Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click

Friday, 9 March 2018

EH still in denial about glacial transport hypothesis

Another push today from EH on the bluestone haulage story, coinciding with another piece of wonderful "experimental archaeology" showing that if lots of people do the pulling, a large lump of stone can be gauled across a nice flat lawn.  One does get a bit weary of all this repetition, but I suppose that every now and the EH needs a Stonehenge headline in the media.  This time the pretext is the little experiment, and also the line (not at all new) that the pulling of the stones was more important than the building of the monument.  This is a standard MPP line.........

"English Heritage also thinks people may have gone on a kind of celebration pilgrimage to help construct the monument. "  So now we have the "bluestone pilgrimage"story,  involving either people from SalisburyPlain going off the Pembrokeshire to fetch their stones, or Pembrokeshire pilgrims, stone-laden, going on their own pilgrimage and heading east.  Stone bearing pilgrims -- nice idea, and east to market!  It's all about marketing.......

But why does Susan Greaney -- and EH -- find it impossible to even mention that there is a debate going on?  And why does she not admit that there is still no evidence for the human transport of the stones, a hundred years after the idea was first mooted?  This peddling of  "certainty" where there is none is bad science, and EH should not be involved in it.

It's also quite intriguing that the long-distance transport of sarsens is also accepted as fact by "most archaeologists) -- in spite of the fact that in the paper reviewed recently David Field and many others clearly have serious doubts about whether they really did come from the Marlborough Downs. Crossed lines somewhere?

Ironically, this latest press release comes on the same day as I have received an order for another 100 copies of  "The Bluestone Enigma"for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre -- so Mr and Mrs Public are obviously reading it in good numbers, and asking questions about the reliability or otherwise of the EH take on things.  It's to the eternal credit of EH that it does at least have my subversive tome on sale!


Building Stonehenge 'may have been ceremonial celebration'

Celebrating the building of Stonehenge may have been as important to Neolithic people as worshipping there

The arduous task of building Stonehenge may have been part of a ceremonial celebration, claim historians.

The circle in Wiltshire was built more than 4,000 years ago using bluestones from south Wales - a decision which has long baffled experts.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said they now believed that Neolithic people did not want to make "things as easy and quick as possible".

Building the monument was as important as "its final intended use," she added.

Experts have tried to discover why the people who built Stonehenge chose to use some stones from the Preseli Hills, about 155 miles (250km) away.

The stones were probably transported via water networks and hauled over land, using a huge amount of labour over the long and difficult journey.

Experts now believe the construction of the monument was just as important to Neolithic people as worshipping in it.

"In contemporary Western culture, we are always striving to make things as easy and quick as possible, but we believe that for the builders of Stonehenge this may not have been the case," said Ms Greaney.

English Heritage also thinks people may have gone on a kind of celebration pilgrimage to help construct the monument. The new theory follows the discovery of a feasting site at nearby Durrington Walls settlement, which attracted people from all over the country to help build Stonehenge.

Historians think holding ceremonial feasts close to the Stonehenge site to celebrate the build "was potentially a powerful tool in demonstrating the strength of the community to outsiders".

English Heritage believe this theory is backed up by a photograph taken during a stone-pulling ceremony on the island of Nias, Indonesia, in 1915.

It shows people in ceremonial dress "revelling in the seemingly arduous task of moving enormous monoliths by hand, taking part in feasts and associated dances".

Ms Greaney added: "As soon as you abandon modern preconceptions which assume Neolithic people would have sought the most efficient way of building Stonehenge, questions like why the bluestones were brought from so far away - the Preseli Hills of south Wales - don't seem quite so perplexing."

In order to test the celebration theory, English Heritage will begin moving a replica stone on Friday using teams of volunteers in an "experiential archaeology" project.

In a statement it said the aim was to see how Neolithic people may have cooperated to build the monument and suggests "visitors abandon 21st-century thinking to understand how the monument was built".

The first monument at Stonehenge was a circular earthwork enclosure with a ring of 56 timber or stone posts, built in about 3000BC.

This was replaced in about 2500BC with sarsen stones and smaller bluestones.

Most archaeologists believe the sarsen stones were brought from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles (32km) away. The sarsens weigh on average 25 tonnes, with the largest stone, the Heel Stone, weighing about 30 tonnes.

The smaller bluestone came from the Preseli Hills, 155 miles (250km) away in south-west Wales. The stones, which weigh between two and five tonnes each, were probably carried via water networks and hauled over land.

Source: English Heritage


Myris of Alexandria said...

I think a bit of publicity for the shy retiring Julian Richards.

See the book review in Jan Current Archaeology. Just as well there were no Weinstein references.


TonyH said...

I arrived at exactly the same conclusion as you, independently, on seeing the BBC National Lunchtime news - a VERY long item!! - why oh why?? It's all patently obviously marketing, aimed at English Heritage's home market initially, though no doubt it'll all get regurgitated through the media from here to Timbuktu and beyond. Springtime is just about here, and Stonehenge and English Heritage needs the money. Still, at least it's a darn sight more cheerful than what is occupying the World's press ten miles or so down the road, in the small city of Salisbury.......

TonyH said...

English Heritage is just as preoccupied with marketing as the National Trust, and any robust scientific approach by either organisation plays very much second fiddle to marketing and getting the punters in so as to maintain and protect their respective properties and their contents.

TonyH said...

I hope they didn't damage any underground archaeology: apparently, this pece of experimental archaeology was the first time it had ever been attempted very close to Stonehenge. I think they should have been restricted in their attempt to the A303, that would have focused everyone's minds.

Neil Wiseman said...

I'm not quite in Timbuktu, but I saw it from here. 22 minutes of tediously watching rank amateurs try and figure out how to raise a stone, based solely on some dreamed-up theory. It was hilarious!

One of the reasons the real stones are angled at the bottom is so they would stay put in the hole on going up. This one sloshed around drunkenly and I'm told it lurched sideways just after the film ends!

Another flaw is that there was no ramp down into the pit. Notice how they had to remove the protective backing board because of it.

The use of a counterweight on the stone would shift the mass's center to the bottom, upending it with plenty of room to spare.

Also, far too many people. No need of all those folks, other than wanting to be included.

It seems Julian took it all in stride ...


Paul Sullivan said...

I wonder if they will be examining stones to see what physical evidence/damage was left
on the stone?

Gordon said...

Wally Wallington seems to be making a name for himself in moving and erecting large blocks single handed.