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

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

New book -- special offer for bloggers

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.

Book blurb:

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.

Here is an early review, from one of the members of my pre-publication readers panel who has a very distinguished academic record.    It's edited to put on one side some very detailed material on glacial processes, which I promise not to ignore.  I will come back to those points in due course with a separate post.

Geomorphologist Brian John has provided a comprehensive review of the origin and transport of the famous bluestones of Stonehenge. These are blocks (also many chips) of various types of rock, mainly igneous, with varied shapes. One thing that is agreed is that they are not found in bedrock anywhere near Stonehenge. Thus how they came to be there about 4,500 years ago is an interesting question, and one that has produced much controversy between rival hypotheses.

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.


TonyH said...

Also highly recommended:-

Highly perceptive and eloquent



Little Toller Books, 2014. Paparback, 230 pp. Approx £9.99
ISBN 978 - 1 908213 - 36 - 5

GCU:In two minds said...

Gosh that style is distinctive.

So unlike the slightly repetatitve 'reviews' of the Block Mead book that appeared by 'readers' on the day of publication.

The penultimate paragraph is especially telling.

I think it better to wait for less tame reviews, I know they will be fun.

GCU:In two minds said...

One of the problems with anonymous reviews, especially the glowing ones, is they run the strong risk of looking self-penned.
Let the reviewer be revealed and then we can judge the merit of his review.

Of course the new book has not been peer-reviewed.

As an author of more than 100 book reviews and a reader of thousands I know that the reviewer must stand by his word and so also be judged.

Glowing anonymous reviews are counter-productive and only fool the gullible and look desperate to the rest.

Never get into bed with somebody whose name you don't know (unless you are paying them.


BRIAN JOHN said...

GCU -- Life is not that simple. Some reviewers of books (and scientific papers, acting as referees) are happy to say what they think but do not want to be named -- for a variety of reasons. Editors of learned journals and newspapers have the ability -- which they use very often - of choosing a "hostile" reviewer for something that they themselves may feel hostile towards. There is no such thing as an impartial or independent reviewer -- every one brings a certain amount of baggage to the task requested of him/her.

If any people think I invent my own reviews and pretend they are written by others, that's their privilege. It says more about them than it says about me.

It's because of the impossibility of impartiality that it will be improper of you to write a review of this new book. You are one of the stars of the book, although I am actually (mostly) rather kind about you and Richard Bevins! But the fact that you and your writings feature so heavily in several chapters means that you are far too close to the action to be able to remain detached and impartial in assessing the worth of what is written. For that reason, I imagine that editors will not ask you to do a review; but if they do, then of course you will politely decline to do it, on the grounds that you have a vested interest. And you DO have a very powerful vested interest in defending yourself against criticism, having signed up with considerable enthusiasm for the quarrying hypothesis, which you know to be a central issue in the pages of the book.

You will no doubt comment on the book, as you have every right to do........ and as ever, I'll be happy to give you space in this blog.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Orders are coming in -- so thank you folks! The button is clearly working as nature intended.

TonyH said...

And there was I thinking you two, "Myris" and Brian, had cooked up this book review between you!

TonyH said...

Are you trundling round Pembrokeshire and adjoining areas placing some copies of your book into small - scale enterprises such as small eating establishments? They probably do quite well with the tourists about to arrive. Good luck.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, I will. Welsh Books Council will cover book trade outlets, and I will cover the rest -- as you say, cafes, post offices, woollen mills etc. I shall be out and about in the coming week..........

BRIAN JOHN said...

Bloody cheek, GCU, to suggest that the style of that review from a senior academic is mine. It sure as eggs isn't mine, but he is a good writer with multiple academic papers to his name -- so he knows how to write good English.

GCU:In two minds said...

Whenever I see an anonymous piece of criticism I think "what spineless nematode" has written that.

I do find your argument that the reviewer writes 'good English' so could not possibly be you displays considerable merit.

Until proved otherwise it is safer to assume all anonymous reviews are self-penned

Or dictated.

Name or be shamed.

The new edition of the Ness of Brodgar is around, a wonderful little pamphlet.


GCU:In two minds said...

What a bizarre suggestion.
Only authors are commonly barred from reviewing their own work.

Your comment about editors asking reviewers who they know will give a bad review reminded me that your review of MPP's book came about because the editor naively asked G.Wainwright who he should ask to review the book. Wainwright, never one to pass up a chance for a little revenge, suggested you. The rest is venom.


BRIAN JOHN said...

Calm down, GCU -- you are getting more than a little venomous here. Did Wainwright really suggest me as a reviewer for MPP's book? Fancy that! I had clean forgotten that I had done a review, and have just looked it up --in retrospect, it's rather good. Completely objective. If you think the book was really rather wonderful, that's your privilege.

GCU:In two minds said...

Yes, see he was a great fan of yours (almost as much as he was of the Pet Rock and MPP Boys)!

I cannot remember what I said about the MPP book(s, I have done a couple of his (both with much merit). Although the Pet Rock boys featured in both, to quote yourself (anonymously of course)"in retrospect, they,re rather good. Completely objective".
I compared Julian (I think) to Poldark in one. They are on the academia page.

What is wonderful is the Ness Of Brodgar pamphlet, go out and buy it.


TonyH said...

Boys, boys, calm down......well, you seem to be doing just that, thankfully. Remember the old adage in that Oklahoma! song - " Oh,The farmers and the cowboys must be friends!".

TonyH said...

Who will Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society ask to review this new book by Brian, for their annual "Wiltshire Studies"? They have Mike Pitts and David Field on their doorstep....

Helen G said...

And a review spotted in the wild(!), via TivySide Advertiser ("All the latest news, views and sport from Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul and the Teifi Valley. God's country." apparently)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you Helen. Hadn't spotted that one.......

GCU:In two minds said...

Brian is just trying to sell his book.
I have far purer motives (I have no cash cow in this ring) just shining a little independent lightness and joy.
No claques here.
The real correspondence lies in the private emails we exchange, where harmony and frankness prevail.
I side with General Sheridan' s famous correct quotation.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Cash cow? Gosh, I have never managed to find one of those, although one hears rumours that they exist. If anybody knows where to get one, please do let me know.......

TonyH said...

There is a cash cow waiting to be uncovered, somewhere in Wiltshire, possessed of Orkney DNA. Probably in the as yet unexamined core of Silbury. Magnus Magnusson's microphone just missed it.

GCU:In two minds said...

Von Daniken is he on the bread line?

BRIAN JOHN said...

I suspect he's probably dead and resurrected on a planet far far away........

GCU:In two minds said...

No he has just published a new book.
Old theme New photos.

Old harpys don't get plucked in heaven.

Alex Gee said...

Von Daniken? ah yes I remember him!

Particularly his view that square sectioned limestone tunnels he found in South America, had been quarried by alien visitors to earth using laser cutting gear! He made no comment on whether the aliens transported the "quarried" rock elsewhere!

His hypothesis fell apart when qualified geologists, pointed out that the square cut shape of the "Quarried" Tunnels were the result of bedding collapse in solutional limestone cave passages!! NOT laser cutting!!!

The parallels between both Von-Daniken's and MPP's Quarrying hypothesese are quite staggering!!

Greatly looking forward to the Von-Danikenist's response to your new book!


GCU:In two minds said...

Oh dear
Are you certain you have kept up?

The basic point is that writing nutter neo/pseudoscience is always more prophetable (sic) than solid research.

I should not be surprised were von D to have astronomical amounts of cash in the Turks and Cacos Isles.

The only really interesting aspect to von D is does he believe the twaddle or is he a spoon bender.

Brian I am sure has drawers full of straight spoons and other flat(earth)ware.


BRIAN JOHN said...

My dear departed mother-in-law thought that Von Daniken was WONDERFUL, and loved all his books. It reminded me, rather forcefully, that people will believe almost anything that is trotted out with enough conviction and repetition by somebody who sells himself as having special powers of prophecy or insight. The wise hero who suffers at the hands of the scientific establishment......

Alex Gee said...

I'm trying to keep up! really I am!

My current understanding is that the; GCU,M,Ixer, MPP, et al believe that what has been revealed at the excavated sites are bluestone quarrying features and artifacts of the same?

Whereas Brian and the geomorphologists of the Flat(earth)ware society say these features are entirely natural?;With no evidence for quarrying, Neolithic laser cutting, at all apparent?

Is this right?

In my humble un-educated opinion, the current score appears to be Flat(earth)ware society one! Von-danikenistas nil?

GCU:In two minds said...

......probably does not suggest a one-off dump of 80 erratics miles from any other related feature on a plain that has no other glacial material on its surface or within its alluvial/fluvial sediments.
Oh the famous Boles Barrow...

chris johnson said...

To be sure I'll be buying your book one of these days but NOT via the link.

Paypal ask for totally unnecessary data (e.g. phone number and email) to process my order and promise to make it available to other customers of theirs. No thanks. Not only that but they appear unable to handle a payment from a British bank from someone having an invoice to address in another country.

Just to let you know ....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Grrr -- sorry to hear all of that, Chris. All news to me -- I quite understand your reluctance to deal with them!

TonyH said...

GCU in Seven Dimensions....... a Plain which has no other glacial material......??

What about Newall's Mound, east of The Avenue, on pages 242 and 247 of MPP's 2012 "Stonehenge exploring etc etc"??

MPP describes it as (page 242) "a periglacial feature, a large solution hole, about 5 metres across, that has filled with a mass of clay - with - flints created in Ice Age conditions NOT FAR SOUTH OF THE GLACIERS' [his apostrophe, not mine] LIMIT. First excavated by Atkinso and John Evans, two Boyos from across the Severn Estuary, indeed - to - goodness.

Brian mentioned it fairly recently - again - in a Post, but didn't develop his point. Perhaps he will now, regarding its possible morainic origin.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Let's forget about the 80 bluestones and think about 43 instead -- the ones we know about. the otheres may never have existed. As for traces of glacial deposits, we cannot say "there are none" with any conviction. Maybe there are, and maybe there aren't. Much more research is needed in the field, in places where there are no archaeological features as the focal points of attention. I did a post on Newall's Mound a long time ago:

I am completely mystified as to why MPP refers to the feature as a periglacial feature and how a solution hollow can magically be turned into a mound by biological processes. Some serious geomorphology is needed there.....

Gordon said...

I came across this recently thought it may be of interest.
Periglacial deposits on the chalk of Wiltshire. John G Evans 1968 WANHM Volume 63