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....
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Monday, 21 May 2018

New book causes much head-shaking....

The other day I had a very long conversation with Laura Geggel from Live Science in the USA, as a result of which she has now published a piece on the web:

Well, it's more carefully written than the piece in the Daily Mail!  As one might expect with science journalists, they get some things right and some things wrong, and then, having tried to present the views of the main protagonist (in this case, me) they have to balance it with the views of some outraged archaeologists.  So she has spoken to Josh Pollard (who is of course a leading proponent of Neolithic quarrying) and Barney Harris from UCL, who was involved in that lovely little stone-hauling experiment in a London Park, and they have given her all the reasons why glacial transport was impossible.

It will be a waste of time to get too involved in analysing everything that Pollard and Harris are reported as having said, but here are a few thoughts:

1. Pollard says that there are no moraines with big chunks of bluestone in them on Salisbury Plain.  I have never claimed that there are -- and indeed it would be vanishingly unlikely that depositional landforms with a strong surface expression could have survived half a million years of denudation.  Neither he nor I know whether there are patches of denuded or degraded till on Salisbury Plain, from which larger erratics (and maybe smaller ones too) have been collected.

2.  Pollard claims that there are artifacts including stone tools at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog which indicate that quarrying took place there.  Which stone tools?  Which artefacts?  He knows perfectly well that all of their "evidence" has been examined and disputed.

3. Are the bluestones pillar-like blocks, as Pollard claims? Some of them are, but the great majority are not. He says that smaller rounded boulders would be more likely to come from moraine, while pretending to be ignorant of the fact that most of the 43 bluestones are indeed smaller, rounded, faceted and heavily abraded.  In other words, they are typical glacial erratics.

4. Yes, dolerite is not very likely to preserve striations, but are rhyolites and sandstones more likely to hold striations if transported by ice? Maybe, but can somebody please show me a rhyolite or sandstone monolith at Stonehenge that does not carry striations?

5. "I would think [the rhyolite] would just disintegrate, to be honest, if it was in glacial deposits," said Josh.  Well, since there are no rhyolite monoliths at Stonehenge, maybe that is exactly what happened to them.

6.  "We know where the rocks started from, and we can see the extraction points?"  Excuse me, Josh -- but that is all fantasy.

7.  It's a bit disingenuous of Josh Pollard to claim that Newgrange and the Ring of Brodgar show evidence of long-distance stone transport. At Newgrange we are talking about small bits of quartz for the facing of the mound, and at Ring of Brodgar it is much more likely that the standing stones were for the most part glacial erratics.  The Vestra Fiold "Neolithic Quarry" has NOT been shown to have provided the stones used, as I have pointed out on this blog.

8.  Barney's point is a valid one -- when he says that if there were bluestones on Salisbury Plain at the time of the earliest stone settings, why were they not used?   Well, maybe they were.  Kellaway and many others have suggested that long barrows were robbed of larger stones when stone settings became all the rage -- but I thought it was now assumed that before Stonehenge was built there was no great interest in using large stones?  In the Early Neolithic, if stones had littered the landscape, they might well have been ignored.

9.  Let's forget about the "experiment in the park".  It was very jolly, but did nothing whatsoever to enhance our ideas about what happened in the Neolithic.  

All in all, the argument of the archaeologists seems to be this:  "Neolithic people were very clever.  If they had wanted to transport lots of bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge, they would have done it.  Therefore they probably did it...."

Sorry chaps, but that's not science.  It's fantasy, or something akin to religious belief......


Gordon said...

Please excuse my ignorance with the following question,but as i understand it the sarsen stones are the remains of a shell/carapace of sandstone that once covered a large area of southern England.When did this layer of sandstone break up?

TonyH said...

Southampton Uni - based Josh Pollard, who has been with Parker Pearson from the beginning of time (well,almost, it certainly seems like it), is also psychologically in thrall to the Bournemouth Uni contingent. who are geographically speaking just down thee coastline from Southampton University. Birds of a feather flock together. Or is it too meant cooks spoil the broth? Answers on a postcard to MPP, c/o UCL. I reckon we have cause a lot of feather - fluttering around UCL, Southampton and Bournemouth University ways.

By the way, "Where Has all of the author really known as Rob Ixer Gone?" [long time passing] Gone underground, it seems.**

** ALSO a UCL academic these days

TonyH said...

To paraphrase/ rephrase Uncle Josh "Neolithic" Pollard: " Brian John simply doesn't give Senior Archaeologists the credit for stating remarkable things in their constant endless search for hubris, publicity and funding"

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, that's the assumption, Gordon. There are at least three different types of sarsen, probably indicating different post-Cretaceous environmental conditions at the time of formation -- but nobody knows whether the cover was continuous, or how thick it was -- and there is also uncertainty about when and how this cap broke up, and what happened to all the rest of the stuff! Steve Marshall's book is really useful on the matter of the sarsen duricrust -- and the work currently in progress might well shed more light.

Gordon said...

Thanks,so is it possible that any moraines or any other glacial feature could have lain atop this sandstone shell and then washed away in later glaciations?

TonyH said...

The Rhosyfelin etc archaeological explorations have merely confirmed that the human transport hypothesis itself is far - fetched, insofar as their SO - CALLED "evidence" relies on wishful thinking and studiously avoids even the POSSIBILITY of there being an alternative explanation, i.e. glaciation.

Josh Pollard is, unfortunately, has publicly committed his reputation to the myth of human transportation.

The Senior Archaeologists need to do a complicated manoeuvre involving gradually taking more and more on board aspects of the glacial transportation theory, otherwise they will be lost overboard, so to speak. Good luck, chaps.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony, our friend who quite aggressively attacked the pre-pubication reviewers who prefer to remain anonymous, while himself sheltering behind a cloak of anonymity, has gone off to pastures new. There are limits to my tolerance...... nothing further needs to be said.