthworks, stone settings, and avenue at Stonehenge (Wiltshire, UK) play a prominent role in these contrasting interpretations.
This paper presents a discussion, by means of a thought experiment, of the role of Stonehenge’s stones in some 60 years of debate about Neolithic and early Bronze Age social structure. The paper starts with the revolutionary proposition that not only the Welsh bluestones, but all of Stonehenge’s building stones are ‘foreign’ to the monument’s locality. It goes on to explore the implications of this proposition by examining those of Stonehenge’s rocks that have in general been taken for granted, geologically-speaking, in the archaeological literature – sarsen stones: and others that have been almost completely ignored – packing stones to the sarsen settings.
Drawing in particular on work by Colin Richards, and Mark Gillings and Josh Pollard, to interpret these unsung components of the internationally-important monument, the paper suggests that an alternative to the dominant twentieth-century discourse in which Stonehenge represents the culmination of Neolithic social evolution, is possible.