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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Burl on boulders

I was idly thumbing through Aubrey Burl's "The Stonehenge People" yesterday and came across this interesting statement on page 21:

Referring to the bedrock stone at Chilmark, to the SW of Stonehenge  " is without grain and is simple to cut into blocks, but it was not extracted by Neolithic people who, if they wanted stone, took what there was to hand, glacial erratics or outcrops, neither of which was plentiful on the plain."

Here he is saying that while glacial erratics and convenient rock outcrops were not "plentiful", he did not consider them to be completely absent.  His more interesting point was that  Neolithic people did not appear interested in quarrying for large stones;  so if they were not interested in quarrying close to home, why would they resort to quarrying for monoliths way off to the west, in Pembrokeshire?  That would not make any sense at all, as I have frequently pointed out on this blog..........

Burl also mentions the famous "Welsh bluestone" found in Boles Barrow, and other big stones as welkl, found in Neolithic contexts.  At Boyton 1, a substantial barrow SE of Heytesbury a large boulder "that took the strength of three men to lift out" was found on top of a pile of flints.  We have no ide what rock type it was.  At Arn Hill (Warminster 1) a 1.5 m high standing sarsen was found inside the mound.   There were four big stones forming a chamber in the interior of the Luckington Barrow in Wiltshire.  At Amesbury 4 (now completely destroyed) there was talk of another chamber made of big stones.  The long barrow called Tidcombe and Fosbury 1, in the NE part of Salisbury Plain, had in its interior "three prodigious big stones" standing vertically, with two other smaller stones "of like sort" resting on top of them.  These stones clearly made a burial chamber inside the mound.  Something similar was found at Adam's Grave (Alton 1) on the Marlborough Downs.

Geoffrey Kellaway and Olwen Williams-Thorpe also made the point that while the great majority of the 69 long barrows on Salisbury Plain were simply made of chalk rubble, there are enough examples of features containing big stones to suggest that where big stones were handy, the Neolithic tribesmen on the plain were not averse to using them.  The idea that the Boles Barrow bluestone was an aberration -- carried in from Stonehenge -- just does not hold up.  The most parsimonious explanation as to why it was used is this:  it was used simply because it was there, a good 500 years before Stonehenge was built.

1 comment:

TonyH said...

I think Richard Colt Hoare's "The Ancient History of Wiltshire", 1812, will have a lot of detail on his excavations with Richard Cunnington of the long barrows Brian mentions. I haven't studied it properly as yet.