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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Bluestones 34 and 35a

Bluestone 35a, exposed in the pit opened by Darvill and Wainwright in 2008.  (Source: Tim Darvill)

I'm happy to draw attention to the 2009 report by Darvill and Wainwright -- dealing with the main findings from the 2008 Stonehenge dig.  Interesting material, written in a lively and accessible style.

Much of the report is about the Stonehenge Layer, but this is what the authors say about the two bluestones which they encountered.

Let us move hastily along to the next period of Stonehenge, where three sockets relate to stones that are still visible above the ground surface. Stone 35a and Stone 34 are both part of the Bluestone Circle that is such a striking part of all the later phases of the monument. Both stones are still above ground. Stone 35a is a massive block, but projects only a few centimetres above ground level (fig 9). Petrologically speaking, this one is very close to the material from Carn Menyn to which Geoff referred earlier. I think that you can see straightaway that this is the natural patina on the rock and it has been smashed up in relatively recent times, sufficient that no new patina has developed on the exposed faces. As we shall see a little later, that is not surprising. But there it is in its place, going down the best part of a metre into the ground.

The next one along is Stone 34. It is a beautiful stone that extends into the ground more than a metre, so that less than one-third of it is sticking up above the ground and the rest is now under the ground. You can also just make out a massive hole next to the stone, which is partly filled with concrete, put there when Atkinson refilled the trench, probably to give it support. It is fairly certain that when Atkinson was digging here Stone 34 was loose and you could move it, and, given the size of the hole, there is no question that material could get into the ground alongside that stone.

Stone 35a is particularly spectacular, showing a very complex history.  It has a flattish base, and sits on the chalk bedrock in quite a stable fashion.  The side facing the camera is clearly a fracture plane which is heavily weathered.   How did the breakage occur, and when did it happen?  We can see several other fractures within the rock, so it is in a dodgy state, and presumably always has been.   The relatively fresh and unweathered upper surfaces show the spotted dolerite in all its glory; these appear to be fresh fractures, and I think Darvill and Wainwright are right in their conclusion that these breakages are relatively recent in the life of the stone -- maybe dating from the "destruction of the bluestone circle."  They say that two - thirds of the bluestone circle has been smashed up, carted away and incorporated into the Stonehenge Layer -- but I think that is an unsupportable statement, since nobody knows how many bluestones were in the circle when it was at its most complete --  and there is no evidence to support the contention that it ever was "complete" as shown in all the Stonehenge publicity material.  I have argued many times that the whole monument was abandoned in an incomplete state, because the builders ran out of stone........

The pic of stone 34 is a nice one too.  This one is apparently complete -- although its base was not fully excavated by Darvill and Wainwright.  As fine a weathered and battered glacial erratic as one is ever likely to see.


TonyH said...

"Stone 34.......As fine a weathered and battered glacial erratic as one is ever likely to see."

Tim Daw of the Sarsen Blog, hope you are reading and understanding?

Brian John taught me Geomorphology at Durham University 50 years ago. He was also my Personal Tutor for one academic year. He still possesses a very keen intellect and did his Ph.D on the Glacial Geomorphology of Pembrokeshire. I found him to be full of integrity and still do.

TonyH said...

Tim Daw has to his credit put onto his "" Blog quite a lot of information obtained from Brian's own blog over the years as a simple insertion of "Brian John" into Tim's Search facility will show.

Changing the subject of this Post slightly:-

e.g. "The mystery of Stone 42c and the lead encased buried stone"

19 May 2012 within

He quotes BJ as stating back then that "42c (and 40g) stumps are supposedly of Cosheton sandstone".

Perhaps Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins have changed their mind on the geology of these?