Dave has reminded me that it is not always easy to order new books like mine through the big book chains (like WHS and Waterstones) or even through small booksellers, at least in the early days of a title's life. The reasons for this are mostly technical; my primary distributor is the Welsh Books Council in Aberystwyth, and small retailers and the retail chains have to set up a supply chain through WBC, which might involve haggling over terms including minimum quantities and discount rates. That can all take time, which is frustrating both for customers and for me. I want the stock to move -- fast!!
Amazon also has the book available on its site, and is taking pre-publication orders, but I have a love-hate relationship with them, since I have to use them for promotional reasons but get screwed so much on their massive discounts and delivery expectations that it is impossible to make a profit when selling through them.
So I have done some research, and have discovered that it's possible to set up a mail order system directly from the header page of this blog. You should see a button on the right that will take you directly to my Paypal shopping site. When an order goes in to Paypal I am normally notified immediately. For £17 (P+P included) you can get a signed copy of the book and guaranteed delivery in time for publication day, June 1st 2018. What could be more exciting?
I hope this will work OK. In case of problems, please let me know.
A radical new assessment of the myths and the facts surrounding the Stonehenge bluestones. Written in an an accessible style and aimed at the non-specialist reader, the book is lavishly illustrated with over one hundred photos, maps and diagrams. Author Brian John presents the results of exciting new research which suggests that the bluestones are a collection of glacial erratics transported from West Wales towards Salisbury Plain about half a million years ago by the vast and powerful Irish Sea Glacier. He hopes that his findings will increase public knowledge of the events of the Ice Age, and enhance our sense of wonder concerning the powerful forces at play in the natural world. Following a forensic examination of the evidence on the ground in Pembrokeshire and the Stonehenge neighbourhood, the author concludes that theories about so-called Neolithic bluestone quarries in West Wales do not stand up under scrutiny. The bluestones at Stonehenge are now known (from recent geological research) to have come from around 30 different localities. There are no solid grounds for supporting the theory that 80 or more bluestones were carried from West Wales to Stonehenge by Neolithic tribal groups. There is no evidence that the bluestones (including the famous spotted dolerites) were revered or considered special in any way. Furthermore, it now appears most likely that Stonehenge was never finished. It was built where the stones were, and when the builders ran out of sarsen stones and bluestones they simply abandoned their project. Whatever else it may be, Stonehenge has always been, and continues to be, a myth-making factory. The author argues that archaeologists must take much of the blame for this, since they have been more concerned with the telling of elaborate stories (under great pressure from the media) than with careful evidence collection and sound science. This book should be compulsory reading for all those who think they know what Stonehenge is all about.
Almost all archaeologists believe that the bluestones were quarried on Mynydd Preseli in north Pembrokeshire and humanly transported to Wiltshire by land, estuary, sea, estuary and land again; or wholly by land. This is used as evidence that Late Neolithic people achieved a remarkable technological proficiency, and had considerable geographical knowledge and strong trade and cultural links between Wiltshire and Pembrokeshire. Brian John is at pains to demonstrate that this is wishful thinking, producing a series of myths supported by unscientific investigations that assume the truth of ruling hypotheses rather than weighing evidence dispassionately and testing alternative hypotheses.
More recently, those convinced that Neolithic people went to Pembrokeshire to source their ‘holy’ stones have excavated sites that they interpret as Neolithic quarries. John has many decades of field experience in north Pembrokeshire, and probably knows the region better than anyone else. He is also an experienced glacial geomorphologist and Quaternary sedimentologist who can be trusted to identify features of glacial or periglacial origin. His extended fieldwork in the supposed sites, and his knowledge of many similar sites, leads him to conclude that all the ‘quarry’ features are of natural origin: Ellis-Grufydd and Downes support him, in joint publications.
Having been on the offensive in demonstrating the mythology of much archaeological interpretation, John goes on to defend the alternative hypothesis that an ice sheet (or sheets) carried the bluestones almost all the way to Stonehenge. This has been discarded by archaeologists even though it is known that Irish Sea ice spread up the Bristol Channel, reaching as far as Bath – not in the last glaciation, but nearly half a million years ago. There being no terminal moraine, these old ice limits in Avon, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire are quite vague.
The bluestones have the appearance of glacial erratics, lacking the sharp edges and fresh fractures of quarried blocks. They come from numerous different locations, and include Palaeozoic sandstones as well as rhyolites and dolerites. Fragments (e.g. from the ‘Stonehenge layer’) are even more varied. The whole assemblage, then, suggests the mixing of rocks picked up in various places, which is typical for glaciers; not any focus on specially revered, holy rocks. The glacial hypothesis is not proven, but it seems much less improbable than people carrying many large stones from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire.
The book is very well illustrated, with many colour photographs, ten maps and four satellite images. All are very relevant and informative. Nevertheless the reader not intimately acquainted with Pembrokeshire and Wiltshire will feel the need for detailed Ordnance Survey maps, as many place names in the text will not be found on any of the maps. The glacial sites listed on pages 196-203 are scattered over a wide area and it would be useful to know not only their locations, but especially their altitudes.
In his 8 pages of references, John creditably cites the publications of the proponents of the human transport hypothesis and opponents of the glacial transport hypothesis. This is a courtesy which has not been returned in recent papers by his opponents.
It is really surprising that such improbable myths as long-distance human transport of heavy blocks of rock should be not only entertained, but also unquestioningly accepted by so many investigators. After the election/referendum results of 2016, we should not be surprised at the credulity even of educated people. Of course archaeologists have to use a lot of imagination in any interpretation of ancient materials, especially from a pre-literate age. But the general lesson here is that it is very dangerous to go out to prove a single attractive hypothesis.