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Monday, 28 August 2017

Bluestone transport -- how archaeologists have evaded the burden of proof


We have been here before, in discussions on Occam's Razor and Hitchens' Razor.  Since we have some new readers out there, let's just remind ourselves what this is all about.  The archaeologists -- and certain others, including geologists and geomorphologists, have asserted something quite extraordinary -- namely that Neolithic tribesmen physically transported more than 80 large bluestone monoliths from North Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.  And it is indeed an extraordinary claim -- it is spectacular, and heroic, and it has become one of the architypal English myths.  Everybody knows it.  That does not mean that it is true, or even well supported.

Let's cite Wikipedia again:
"Hitchens's razor is an epistemological razor asserting that the burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim; if this burden is not met, the claim is unfounded and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it. It is named, echoing Occam's razor, for the journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens, who, in a 2003 Slate article, formulated it thus: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
Shall we just remind ourselves of the following ten points?

1.  There is no sound evidence from anywhere in the British Neolithic / Bronze Age record of large stones being hauled over long distances for incorporation in a megalithic monument.

2.  The builders of Neolithic monuments across the UK simply used whatever large stones were at hand.

3. If ancestor 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?

4.  There is no evidence either from West Wales or from anywhere else of bluestones (or spotted dolerite in particular) being used preferentially in megalithic monuments, or revered in any way.

5.  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.

6. The evidence for quarrying activity in key locations is questionable, to put it mildly.

7.  The sheer variety of bluestone types  (I still insist the figure is somewhere near 30) argues against selection and human transport.  There cannot possibly have been up to 30 "bluestone quarries" scattered about West Wales.

8.  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.

9.  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.  Aubrey Burl made this point forcefully many years ago, and it remains forceful today.

10.  And if there was a "proto-Stonehenge" somewhere, built of assorted local stones and then dismantled and taken off to Stonehenge, where was it?  Herbert Thomas thought it might have been near Cilymaenllwyd (south of Preseli) and now MPP thinks it might have been north of Preseli, somewhere or other.  So the great proto-Stonehenge hunt continues.......

 So where is the "extraordinary evidence" required to support the "extraordinary hypothesis"?  In sort, there isn't any.   

THE HYPOTHESIS IS THEREFORE REJECTED AS FALSE, without any requirement being placed on me or anybody else to find evidence against it.


Evergreen said...

1. There is no sound evidence from anywhere in the British Neolithic / Bronze Age record of large stones being hauled over long distances for incorporation in a megalithic monument.

2. The builders of Neolithic monuments across the UK simply used whatever large stones were at hand.

Points 1 & 2 - They didn't just use 'whatever large stones were at hand'. This has been pointed out many times on this blog, with examples. Why do you keep repeating it? I know you would like that to be true, but it isn't. You are misleading your new readers with this information. The necessity for you to do so should make any reader, new or otherwise, immediately suspicious.

3. If ancestor 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?

Do you honestly expect an explanation? There could be any number of reasons why those stones were bought
to SH from 'the west'. Who can say? Why are cotswold-severn long barrows so long? Why is Silbury constructed in the manner it is? From the material it is? Why put all the stones up at Carnac? Why did they dig only one bloody great ditch at avebury? Why didn't they dig seven of them? Why doesn't the ridgeway way start in Cornwall?

I hope you get the idea.

4. There is no evidence either from West Wales or from anywhere else of bluestones (or spotted dolerite in particular) being used preferentially in megalithic monuments, or revered in any way.

Off the top of my head I recall they were used at Gors Fawr. Some of those stones are spotted dolerite. Not that it is important.
Why do you think they would have had to have been used preferentially? You are inventing this stuff, it's your own emphasis, and then using a perceived lack of evidence for it as pertinent to the argument of glacial or human transport of 'foreign' stones. It is unlikely you will ever know 'why'. Who knows what Neolithic people 'revered'? Perhaps it was a show of strength, first group to reach SH with their bluestone wins the prize.

Its sounds like you think you are working with a jigsaw, and all you need to do is fit the right pieces together.
It's all long gone Brian, it is highly unlikely you will make it all fit. What you perceive as 'sense' is not relevant to the discussion.

5. 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.

People in the Neolithic did move large stones. If they could move them 1 mile, they could move them 150 miles.
I'll say it again - People in Neolithic Britain did move large stones.

Evergreen said...

6. The evidence for quarrying activity in key locations is questionable, to put it mildly.

From the stuff I have read, I would agree. However, expert I am not.

7. The sheer variety of bluestone types (I still insist the figure is somewhere near 30) argues against selection and human transport. There cannot possibly have been up to 30 "bluestone quarries" scattered about West Wales.

"There cannot possibly be...". Why do you keep doing this? You like to draw very thick lines Brian, do you not? My suggestion is to use a light pencil rather than that permanent marker you seem fond of.
I know you are a "practical thinker" but I believe that is to your detriment when discussing this stuff.

Without knowing the motivation, you haven't the first idea of the relevance of the variety of bluestone types.

8. 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.

What evidence would be left if they constructed "rafts" of wood which they put a stone on and carried to SH?

9. 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. Aubrey Burl made this point forcefully many years ago, and it remains forceful today.

Aubrey Burl changed his mind and now favours the human transport theory.

10. And if there was a "proto-Stonehenge" somewhere, built of assorted local stones and then dismantled and taken off to Stonehenge, where was it? Herbert Thomas thought it might have been near Cilymaenllwyd (south of Preseli) and now MPP thinks it might have been north of Preseli, somewhere or other. So the great proto-Stonehenge hunt continues.......

IF there was one, we don't know where it was. This proves literally nothing. I'm sure the hunt does continue, but I wouldn't let it trouble you.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Dear Evergreen

You make the point perfectly for me. You present no evidence whatsoever, just assumptions and speculations with a hefty dose of fantasy. Your line seems to be "they probably could have done it, therefore they probably did." Not good enough.

If you think 30 or so quarries are possible, where are they?

Show me an example of a specially selected stone in Pembrokeshire that has been carried a long way to be incorporated into a megalithic monument. You can't.

Speculating about motivations we cannot possibly understand is not going to get us anywhere. It's just a cop-out.

Evergreen said...

No Brian, I simply responded to the points you made, I would not support "it could have happened so it probably did". Sadly we have no concrete proof either way. I did not say there are 30 or so quarries and I did not say I could show you a pembrokeshire stone that has been carried a long way etc.

You say that speculating about motivations we cannot possibly understand will get us nowhere, isn't that what I just told you? You are asking about 'revered' stones, 'ancestor' stones etc. Probably best to forget that and concentrate on what you can prove.

The proof of human transport would be in the discovery of bluestone quarries with exact matches to existing SH stones, whether they be standing upright or in tiny pieces on th ground.

That no bluestone boulders are to be found on the plain outside of SH is a huge problem for you and the theory that those stones were carried to the plain by glacier.
Skirting around that central issue is the cop out.

Evergreen said...

I wrote a short reply, it appears to have disappeared into the ether.
Can I ask Brian, did you read and not publish it or do messages just disappear here?
I ask as i've been programmer for nearly 30 years, i've never witnessed so many glitches as this blog seems to have.

I will attempt another.

I do not support "they probably could have done it, therefore they probably did".
Sadly, we do not have concrete proof either way, but it seems we may be close. I wasn't convinced by the rhosyfelin stuff I read, but as I said, I am no expert.

That no bluestone boulder (I won't bother qualifying that, we all know what I mean) has been found on the plain outside of SH is a huge problem for you and your theory Brian.

BRIAN JOHN said...

No earlier message, I assure you. I publish everything that comes in, unless it is anonymous, ridiculous or defamatory! I wasn't aware that there are many glitsches on this blog -- but sadly that is all out of my control. Blame Blogger!

Sure, it would be very satisfying if more bluestone boulders could be found on Salisbury Plain -- but the erratic trail idea that I explore in The Bluestone Enigma, pp 131 - 137, is a perfectly reasonable one. As I have said many times, there is no killer fact on either side of the debate -- but the glacial transport thesis is supported by abundant evidence to the west, which means that in the present circumstances it is the one to go for.

TonyH said...


You say "Aubrey Burl changed his mind and now supports the human transport theory".

Please will you provide evidence that Aubrey has in fact done this. I am not aware of this. Thank you.


BRIAN JOHN said...

I read somewhere that AB had changed his mind too. Not sure when, or why. When I referred to AB's opinion (p 78-79 in my book), I stated that I found his arguments persuasive. I still find them persausive, whether or not he has expressed different arguments somewhere else!

Evergreen said...

Tony, i've had a look but can't find the quote. I read it only a few weeks ago, but can't remember where. I will keep looking.

Brian, to echo an earlier comment here (Myris' I believe) as things stand, it is the human transport theory that I think most persuasive.

At a basic level, there is simply no evidence for glacial erratics (other than those at SH!) from west wales on salisbury plain.
No evidence on the ground, no evidence in gravels. What makes it the theory to go for?

We know that large stones have been collected from miles away to be incorporated into monuments, and SH was a unique monument. An 'impressive' monument.
Theres even a bit of folklore, and who doesn't believe Geoffrey? He just went a bit too far west, thats all. ;)

BRIAN JOHN said...

No evidence of glaciation on the ground, Evergreen? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence -- people conveniently forget that. How about 43 boulders, slabs and pillars of many shapes and sizes, many of them abraded and heavily weathered, from many different provenances, incorporated into a monument at Stonehenge? The look like glacial erratics, and they probably are glacial erratics. Plus a good deal of scattered erratic material turning up in assorted locations on Salisbury Plain? No evidence in gravels? Chris Green may say that, but his evidence is not convincing, and comes from a limited number of river terrace sites. See my blog analysis. The ice flowed in exactly the right direction, across exactly the right rock outcrops on exactly the right flowline, as noted by Kellaway many years ago. Everybody accepts that the ice reached Somerset -- the only thing we do not currently know is how far eastwards it extended. That will be sorted out in due course. That's persuasive enough for me, as compared with the human transport theory which is based entirely on fantasy.

TonyH said...

Glaciation DID reach as far inland as Bathampton and Bathford/Box area (King's Down), east of Bath; also close to Limpley Stoke near the Bath to Bradford - on Avon rail line. We have discussed this on the Blog a lot and shown the evidence to be in peer - reviewed, respected geological Papers with no "axes to grind", as it were!. N.B. 25 - 30 miles from Bath is a lot closer than Preseli, 170 miles away!

Glaciers may move exceedingly slowly, but they are shown to have great capability and reliability, in the right circumstances, to move various - sized erratics, picked up in their natural processes, long distances. Trouble is that, for romantically - inclined Humans, glaciers tend to have far less poetic appeal than, say, a Medieval Geoffrey of Monmouth or even a modern - day Michael Parker Pearson or Timothy Darvill!

Modern English Heritage Marketing via its various literary/ on - line outlets has been responsible for the perpetuation of old unproven Myths. The beneficiary of this has clearly been the English Tourism business from visitors home and abroad! Such marketing is, unfortunately, a very pervasive influence on modern humans with their well - known propensity to demand instant gratification, twitter - style. This Blog at least serves the purpose of at least encouraging people to think in a more reflective fashion before leaping aboard the tabloid - style bandwagons of the likes of English Heritage.

TonyH said...

P.S. The known glaciated area identified near Limpley Stoke is within the boundaries of the modern (land - locked!) WILTSHIRE, as is King's Down near Box.

We who acknowledge the merits of the glaciation case think it would still be a profound and impressive effort for prehistoric folk to move bluestones 25 - 30 miles from those vicinities to the other side of Salisbury Plain. Perhaps the bluestones did not arrive "on a plate" near Amesbury to the future site of Stonehenge. However, it is time to reflectively consider the likelihood that movement of bluestones similar to what was erected there could have occurred, resulting in their being deposited, say, close to the Salisbury Plain northern escarpment e.g. near Westbury White Horse.

Evergreen said...

But where are the others Brian? Are you suggesting they picked up every single boulder that the ice brought with it and included it in the monument?

Do you really believe that those stones were collected up from a relatively small area in west Wales and then carried and deposited by glacier to another relatively small area to the east? Would the material not be distributed more widely?

Saying 'a good deal of erratic material turning up in assorted locations on salisbury plain' is, as you are well aware, totally disingenuous when discussing the issue of whether ice brought the bluestones to the plain. If by some of the erratic material you are referring to axes form preseli, you are simply blindly hoping this means they were created from erratics in situ on the plain. This, despite the fact you are aware (or should be aware) that other pieces found in the SH landscape originate in France, Cumbria, Cornwall, Germany..? Were they bought by ice too?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Evergreen -- life is too short to go over this all again. Please use the search facility on this blog to read some of the material on erratic entrainment and trasnsport, and then maybe we can have an intelligent discussion.

Axes are interesting but largely irrelevant, and are best kept out of the discussion -- although of course it is widely assumed (by archaeologists) that at some stage Stonehenge was used as an axe-making factory. And if monoliths at Stonehenge were used as a raw material, why not any other old stones lying around the place too?

Evergreen said...

'Maybe then we can have an intelligent discussion' - Unnecessary.

You may know a lot more than I about erratic entrainment and transport, but you clearly know very little about prehistory. That is why you ask such basic questions. However, I wouldn't suggest that I can't have an intelligent conversation about prehistory with you until you read more widely.

What other erratic material are you referring to that is directly relevant to your argument?

SH an axe making factory? What a gem. Where did you read that?

Myris of Alexandria said...

Which glacial event and WHEN was it does Kellaway suggest. Don't be shy.
How many other ice warriors agree with this glaciation event, do you even.

No one dispute that at some time ice reached dead dog scrumpy country but how much preseli/west Wales material was it entraining.

Give us the glacial erratic lithology lists for the West Country sites.

Proof enough of the promises of jam tomorrow some of us want to have our cake and eat today.

Ignore SH and B. Barrow where is the furthest east that a genuine bit of Preseli been recorded. Far to the west of Cardiff I fear, we are back in Thomas '23 land.
Green's work may be from "a limited number of river terrace sites"
Your evidence comes from a single site with a diameter of a few 100 metres. Even less reliable.
Green's work is compatible with Vince and the BGS SH memoir your work is compatible with .... your work.

Evergreen said...

Another post 'gone missing'. I wonder if this one will make it?

Where did you read that SH was an axe factory? That cheered me up.

As for the uneccessry 'Intelligent conversation' remark, you may know more than I about erratic entrainment but prehistory is clearly not your thing.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Evergreen -- patience is a virtue. I don't spend all my time sitting in front of a computer. Relax.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Stonehenge as an axe factory? Not designed to be an axe factory, but at times, when stones were deemed to be redundant, the thinking is presumably that they were a handy source for axes and in some cases (eg rhyolites and ashes) for cutting tools. Not my idea -- it has been around for a very long time, as an explanation (so I am led to believe) for the abundant debitage and all those flakes and fragments in the Stonehenge Layer. I'm sure we have discussed it on this blog before, without any expressions of outrage from anybody. So have I been misled? If so, whom should I blame?

Evergreen said...

Whilst it obviously remains a possibility that an axe could have been created from a spotted dolerite monolith at SH, 'flakes and fragments' found within the area of a monument that has dressed stones and a long history of souvenir taking does not, in my world at least, an axe factory make. Before the discovery of the huge quarries in the cumbrian hills, such as at Langdale, it was assumed those 'greenstone' axes must have been fashioned from glacial erratics. Rough outs are found at the quarry locations there and the axes themselves all over the country, as far south as cornwall, up in scotland and even east over in lincolnshire.
Stone, pottery, people and animals moved long distances in the Neolithic Brian.

TonyH said...

When I was but a young lad of about 15, I bicycled quite a distance on several weekends to join in my first excavation, that of of Green Low Chambered Tomb, 4 miles west of Matlock, in the Peak District, on Carboniferous Limestone. I excavated what was at first described as the missing 2nd fragment of an axe which was made of greenstone similar to Evergreen's Comment today at 21.48.

That discovery was quite a moment in my life, as you probably would expect.

The Archaeologist who directed me to scrape away carefully because he half expected another piece of greenstone axe to turn up (in a prominent position, on the tomb's forecourt), was T.G Manby, a person of some note particularly for his work on East Yorkshire.

Evergreen said...

Beaker, GW, a greenstone axe and even some r****, the whole kit and kaboodle at Green Low eh Tony? Looks a great site.

Phil Morgan, Elf and Safety Inspector. said...

Hello to Evergreen,
You mention the fact that a limited number of bluestones would have had to have been collected from a relatively small area in west Wales and then deposited in an equally small area in Wiltshire. The small amount of bluestones involved in the collection process has been cited as a reason for there being no bluestone erratics on Salisbury Plain for they were all collected and used in the construction of Stonehenge.
According to the glacial transport theory the Irish Sea Ice collected the bluestones and transported them eastwards; and on it's journey east it was joined by the Welsh Ice Cap which flowed south and east off the South Wales Coal Measures.

Anyone looking at the South Wales Coalfield would notice a vast plateau of Pennant Sandstone bedrock at an average height of 400 metres above sea level, deeply incised by many glaciated valleys formed by the glaciers of the Welsh Ice Cap. Whereas a minimal amount of bluestones may have been removed from the Preseli region by glaciation, it is obvious that a vast amount of Pennant Sandstone has definitely disappeared. It can be shown by a simple calculation using using regularly spaced cross-sections of the glaciated valleys that there has been approximately 100 cubic kilometres (272,000,000,000 tonnes) of Pennant Sandstone removed from the plateau.
Now, if as Brian says, the combined Irish Sea/Welsh Ice Cap glacier dropped the bluestones, (albeit in limited numbers), in the Salisbury Plain area, then where is the abundance of Pennant sandstone erratics, for it has been confirmed by the Geology Department of the National Museum of Wales that no Pennant Sandstone erratics have been found on Salisbury Plain?
The answer must be that the glacier, together with its cargo of sandstone failed to get even close to Salisbury Plain, leaving people to transport the bluestones.

Myris of Alexandria said...

At least one well made rough-out (rhyolite)was recognised from the 2008 SH circle debitage. It was on display in the new shed at its opening.
Nice axe-head.

The few 21st century axe-head finds in the Stonehenge Landscape are at the core of the 2018 Ferret Club News next paper.

SH axe factory a whimsy from OWT originally?

I think the informed money might be on the Roman's sub-monumental use, but still who moved the stone. Ever a hotly contested question.


Evergreen said...

Hi Phil,

Very interesting indeed. What do you make of the deposits at Court Hill?
Finding some bluestone in that area would be interesting.

Perhaps worth pointing out that Pennant Sandstone was used at Stanton Drew, but we don't see any Dolerite there..

Evergreen said...

Hi Myris, I haven't had the pleasure of the new visitor centre and haven't seen that item.
Do you happen to have a photo? I can't find one on-line.

R**** sub-monumental use re debitage? What were they up to to create all that mess?

Myris of Alexandria said...

Somewhere, I sent a photo to mad axers for their opinions.
Mixed results of course.

The Romans used some of the broken stones in funeral arrangements.


BRIAN JOHN said...

Phil -- I know you just love those Pennant sandstones, but you are not paying attention. As I have explained before, the glacial routes southwards were NOT carved entirely by ice. Almost always glaciers use pre-existing routes and deepen them and maybe widen them as well. The main valleys (Tywi, Taf, Neath, Rhondda, Taff etc) are probably tens of millions of years old, and have been developing quietly since well before the beginning of the Quaternary. So calculations of their volumes which are then attributed to glacial erosion are a complete waste of time. Glaciers erode, entrain blocks, transport them and dump them according to physical laws which are still imperfectly understood. Life is too short to get into endless speculations as to where all the material eroded off the uplands of Wales actually went; there are vast thicknesses in Cardigan Bay, St George's Channel and the Bristol Channel. There are abundant papers in the literature. Where are the Carboniferous Limestone erratics or the ORS erratics? In every area where I have ever worked, some lithologies are well represented in the erratic collection, and others seem to be absent. What are you trying to prove?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Evergreen -- when does an opportunistic axe-making workshop become a factory?

Evergreen said...

Myris, are we talking about the coin with the bluestone? There was a piece of pottery too.
I don't even want to think about it. Can we just say 'worms' and never speak of it again?

Brian - When they introduce paid lunch breaks and a minimum wage. Power to the knappers!

From one possible rough out (as Myris spoke of mixed opinions) to axe factory (or even workshop) is quite a leap.

BRIAN JOHN said...

As it happens, I wasn't even thinking of Myris's roughout. Just the debris.

Evergreen said...

Do I detect you edging toward the unmatched (at SH) rhyolite waste as support for smaller erratic material used for tool making?

There are a number of possibilities, no? Why choose axe factory?

Phil Morgan, Elf and Safety Inspector. said...

Hello Brian,
My apologies for not paying attention but if things become repetitive, e.g. adverts on the telly, I lose interest after the first three airings; I shall try to concentrate more in the future.
Nevertheless, If we consider only the glaciated valleys of the South Wales Coalfield then regardless of which glacier/s, or rivers, eroded the Pennant Sandstone it has to be somewhere, and that somewhere could 'possibly' be in the Bristol Channel. Now, at a later date when the Irish Sea Ice comes along from the West, and joins with the Welsh Ice Cap ice travelling South and then West, I would have thought that this last ice mass would have possibly collected some Pennant Sandstone off the sea bed and carried it, together with the bluestones from Preseli, to the Salisbury Plain, otherwise, the combined ice sheets would have had to have floated their way East?
I suggest that instead of looking for bluestones on Salisbury Plain, which is the needle in the haystack, it would be more productive to look for Pennant Sandstone on Salisbury Plain, which, in comparison by volume, would be searching for a haystack in a field.
The above thoughts are based on the sketch maps on pages 117 and 130 of your book which you use in support of the glacial transport theory, therefore if the glaciers traveled in the direction you show, then why didn't they also carry the Carboniferous Limestone, Old Red Sandstone and the Pennant Sandstone to Salisbury Plain?

Incidentally, not trying to prove anything, simply questioning your glacial hypothesis.

Phil Morgan, Elf and Safety Inspector. said...

Hello Evergreen,
Had a chance to look at some information on the Col-gully and Glacial Deposits at Court Hill, Clevedon near Bristol and following a quick read of the paper at ------


lo and behold, there's Pennant Sandstone there. Nice to know it got that far across the water.

Furthermore, a little further down through the listings we find the following reference:

(Stonehenge and the Ice Age: September 2011
Sep 30, 2011 ... Also, the Anglian limit is wrong in Somerset, since glacial deposits are ...... There are some amazing landforms such as the Court Hill col-gully, ...).

In Brian's reply to my post of the 31st August 2017 above, he asks the question "Where are the Carboniferous Limestone erratics or the ORS erratics?" Strange as it may seem, Brian posted the following:
"The Storrie Collection

At Pencoed, near Bridgend, there are thick deposits of clay, sands and gravels and coarser deposits containing erratics. Some of the clays -- at Ewenny and elsewhere -- have been used in the local pottery industry. The deposits are spread across an area at least 10 km x 10 km. There are lake deposits and tills here -- and it's been known for more than a century that the erratic suite sampled by John Storrie contained at least eight different types of rock traced back to outcrops in west Pembrokeshire (Strahan and Cantrill, 1904). Some of the erratics appear to be in their "original" positions -- others appear to have come from the reworking of older glacial deposits. In a detailed reexamination of the erratic boulders from the Storrie Collection, Bevins and Donnelly (1992) described more than 20 which had come from the west, including ash flow tuff (Fishguard Volcanics?), basalt from the Skomer Volcanics, rhyolite, Precambrian rhyolitic tuff, gabbro from near St David's Head, ignimbrite from Skomer, volcanic debris flow deposit from Ramsey Island, various sandstones and siltstones from South and West Wales, Carboniferous Limestone, ORS sandstones etc. No less than 8 of the examined clasts had striations on them, confirming a glacial origin."

So that's where the Carboniferous Limestone and Old Red Sandstones ended up.
Pay attention Brian, and a round of applause for Evergreen.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I enjoy your note of triumphalism, Phil! Not sure what the big issue is -- I have never denied that Pennant Sandstone, Carb Limestone, ORS or anything else might turn up anywhere if entrainment, transport and dumping make sense and match up with the ice flowlines. Yes, there are interesting erratic assemblages at Pencoed, Kenn and other places. And yes, there is a great deal of sediment in the Bristol Channel, a lot of which has come from the River Severn and from the South Wales Coalfield.

When south-flowing Welsh ice encountered the east-flowing Irish Sea Glacier, it did not flow west -- it flowed east. The flowlines of both ice masses are shown in the Geol Survey Memoir. Maybe there was a clear contact zone,as speculated by Lionel Jackson and myself in that "Earth" article in which we discussed the Foothills erratic train.

Phil Morgan, Elf and Safety Inspector. said...

This may of already been posted, senile see.

A false alarm on the Pennant Sandstone turning up at Court Hill; it didn't necessarily come from South Wales for it crops out all along the Col-gully at Court Hill. Never mind, at least the Carb. Lime. and ORS made it as far as the Vale of Glamorgan, it's just a shame that Bevins and Donnelly (1992) didn't find any spotted dolerite in the Storrie Collection.

Nothing to do with triumph Brian, just trying to put the record straight for any newcomers to your blog.

BRIAN JOHN said...

It's not a "shame" at all -- it's all evidence, and it's all important if we are to understand the Irish Sea Glacier flowlines. Crampton and Kellaway were perhaps not foo far off with their maps -- maybe the eastern Preseli flowline was a little further north, with the western Pembs flowline on its southern flank -- affecting south Glamorgan and Flat Holm? Much work still to be done.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Just for Evergreen -- when doing some reading this evening (to calm me down after the football) I came across this. In the description of the various Stonehenge phases, these words for the period after 2020 BC: "Extensive use of Stonehenge with working of some bluestones into artefacts." They talk about debris and a working floor. So it's not so wacky after all -- and the authors? Darvill, Wainwright, Parker Pearson and Marshall, in Antiquity 2012. Is that respectable enough for you? Can I please now call Stonehenge an axe factory?

Evergreen said...

Brian, if you see reason in that quote to call SH an axe factory, then go ahead. As far as I am concerned, working some bluestones into artefacts does not mean it was an axe factory. 'Debris' does not mean it was an axe factory.

I thought these kind of assumptions and leaps were just the kind of thing you rail against, especially from those names mentioned above, but here you are supporting them.

It's not about who said it, or which journal, it is about evidence, surely?

Evergreen said...

Just to add to my previous post, MPP et al haven't described it as an axe factory, it seems to be you making the assumption.
They describe the working of some bluestones into artefacts, and associated debris.

Working debris is found in many locations, debitage on and around some BA barrows for example, it doesn't mean they were axe factories. Other options are available which is why, I imagine, they have been careful and chosen the word 'artfefacts'.

An 'artefact' in the archaeological sense is simply something made by man.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Take it easy, Evergreen. It's called irony......

Evergreen said...

I think you got a little over excited after the woodburn strike and the Penderyn was flowing..

Btw, we have just booked a cottage for a week in Camarthenshire for a few weeks time, very much looking forward to visiting Rhosyfelin and the preseli sites.
If you fancy a morning showing us around let me know!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Always happy to look at things in the field with other people, Evergreen. Let me know of your plans closer to the time.....

Gordon said...

Hi Brian
Have you seen the review on-line of A.D Passmores stone implement collection by H.H Thomas?
It's in the Wiltshire archaeology and natural history magazine page 247.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Gordon -- need more info! Can you please give a hyperlink or at least a URL?

TonyH said...

I expect Myris has this WANHS review at his fingertips, Gordon, eh, Myris?

TonyH said...

Gordon, as a Member I have many of the WANHS magazines over recent times. What year or volume number are you quoting?

Gordon said...

Hi Tony
Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine 1927-1929 brings it up in google.
Pages 246-247

Myris of Alexandria said...

No I do not know it or of it.
The ferret club is on-line I think but a bit of a bother to use.
Any view would be lovely

Myris of Alexandria said...

Just had a quick look at the Ashmolian (spelling??) Mus site. There is very little for us there, the majority of material is flint (spit) there is a polished stone axe that is of interest)and a little rhyolite and ash. They (Ash Mus) also received a representative set of SH debitage alongside other museums, NMW for example (hundreds of kilos of debitage all MIXED were reburied in pits just outside the circle). The NMW material has been investigated thoroughly.
Not having seen the pages my guess will be that HHT will give the stones exact (and incorrect) provenances, but I may be maligning him. Bet I am not though.
Would be good to read the ferret pages.

BRIAN JOHN said...

No sooner said than done, Myris!

BRIAN JOHN said...

PS What's all this about ferrets?

TonyH said...

By ferrets Monsieur Myris is leading us towards WANHS, based at Devizes i.e. Wilts Arch. & Nat. Hist. Society. As in "ferreting about", disappearing up trouser legs, John Cleese, etc etc.

Myris has a "very good friend", almost his alter ego in fact, whose Papers are frequently published at the very FRONT of the WANHS Mag.

Myris of Alexandria said...

It is known amongst the glitterati/cognoscenti as the Ferret Club News. It was, I believe, originally known as the Wiltshire Gardening and Ferret Club News but in these dumb-down days shortened to the ferret club news.
For a 'local' publication it 'punches well above its weight and I know the Pet Rock Boys are especially grateful for the magazine and editors.

I am quite Nominally Aphasic as my wife often points out (my faux pas are well known)glad handing at festivals was an enduring nightmare only helped by much Appleton and coke (the bev. these are days long before snow became fashionable). Nicknames help- the ruder the better and easier. And thanks the Gods for the search facility on email programmes.

The Axe paper will be out if the Gods permit late spring 2018 in the ferret news.

TonyH said...

Don't FRET Myris - the FERRET Club WANHS News 2018 will arrive.......sometime......probably during 2018.

RackRunner said...

Hello Brian
A few years ago I came up with a method of transporting the stones by moving the stones in groups ( The Conveyor System),hope you remember?

I now believe that method of transport may be proven!

My theory requires the stones to be rolled on logs that are supported be other stones.

During the process of using this method over a great distance the contact side of the stones would have become worn down start to show similar siqns of wear and tear (pressure cracks/breaks/scraps etc).

I believe that what we have been referring as "Dressed Stones" is actually the result of the stones being moved using my method/ there may have been some touch-ups done.
Maybe this also happened with the pyramid stones also.

Getting back to items 5/8 of your post- can it be proven.
My method can be physically set up,tested and measured and results compared to Stonehenge.The results will prove or disprove the method.

The power of the internet is unlimited and maybe someone reading this may be able to contibute by "doing the math" to see if the stones could even handle the weight.

Brian,sorry if this short and not as detailed as maybe it should be but I think your readers will be able to understand what the method is generally about.


TonyH said...


On your question, 'items 5/8/of your [ie Brian's] Post - can it be proven?

Item 7 is very very difficult for the pro - Human Transport boys to prove that, in practice, there were ever likely to be 30 humanly - made quarries.

We do not even have ONE quarry as yet. Rhosyfelin is not a quarry: see plenty of Brian's Posts, e.g. his more recent ones, for reasons WHY not.

It is tremendously more likely that glacial geomorphology was the agent responsible for shifting the motley assortment of DIFFERENT TYPES OF GEOLOGY of rocks and boulders that eventually pitched up somewhere south of the present - day Bristol Channel.

However, Paul, no reason why your own suggested means of human transportation was NOT used for,say, several miles to enable the bluestones to arrive at their final destination.

TonyH said...

Phil mentions ignimbrite from Skomer in his Comment dated September 1st above, relating to erratic boulders in the Storrie Collection discussed by Bevins and Donnelly.

Brian, I recall you had a Poat several years ago in which ignimbrite had been stated to having been found in the Stonehenge vicinity. I think it was Kellaway. I did offer to try to track down its mention in a periodical which might be in the Bath Libraries. Do you recall?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, there have been assorted mentions of ignimbrite erratics over the years, but I recall that there is a terminology issue. I don't think Myris likes the term, and calls ignimbrites something else instead. Enlightenment please, Myris? As far as I am concerned, it is an excellent word, descriptive of smashed-up and welded volcanic deposits created in highly explosive eruptions. Ignimbrites appear here and there in the Fishguard Volcanics -- there are classic exposures near Strumble Head. I think we had some discussion about a piece of ignimbrite found by Newall -- which has since disappeared.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Paul -- issue 5 is a big one. Technologies (eg long-distance stone haulage) do not just come out of the blue, get used once, and then disappear. That goes against everything we know about technological development and cultural diffusion. The human transport brigade has to show us how their mysterious technology developed, reached a peak, and then declined. Instead, we have zilch.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Bluestones 38 and 40 at Stonehenge have -- at various times -- been referred to as ignimbrites. The references to Newall's boulder and the Storrie collection can be found by using the search box. The latest descriptive term seems to be "rhyolitic ash-flow tuff" or some such thing.......

RackRunner said...

Brian - nothing mysterious about the method that I have proposed.
All that is required is :
Suitable "Stonehenge Type "stones (with one relatively flat side). These could be sourced from multiple locations.
log rollers (3-6 feet)
logs/stones for manipulating the stones - prying,wedging,bracing,fulcrums etc..
rope is helpful
manpower- the more the merrier

If you think about it- there cannot be an easier way to move large stones than this method.

As for what happened to the technology....Nothing happened to it- moving large stones was no longer required , unless maybe you were making a Clapper Bridge.

I have a thought that the Bluestones were moved to Stonehenge using this method and in later years/phases the Bluestones were taken down and used to help move the Sarsens to Stonehenge!

There is the problem of why were the Bluestones rearranged that has yet to be explained.

Now that's a lot to think about.


It's pretty lonely out here on this limb,anyone care to join me?

Peter Dunn said...