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Friday, 23 February 2018

Another cromlech theory


This old photo, dating from around 1905, taken at Pentre Ifan, demonstrates conclusively that cromlechs such as this one were built to give the local Neolithic lads a nice view of the countryside,  or maybe to provide places where they could enjoy jolly picnics in the sun without getting their bums wet.  The bigger and flatter the capstone, the more people could be accommodated, and the greater the status of the structure.

And if it came on to rain, here at Pentre Ifan, as it often did, they could hop down and continue their picnic under the capstone.

36 comments:

cysgodycastell said...

It is as good a theory as any of the others, but in order to make sure it garners more attention you need to throw in the word 'ritual' somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian. It was lovely to meet you and your wife yesterday with Tom Bennett. I hadn't realised you had a blog, and look forward to reading it. We visited several sites yesterday, including Pentre Ifan and Carn Enoch. You live in a beautiful spot, by the way!

Martin Coleman.

SimonK said...

That's a great photo!

TonyH said...

Does anyone know if CROQUET was played for leisure/prestige in prehistoric times and whether ancestors of the chaps in the rather less ancient photograph would strike the croquet ball underneath the capstone and between the "verticals"? Someone surely well have a notion and hazard a guess.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well now, there's a thought.......... It so happens that just up the hill from Pentre Ifan there are four rather splendid dolerite tors, called Carnedd Meibion Owen. The rocks of the sons of Owen. They were reputed to have been the last of the giants who lived in this area, who died in a pitched battle arising out of a territorial dispute. It of course erfectly feasible that giants used cromlechs as key components of their giant croquet games back in the good old days.....

Myris of Alexandria said...

Judging from the duppi that half the men are sporting I guess it might be an international tournament.
Just giving you a heads-up.
You pamper'd Jades that's my Tamburlaine joke of the day.
M

I sometimes wear mine, they are not very comfortable but keep the head Wuerm.

As a break from Nordic Noir try Tom Callaghan's triptych of Kyrgyzstani murder novels. Bishtek sounds bloody (and) dull unless you like graft, cheap tobacco and vodka.
Good fare, bit basic, not overwritten and BLEAK.

sciencebod said...

Genuine request for advice: does anyone know of a website on which new ideas and interpretation re Stonehenge and Neolithic Britain can be aired and discussed?
I keep searching, year after year - but have so far drawn a complete blank.
My own site gets scarcely any visitors:

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/sussingstonehenge.wordpress.com

Not being a conspiracy theorist, I shan't attempt to speculate on why ..

chris johnson said...

Actually I come to Brian's site to follow the Stonehenge story. Generally speaking someone will trigger a discussion on anything new - although I do sense the pulse is slower in recent months.

Perhaps you like to post something concrete instead of providing a link?

Your other point about Neolithic Britain is too constrained. There are societies that have persisted into the current era by pursuing a combination of "mesolithic" (hunter/gatherer) and "neolithic" (farmer). Not sure it is terribly helpful to think in these terms. Prescelli and Wiltshire are both areas in which herding of livestock, hunter/gathering, and a bit of farming have been the lifestyles for some 10000 years.

TonyH said...

Both Preselli and Wiltshire have, in more recent times, adventurously gone for Tourism as an additional lifestyle, particularly in hot - spot, "honeypot" sites, such as The Old Ruin Next the A303 and the Henge next the Number 49 Swindon to Trowbridge bus route along the A4361: there is potential for one at Rhosyfelin, the quasi - quarry, near the Candle Factory honeyspot, of course.

sciencebod said...

Hello Chris

I'm assuming your comment was a response to mine. Apologies if that's not the case.

As I say, I'me aware of Brians's desire to separate his geomorphological angle on those Welsh bluestones transported in some fashion to Salisbury Plain, whether by glaciers or human transport, and I for one have no desire to stray too far from the host's chosen terms of reference.

But you seem to be asking what my own angle might be on Stonehenge, one that I've been developing now on and off over a number of years with intermittent posting (my other interest being the Shroud of Turin 'enigma')

I flagged up the main points on an earlier posting of Brian's a week or two ago, attracting some comment, one from Neil Wiseman being notable in that he's sticking with the time-hallowed archaeoastronomy (alignment to solstices especially) and dismissive of my somewhat iconoclastic idea re what he calls excarnation, which I prefer to describe as AFS (avian-facilitated skeletonization) where the late-arriving lintels served primarily as perches for attracting and retaining voracious seagulls and other avian scavengers.

I'm not here to promote my own site (thus no link) but here if you're interested is a summary of my current thinking, one that I posted just yesterday:

6th and final instalment, Thur March 1

To summarise: The first chalk embankments to appear in Neolithic or pre-Neolithic Britain were primarily defensive in nature, perhaps situated in forest clearings, where invaders would first encounter the ditch, then the defended bank.

With time, other advantages of surrounding oneself with that raised chalk bank – notably protection for oneself, one’s family, one’s untethered livestock and one’s open fires from the prevailing southwesterly wind, winter gales especially. That is probably the real explanation for entrances to the circle being situated in the north-east or north side, that being the one receiving the least wind.

Living together as family or inter-tribal groups would gradually have led to communal agreement on how best to dispose of the dead. Cremation was clearly a preferred option where so many of the henges were concerned, given the numerous cremated remains that have been uncovered by archaeologists. Cremation placed even greater reliance on open fires, their needing to be reliable in all weathers. Cremation alone was not sufficient, especially when wood supplies were limited, on days when the weather did not favour pyres going for hours, maybe days on end.

That’s when another advantage of the chalk circle was noted and exploited. It attracted birds on the wing, seagulls especially, due to their looking from afar like white coastal cliffs. Timber posts, then maybe stone, were installed, serving as perches, making the site even more bird-friendly.

Specialist henges appeared (or pseudohenges like Stonehenge with outer ditch, inner bank) that were either purpose-built or adaptations of earlier ones, designed not only for cremation, but pre-cremation by what I have called AFS (avian-facilitated skeletonization), a term I prefer to “excarnation” which is too vague as to purpose.

Finally, there was a final dividend attached to working inside a chalk embankment, whether inside or outside the ditch, namely screening from the view of the living (bar mortuary attendants) of what was happening inside the circle to the recently dead.

In short, Stonehenge and many other similar sites served primarily as pre-crematoria in the first instance, followed by efficient onsite cremation of skeletonized remains. Final interment of cremated remains was either onsite or offsite, in the latter instance in earthen barrows for revered leaders of society or taken away by relatives, suitably packaged for placement in the home, akin to the modern-day funeral urn.

Thanks for your interest.

sciencebod said...

PS: While I have no objection in principle to pre-moderation of comments (that inevitably holds up approval and appearance) I have to say I'm unlikely ever to warm to Brian's site as a medium for exchange of views, relevant or otherwise to his own interests.

Why not? The answer is fairly obvious. Prolific author Brian has his finger in a multitude of different wordsmith pies; it's clear that vetting of comments submitted to this site is not high on his list of priorities.

I'll look in again at midday and see whether my response to Chris Johnson has appeared or not. If not, I'll reluctantly need to consider taking this site off my main list of tabs, and continue my search elsewhere for a more user-friendly Stonehenge/Neolithic forum. Chances of success? Essentially zilch, based on some 6 years of intermittent googling. (There are some shameless sites that invite comments with no intention of displaying any, regardless of source!).

No, I was not ignoring your, Chris ...

Colin Berry

PS .No need to display this comment Brian if the one I sent yesterday is either displayed in a few hours, or, if deemed unsuitable, I see a brief message to that effect, with or without reasons.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not quite sure what you are on about, Colin. Everything you have sent recently has been posted.

sciencebod said...

Hello Brian. I submitted one yesterday, early pm, a response to Chris with a brief preamble, saying I did not want to venture too far from the site's main preoccupation re bluestones etc, so would just C&P the summary attached to the end of my current posting.

I got the usual on-screen message saying it was awaiting moderation. Seems the system has failed, so I take back what I said in this morning's mutterings...

Here's that summary, the result of some 6 years of intermittent pondering of the real purpose of Stonehenge, lintels especially, and its pre-stone era antecedents:

6th and final instalment, Thur March 1

To summarise: The first chalk embankments to appear in Neolithic or pre-Neolithic Britain were primarily defensive in nature, perhaps situated in forest clearings, where invaders would first encounter the ditch, then the defended bank.

With time, other advantages of surrounding oneself with that raised chalk bank – notably protection for oneself, one’s family, one’s untethered livestock and one’s open fires from the prevailing southwesterly wind, winter gales especially. That is probably the real explanation for entrances to the circle being situated in the north-east or north side, that being the one receiving the least wind.

Living together as family or inter-tribal groups would gradually have led to communal agreement on how best to dispose of the dead. Cremation was clearly a preferred option where so many of the henges were concerned, given the numerous cremated remains that have been uncovered by archaeologists. Cremation placed even greater reliance on open fires, their needing to be reliable in all weathers. Cremation alone was not sufficient, especially when wood supplies were limited, or days when the weather did not favour pyres going for hours, maybe days on end.

That’s when another advantage of the chalk circle was noted and exploited. It attracted birds on the wing, seagulls especially, due to their looking from afar like white coastal cliffs. Timber posts, then maybe stone, were installed, serving as perches, making the site even more bird-friendly.

Specialist henges appeared (or pseudohenges like Stonehenge with outer ditch, inner bank) that were either purpose- built or adaptations of earlier ones, designed not only for cremation, but pre-cremation by what I have called AFS (avian-facilitated skeletonization), a term I prefer to “excarnation” which is too vague as to purpose.

Finally, there was a final dividend attached to working inside a chalk embankment, whether inside or outside the ditch, namely screening from the view of the living (bar mortuary attendants) of what was happening inside the circle to the recently dead.

In short, Stonehenge and many other similar sites served primarily as pre-crematoria in the first instance, followed by efficient onsite cremation of skeletonized remains. Final interment of cremated remains was either onsite or offsite, in the latter instance in earthen barrows for revered leaders of society or taken away by relatives, suitably packaged for placement in the home, akin to the modern-day funeral urn.





sciencebod said...

Hello again

I've just resent the same summary, Brian, hoping to see it appear later today. If not, I'll retry later, say mid-afternoon, but without the minimal HTML formatting (mere bolding and italicizing which Blogger specifically says are accepted!).

Or maybe there are nastier gremlins in the works. Nothing would surprise me where the increasingly compromised, increasingly dodgy internet is concerned. Microsoft keeps blitzing me with messages, telling me to free up 8GB (yes, 8GB no less!) of space on my laptop, so that it can "update Windows 10". Yeah, right...

Cheers

Colin

sciencebod said...

Afterthought: Can Brian's bluestones can also be fitted into my AFS pre-crematorium model? Yes, but faster (500 years?) non-glacier assisted. See my Comment 10 on Tim Daw's sarsen.org site, the one that starts with a link to the RCA "lithophonic ringing stones", dubbed Stonehenge's "sonic secrets".

http://www.sarsen.org/2018/02/a303-tunnel-waste-plans.html

Don't laugh, don't scoff! (See the mention of that Welsh church that once used local bluestone as a lithophonic substitute for a church bell!).

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. And thanks for the little story book, Phil -- you have been having fun! Serious point though -- I agree with your question as to WHY people would want to build something as elaborate as Stonehenge just in order to know when the shortest day or the longest day occurred -- when that would have been perfectly obvious to anybody living in a landscape anyway.......

Colin -- I have looked at my moderation page and there is nothing in there that is unattended to. I winder whether Blogger has changed something in the system without telling me? Rob also thinks some messages have gone astray. I shall do some research......

Neil Wiseman said...

Hi Brian,
I've written two comments in the last week, then mentioned their absence on the post.
Hopefully this one will get through.

Neil

Phil Morgan said...

Hello to Brian,
Glad you liked the short story; I should point out that the reference to vibrations in the Avebury stone was based on personal experience, but I have no explanation as to why it should occur.
BW
Phil

sciencebod said...

Cromlechs, aka dolmens, can also be readily accommodated within the pre-crematorium/AFS model if one assumes that those that are still under a mound of earth were covered over at the END of their useful 'lifespan' i.e. decommissioned when funeral rites/body disposal changed with abandonment of AFS.

How? Answer: They are miniature versions of Stonehenge's trilithons (i.e. two or more stone pillars supporting a bridging lintel, the latter serving as a perch for flesh-scavenging birds) with a nearby cadaver undergoing 'sky burial' prior to cremation of final remains.

Put another way, the mighty trilithons of Stonehenge were merely the high point (literally!) of AFS-directed dolmen technology.

I stand to be corrected.

Colin Berry

Jon Morris said...

I agree with your question as to WHY people would want to build something as elaborate as Stonehenge just in order to know when the shortest day or the longest day occurred

A question that is rarely addressed by alignment theorists. I've never seen anyone attempt to answer the question. Not that they are necessarily wrong, but the lack of motivation tends to weigh against it (apart from the standard "ritual" argument that gets trotted out when nothing else makes any sense)

sciencebod said...

(Belt and braces - I'm resending this comment, just in case it's also got lost in the system, Brian. Ignore this if you've been logged off for a while and are now looking at duplicates!)

Cromlechs, aka dolmens, can also be readily accommodated within the pre-crematorium/AFS model if one assumes that those that are still under a mound of earth were covered over at the END of their useful 'lifespan' i.e. decommissioned when funeral rites/body disposal changed with abandonment of AFS.

How? Answer: They are miniature versions of Stonehenge's trilithons (i.e. two or more stone pillars supporting a bridging lintel, the latter serving as a perch for flesh-scavenging birds) with a nearby cadaver undergoing 'sky burial' prior to cremation of final remains.

Put another way, the mighty trilithons of Stonehenge were merely the high point (literally!) of AFS-directed dolmen technology.

I stand to be corrected.

Colin Berry

Gordon said...

Why not just place the corpse on a wooden platform,as the Native Americans did?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Colin -- I see that you have had a jolly discussion with Neil on Tim Daw's site. Interesting that he has allowed it. I have tried several times to get him to publish a comment from me, referring to his completely erroneous interpretation (in Nov 2017) of the BRITICE map and claiming that the glacial transport theory is now dead. If he is not prepared to allow corrections from contributors, what is the point of having a blog in the first place? Not impressed.

sciencebod said...

Don't get me started, Brian, on the plethora of so-called false-flagging "blogsites" ...

The internet seemed so promising, at least initially, as a new and refreshing medium of communication. It didn't take long for it to become totally invaded and corrupted by agenda-driven interests.

I now just state candidly what's my interpretation, correction, re-interpretation,and if that's deemed off-message, then I'm content for my grandchildren to hear a different version of events in 10 or 20 years time, probably after I'm gone.

Welcome to the 21st century!

sciencebod said...

Resending my reply. (Might the problem be composing a reply in the box, and taking too long about it?)

Don't get me started, Brian, on the plethora of so-called false-flagging "blogsites" ...

The internet seemed so promising, at least initially, as a new and refreshing medium of communication. It didn't take long for it to become totally invaded and corrupted by agenda-driven interests.

I now just state candidly what's my interpretation, correction, re-interpretation,and if that's deemed off-message, then I'm content for my grandchildren to hear a different version of events in 10 or 20 years time, probably after I'm gone.

Welcome to the 21st century!

Jon Morris said...

I stand to be corrected.

OK.. I'm game. Hypothesis doesn't explain:

1) Why inner faces of outer sarcen circle are perfectly circular
2) Why same are finely worked
3) Why it's a circle at all
4) Why levels are different between circle and trilithons
5) Why internal faces of trilithins are worked on some faces
6) Why bluestones do not have layout or height to go with hypothesis
7) What purpose layout of outer stones serve

Could probably go to several dozen contra-indicators. Above is a good start?

Neil Wiseman said...

To carry on from Jon:

8) Why does the stonework resemble wood?
9) Why are the sets of Trilithons different heights?
10) Why is the Great Trilithon polished on all sides, unlike the others?
11) Why is the Altar Stone laid flat?
12) Why are the Trilithons and the Sarsen Circle separated by at least 100 years?
13) If not astronomical, what purpose would the lunar and solar-aligned rectangle of Station Stones have served?
14) What’s up with those two interior Barrows?
15) And my favorite: Why are the solstice sunrise/sunset so obviously apparent to the exclusion of any other purpose? (There are also a number of other alignments that are not so readily obvious, yet exist nevertheless.)

But you're right about one thing, Colin. The Stonehenge stone phase was not constructed to “show folks when or where the sun rose/set”. That would have been ridiculously trite at that point in history. It was an homage to the sun, which is the root of all life. The focus at that stage was no longer about death and a look back to the ancestors. It was about looking forward, and how everything in the known cosmos was tied together; sun, moon, earth, and everything on it. Stonehenge demonstrated all those things.

It did not serve a solitary function, such as an incredibly ‘expensive’ perch for carrion fowl. It was a cultural statement which defined their understanding of how the universe worked.

Neil

sciencebod said...

What you're really saying is that the monument is too finely fashioned to have served merely as a giant bird perch, right?

But is wasn't just a bird perch, unless viewed in the most utilitarian of terms. It was a send-off-point for 'sky burial' - a crucial component of Neolithic soul-release technology, one where the bereaved would not feel humiliated and affronted by what they first saw when arriving with the newly-deceased loved one.

Let's not forget that it evolved from simple beginnings - first the circle of timber posts into the Aubrey holes (?), then imported bluestones that were largely unworked. The sarsen stone circle and trilithons coming last were seen as the crowning glory of a site that had centuries to acquire fame from one end of the land to the other, so were accorded extra special attention as a 'last fling', creating a sensation of being somewhere exceptional, as was indeed the case.

Colin Berry

PS: I'll try sending this twice, one straight after the other, to see if that speeds up appearance or not!

sciencebod said...

What you're really saying is that the monument is too finely fashioned to have served merely as a giant bird perch, right?

But is wasn't just a bird perch, unless viewed in the most utilitarian of terms. It was a send-off-point for 'sky burial' - a crucial component of Neolithic soul-release technology, one where the bereaved would not feel humiliated and affronted by what they first saw when arriving with the newly-deceased loved one.

Let's not forget that it evolved from simple beginnings - first the circle of timber posts into the Aubrey holes (?), then imported bluestones that were largely unworked. The sarsen stone circle and trilithons coming last were seen as the crowning glory of a site that had centuries to acquire fame from one end of the land to the other, so were accorded extra special attention as a 'last fling', creating a sensation of being somewhere exceptional, as was indeed the case.

Colin Berry

PS: I'll try sending this twice, one straight after the other, to see if that speeds up appearance or not!

sciencebod said...

PS: Crude, timber-built Seahenge was also circular! It also had a bark-stripped smoothed-off face on the inner side, not the outer side.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/388988.stm

It was even linked with that unthinkable practice called e, e, e - which even the BBC deigned to employ in its 1999 article...

BRIAN JOHN said...

Interesting -- for these I did get Email notifications........... can't work out what is going on......

sciencebod said...

Hello again Neil

Tried responding to your numerous points, but Blogger would not accept it as a single instalment. I've posted it as a comment to my own current posting:

https://sussingstonehenge.wordpress.com/2018/03/07/new-or-neglected-evidence-for-stonehenge-having-existed-primarily-as-a-site-for-sky-burial-well-supplied-with-bird-perches/

BRIAN JOHN said...

Enough of this now, Colin. It's wildly off topic. Blogger comments will probably not accept long articles -- neither will I. More discussions can go on on your own site.

sciencebod said...

Er, I was responding point-by-point to Neil's comment, Brian, which I considered common courtesy. But for Neil's comment I would have said no more here, having already flagged up my most recent posting.

I could say more, but will now sign off from your site for the very last time.
Goodbye.

Jon Morris said...

As Neil says, The most parsimonious hypothesis explains the purpose of all the features of Stonehenge. The excarnation one doesn't appear to explain any of them. Difficult to see where you would go with those ideas unless you can explain the features Colin.

Gordon said...

So we have stones forming perfect circles held together with mortise and tenon and tongue and groove joints all to show their understanding of the universe.Obviously too busy to invent something as simple as the wheel.